FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Pastors from around the Marion County community gathered at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Fairmont this afternoon for a forum with Mayor Brad Merrifield and Police Chief Steve Shine. Organizers explained that they want to begin the process of reaching out to try and bring the city closer together.
“Right now we are not experiencing those problems but we want to be forerunners, in case something does happen, we have an outlet, and bring our community together both black and white for a common cause,” said Pastor Leo Riley with Agape Life Ministries.
Event organizers set the stage ahead of time. The forum wasn’t to promote politics and wasn’t affiliated with any national group. The lone goal was for local officials to understand better the perspectives of black members of the community, and for them to learn more about the job of the police.
“Get a better understanding of what’s expected of the community and what we expect of the police officers. So I think that’s real important I for one have actually volunteered to do a ride-along with a police officer to kind fo get a better understanding of what they do and what’s expected,” said Mike Little, pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
The forum was staged under the backdrop of rising influence and action from the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide, and while Thursday’s event was independent, pastors say they want to address those same issues as best as possible.
“We see that there’s a problem. We haven’t said the words systemic racism, but it does exist. It exists all over the country, so we hope that we can do things the way God wants it to be done that will bring us all together,” said Mt. Zion Baptist Church Pastor Mark Staples.