Black preachers criticize chamber

By Trina Trice

At a noon press conference at the Chamber of Commerce offices Wednesday, the Association of Black Christian Ministers of Clayton County stood side by side with Board of Education Chairwoman Nedra Ware and Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens. The group announced its support for those members' refusal to heed a call from the Chamber and other groups to resign.

Representatives from three organizations ? Shane Moody, CEO and president of the Chamber, Willie Oswalt, Lake City Mayor and member of the Clayton County Municipal Association, and Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association n have all called for Ware, Kitchens, and Board members LaToya Walker and Carol Kellam to resign.

The most recent group to speak out against the board is the Metro Association of Classroom Educators n the teachers' union created by Dr. John Trotter.

Ware, Kitchens, and Kellam announced their disassociation from Trotter earlier this year. Ware and Kitchens were formerly members of MACE and were endorsed by Trotter during their election campaigns.

Trotter is calling for the resignation of the same four board members, saying "Ms. Ware and Mrs. Kitchens are classic examples of people nutting-up with the delusion of self-aggrandizement and power. I've seen it happen so many times, especially when teachers become administrators."

However, the ministers' group asserted the four board members have done nothing wrong.

"The unprecedented and unwarranted attack by the Chamber of Commerce demands that along with our watching and praying, we speak and we act," said the Rev. Wesley Greene Sr., president of the organization. "We are requesting a formal apology from the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce to these four ladies, who were legally elected and who are also Chamber members. We strongly support the decision of Chairman Ware, Vice Chairman Kitchens, members Kellam and Walker to refuse to relinquish their positions."

Disharmony among the board is nothing new, Greene said, but what is new is "the outcry for the resignation or recall of certain board members."

The division among board members is one of the many problems plaguing the board, according to some.

Greene believes the Chamber should not have been used as a vehicle to express displeasure with the board.

Greene called Moody's actions, on behalf of the Chamber, "disturbing."

"The Chamber's position in the past has been one of reconciliation and facilitating cooperation among the various entities and its members."

Moody is out of town at a conference and wasn't available for comment.

"We feel strongly that precedence may be set as the power base is being shifted to more accurately reflect the racial makeup of Clayton County, which is now predominately African-American," Greene said.

Echoing Greene's statements about the racial issues facing the school board controversy was Gail Davenport, president of the Concerned Black Citizens Coalition of Clayton County.

The quality of life in Clayton County, Davenport said, is being adversely affected by discrimination against blacks who face difficulty in being hired and promoted in their jobs.

One African-American parent of two, including a high school senior, Michelle Jackson, attended the session and said the problem is not a racial one, but one of individuals harming the system.

Moody asserted that the board members' actions are ruining the quality of life in Clayton County, resulting in the loss of business and growth in the area.

Although Ware and Kitchens attended the press conference, neither, at first, agreed to speak.

Ware finally said, however, "We have done nothing wrong?I was the one that instituted the retreat?to do what was right. We will not resign."

Grant Wainscott, vice president of community development with the Chamber of Commerce, asserted that talks have begun between Ware and the Chamber to set up a meeting next week.