Race, Riots and Reconciliation Pensacola’s West Side Story
There is something that happened in Pensacola, Florida in the 1970’s when there was much racial tension during the time that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. America was being confronted that we had to deal with the injustices that took place. With all that took place some stories never were finished, the injustices never resolved. A school in Pensacola, Escambia High School, had a confederate flag and the mascot was The Rebels. It was at a time of change that they should have renamed the mascot and removed the confederate flag. This caused riots, violence and division among people who at one time may have been friends. Ultimately, we need to remember that racism is a spirit and it is a tool of the enemy to divide us from one another. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 Don’t let the world define racism for you!
Many people who were teenagers during the 1970’s now as adults are making a new Pensacola West Side Story. They all are in different careers, some pastors, police chiefs and parents. Pastor Ron Lentine, with Myrtle Grove Baptist, is leading this new story. It is a story about unity in the body of Christ. It is a story about how one community in Pensacola, Florida came together across racial, cultural and denominational lines to lift up the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost and searching of this community. When the police officers were gunned down in Dallas, Texas in 2016 it awoke the heart of Pastor Lentine. He shares his heart, “Our country is in trouble there is a cancer of hatred that is spreading among many, not all, but many. And there is only one cure for that…our Lord Jesus Christ is the cure.”
Pastor Lentine knew it was time to call a friend Pastor James Miller, an African American minister and the first black police chief in Foley, Alabama. He is also a direct descendant of a slave brought to America. They aren’t a normal match up as Pastor Lentine is an Italian American. Pastor Miller shares his heart concerning this story, “It is time for us to get together! We should not just come to church and sing songs and have praises while our world is being torn apart. If we are going to stay like Jesus, we are going to have to live like Jesus.”
Pastors of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds have joined this modern day westside story. The gatherings are so diverse that one person says, “This is a small taste of what heaven will be like.”
This movement transformed into being called, Unity in the Community and ironically met at Escambia High School which was once a place of racial riots and has been transformed by this coming together of believers. They all came together as one and are believing that this will spark an awakening that is needed in the body of Christ.
This is just the beginning! It is time for us to be united together! “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23 Believers coming together with Jesus in the center it is a supernatural witness to people that they are loved by God. Dr. King said that the most segregated hour is at church on Sunday morning and to see all these denominations and cultures coming together is amazing! We plan to have these pastors on VFNKB soon! We are excited to see all that God is doing. We want to hear from you and what you think about this movement. You can write to us at [email protected]. Greg and John shared in this segment.