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Will we continue to make music together?
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I had the distinguished privilege this week to attend a Spring Concert featuring the Newton County Community Band presented by the Arts Association. I must express to you that this group is a must see for all who live, love and learn in Newton County. The previous sentence is not a misprint. While it is important for you to hear the band, I think it is most pressing for us to see the band. It is inclusive of black, white, brown as well as the young, and the not so young. I was completely inspired by the most diverse gathering of generations, professionals, races and faith that I have ever seen in these parts. Most certainly, they make beautiful music together, under the direction of Mr. Timothy K. Adams.

Mr. Adams, along with his lovely wife followed by a world renowned son, simply moved to Newton County more than 50 years ago with the assumption that they were only passing through. Today, they are both living legends in this community for all the right reasons.

Somehow over the course of those decades they came to love where they lived and labored, as they were ultimately, uniquely embraced by those who lived here subsequent to their arrival. I shutter to think of what Newton County would look like without their contribution.

Certainly, times have changed and with that the demographics of our county. I've labored in this community for almost nine years and I have seen dramatic changes. I'm sure for many of those who pre-date my arrival these changes are viewed with varying degrees of consternation and concern.

Needless to say, the cultural distance separating new and old have had a tremendous impact throughout the county. In spite of the great harmony that took place at the Eastside High School auditorium on Monday night, I am concerned about our ability to make music together going forward. If our presidential primaries, the general public discourse and our private conversations are any indication, we must admit that our historical past has resurfaced once again and with it our prejudices, intolerance, ignorance and indifference.

Unfortunately, our communities are drawing conclusions about each other based upon sound bites and stereotypes. In a climate like this, how do we have genuine dialogue about race? How do we stop white flight? How do we eliminate black indifference? How do we address bigotry in ways that do not leave us torn apart? Does anyone care about racial reconciliation?

We can be self righteous and blame the traffic woes, crowded schools or a rise in crime; however, my gut tells me that we will only be talking around the problem. There is a herd of pink elephants roaming the streets of our community and they will not go away. I encourage all who read this article to join the clergy of this community at the Covington Square on Thursday at 7 p.m. as we observe the National Day of Prayer. Let's call an end to white flight and black indifference. The fact is we all came to Newton County for the same reasons: beauty, education, opportunity, faith, family and the future.

After all, we live here, we love here, and we learn here. Who knows, maybe you're not just passing through, maybe you will be here for the next 50 years or so. All I know is that the music is much sweeter when we play it TOGETHER. God bless you and God bless Newton County.

Eric Wendel Lee is the senior pastor of the Springfield Baptist Church of Conyers-Covington-Oxford, Georgia. Springfield was founded by former slaves in 1879 in the historic Almon community of west Newton County. Pastor Lee resides in Newton County with his wife, an educator in the Newton County school system. Their three children are also students in the Newton County school system.