FLORENCE, S.C. – In keeping with the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” members of the Florence community are joining forces to show younger African American males support as they venture into adulthood.

Cumberland United Methodist Church, in collaboration with community partners, will host Anti-Incarceration Weekend Aug. 16-17.

According to an announcement, event organizer Dr. Anthony Hodge, pastor of Cumberland United Methodist Church, sees this as an opportunity for the entire community to gather, get to know one another and rally around these young males for purposes of forging collaborative and ongoing nurturing relationships.

Members of fraternities, city officials, educators, school board members and representatives from 100 Black Men of the Pee Dee and the Boys and Girls Club have been solicited for support. Additionally, parents, clergy and members of local churches have been invited to attend and offer ongoing support for younger African American males.

The keynote speaker for Aug. 16 is Johnny Davis. According to the announcement, Davis said he wants to do all he can to prevent young people from getting caught in the criminal justice system.

“I am an advocate for anti-incarceration because I consider it to be a calling for me at this stage in my life. I have seen it firsthand,” Davis said. “Personally, I’ve encountered young people who have turned their lives around. I am excited about being a part of the two-day event because I care about young people and I hope that the event will be instrumental in changing lives by listening to me and others share our experiences.”

A panel discussion is scheduled for Aug. 17.

It is necessary that several entities take an ongoing interest in being there for the young males the event seeks to support, the announcement said. A key entity is the faith community.

“This is a vital conversation for us to have. In our increasingly polarized national culture, it is imperative that we have honest conversations about our willingness to ‘throw away’ a significant portion of our population,” said the Rev. Terry Fleming, Florence superintendent for the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. “When we allow a child to drop out of high school, we knowingly increase the chance that that child will become incarcerated.”

Anti-Incarceration Weekend will be held at Cumberland United Methodist Church, 163 S. Coit St. in Florence. The session on Aug. 16 will be from 6 to 8 p.m. The session on Aug. 17 will be from 9 a.m. to noon.

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