ICAN, You Can, We Can!
Gladys Abor had seen enough.
She had seen several children killed right at her doorstep during drug transactions.
The crime-infested, dirty neighborhood where she lived in Abilene was an unfit place to raise a family, and she was determined to change that.
So, she contacted people who she knew would have solutions to the problems in her Abilene North neighborhood. With the help of politicians, city officials and local ministers, Abor successfully turned the course of her neighborhood around.
According to Rev. Andrew Penns, he and Rev. Leo Scott talked about how they could help the troubled neighborhood. In addition, Chief Melvin Martin, Chief of Police; Nancy Jones, head of the Abilene Community Foundation, T.G. Oliphant, Rev. Dr. Robert Giles, Mrs. Gladys Abor, Mrs. Allen, T.C. Barney, Odis Dalton and Dr. V. L. Broom held a retreat to discuss the ongoing issues that the Carver Neighborhood faced. (The boundaries of the neighborhood are: North side of North 6th street, North side of north 18th St. , the West side of Treadaway and the east side of Pine Street).
Clean-ups of the neighborhood (which now take place two times a year) made the area more attractive, making it more likely that homes on the market would sell quickly. Making it more likely that stable families would want to live in the neighborhood. Making it less likely that drug dealers and prostitutes would be drawn to the area.
The police contributed to the effort and stepped up their efforts to arrest criminals.
Since it was started 24 years ago, ICAN has made significant progress in improving the lives of residents of this neighborhood.
“This neighborhood association takes care of the Carver neighborhood community,” said Reverend Penns. “It serves by restoring and enhancing the community to become a great neighborhood.”
One of the structures that brings pride is the Curtis House Cultural Center. The home that was to become the center was on a crime-ridden street, and homes had been destroyed. Reverend Penns said the center now houses thirty years of black history, and it has had a major impact to have black history in the home that it’s in (the Carver Neighborhood).
Another source of pride, Rev. Penns said, was that there are more town homes in the neighborhood. In addition, the neighborhood is more diverse, with more Hispanics and whites moving into the area.
Each year, ICAN hosts a banquet where individuals are honored who have made a significant difference in the lives of people of this section of Abilene. Rev. Penns said that the luncheon is a fundraiser that recognizes people who have physically helped with the cleanup and the various projects undertaken to improve the area. This year, the banquet, held at the Abilene Convention Center, honored Mayor Anthony Williams and Police Chief Stan Standridge.
Speaking at the banquet, Dr. Jerry Taylor, Professor in the Abilene Christian University Bible Department and Founding Director of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action was the main speaker and had motivational thoughts to share.
Dr. Taylor pointed out that our freedom is dependent on belief and acknowledgement of God. Dr. Taylor also pointed out that belief in God has suffered in the United States.
“The country is experiencing a divine power vacuum. Tyrants and strongmen actively seek to fill the divine power vacuum by any means necessary,” he said. Tyrants also believe “they have the right to fashion people in their own image,” the professor said. He also pointed out that when the British ruled in America, rights were also trampled on, leading to the American Revolution. The king, George III, infringed on the rights of Americans by forbidding governors to pass laws, held meetings in places difficult for American leaders to get to, dissolved Representatives Houses, made judges dependent on his will, plundered seas, ravaged coasts, burnt towns and destroyed lives.
Dr. Taylor also pointed out that in Old Testament times, God warned Israel through Samuel the dangers of allowing a king to have power.
“Warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights,” God says. He warned that the king would have power over their sons to fight as warriors and their daughters to work as cooks and bakers. The king would take the best of their harvests and give them to his attendants.
Worst of all, having a king with so much power would cause citizens to forget that God was their supreme king, “Freedom and the maintenance of liberty in America today will demand that we reestablish a national awareness of the existence of the divine Creator and to reclaim the inalienable rights with which He has endowed us,” Professor Taylor said.
Thankfully, the professor sees glimmers of hope. “As we look into the low valleys and massive canyons, we behold traces of His divine footprints. As we gaze into the starry-lit sky during the night watch, we behold the sacred smudges of His fingerprints…God’s kingly presence bends the powerful as well as the powerless into a humble posture of awe. Those who sense His divine presence readily burst open with uncontainable joy. It is in the awareness of divine presence that we discover the true source of our identity, security and love.”
The doctor summarized his feelings about ICAN a few days after the banquet.
“ICAN is a very positive force in the community and we need to support it,” Dr. Taylor said. “I appreciate the leadership of ICAN and I appreciate city leadership, how they work together to make Abilene a better place.”