Friday, September 11, 2009

Poverty Comes With A Price In St. Joseph, Michigan

Cordell Price

Cordell Price is man in his late 40s who lives at the River Watch Hotel in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He is kind-hearted, outgoing, motivated, and always greets you with a warm and friendly smile and the utmost respect. He is loved by many who know him in the St. Joseph area. St. Joseph is across the river from Benton Harbor.
Every day for the past 15 years, Cordell has walked throughout the streets of St. Joseph picking up bottles and cans at many of the local businesses down at Silver Beach, and is seen at Harding’s, Rooster’s, and Martin’s grocery stores cashing in the bottles and cans he has collected. The first time I met him he was crawling out of a trash dumpster, and I have helped him many times with money and rides to the store.
But EVERY DAY THE POLICE FOLLOW HIM EVERYWHERE HE GOES. They track his routes and harass him any chance they get, going through his bags and accusing him of things he is not doing.
The people at the BP gas station at Niles and Napier Ave. know Cordell personally, but one afternoon a police officer saw him there with his oversized trash bag of cans, and assumed that a grocery cart he was using had been taken from Harding’s. That grocery cart had been at BP for over a month, but the police officer threatened Cordell Price. “You have a half an hour to get the cart back to Harding’s or else I will arrest you,” he said.
Recently he was at Silver Beach when a white woman yelled a racist comment at him, saying, “NIGGER WHY DON’T YOU GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM ACROSS THE BRIDGE.” He has been told this by three different women at the beach and around town.
On other occasions, Cordell has been harassed and falsely accused while recycling at residential homes in downtown St. Joseph, where owners had given him permission to take the bottles and cans they left for him. He was once at Rooster’s talking to a good friend, a white lady who asked him if he wanted some bottles and cans that she had in her car. Suddenly the police showed up, again giving him a hard time.
This is a vendetta. Cordell is not a criminal and does not steal. He is a good man who walks the streets of St. Joe trying to earn a living with what little he has.
Our officers need to change their attitudes, stand behind justice not injustice, and STOP BEING RACIST. This is not a black or white issue. This is about acceptance. Jesus said we are to love all people. Let’s have compassion for people no matter what their color or race is.
The police need to go after real criminals and leave our homeless and poor alone. One day you too may be picking up bottles and cans on the streets to make a living. Would you want someone to harass you, follow you, and make racial slurs at you like they do to Cordell?
Why don’t the police help Cordell get a good paying job? He does more to clean up the city than the officers who ride around in police cars wasting gas all day. GET OFF YOUR BUTTS AND GET TO WORK finding real criminals instead of harassing people like Cordell who are only trying to make a living.
Lenette Evans, Saving Souls Ministries, Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, MI 269-876-1848

“Now if you want to know what Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor Michigan has in common with imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi, India, Esmeralda in the 1939 movie Hunch Back of Notre Dame, Joan of Arc, Ceaser Chavez, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, or the people of Honduras now fighting an evil Terrorist Coup d’ ‘etat, well, they were all persecuted for standing up for justice and speaking truth to power!” — Dorothy Pinkney

“Of course the religious community can be relieved that quoting scripture, even against ‘the powers and authorities,’ may still be considered protected speech. When Mary, the peasant mother of Jesus, proclaims that God has done great things.scattering the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty, she is virtually quoting Hebrew scripture. We can rejoice, but we must continue to resist any silencing of the prophetic voices among us. Many of us remain shocked at the outrageous arrogance of the Berrien County courts. With their rulings exposed and overturned, they continue to hold Rev. Pinkney tethered and on house arrest. He must be freed and his voice heard.” — Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Pastor, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Detroit