That's Lauderdale

What could you do to make a more beloved community?

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJanuary 21, 2014 

Map shows median income in US dollars per census tract, based on 2012 US Census Bureau estimates.

US CENSUS BUREAU

Rabbi Brad Bloom had an important job to do, and he took it seriously.

He tried to pull more than bland platitudes from a panel discussing how we could be a more beloved community.

To that end, the star panelist at the Sunday afternoon event sponsored by the Hilton Head Island Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee was the Rev. John M. Miller, the Chapel Without Walls leader who came to the island as a clergyman in 1979.

"Hilton Head Island will never be a beloved community because of the way it was developed," Miller said. "Gated communities truly are an oxymoron."

To make matters worse, developers of the quiet Gullah island chose the offensive word "plantation" to name the gated communities.

I was the least productive of the panelists, but the event was more like a town-hall meeting with everyone in the room participating. Some angst and disagreement were expressed, but it was nonviolent, and we didn't sing "Kumbayah."

Much talk centered on what town government could do, and why it chose to call itself a "limited-services government" when it incorporated in 1983 over the legal objections of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Town Council member Kim Likins said the town could do more for affordable housing. Ward 1 council member Marc Grant said public water and sewer service should be available to all, and more roads should be paved. The town could level the playing field for all islanders by zoning for greater density in Ward 1, one man said.

Hilton Head needs to revive its ministerial alliance, Miller and the Rev. Manuel Holland said.

It was said that we need a "Hilton Head minimum wage," higher than the national minimum because of the high cost of living on the island. Beaufort County Board of Education Chairman Bill Evans said the school district has trouble hiring teachers, particularly on Hilton Head, for that reason. Others said islanders aren't active in the community because they have to work two or three jobs.

Comprehensive immigration reform was touted because the large number of island Hispanics want to be Americans like anyone else. Someone said there is a tension right below the surface between cultures that we don't talk about.

Narendra Sharma, Neighborhood Outreach Connection founder, said it would take more than the schools to raise achievement, and hope, for the mushrooming number of island children living in poverty.

"What is the business community doing?" he asked.

It was said that more islanders need to break away from their manicured world and connect with the island's other neighborhoods. Islanders need to do more than write checks. They need to look and listen.

Rabbi Bloom, Melvin Campbell and Holland closed by saying we will be a more beloved community when we meet, interact and break bread -- person to person, family to family, face to face.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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