A call for truth and transparency

Rev. R. B. Holmes Jr., center, holds the hands of Calhoun Liberty Hospital Chief Administrator and CEO Ruth Attaway and Blountstown Chief Mark Mallory as they announce a claim of solidarity for transparency in searching for the causes behind the death of Barbara Dawson, who died the morning of Dec. 21 after she was arrested at Calhoun Liberty Hospital where she had gone for treatment. Officials and church leaders gathered together Monday at St. Paul AME Church in Blountstown for the press conference. (Photo: Joe Rondone/Democrat)

Rev. R. B. Holmes Jr., center, holds the hands of Calhoun Liberty Hospital Chief Administrator and CEO Ruth Attaway and Blountstown Chief Mark Mallory as they announce a claim of solidarity for transparency in searching for the causes behind the death of Barbara Dawson, who died the morning of Dec. 21 after she was arrested at Calhoun Liberty Hospital where she had gone for treatment. Officials and church leaders gathered together Monday at St. Paul AME Church in Blountstown for the press conference.
(Photo: Joe Rondone/Democrat)

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By Rev. R.B. Holmes Jr.
Publisher/President

The untimely and unfortunate death of Barbara Dawson has raised many questions and concerns: How could something like this happen on the morning of Dec. 21, 2015? Who is to blame and how do we prevent this from occurring again? Blountstown is a small sleeping community with old fashioned values and a strong sense of community pride and spirit. However, Blountstown can be your town or my town. Ms. Dawson went to the Calhoun Liberty Hospital that morning to get help for a health problem; she was seen and discharged by hospital personnel. Barbara continued to complain that she was still feeling bad and the rest is history. She was arrested by the local police; collapsed by the police car; and eventually she was pronounced dead. The question is; how can something this dreadful happen in any city?

 
Once I heard about this case, I sincerely prayed about what should be my course of action, if any. I was led by the spirit of God to get involved with this case. Sure, I am a publisher, a pastor, and president of the National Action Network’s local chapter. But what moved me was the probing question raised by King David, “Is there not a cause?” My friends, this was a cause; this was a reason to get involved; to find truth in this tragedy. I went to Blountstown on Dec. 28, 2015 to hold a press conference with ministers and community leaders. However, the spirit laid upon my heart to call the chief of police and the CEO of the hospital to meet with them. I wanted to see and hear how they were going to respond to this crisis. I met with the chief and the CEO of the hospital, with two other ministers, and it was a very meaningful and constructive meeting. I made it clear to the both of them I want no stonewalling; no cover-up; but nothing but the truth.

 
My involvement in this tragedy was to get to the bottom of this young lady’s untimely death. I made it clear that all videos and audios must be released to the family’s attorneys once the request has been legally made according to Florida statues. Also, I invited the chief and the CEO to join me at the press conference and they gladly agreed. Chief Mark Mallory and the hospital CEO were very hurt and grieved about what had happened. They wanted to come to the press conference to show their support to the family. I was the guest speaker and this press conference turned into a worship service. Again, I made it clear to a church full of grief stricken people and the Dawson family, who was in attendance, that my role in this was to bring peace; heal the community; and most importantly, to seek the truth and to assure the community that I will do my best to insist that the videos and audios will not be tampered with nor destroyed. It is true; there cannot be justice without peace.

 
The tapes were released to the media and the world to see and hear. The tapes were chilling, heart-wrenching, sad and quite disturbing. I was there with the family watching the audio and we all were crying and weeping. Lord have mercy: where do we go from here? It is clear to me that we must find a course of action to ensure that this kind of sordid episode does not happen to another child of God. Listen, the Dawson family has some of the most gifted attorneys anywhere in America. They will make sure that justice is served for the family but they have not been called to fix the healthcare problem; to heal the community; and to turn a crisis into changed policies. This is where you and I must get involved.
I am working with Mrs. Ruth Attaway, the CEO of the hospital, to appoint a task force comprised of leading healthcare professionals to help her implement best practices where this will never happen again at Calhoun Liberty Hospital. I hope that the work of this task force can become a national model. We will strengthen the Board of Directors; hire the best people; rebuild the image of the hospital and engage the community to strengthen and sustain their hospital. Let me be clear, closing the hospital is not an option.

 
I will encourage Chief Mallory to revisit his policies and procedures; to implement a citizen review board; to bring more diversity to his department; and to use this tragedy as a way forward to rebuilding a stronger police department. I will call upon religious leaders to hold an interracial unity revival.

 
In conclusion, I must commend the Dawson family for the way they have conducted themselves in perhaps one of the most difficult times in their life. I attended the homegoing service of Sis. Barbara Dawson. This family turned pain into praise; this family demonstrated the power of grace and strength. The brother, Stafford Dawson, asked the family and the congregation to forgive all those involved in the death of his sister. He asked for forgiveness, love and peace. Since, the Dawson family is the one who suffered a great loss on Dec. 21, 2015, we must honor their request. My commitment will be to work toward peace and to work toward ushering in “the beloved community,” that Dr. Martin L. King called us to move toward. Yes, Jesus is right, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”


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