March 13, 2020

Be Prepared but Don’t Panic

As a former boy scout, the advice ‘Be Prepared’ has been burned into my DNA.

As a child growing up in a home where my mother was an emergency room nurse who entered the house from work

each day through the back door, stripped off her nurse uniform, and dropped them in the washer that sat beside the

door, I learned even though we cannot see germs, they are real.

As a mathematician and computer scientist, I learned the value of data and the importance of listening to the experts.

As a Christian and pastor, I learned to walk by faith and not by sight because God is in control.

As a former mayor, I learned the value of being proactive and not reactive, and the most valuable resource within a

community is its people.

Combined, these experiences sound an alarm within me weeks ago about this Coronavirus. I listened to the

professionals and not the media talking heads and politician, and concluded that we, Selma, were not prepared for

what was coming. We watched state after state, increase their testing and report out cases of infected citizens and

deaths. We watched as Alabama became one of the last two states to identify the presence of Coronavirus, not

because we are so careful, but because once again, we are among the last to “Be Prepared.”

Weeks ago, I called health professionals in our community and urged them to take action to prepare for thousands of

people coming into our community for the Jubilee from nearly every state in the nation and from several countries in

the world. They responded and preparedness begin to take shape.

It was at least naive and at worse negligent to think that COVID-19 is in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida,

and not in Alabama. I concluded that we would be last in preparedness and testing, and the poorer the community

the lower the priority for catching up with the rest of the nation. That means even as Alabama attempts to catch up,

the Black Belt is traditionally positioned to be last in the near last state.

BirminghamWatch, March 12, 2020 reported, “Jefferson County’s health officer, Dr. Mark Wilson, in a press

conference Thursday recommended canceling all public gatherings of 500 people or more in a bid to protect people

from the new coronavirus. When I wrote this editorial, no one in Alabama has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but

there’s a good chance there are undiagnosed cases in the state, Wilson said.” This was yesterday.

The mathematician in me says, proportionally, if Birmingham with 212,000 people should be canceling events with

500 people or more, then Selma 20,000 people should be considering canceling events with 50 people or more.

Statistically speaking, that is proportional and would be proactive.

We are in a crisis but there is no need to panic because by faith and works, we will defeat this enemy. However, there

is a need for public officials to lead by pushing more information and direction to the public. Further, leadership

should not be content until a drive-thru test facility is available within our community. This is not the time to stick

heads in the sand and ignore responsibility. Leaders with the microphone need to provide easily assessible and easily

understandable information to the people. Anything less is negligence.

At Ebenezer, we have discontinued our Children’s Church and after discussions with church leadership a decision will

be made as to whether we will institute remote church services until we determine that this crisis is being properly

managed within our community. For now, we remain in constant prayer for the world, our nation and state, and our


James Perkins, Jr.

Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church