02/07/07 — City, county residents recall attitude changes at Human Relations breakfast

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City, county residents recall attitude changes at Human Relations breakfast

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 7, 2007 1:55 PM

When Mayor Al King moved to Goldsboro three decades ago, he said there was a noticeable divide among races living inside the city limits.

"People would refer to others by their race," he said. "That bothered me."

Times have changed. King said he "doesn't hear that anymore" -- in part because of events like the annual Human Relations Breakfast held at the Ray of Hope Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church this morning, now in its 20th year.

King joined members of the City Council, Wayne County officials, residents of both the city and county and officials from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to reflect on racial relations and the issue of unity.

The Rev. Edward Tatum was the keynote speaker.

The pastor, like King, said he found a racial divide in eastern North Carolina the moment he arrived.

One day, he found that even a simple request for a good mechanic could turn into something more.

"I asked one of the gentlemen at the church, 'Where can I get good service?'" Tatum said. "He gave me a recommendation and then he said, 'But he's black.'"

"And then I said to him, 'I don't care what color his skin is,'" he added. "I just want a good mechanic."

Tatum told other stories, read from the Scripture and referred to old adages to get his message across to the nearly 100 people in attendance.

"You may have union and not unity," he said. "Just get two cats, tie them together and hang them from the clothes line. You'll see."

Those seated in the fellowship hall shared a laugh.

But as quickly as his wit drew laughter from the crowd, the pastor turned serious.

"Unity refers not only to kinship, but to human beings as a whole," Tatum said. "Unity is the issue, it is commanded in the Scripture and it is agreeable and pleasant to God himself. When the brethren dwell together in unity, the Scripture tells us we're blessed."

The breakfast marked the beginning of a series of programs that will take place across the Wayne, Goldsboro and Seymour Johnson communities during Black History Month. The month-long celebration will culminate Feb. 24 with the annual Human Relations Awards Banquet.