A group of city residents who want to better the lives of Owensboro’s minority community and promote racial cooperation held their first meeting Wednesday night in Kendall-Perkins Park.

The group, which was originally organized under the Black Lives Matter banner, plans to address a number of issues facing the Black community, including poverty and gun violence.

“My goal today is to look at some real proposals we can take to the mayor,” said Mandy Roby, who organized the meeting.

Issues weren’t discussed in depth during the meeting, but the group plans to meet again at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at Moreland Park.

Gun violence received attention, when Nancy Henry, the mother of slain 15-year-old Corban Henry, briefly addressed the small audience in the park shelter. Corban Henry was fatally shot last month in the neighborhood of the park. The incident is still under investigation.

“He was shot right there on the street,” Nancy Henry said, when asking people to attend a rally in her son’s honor scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the park. “He was innocent. He was not the intended target. Corban had a whole lot of love.”

No city elected officials attended, but some candidates, such as mayor candidate Dracin Williams, and city commission candidates Mark Castlen and Deirdre Carbon were among the crowd.

“There are a whole lot of problems that need to be solved, starting with our youth,” Carbon said.

Of gun violence, Carbon said, “We’ve got to get these guns out of their hands. We have to hold someone responsible for giving them these guns.”

When asked what he would do for the Black community if elected, Castlen said, “The main concern for me is I just see this building of hatred among all the races. I want it to be defused.”

Later, Castlen said he didn’t have a solution, but said, “as long as we keep speaking about problems, we’ll gradually come to a solution.”

City school board member Michael Johnson said progress has been made by the board.

“We finally got to a racial equity resolution,” said Johnson, referring to the racial equity task force OPS formed to solve racial disparities and prejudices in education. “It took decades. It was historic.”

Johnson urged the group to bring the topic of racism to the community.

“These conversations about racial equity and racism are hard conversations, but they are conversations that need to be had,” Johnson said.

In terms of organization, part of the discussion Wednesday was whether the group would be part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement, or would have its own identity. The majority of the group wanted the group to focus on local issues, rather than being a part of the umbrella Black Lives Matter organization.

The Rev. Rhondalyn Randolph, head of the Owensboro chapter of the NAACP, said addressing racial inequity also means dealing with issues of poverty, lack of opportunity, substance abuse and mental health.

“We have to be diligent in the work we do, and we have to be committed from beginning to end,” Randolph said. Talking about inequality will generate push-back Randolph said, but added, “we have to do what’s right.”

When asked about the group’s platform, Roby said, “We are making our own today. We are making a name. We are making a vision.”

The group will be a place for white residents to learn about the Black community, Roby said.

“I really want it to be a place to showcase and embrace what the Black community does,” Roby said. “Not everybody knows what you do. Owensboro Black Lives Matter can showcase that.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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