A Matter of Choice

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

  Life presents you with so many decisions. A lot of times, they’re right in front of your face and they’re really difficult, but we must make them.

– Brittany Murphy

JoJuan Armour’s departure not only dealt a devastating blow to the Mayor’s Initiative on Gun Violence but is also a gut punch to the African-American community. Armour’s efforts had begun to transform the culture in some of Toledo’s most challenging neighborhoods.

Toxic masculinity and language of the oppressed become a way of life for many who lack even basic needs like food, education, safety, and health. Armour had begun to create new terminologies to challenge several behavioral norms which perpetuate oppression and prevent residents from advocating for themselves. Sayings such as “snitches get stitches” or “killers get prayed for, but victims get prayed on” are not in the best interest of the community’s children and families.

Chief Derrick Diggs

In reality, Armour pointed out, “You can’t be a snitch if you are a law-abiding citizen who comes forward to help your community when lives are at stake. Rather, snitches are those who receive benefits such as lesser sentences or time off from their crimes in return for information.”

The effort to enable our community to stop victimizing each other or internalizing the negative self-images engendered through years of living in a racist society requires an extraordinary individual and team. Armour was effective because residents regarded him as genuinely a part of their everyday world and experience, an asset many faith or institutional leaders do not possess. In addition, his “respectful to those whom society considers disrespectful and patient with those considered impatient” approach was a new way to look at, listen to, and converse with those deemed “society’s problems.”

How will Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz respond to Armour’s unexpected exit? Specifically, who is qualified to navigate the institutional corridors of the City of Toledo and simultaneously deliver black self-affirmation, a necessary component of effective violence interruption?

“We have a lot of different options,” says Kapszukiewicz. “We could replace JoJuan with another person. We could maybe see if Angel Tucker could perform some of those duties and if so, then maybe we’ll use that money to hire more violence interrupters. We have some flexibility here, and I think I’m always guilty of overthinking, if anything. We will take the time and get feedback from many people, including Toledo City Council and community leaders, on what we should do. I know that we’ll make the right decision,” the mayor added assuredly.

However, one name that should indeed be included on the mayor’s menu of options is former police chief Derrick Diggs. Currently, Diggs is Chief of Police in Fort Myers, Florida, considered one of the top police departments in the country and one of the best in the State of Florida. Diggs’ experience empowering minority communities and improving police-community relations in Toledo and Fort Myers is impeccable.

The Fort Myers police department has been recognized across the country for excellence in improving police-community relations and reducing violence. In addition, Fort Myers has received national recognition for its resurgence in tourism and flourishing real estate development and other investment following Diggs’ snuffing of gang violence and crime reduction accomplishments in southwest Florida.

Can Mayor Kapszukiewicz see former Chief Diggs as part of the solution to fill the void left by JoJuan Armour’s exit?

“I could, absolutely,!” Kapszukiewicz maintains. “I don’t know if he is interested in filling this role, but he’s certainly the sort of person I would want to reach out to and see if he’s interested. I would say everything’s on the table. All options are available, including bringing in someone like Diggs or someone else. I think right now is the time to pause, catch our breath, and talk to the community and others to reach a consensus on the next step. In that context, I think highly of Diggs and could see him in that role if he were interested.”

My thoughts? In the words of best-selling author and pastor John C. Maxwell, “Every choice you make makes you!”

Undoubtedly, Kapszukiewicz has many options. However, there is no need to overthink this. The best choice is right in his face. Many are watching to see if the mayor makes the right decision.

  Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at drdlperryman@enterofhopebaptist.org