- Your News
By MARIAN GALBRAITH
By all accounts, the Bridge of Peace Picnic sponsored by the Multi-County Ministerial Alliance, local African-American congregations, and the Tullahoma We Care Committee Friday afternoon at Jefferson Park, was a smashing success.
Food, drinks, and cleanup were provided by the church congregations, along with an inflatable water slide and bounce house for the children.
Dance music was pumped through large speakers between alternating speeches over the microphone from police officers, local officials, and African-American ministers, who traded jokes, smiles and laughs.
According to the organizers, the purpose of the event was part of a national effort to build relationships and reduce tensions between local police departments and African American communities, particularly in light of the recent Trayvon Martin shooting and other racially-charged incidents across the country.
Dr Neil Loeffler, who helped coordinate the event, said the original idea came from Tullahoma Police Chief Paul Blackwell after taking a course at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia’s Marine Corps Base.
“Paul Blackwell attended an FBI course for police chiefs at Quantico, and said they had asked him what was one thing he could do to change his community, so he asked me.
“So Pastor Torbert and I got together with several other pastors, and they got their congregations involved.”
As individual police officers were introduced, Elmore Torbert, Jr. of Mt. Zion Baptist and other church pastors introduced themselves and congregation members while trading laughs.
“Nice to meet you, officers,” Torbert said. “I’m Pastor Torbert, so you don’t have to pull me over and you don’t have to arrest me.”
Mayor Lane Curlee expressed his support and enthusiasm for the event, saying it was something he hoped the group could do more often.
“It’s all about communication,” he said.
In an earlier email invocation from Loeffler to the local pastors, he had asked for their help in protecting the police force while they work to provide safety and protection for the community.
“This gathering on Friday is one of those pivotal events in the history of Tullahoma which flags the beginning of a new era of unprecedented peace, well-being and security for our citizenry,” he said, asking them to pray for the police department’s protection, “… as they seek to protect and to serve the citizens…and to make Tullahoma a safe town in which to live.”