NAACP calls for public hearing to discuss removal of Confederate monument

The statue has been vandalized twice within the last seven months. (David Whisenant-WBTV)
The statue has been vandalized twice within the last seven months. (David Whisenant-WBTV)
Published: Mar. 21, 2019 at 9:16 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - In a letter to the Salisbury City Council, Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black is calling for a public hearing to discuss the removal of the Confederate monument located in the median of W. Innes Street in Salisbury.

The letter notes the recent vandalism of the statue, and the recent removal of Confederate monuments and other statues in other cities in North Carolina, and across the South:

A confederate monument in Salisbury has been defaced with a splash of yellow paint for the second time in 7 months. While years of racial tensions have plagued our nation and the city of Salisbury, once again we are faced with the resurgent of racial connotations in the form of a communal divide over a confederate statue.

Throughout the south over the past few years we have seen cities air on the right side of history, to reconcile the heinous past of racism, bigotry, and hate represented by these statues. In our city within the past 7 months this statue has been defaced and discussions around its removal have be delayed for reasons unknown mainly centered around land ownership.

The Salisbury-Rowan NAACP calls on city officials to make a decision to remove the statue from the center of town as a precaution of safety. We remind you that you were elected to protect the citizens of Salisbury as your sole priority and the threats and unsafe behavior that continues to fester around this statue are both repulsive and divisive.

We demand that the city council hold a public hearing on the removal of the statue to a proper museum or less controversial public space. The Salisbury-Rowan NAACP will be vigilant in the quest to secure the removal of this symbol of hate from the center of our city.

Councilman David Post responded to Black’s letter, asking Black if he realized “the legal issues surrounding the use of the land on which Fame sits?” Post added “the fact that there is a legal problem does not reflect my opinion on the issue.”

Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins also responded to the letter, suggesting a meeting that would include several community organizations, including those aligned with the monument.

I agree; it’s unfortunate, that once again, our community is faced with the vandalism of the Fame statue and the ongoing debate of should the statue stand or should the statue be removed. I hope we all can acknowledge the issue of whether it should stand or be removed is based on what the symbolism of the statue communicates to different individuals and different groups of people.

I support the idea of a public hearing; although, I’d like to be intentional with our (NAACP, Council and other community voices) planning… if the Council agrees to have a public hearing. I’ll be reaching out to your leadership shortly to schedule a meeting with me, the mayor pro tem and the city manager. The purpose of the request for a meeting is to hear more fully what the NAACP has in mind.

I’d like to take a moment to share what I have in mind. I envision more of an expanded discussion that starts small and includes the leadership of the differing perspectives about Fame. I’d love to see leadership from the NAACP, the local chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy and their NC Division, Salisbury Indivisible, Rowan Museum, Women for Community Justice, and the NC Sons of Confederate Veterans come together for open, heartfelt, honest, compassionate and empathetic conversation. A conversation in which no one comes in anger or in judgement. These have been the most vocal groups about the statue; to me it seems like a logical place to start.

I believe we have an opportunity before us to set a bold example of civil and deliberative discourse. We can start to engage in collaborative problem solving about the confederate monument in our midst. Can you imagine what these groups, working together to convene a broader community discussion and build community understanding, can achieve? I can. I have faith that we can move towards harmony in our community regarding Fame.

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