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Members of Weirton’s Black community feel ignored by city officials

Concerned citizens express issues regarding irregular meetings with city officials

Craig Howell FEELINGS OF DISRESPECT — A group representing Weirton’s African American community gathered Saturday in the Dunbar Recreation Center, discussing feelings of disrespect from the city administration. Taking part were, from left, Earleen Jones, president of the board of directors for the Dunbar Center; the Rev. Rudy McAllister, of Mount Olive Baptist Church; Rickey Thompson; the Rev. Darrell Cummings, of Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly; and Latisha Cummings, church administrator at Shiloh Apostolic.

WEIRTON — Representatives of Weirton’s African American community say they are feeling disrespected by city officials over what they say has been a breakdown in communication and an unwillingness to discuss their concerns.

A few members of the city’s Black community gathered Saturday afternoon at the Dunbar Recreation Center, on Weir Avenue, to discuss their concerns, noting they and the city had agreed last June to have regular meetings, but recently those meetings have been put on hold.

“We were having meetings with the mayor, the city manager, a portion of council,” the Rev. Darrell Cummings, of Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly, explained.

The group said their schedule would have had a meeting in December, but officials recommended waiting until after the holidays.

Since then, they said, they have been met either with unreturned phone calls or other reasons for postponement — such as the ongoing COVID pandemic.

They said some of their group, which includes pastors of churches in the area, received an email Friday with a proposal to meet Tuesday, but only by telephone and with a pre-submitted list of conversation topics.

Rickey Thompson, who said he was among those who organized the original meetings, said he feels their concerns are being unheard.

“We just want to be treated fairly and with respect,” Thompson said.

The Rev. Rudy McAllister, of Mount Olive Baptist Church, agreed, saying there have been numerous discussions on a variety of topics over the years.

“We’ve always gotten promises,” McAllister said. “It just seems like we’re getting neglected.”

McAllister said much of the issue seems to be a lack of communication.

“They say they want to help us, but it seems to get lost in translation,” he said.

When contacted following the meeting Saturday, Mayor Harold Miller said he and other city officials still plan to schedule meetings with the group, noting he would like a clear list of concerns on which they can focus and work together.

“We’ll sit down with them,” Miller said. “We want to put an agenda together that will accomplish something.”

Miller said he is supportive of Weirton’s Black community, pointing to his attendance at a recent event at the Dunbar Recreation Center and his participation in this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day walk on Weir Avenue.

Some of the issues raised Saturday were questions over property ownership for some of the churches on Weir Avenue and issues surrounding the recent hiring of a new chief of police in the city. Also of concern, they said, is a lack of information to the Black community concerning COVID vaccinations in the area.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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