On the day after the Super Bowl, Pastor Daryl Arnold turned on the TV expecting to see interviews with the players who had fought so valiantly on the field the night before. Instead, the media was focused on the halftime show and what pop superstar Beyonce wore, said and did.
At the city’s recent Neighborhood Awards & Networking Luncheon, Arnold told leaders from 100 neighborhoods across the city that he wasn’t there to talk about halftime, that he was there to “celebrate your fight on the field.”
“Because if we’re going to be a great city, if we’re going to be a great community, if we’re going to have great neighborhoods … then you’re going to have to fight for those neighborhoods to be great,” Arnold told the crowd at the Knoxville Convention Center.
Arnold, pastor of the Overcoming Believers Church, knows a few things about bringing community together. He took on that job in the wake of the shooting death of Fulton High School sophomore Zaevion Dobson in December.
“Zaevion’s death really just raised to the surface something that has been happening a long time,” said Arnold, a Chattanooga native and Knoxville College graduate who started OBC 13 years ago. “A long time people have been dying in our communities.
“I’ve buried well over 70 people, most of them very young people, in 13 years. … The good news is that although it’s been a fight, the fight has been worth it.”
He said that two years into his Knoxville ministry he began to turn his attention “from trying to build the church to trying to build the community because as I read in the scriptures and I started thinking about the life of Christ, Christ was never trying to build a church. He was always trying to transform the lives of people in the community.”
Noting that he is a preacher, not a politician, Arnold used his strengths in his keynote address. He described certain societal ills as “weapons of mass destruction that have been designed to destroy our communities.”
No. 1 is “a principality,” he said.
“There’s a real devil that is trying to destroy our communities. When children kill children, that’s the devil.”
Another “WMD” is poverty.
“Within a five-mile radius of my church, 211 Harriet Tubman … the average income is $9,800 a year annual household. Something’s not right about that.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to bring jobs into our communities. We’ve got to figure out a way to lift our communities up when it comes to economic success and stability.”
Arnold, the youngest of five children raised by a single mother, said parenting is another landmine.
“We all know that people who are raised up in (single-parent) homes … are more likely to go to jail, … more likely to flunk out of school, … more likely to enter into gangs and into violence. We understand that.
“But you know what? My child is your child, and your child is my child because we’re supposed to be a community.”
Pain is another thing wracking neighborhoods, especially in the inner city. Arnold said that after talking with a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from PTSD, he thought about the trauma imposed on youngsters routinely subjected to gun violence.
“Don’t you know that that’s going to follow our young people throughout their lives? So we’ve got to be very careful about judging people because they have not reached the status that we think they should reach. You don’t know what they’re dealing with. I believe that all of our children can succeed as long as they start in the same place.”
Making sure young people find their purpose is crucial, Arnold said. They need to understand “that there’s something great inside of them. That they were not just created to live and to die, but every person that God created, He created them with purpose.
“The moment you find your purpose, you stop existing and you begin to live.”
Arnold’s final “p”oint was “place.”
“We’ve got to have a safe place for these children because if you don’t feel safe, you can’t love, you can’t learn and you can’t live.”
When people ask what they can do to help, Arnold said he tells them “to connect with organizations that are already doing it.”
He cited 100 Black Men of Knoxville, Girl Talk, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Unique Academy.
“There are so many organizations that are doing great things for the city of Knoxville; it’s just not marketed well or the media just doesn’t portray it.”