History of BCU
By the Rev. Dr. Willa Estell
Blount County United had its beginning in “A Clarion Call to Prayer” held on December 17, 2014 under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Willa Estell and Rev. Dr. Richard Gadzekpo. After the deaths of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and other black men and youth who were killed by police officers, we felt it necessary as a community of faith to seek the face of God. In the midst of national racial, social and political unrest, our goal and desire was to bring awareness, healing, unity and understanding to the community of Blount County.
While, we had not experienced the degree of national discontent directly associated with racism as other areas, our hearts were grieved by acts of racism and violence perpetrated on people of color. It was and still is our desire to be proactive rather than reactive. Our prayer was that the people of Blount County, community organizations, faith communities and public officials could come together to pray about the real issues of race relations.
We also understood the need to pray for Blount County law enforcement and families, believing that it was not “us” against “them”, but the dignity and worth of all human beings created in the image of God. Approximately 150 people were in attendance answering this call to pray including public officials, police officers, community leaders, clergy and concerned citizens.
God answered our prayers because in January of 2015 we were moved into action by becoming “We Are Stronger Together: Blount County United.” We acknowledged and embraced the reality that despite significant strides toward racial equality there was still much to be done not only in the nation but Blount County in particular. We, therefore accepted the challenge to address the systemic racial disparities seen in educational, governmental and other institutions.