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‘WE WILL NOT GO BACK’

South Boston NewsSouth Boston NewsSouth Boston News
SoVaNow.com / August 03, 2020
Under stormy skies Sunday, a crowd of more than 100 protestors gathered in the Town of Halifax to rally against racism in the wake of a newspaper letter by Town Council member Jack Dunavant that has been widely condemned as bigoted.

While speakers made few direct references to Dunavant and his letter — “Killing America,” published this week in local newspapers — they made no effort to hide their disgust with his sentiments, including his reference to “good colored people back in the day when children were born in wedlock and expected to behave like civilized human beings.”

“We will not sit silent as individuals invoke, quote, the good old days as a pretense for us to return back to the shuffle-along character that they forced our ancestors into, from the slave days to the mid-1960s,” said Barbara Coleman-Brown, president of the Halifax County-South Boston chapter of the NAACP, one of the speakers at Sunday’s rally.

“This is a day when we will not go back,” Coleman-Brown vowed.

The rally, organized by the Halifax County South Boston Unity Project, featured remarks by the NAACP’s Coleman-Brown, Unity Project organizers Nevaeh Hodges and Elizabeth Blair Trent, incoming One Community chair Hope Harris-Gayles, voting activist Shanetta Crews and South Boston pastor Michael Byrd, until recently a member of South Boston Town Council.

Byrd, offering the closing prayer, condemned racism as contrary to God’s word. “You said we are your people … Black people, white people, you called us all together,” he thundered as lightning flashed overhead, although no rain fell.

Harris-Gayles, who is set to speak tonight at the Halifax County Board of Supervisors meeting in Halifax to call for removal of the Confederate soldier statue at the courthouse square, made one of the few direct references to “Mr. Dunavant, and others who agree with him,” alluding to a passage in his letter denying that the Civil War was fought to preserve “that evil institution of slavery.

“Had the Confederacy won, slavery would have continued,” said Harris-Gayles, citing the stubborn refusal of Texas, a Confederate state, to give up slavery until two years after the war.

“What we’re trying to do is relocate the statue. It’s not erasing history, it’s not changing the past. It’s about telling it as it was, not as we would want it to be,” said Harris-Gayles of One Community’s call to move the statue to a museum or similar site.

Harris-Gayles also made reference to a remark by Dunavant, published Friday on the News & Record’s website, SoVaNow.com, in which the Halifax council member blamed racial tensions on “malcontents” in the black community. Based on that comment, Harris-Gayles said she concluded that Dunavant “would have us believe that the good black people of Halifax County are fine with the status quo,” drawing laughter from the crowd.

“That it’s just a bunch of malcontents stirring up trouble,” she continued. “I looked up the definition of malcontents,” noting the word refers to “someone who is dissatisfied, who may be stirring up trouble. You know what, Mr. Dunavant? I will wear that label proudly.

“I am a malcontent, because I am dissatisfied with racism in leadership, I am dissatisfied with systemic racism that continues to oppress, and I am dissatisfied with trying to breathe with white supremacy on our necks,” said Harris-Gayles.

Trent, a Halifax attorney and wife of Halifax Town Council member Mike Trent, gave a talk on the privileges that come with being white — and the opportunities that exist for white people to help improve race relations.

“I have no control over my skin color. And that’s the whole point — no one does,” Trent said. White privilege can stem from inherited wealth, access to education and social connections, and other factors that remain off-limits to many black people, she said. Citing the experiences of two friends, both African-American female attorneys, Trent chided those who are critical of others but are oblivious to their own privilege.

“Privilege is standing up for yourself without being looked at as the angry black woman,” Trent said. “Privilege is not having to maintain a certain hairstyle in your career to maintain a professional look.” Trent said her African-American lawyer friends have encountered situations where their professional accomplishments have been dismissed or demeaned because of their hairstyles.

“It is not enough to not be racist. You must be anti-racist,” she said. Trent urged white members of the audience to support people of color in their struggles with racism. “Not everybody has a platform, not everyone feels comfortable raising up other’s voices because it’s hard enough to raise up your own voice.”

She urged “all the white parents here today” in the multiracial crowd “to go home and talk to your kids. Ask them about race … Teach your kids to get their phones out and hit ‘record’ if they see a negative interaction between a black person and a police officer. Teach your kids to go up to that store clerk and say something. Teach your kids about racism, and you’ll tell yourself along the way.”

Two speakers made open appeals for people to register to vote. Crews, one of the organizers of Citizens Registering Citizens, a local mobilization group, said “one of the best ways to take a stand is by voting.” Another speaker, Lauren Schopen, chair of the Halifax County Democratic Party, said she was speaking in an individual capacity, not as a party activist, because “voting should not be a partisan issue.

“Your vote is your voice. Do not let your voice be silenced,” she said.

Schopen urged members of the audience to pay attention to elections throughout the year, not just the presidential contest in November, and bear in mind that local governing boards make decisions that affect people’s lives just as the federal government does.

“This is our community. Let’s do everything we can to make one we can be proud of,” she said.

Tam Cole, another speaker, described racism as “a cunning foe. It’s still around. We recognize it today in the form of harmful stereotypes and derogatory language. It is voter suppression. It is mass incarceration. It is racial profiling … What it has always been, and likely will always be, is legislation and policies designed to ‘play’ us and ‘other’ us to a population willing to accept these antiquated attitudes.

“Racism is an invasive weed that we should uproot quickly and with extreme vigor,” said Cole.

After the program of speakers — who were introduced by Hodges, a rising senior at Halifax County High School who organized the June 2 Black Lives Matter rally in South Boston— marchers took to the sidewalks of downtown Halifax to wave signs and chant “No Hate In Halifax,” and “Who’s Street, Our Street.” Among the messages written on the marchers’ placards were, “I Am Not Your Colored Girl,” “Dump Dunavant,” and “Hit The Road Jack.”



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Comments

the hyper woke people now trying to shut down free speech and a local rag tries to assist them. fix Chicago and other big liberal cities where black on black murders are steadily increasing. Then fix your selves , only then will we, maybe, accept your advice.

Comments

The bums need to get a job! What a bunch of of idiots. I don't pay for this rag anymore, but I do check it out to see what the enemy is doing

Comments

Spoken like true racist #truecolors. Enemies puleeze you are the greatest threat to this country...fix Chicago typical deflection of local issues that should be addressed not ignored.

Comments

Jack Dunavant's time has passed. He should just quietly resign. Oh yea, as Jack says," I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE." Really, just go away. RACIST!!

Comments

Got a question, is the Halifax Town Council a all white organization and has it ever had a black on the council?


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