NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Members of the National Action Network and others called on cities and businesses to help revitalize poor communities, saying urban crime is in "a state of emergency."
The press conference, held outside North Charleston City Hall, was planned to address the state of black communities in North Charleston, and was meant as a response to Mayor Keith Summey's annual state of the city address which was delivered Thursday night.
In a statement, the National Action Network said despite booming economic development in North Charleston that included the city leading the state in retail sales for 21 consecutive years, black communities in those areas are impoverished and have a high rate of unemployment at 40 percent.
"Black communities have not been revitalized in over 100 years and many homes resemble those found in the third world," Elder James Johnson, president of the South Carolina chapter of NAN, said. "
Johnson also called for an end to racial profiling and police brutality.
Poverty breeds crime, Johnson said, and called for an investment in poor neighborhoods.
"It is clear that white communities and black communities in North Charleston are not getting the same resources," Johnson said, citing a $7.3 million investment by the City of North Charleston for a state-of-the-art facility at Westcott Plantation, which included three baseball fields and a community center. Johnson said by comparison, the baseball field in the Accabee Community Center doesn't have restrooms and Union Heights has no baseball field at all.
"Urban crime is still an overwhelming issue in black communities as there has been an increase in gun-related crimes over the past year," he said. "We need our cities to work with community organizations to decrease crime."
North Charleston NAACP Chairman Ed Bryant wants "doughnut holes" annexed into North Charleston and said people released from prison should be offered jobs and "not be thrown into the streets."
Charles Tyler, a NAN spokesman, said Summey and North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers are willing to help impoverished areas.
Pastor Thomas Dixon of the Coalition compared housing disparities to separate water fountains for blacks during segregation.
NAN called for the creation of programs it believes would benefit communities by "increasing education, providing children with alternatives to crime and preparing our youth for a productive future."
Those programs and resources include:
- State-of-the-art gymnasium and recreation center
- Cultural art program
- Drug use resistance, prevention and recovery program
- Domestic violence program - to build awareness, boost prevention and provide opportunities and care for victims
The group also asked for efforts to employ minority contractors in creating these programs and that job recruitment would take place within the communities "to allow for sustainable growth and development."
Johnson said a conference on urban crime is scheduled for Feb. 20 in Lancaster.