Local African American pastors express support for city officials, Asheville police

COME TOGETHER: Religious leaders and city officials stand together at an Aug. 24 press conference at Pack Square. Photo by Thomas Calder

With the shrouded Vance Monument as a backdrop, leaders from several African American churches gathered at Pack Square on Aug. 24 to declare their support for local leadership, as well as the Asheville Police Department.

The Rev. John H. Grant, pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, delivered the opening remarks. “Since its inception the Black church has historically provided the social, economic, political and cultural base for Black communities throughout the United States of America,” he proclaimed. “We are here to lead the way to truthful, respectful and compassionate dialogue without name-calling, without trying to make people look bad [or] to make ourselves look good. We are here to help support tangible solutions so that resources can be put into our community-led and community-based organizations.”

Grant was joined by the Rev. Gary McDaniel, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Asheville & Vicinity; the Rev. L.C. Ray, president of the Baptist Ministerial Union of Asheville & Vicinity; and the Rev. Spencer Jones, moderator of the Mud Creek Missionary Baptist Association of Western North Carolina. Together, the four speakers represented an estimated 80 churches in Asheville and Buncombe County.

In attendance were several local officials, including Mayor Esther Manheimer, City Manager Debra Campbell and Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides, as well as Asheville Police Department Deputy Chief James Baumstark and Capt. Michael Yelton.

During his address, Grant urged caution in relation to  ongoing calls to defund the police. “We don’t endorse police brutality,” he said. “But we believe we need our police department and we want to support it, and hopefully our elected officials will do the right thing for all the citizens of our community.”

Manheimer briefly spoke during the event’s Q&A session, noting her conversation with the religious leaders and acknowledging their call for improved community policing.

In addition to meeting with city and county officials, Ray promoted the group’s ongoing efforts to collaborate with the area’s youths. “We definitely want to work with our young folks,” he said. “I’m excited how whites, Blacks and Hispanics — all people — are coming together.”


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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3 thoughts on “Local African American pastors express support for city officials, Asheville police

  1. Ron Jacobs

    It’s kind of pathetic to see these pastors support the same police force that attacks their communities on a daily basis. If they are going to do so, it should at least be qualified with a statement pointing out how policing is quite different in African-American, Latino and poor communities than it is in wealthier, mostly white sections of town.

  2. Carnival Time

    Why do they choose to stand in front of the Vance Monument they hate so much it had to be covered? Weirdness.

  3. Roger Smith

    I don’t think it’s pathetic for people of faith and other community leaders to come together for the right reasons. It is unfortunate that those of us who support the fundamental concerns of the BLM “movement” must be constantly bombarded by negativity and ridicule from certain members who choose to denigrate anyone who does not completely conform to a view that goes beyond a shared concern for those in the community who historically are and have been unfairly treated and disadvantaged as a result of racism. When will the Movement develop a central leadership that addresses specific issues we might all join in overcoming, together, and stop using the platform to espouse political dogma so completely foreign and at odds with what the vast majority of Americans support, and which our forebears have shed their blood to protect and defend? Everything is not about “race” or “politics” per se. Some of us are inspired by the fact that these community leaders are choosing to encourage us with their message of hope and grace.

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