BELDING — Forgiveness is the theme for an event being hosted at Belding High School on April 15.
Benton Harbor natives Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins will tell the story of a white police officer, Collins, who framed a black man, McGee, which led to McGee’s wrongful four-year incarceration.
Collins has said he was driven to frame McGee because he wanted to add another drug arrest to his record and that’s how he ended up putting an innocent man in prison. McGee’s arrest wasn’t the only falsified report Collins filed and Collins didn’t stop there. Eventually, Collins was caught and served a year and a half for planting drugs, stealing and filing false reports.
According to a 2015 report from CBS News, McGee said his only goal when he got home from prison was to seek out Collins “and hurt him.”
Coincidentally, the two men both ended up working at the same place after they were both released from their respective prison sentences. They were forced to face each other in that environment and it didn’t come down to blows, according to CBS News; Collins apologized and McGee accepted.
Today, the two men have moved on from the troubling events in their past and have become close friends. They now travel together to give speeches about the healing powers of forgiveness and redemption.
They will speak at the auditorium in Belding High School from 6 to 7:30 p.m. April 15.
Rob Lawrence, the lead pastor of Encounter Church in Belding and coordinator of the event, said he’s looking forward to the talk and helping spread the message of forgiveness during Easter weekend. The Belding Ministerial Association partnered to bring the event to the city.
“The whole theme behind it is to get people thinking about forgiveness,” Lawrence said. “You wouldn’t think forgiveness would be extended and it was (for Collins and McGee). Faith played a part in that. The story itself will get people being reflective.”
The event has elements of Christianity due to the faiths of Collins and McGee, but the talk will not be structured as a religious service. Lawrence hopes people who might not be comfortable attending a church service will consider attending the event.
“(We hope to get people thinking about) if (they) had this issue with (their) mom or dad or a coworker and (McGee and Collins) had this, maybe (they) need to kind of re-evaluate and think about (their) approach to that and what better time to have that self-inventory than on Easter weekend,” Lawrence said.
Belding City Manager Bruce Brown said the event is targeted toward people ages 18 to 35.
“That’s a young group we think would really gain something from this story,” he said.
Childcare will be available at Belding Bible Church for children in kindergarten through fifth grade starting at 5:30 p.m.
Also at the event will be a special guest appearance from Irv Sigler and music from Matt Moore.