40th Annual MLK Workshop Focuses on Community Relationships

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Amariah McIntosh recalls being in ninth grade as her priest was giving a homily on Mother’s Day 1968, about a month after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She remembers his message was about the role of the Catholic Church in the battle against racism. 

McIntosh says the priest was reassigned two days later. 

“He said, ‘These are the issues that the church does not wish to talk about. But if the church does not talk about it, who will?” she said. “Those words have always stuck with me.”

The 40th annual community workshop, “Celebrating the Life & Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” was held Monday at First Presbyterian Church downtown. The theme was “remembering what is civil and doing what is right.”

The day included a continental breakfast, two presentations, a question and answer period and a workshop to discuss solutions for ongoing issues in law enforcement recruitment and gaps in the community.

McIntosh, associate director for the Ohio Council of Churches, opened the presentations with a speech about the role of the church and community in the battle against racism.

“If you have never been the victim, then you don’t have any memory,” she said. “Your experience behooves you to listen attentively to those whose story it is.”

King’s message was not only for Christians, McIntosh said. 

“You cannot achieve if you are standing in the way of others’ achievement,” she said. “The God we serve is a God of social justice.”

McIntosh said the point of the event is to bring the community together all at one table and take a better look at solutions for current issues.

Tables were assigned to discuss one of three topics and come up with three solutions that are “workable, affordable, feasible and can be implemented.”

“As we talk about them [the issues], we work together to find solutions, and we also get to know one another,” she said.

McIntosh said she has been involved with ministry for 40 years and realizes the important role the church has tackling these issues.

She believes getting out into the community and having those conversations are steps that need to be taken.

“If the church does not do it, it is as Dr. King said – it will be an ineffective voice, being more of a proponent of a status quo than it is a disturbing,” McIntosh said.  

Greg Nelsen, FBI special agent in charge at the Cleveland Field Office, was the keynote speaker. His presentation focused on FBI related jobs available in the community and the importance of creating a diverse workforce.

While Nelsen has been in his current position for only six months, he has been working with the FBI for 22 years.

“We have 49,000 employees – 26,000 more of those are non-agents – so we need people from all walks of life with different backgrounds, educations [and] ethnicities,” he said. “A diverse FBI makes a better FBI.”

Many people don’t realize there is an FBI office n Youngstown, Nelson said.

Nelsen said his goal is to find a way to strengthen relationships with the community, and the first step to achieving that is trust.

“It is important because some of the issues we are seeing are relationship issues with our law enforcement agencies, as well as our community relationships,” Nelson said.

McIntosh said it is important for law enforcement to communicate with the community about what they are doing and showing they are willing to work with the people within it.

“Law enforcement has traditionally not always had a great reputation in our community. And so bringing them into the space offers them an opportunity to work with the communities that they serve,” she said. “Community expands beyond the people you live next door to.”

Pictured at top: Greg Nelsen, FBI special agent in charge at the Cleveland Field Office, gives his keynote presentation during the community workshop at First Presbyterian Church in Youngstown.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.