‘Be the light’
Community comes together for vigil
About 200 members of the Fort Dodge community came together on Tuesday evening outside Dodger Stadium to show unity and to honor George Floyd, a black Minnesota man who was killed on May 25 when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
A candlelight vigil was organized by Sherry Washington, president of the Pleasant Valley Awareness Committee and director of the Fort Dodge NAACP chapter, and Lydia Schuur, communications specialist at the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and an at-large City Council member.
Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich started up the event, welcoming the crowd.
“Fort Dodge has seen many changes and now is not the time to stop,” he said. “Now is the time for real change, to force a change in our society and it starts with all of us here today. Our world hurts, our children are confused, people are angry and frightened.”
Dr. Jesse Ulrich, Fort Dodge Community School District superintendent, compared the need to wash hands to avoid spreading coronavirus to “washing our hearts” of the “virus of hate, the virus of injustice.”
Webster County Sheriff Jim Stubbs, along with Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter shared some words of encouragement during the vigil.
Charles Clayton, executive director of Athletics for Education and Success, shared some of his stage time with Jayden Johnson, 19, of Fort Dodge, who helped lead the Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Fort Dodge on Sunday night, and Elijah Smith, 21 of Fort Dodge, who also led the Sunday night protest.
Clayton, when he had the mic, shared his desire for ongoing community dialogue among key community leaders, city leaders, business leaders and black community leaders.
“Ongoing dialogue between the black community and the police department,” Clayton urged. “The development of a community review board to review complaints against officers.”
He called for more police department-sponsored events involving the black community, more effective training for officers interacting with the black community and active recruitment of minority officers from within the Fort Dodge community.
“Fort Dodge ain’t perfect, so we should start being proactive and looking at some of these things and getting ahead of the curve,” Clayton said.
Vigil speaker Rev. Rob Johnson, executive minister at Second Baptist Church, called those in attendance to “be the light” and be the catalyst for change.
“We can say all day that we can’t breathe,” he said. “We can say all day that we want change. But you have to step in and you have to step up and alongside us and fight the fight with us to do so. It will get uncomfortable.”
The minister asked the crowd to light their candles or turn on their phone’s flashlights and hold them high.
“When all of us hold our light up, we become the light of the world,” Johnson said. “And we become what is needed in our community.”
He had the crowd shout with him.
“I will to commit to being the light in my community,” they said. “I will commit to being the light in my home. I will commit to being the light in my hometown.”