DeLand, FL - During a press conference called for by several organizations, including the Minority Elected Officials of Volusia County, both the West and East Volusia NAACP, Concerned Clergy and Concerned Clergy Alliance for the east and west sides of Volusia County, the topic was last weekends block party in the Spring Hill community.
You can listen to the press conference by clicking here.
MEO Chair Ida Wright, who is also Volusia County School Board President, said that COVID has a really unique way of bringing people together, referring to the press conference, which also included members of law enforcement. She said that the events that transpired last weekend are cause for concern. "Something that started simply as a family gathering turned out to be a major crowd. For us, we were very concerned because of COVID-19. African-American communities are almost three times likely, if they contract the disease, to pass away then any other demographic."
Since last week's event, Wright said that she and other MEO members met with two of the party's organizers to talk about their concerns. "We understand that it started out something small, something they've had for the last nine years to commemorate someone who passed away in this area. At this time, we've all agreed, moving forward, that we will obey the policies at hand so that we can protect our community." She said that the problem wasn't having the event, it was the timing of it.
Wright encouraged the Spring Hill community to take advantage of the free testing site available now through this Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Spring Hill Park.
MEO Executive Director Mario Davis shared the information that members of the NAACP have been meeting with community leaders and the individuals responsible for last week's event. They had a conversation and were successful in getting four events that were planned for this Memorial Day weekend canceled. He said the conversation will continue and so will the relationship-building opportunity.
Law enforcement was represented by Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood, DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger, Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri, and members of the Volusia & Flagler Police Chiefs Association. Their main message is that social distancing guidelines are still in effect and that large gatherings are discouraged. Chief Umberger said that COVID-19 doesn't care about age. Sheriff Chitwood said we were all young and reckless once and think that nothing can harm us. He said that's not the case when you're dealing with COVID-19.
Former Volusia County At-Large Member, Joyce Cusack, reiterated Ida Wright's comments, saying that safety is first and we want all of us to live to be 'old folk.' She said she wanted people to know that 'we value every person here and that she looks forward to future dialogue when the pandemic is over. "We do that with the young people of our community so that they understand that it's not about the color of their skin but it's about doing what's right and safe for all of our community." She said that's 'the key.'