Residents voice concerns about diversity, city officials say
Citizens gathered at Kendall-Perkins Park to voice concerns over the handling of issues in the Baptist Town neighborhood to government officials on Tuesday evening.
A common concern throughout the meeting was the lack of knowledge in the community about Owensboro’s black history – as well as national history – in schools. Event organizer Mandy Roby announced that she and the Owensboro Community Collaboration Task Force are planning to have an oral history series that delves into black history in Owensboro and covers topics subjects like Rainey Bethea.
Brionna Greer, founder of the nonprofit Breaking the Cycle, said she discovered that many high school students did not know many black historical figures because they were not told about these figures at school.
Greer said when she attended Owensboro High School in 2017, African American History was an optional course to take. She believes that because of this, many students don’t know many personalities anymore apart from Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Harriet Tubman.
During the meeting, concerns were also expressed about the lack of practice of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the city in educational settings. Roby noted that local districts like Owensboro and Daviess County Public Schools have created positions to address these issues, but she hopes to see more.
The organization tries to introduce diversity and inclusion through Michael Johnson, vice chair of the Owensboro Public Schools Education Board. Johnson said the board welcomes conversations about race in the school district.
As a board member, Johnson said he created equity boards and organizations to help the OPS better understand the diversity in its system.
â€œI don’t want to see anyone fall behind,â€ he said. â€œSo this fairness work that you hear about – and it’s got a lot of ruffled feathers – when it comes to diversity and inclusion, it’s important because it shows a culture of everyone, not just one but for everybody. It’s multicultural there.
Community members also said they were concerned about the amount of city funding to support black entrepreneurs and the lack of available resources to use. Rene Felden said she noticed this problem when she grew up in the city – and now visits the community often – and ended up pushing people to leave the city.
â€œThe problem I see since going back and forth every two months is black community funding for entrepreneurs who are trying to get away from street life to do things for their lives. , but they don’t have the funding. They don’t know the resources, â€Felden said.
Commissioner Mark Castlen said he has seen community efforts come together to effect change across the community so far.
â€œWe have laid the groundwork in many different areas when it comes to inclusion, participation and working together as a community,â€ he said. â€œWe are trying to solve the problems.