Mount Vernon — Several members of Mount Vernon Black Clergy held a press conference on the steps of City Hall, Monday morning to call for an end to the Civil War in City Hall. The group of black preachers had several meeting behind the scenes with the Mayor, City Council, and Comptroller individually over the past few months and again collectively on Feb. 24th. (Click on picture below to view coverage of press conference.)
The concerned clergy of Mount Vernon, coming forth as concerned individuals of the community not particular as part of any group, released a list of “commitments” (see below) that were made at the Feb. 24 meeting, dubbed the Mount Vernon City Summit, including efforts to fix Memorial Field, complete a new cable television contract and raise the pay for police commissioner.
The three-hour meeting at Greater Centennial A.M.E. Zion Church (312 S 8th Ave) was attended by a dozen pastors, Mayor Richard Thomas, the five members of the city council, Comptroller Maureen Walker and County Legislator Lyndon Williams. Walker had another event to attend so she spoke briefly at the outset and stayed for about 15 minutes.
Rev. Stephen Pogue, Pastor of Greater Centennial organized the meeting and said that with all the infighting in government, the clergy was looking for government leaders not to agree on everything but “not to be disagreeable…publicly.”
“We’re looking for positive ways we could bridge these gaps,” he said Monday outside City Hall as details of the summit were announced.
Bishop Collie Nathan Edwers, Pastor of Friendship Worship Center (261 E Lincoln Ave), said that while tension is common in democracy, “there ought not to be reckless tension among the three branches of government.”
Within days of the agreement, it was business as usual and the social media clashes and the pointing the finger in the press game continued.
“The concerned clergy of the City of Mount Vernon felt something needed to be done about the state of affairs,” Rev. Pogues tells BW. “So in our meeting with all branches of Government, we asked them to commit to certain things and some of those items were not adhered to, and we wanted to remind them and the public of the voluntary commitments they made to move the City forward.”
Even though some of those items were not adhered to, Rev. Pogue said he was encouraged by some of the work that has been accomplished since the meeting, like the paying of the DEC fine and moving forward with the Memorial Field Renovation.
“It’s no secret Mount Vernon has work to do,” Mayor Thomas said. The mayor said he was committed to “an open dialogue” and wanted to see the discussions with the clergy translated into actions.
Councilman Marcus A. Griffith, Councilman J. Yuhanna Edwards and Mayor Richard W. Thomas and attended Monday’s announcement.
Over the past fifteen months, many including Black Westchester have criticized the silence of the black clergy and called for them to be more vocal on what was going on in the city. In many black communities, especially here in Mount Vernon, you hear sentences like, “The black church has always stood for…” “The black church was our rock…” “Without the black church, we would have not…” In each instance, a backward glance defines the content of the church’s stance in the present — justifying its continued relevance and authorizing its voice. But the people are looking for the Black churches and preachers of today to find their prophetic voices in this momentous present.
I have personally sat down with Rev. Pogue (my pastor) several times about the affairs of the city and what was going on. I have spoken with several other members of Mt Vernon Black Clergy as well. Rev. Pogue along with other preachers met with all the branches of city government individually and articulated to Black Westchester the need to meet with them all together before speaking out publicly. I sat back for a while and got off my editorial high-horse and let the process play out. Pogue, Edwers, Mulraine and others announced at Monday’s presser that they will not continue to sit back in silence.
“The clergy is committed to assuring that Mount Vernon government operates on behalf of the community,” Rev Edward Mulraine, Pastor of Unity Baptist Tabernacle (101 S 2nd Ave) shares with BW. “We will continue to monitor progress and call out dysfunction.”
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story.