From an ugly incident, a positive force is born in Sussex

Sometimes, a negative gives birth to a much more enduring positive.  About one year ago, in May 2014, Sussex Unity was born of an ugly exchange involving two County Council members.

The exchange, during which two council members attacked the NAACP as a “racist” organization and withheld $200 for a youth program, can be heard on our website at

http://www.sussexunity.org/about-sussex-unity/.

The resulting outcry evolved into a call for civil discourse on matters regarding race, poverty, immigration, housing and security – especially in the county’s underserved areas. Sussex Unity was born, and its first order of business was to organize a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. More than 300 people of all ages, faiths, colors, walks of life and political leanings marched through Georgetown on a sweltering July day.

You can learn more about the march and watch a video at http://www.sussexunity.org/the-july-2-2014-march/.

Sussex Unity’s momentum was driven by the desire for change and the empowerment of communities that are often ignored by those in power.  Sussex Unity is “a coalition of civic activists, community leaders and faith leaders joining with residents of underserved communities in Sussex County to bring positive change to these communities by working together for a safe, healthy and secure environment in which all Sussex Countians are treated with respect, dignity and equality.”

Meeting at a church on Rt. 9, the group formed the above mission statement, adopted bylaws, and formed four committees to immediately tackle four issues:

  • Fair Housing. Sussex Unity is monitoring the county’s compliance with a 2012 agreement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agreement stems from a lawsuit filed by Diamond State Community Land Trust against the county over its denial of an affordable housing project.
  • Immigration. Sussex Unity’s aim is to provide support for undocumented families in the county and educate the public at large. To that end, the Immigration Committee held a panel discussion and showed a film, “Sin Pais,” at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown on May 7.
  • Faculty Diversity. This committee is reviewing and making recommendations about the lack of diverse role models in the Cape Henlopen and Indian River school districts. All children need role models to support and inspire them.
  • Organizing and empowering. This group is working with disadvantaged communities in Sussex on specific issues that face them and is also offering them the skills and resources to advocate for themselves.

Sussex Unity has prepared the required legal paperwork that will enable it to operate and advocate as a nonprofit under the federal tax code.

We do not want to be a “meet and discuss” organization that churns around policy and doesn’t accomplish much beyond PowerPoint presentations and endless wordsmithing.  We want to get things done and raise up Sussex County’s disadvantaged communities.

 

We invite you to join us by going to our website at www.sussexunity.org and filling out a membership form or joining our mailing list. You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, @SussexUnityDE.

When planning the march, we were inspired by the words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

“Universal human rights begin in small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.  Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works.  Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.

“Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

That’s why our simple motto is “We the People. All of Us.”

Editor’s Note: Fayetta Blake, of Rehoboth Beach, is chair of Sussex Unity. She is also co-founder and director of Pathways to Success in Georgetown.

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