Commentator upset with a West Side institution

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By Arlene Jones

There has always been an understanding that “to tame the natives, you send in the missionaries.” The same can be said of the black community. Create a non-profit, 501c-3 organization that tells poor black folks on the West Side that it’s interested in helping to solve our economic/social/educational problems, and voila, everything will appear to be all right.

When Bethel New Life got started in 1979 that is what it offered, choosing a passage from the Bible to create its mission statement. If you’re not a biblical scholar, I highly recommend pausing right now before reading this column and looking up Isaiah 58:9-12. Those verses are so ironic (especially the 12th verse) when you think of why they were chosen in 1979 and how current leadership at Bethel has made them a mockery in 2010.


Writer Arlene Jones

In doing the background research for this column, I found a statement that founder Mary Nelson wrote a few years back. She reflected that choosing those biblical passages for their mission statement would “keep Bethel focused on a combination of justice, compassion, and building on the capacities of its own people.”

Can someone please tell that to the recently hired administrative staff at Bethel? The majority of the outsiders who now run it have less than two years worth of experience working there. What “justice or compassion” did Bethel put forth when it fired almost everyone who worked at the supported living facility (SLF) located at 1134 N. Lavergne Ave? The Westsiders who were terminated had 10 to 20 years of service there, plus they lived right in the neighborhood. I’m not going to be politically correct and say “let go” or “laid off.”

Click hear to read the rest of Jones’ commentary.

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