Carbondale community members stand up for the future of the Eurma C. Hayes Center

By Jamilah Lewis, Staff Reporter

The Eurma C. Hayes Center has been a place for the community to come together for many years. It was a daycare, workspace and a place for $1 dances. 

Activists are now worried this community space will be jeopardized because of a police workspace that is set to move into the center. 

(See more: Police substation in Eurma Hayes Community Center causes controversy)

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Around 60 residents of the Carbondale community held a Zoom meeting to discuss the plans for placement of a Carbondale Police Department substation inside of the community center. 

Co-host of the Zoom meeting and Carbondale resident Chasity Mays said she thinks the substation will bring about more harassment from police towards Black and Brown residents of the community and that the focus should be placed on providing more community services through the center.

Mays started off the meeting by informing attendees of the statistics that show the racial discrimination in Carbondale.

Mays said the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world which indicates overuse of policing which impacts individuals who are poor, uneducated and racial and ethnic minorities. 

The disparity starts in school where black children are punished at higher rates, she said. 

“I’m using statistics from Carbondale Community High School and in the 2019-2020 [school year], black students were 61% of detentions, where white students were 26% of detentions,” Mays said. “When this number becomes alarming is when you realize that black students are only 28.7% of the school population and white students are 52.6% of the population.”

Mays also mentioned another statistic that addressed inmates in Jackson County from 2010. This data showed that 47.6% of the inmates in the county were Black and 51% were white. Black people only make up 14% of the county population. 

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Mays shared her own experience with discrimination in Carbondale and said her family has dealt with harassment from the Carbondale Police Department several times.

Mays said since her son was 13 years old he would be stopped by police and asked for his ID in his own neighborhood, while her husband would be stopped and checked by police as he was riding his bike.

“My stories are personal and thank God nothing terrible has happened to my husband or my son during the process of their interactions with the Carbondale Police Department. My stories are not rare for Black people in this country and even in Carbondale,” Mays said. “I think we all have to realize that this is not something that we talk about in Carbondale but it happened, and my story definitely highlights that.”

Carbondale resident Richard Neal-Bey said he is opposed to the police substation and feels it’s not needed in a place like the Hayes Center.

“I can’t see how, why, [or for] what reason we need Carbondale Police Department inside where our children are at,” Neal-Bey said. “We [have] great people in the community […] Why do we need the Carbondale Police Department inside with our children? So they can get treated like I did?”

Neal-Bey said whatever the police would do at the center, the community could do for themselves.

Hayes’ great-granddaughter, Lakristen Morgan, grew up in the center and said she doesn’t like how the northeast side of Carbondale has changed.

“When you take funds away from that community and those[resources] start shutting down and there’s nowhere for children on that side of town to go, it leads to the streets. The northeast side has not been the same since then,” Morgan said. “Crime has [gone] up, more kids are going to prison, you have pregnancy rates going up. Everything that was made to save that community was taken away.”

Other grandchildren of Eurma C. Hayes spoke on the decision saying they were opposed to it and they felt  that this was not what Hayes would want. 

Hayes’ grandson, William Koine, spoke about his grandmother and how she would have handled the situation. 

“She was an activist. She was trying to get support for African American children when they were in a segregated city at the time,” Koine said. “I just think we should really think about this: think about the history of it and if you’re going to do this and if this does get done, they’re going to take her [name] off of [the building]. Call it something else. You are not going to call it my grandmother’s name and have it like that [because] that’s not what she stood for.”

Local activist Matthew Wilson went to the Eurma C. Hayes Center as a child and said he feels the community should have a say in things that happen there.

“The Eurma C. Hayes Center is the reason why I have a college degree, the reason that my brother has a college degree because of the programs that they had that we experienced as children. They groomed us to be the men that we are today,” Wilson said. “We as a community need to have a say in what goes on in that center. We need to be the ones to run it because it is for us. It was for us, by us.”

 

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis

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