A South Jacksonville elected official is using her office to bring awareness to racial injustice. Paula Belobrajdic-Stewart requested that the Village of South Jacksonville take an 8 minute 46 second moment of silence to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others who have been killed in race related violence at the beginning of the Village of South Jacksonville June business meeting on Thursday night. Stewart says it was time someone spoke up about fostering an environment of inclusiveness for all residents of the village and the Jacksonville community. “Throughout the day [on Thursday], I’d become aware that the public was wondering how the Village of South Jacksonville felt about what is going on across our country currently. It dawned on me that we have not made a statement as a village, and sometimes, as I said in a post on my Trustee Facebook Page, silence can be deafening. I wanted to break that silence.”
Stewart says its her responsibility to foster an environment of equality and to understand why protests and riots are currently happening around the country. “The recent protests and demonstrations reveal the deep-seated anger and frustration toward systematic racism in our country and show us that we must do better. As a community leader, it is my job to continually better myself when it comes to understanding the magnitude of moments like this and the events that led up to them.”
Stewart says she has introduced a resolution to the village board to pass in support of civil rights and has posted links on her trustee Facebook page to educate people about the Black Lives Matter movement. Stewart says she is bringing a member of the local Black Lives Matter group to the June 23rd committee meeting to suggest training initiatives to the village’s elective officials. “I’ve been in touch with Mia Perry recently. Actually, she reached out to me after seeing the statement I made Thursday at the village meeting. I have asked for her help in coming up with training suggestions for our village, for all of our elected officials, all of our employees. I feel that it is extremely important for us to work with the Black Lives Matter group and see how we can be better, how we can do better for the residents in our area. That’s got to come through training and education.”
Stewart says that she’s going to be proactive and use her platform to bring awareness. “I was invited to a protest that is this Sunday at the corner of Community Park from 11AM-4PM. While I will be practicing social distancing because I still need to be aware of the pandemic in our town and in the world around us at this time. I’m going to peacefully protest. I’m going to engage in my civil rights and my Constitutional rights. I want to show my support, and that’s certainly what I intend to do in these next few days. I certainly let Mia Perry know if there is anything I can do to support the group, because if my position as a trustee can help educate our village, educate our elected officials and employees; then I am more than willing to step up and be the one to take charge of that for the Village of South Jacksonville.”
Sunday’s demonstration is also set to include Taylorville resident Chadwick Workman, a former Kincaid resident and member of one of the only black families in that town, as a guest. Workman, now a resident of Taylorville, helped organize a successful peaceful protest in Taylorville on Thursday night with several hundred people.
Stewart has been one of the first elected officials in Jacksonville to publicly issue a response about the death of George Floyd. The Jacksonville Police Department issued a brief statement on their Facebook page last Thursday saying they support justice for Floyd and his family.