Local minister aims to restore the dream

ANDERSON — The Rev. Anthony Harris believes if the community comes together to work toward improving the next generation, the effort can be successful.

Harris, senior pastor of the Church Upon the Rock, has been the driving force behind two efforts to bring the Anderson community together.

He has been instrumental in the two Reconciliation Walks in Anderson and is behind the Ten-Point Coalition-inspired Initiative to Stop Gun Violence.

Harris, 63, is a lifelong resident of Anderson, except for seven years spent in Mississippi when he was working for General Motors. He retired in 2006.

“The Reconciliation March actually started as a dream,” he said. “It was like we weren’t doing anything. You hear mothers crying over the casket of children and I just had this dream.”

Harris hopes the Reconciliation March becomes an annual event in which local residents gather to march across the Eisenhower Bridge.

Initiative to Stop Gun Violence is a diverse group of people with a mission to bring hope to the next generation.

“I’m pleased with the way things are moving forward,” he said. “We have a lot of people in Anderson that care. We just haven’t been able to pull it together like we should.”

The group last Saturday conducted the first of several neighborhood walks to raise awareness of the problems associated with gun violence.

Harris believes that Anderson is going to be like in the late 1990s when everybody came together.

“The mission is much more than just stopping gun violence. We want to educate our children,” Harris said. “We looked at this and learned that most of the gun violence is due to drugs and hopelessness.”

Harris said many young people in Madison County don’t have a dream and they don’t see themselves with gray hair or owning a home of their own.

“They don’t have those dreams. They’re just looking for a way to survive,” Harris said. “We want to help them to have meaningful jobs and meaningful relationships with the community.”

Harris said race relations in Madison County are a lot better now than in the past.

“When I was growing up, we couldn’t skate together, we couldn’t go in the front door and eat in the dining room of the Alibi,” he related. “When we went to the show (movies) in the summer time they would separate us in the upstairs and in sections of the theater.

“A lot of people think those things only happened in the South, but there have been a lot of things in Anderson,” he said. “My children don’t know about discrimination. They go to the show together, school together and people’s houses. They don’t see things like older people do. I’m glad they are not having to go through some of the things my parents and I did.”

Harris said when he was in Mississippi, the racial tension was different than in Anderson but not as bad as he thought.

“The people that really didn’t like you showed they really didn’t like you,” he said.

Harris noted that Indiana is known for having the biggest Ku Klux Klan parade in the country in the 1920s, something the state doesn’t want to be known for.

“We have overcome a lot and when we stop pretending that all things are good,” he said. “We have a long way to go. Continue and increase working together and back to when Anderson was a boom town.

“Now we have to accept a new challenge and get all our children educated,” Harris continued. “The worst thing you could do is have a child grow up without a dream.”

He started ministering to people in the 1990s when Bennie Santiago asked him to teach the Bible at the Madison County Jail.

He was an associate pastor for several years at Allen Chapel and the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church before locating at the Church Upon the Rock.

Harris has been married to his wife, Joyce, for 41 years and is the father of four children.

“I do think it’s time for the church community in Anderson and Madison County to take a leadership role,” he said. “We’ve had so many shootings that we’ve become complacent. People say it’s not in my neighborhood, but it’s all over the city. We have to fix the problems.”