Two ministers say they hope the community service cookout they are organizing will be the beginning of a coming together of the people of Union County to take back their community from drug dealers and gangs.
The Rev. Patricia Booker and the Rev. Bruce Dawkins are the pastor and former pastor, respectively, of Rice Chapel AME Zion Church in Buffalo. They are organizing a community service cookout that will be held Saturday at 9 a.m. in Lukesville Park in Buffalo. The theme of the event is “One Body, One Mind, One Mission” and its goal is to bring together the people of Union County in a countywide effort to stand up to the drug dealers and gangs that Booker says have taken over the community through drugs and violence.
“I just feel like it is time for the people to stand up and take back Union County,” Booker said Wednesday. We’ve been letting these people dealing drugs and all of this gang violence take over the community. It’s just time for the parents, the teachers, the law enforcement officials, and pastors, the leaders, to take back control of the community.”
Booker pointed to the recent spate of violence that’s occurred in the county, with a shooting at a Union nightclub that left four Chester men charged with attempted murder and the shooting in the Lukesville community that left a teenager dead and a man charged with murder. She said the murder in Lukesville struck close to home because it was near where her daughter lives and that her mother was the victim of violent crime four years ago and had to live with the results of that act of violence the rest of her life.
“The murder took place just two doors from my daughter’s home,” Booker said. “Four years ago my mother was shot in a drive-by shooting. They drove by and started shooting and the bullet passed through the door and hit her. When she died in April of last year the bullet was still lodged in her.”
Booker said the community has a choice when it comes to incidents like these.
“We can just sit back and talk about all these things or we can stand up and take control,” Booker said.
Booker and Dawkins said they hope Saturday’s cookout will be a step toward the community standing up and taking back that control from the gangs and the drug dealers.
“This community wide cookout is to inform the people and try to motivate the people about doing what’s right,” Booker said. “Larry Rhett from Sims Middle School will address the people about the need for more mentors. Sheriff Taylor and Capt. James McNeil will speak about the criminal activity going on in the community. A number of ministers will be there. We will start with prayer and end with a community prayer.”
Booker admitted that in and of itself, the cookout will not fix Union County’s problems with drugs and gang violence, but she hopes it will begin the process.
“I know that one event is not going to make a big change, but I’m praying for it to make a start,” Booker said. “I want us to let the people who are coming in, and those who are here doing these terrible things know that we’re not going to take it anymore.”
In facing the prospect of a long struggle to reclaim their community from those who are tearing it down, Dawkins urged the people of Union County to look to the ultimate source of strength, reassurance, healing and peace in trouble times.
“In Jeremiah 8:22 it speaks of a ‘balm in Gilead’ and I believe there is a balm in Union County that can heal the community,” Dawkins said. “It is as it says in Second Chronicles 7:14, ‘If my people will humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways, I will heal their land.”
For more information about Saturday’s community service cookout contact Rev. Patricia Booker at (864) 285-7721 or Rev. Bruce Dawkins at (803) 374-0149.