UNION — Except for when there’s a football game, Union County is one of the most divided counties in the United States of America and because of those persisting divisions it will never successfully address the problems facing it, including the violence killing its youth, a local minister says.
On Aug. 4, a Union man was shot at as he was sitting in his car in at a Union nightclub and again as he pursued his assailants on the Jonesville-Lockhart Highway.
Four Chester men — Tevin Deonta Fair, Kiama Hason Sanders, Cedric Jamaris Brown, and Najahwan Abdul Woodard — are charged with attempted murder in the incident. Fair, Sanders and Woodard are being held in the Union County Jail after being denied bond while Brown is out on bond but forbidden to return to Union County except to work and for court.
On Aug. 12, 17-year-old Dequan Jones was shot and killed and another man wounded in a drive-by shooting in the Lukesville Road area of Buffalo.
Three Carlisle men — Chadrick Harold Johnson, Devonta Elemesion Mobley, and Daveus Lamonte Boler — and a Union man — Danny Ray Gossett — are charged with murder in Jones’ death. All four are being held in jail after being denied bond by a county magistrate. Johnson and Mobley’s subsequent requests for bond were also denied by a Circuit Court judge.
In ruling on Fair, Sanders, Brown and Woodard’s requests for bond, the judge pointed to what he described as tension between a group of young men in Union and groups in Carlisle and Chester. In a request that Johnson and Mobley be denied bond, the solicitor’s office also pointed to the ongoing rivalry between groups in Carlisle and Union.
These and other divisions in Union County were addressed Dr. Corinthian Stacks during Saturday’s “Walk against Crime … Stop the Violence” walk/rally. The event was sponsored by Urban Achievement for Youth Education, the Action Network for Union County, the Jonesville-based Men of Action, and the Urban League of the Upstate. The groups had planned to hold the event in the spring of 2013, but the murder of Jones and the other shooting incident persuaded them to move it to Saturday.
Among the speakers addressing the rally portion of the event was Stacks, pastor of Bethany AME Church and an employee of the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia.
While he spoke about the violence that he said is plaguing the rest of the United States and the world as well, Stacks also addressed the underlying divisions that he said are helping to perpetuate the cycle of violence.
He said those divisions exist between the black and white communities and within the black community.
“Union County is one of the most divided counties in the nation,” Stacks said. “Blacks over here, whites over here, especially on Sunday. When there’s a football game we’re all one big happy family, but when the game is over we all go back to our respective ‘hoods. White and black don’t like each other and black and black don’t like each other, either.”
Stacks said the divisions between and within the communities persist because the older generations insist on hanging onto the bitterness of the past.
“You’ve got old folks still holding on to the foolishness of 40-year-old grudges,” Stacks said. “Because they hold on to those grudges the children keep plotting and planning.”
Stacks said the persistence of the divisions between the races and within the races is a betrayal of the dream of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of an integrated, colorblind, non-violent America.
“Dr. King dreamed of a day when little white boys and white girls could hold hands with little black boys and black girls,” Stacks said. “This has been achieved with integration, but why is it that we have little black boys and girls who can’t hold hands. Why is it that our children subject themselves and others to street justice rather than the justice of their parents and the church?”
Stacks called on parents to stop trying to be their children’s friends and instead be their parents, speaking to them the hard, but loving truths that can keep them off the path to destruction. He also called on the older generation to set an example for the younger generation by letting go of the grudges of the past which are perpetuating the divisions between and within the races and fueling the violence that is plaguing the county.
“We need to erase the lines drawn in the sand,” Stacks said. “We have that division where we are more loyal to a community than to humanity. The idea of Carlisle, Lukesville, Chester, and Chambertown and all these little communities becomes the structure we live out of instead of the harmony of living as brothers and sisters regardless of community and race. There is no need to be black or white, God has already established that, be human.”