MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - On Monday, the nation will celebrate the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. nearly six decades after his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.
Years later, people continue to recite and hold tightly to words he delivered at the Lincoln Memorial.
It’s a dream some local leaders say continues to be a work in progress.
Leaders with the City of Myrtle Beach, along with its Neighborhood Services Department, say it’s time to address the elephant in the room regarding racial inequalities. The group said some residents have voiced their concerns about the issue after seeing continuous images from last week’s riots at the Capitol.
Will Williams, coordinator of the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum & Education Center, said the riots hit a nerve for some people in our area, particularly members of the African American community.
He said some residents expressed concerns about a double standard after seeing how law enforcement responded to capitol compared to the unrest after George Floyd’s death in police custody, which included more Black Lives Matter protests.
“We want to address it openly and honestly,” said Williams. “I think it’s something that’s heartbreaking to a lot of the community members I’ve discussed [this subject with].”
While riot and protests have become a divisive issue, Williams said he wants residents to express their thoughts during the “Beachside Chats: ‘The Elephant in the Room” session on Sunday. Beachside Chats began last year as an opportunity for people to hold an open discussion about race, unity, and issues prevalent in their community.
The Neighborhood Services Department holds the Beachside Chats events monthly. Sunday’s event will take place virtually via Zoom.
Williams is inviting people of all backgrounds to attend the session to discuss what happened at the Capitol, allowing people to hear how seeing the riots impacted their neighbors. He hopes that somebody will hear their neighbors’ stories about racial inequality and understand, there’s still more work to do in this community.
“It’s all about listening,” said Williams. “As a white person, I’ve never had to experience an ounce of what my brothers and sisters of color had to face. Recognizing that while being someone that will listen, [will help]. The conversations might be uncomfortable but if it’s uncomfortable, that’s probably an indicator it’s a conversation worth having. That’s really the heart behind Beachside Chats is having those conversations, and through that process building a bridge between you and your fellow neighbor.”
Neighborhood Services Director Cookie Goings added that it’s important that people come to the table and have a healthy and open discussion about real issues, so changes can take place and healing can occur.
Goings said Myrtle Beach serves as an example of a community that has a good relationship with its police department because everyone is open and willing to having a conversation about race relations.
“We are fortunate in Myrtle Beach that we do have community policing,” she said. “Where we work together with our officers and chief and community members with neighborhood watch groups. [However], it’s a part of the conversation [what happened in D.C.]. It has to be talked about because it’s real. There are other towns that don’t have the best officers and don’t have great relationships so we have to talk about it. But we also have to acknowledge how blessed we are and how grateful we are for the relationships we have with the city and how we want to keep it that way at all times for all people and for all events. We want to be that consistent city where we’re modeling good relationships.”
She hoping more people in the community will do the same and show love for their neighbors, and hopes Beachside Chats will help to inspire communities to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of racial equality a priority in their hearts.
“This is a continuous conversation,” said Goings. “It’s not about the color of your hair or your skin, but the content of your character. How can we continue to move from our ‘safe space’ to our ‘brave space.’ The brave space is when we’re asking questions of each other and giving people permission to ask things they don’t understand [whether it] about race, or hair or culture. Allow people to ask. When they’re being genuine and want to learn, it fosters an atmosphere where we keep Dr. King’s dream alive. That we’ll all reach the promised land but we’re going to reach it hand and hand. And we’re going to keep walking together.”
“We still have a long ways to go in fulfilling Martin Luther King’s dream,” said Willaims. “It’s things like Beachside Chats that I think Dr. King would want to see.”
The department said their hope is for people to take the conversations out into their worlds, and be the person that will help King’s dream become a reality for those persons facing racial equality.
“We want to be on the right side of history, we have to model what we expect,” said Goings. “Our children need to see who they intend to be, the family God intended us to be.”
Beachside Chats will take place Sunday at 4:30 p.m. In order to partcipate in the Zoom event, you must register with the museum coordinator via email at: email@example.com.