Community reacts to canceled Latta plantation event
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - An internet post by a county park sparked outrage Friday, leading to the cancelation of a Latta Nature Preserve event that would have let attendees interact with actors posing as a former plantation owner and confederate soldiers.
The Facebook the Huntersville plantation put out publicized an event called “Kingdom Coming.”
It was supposed to be a representation of life in the waning days of the antebellum era. The post said the interactive event would introduce people to a character that’s referred to as “massa” -- a term slaves used to address oppressors.
The plantation owner would be introduced as a “white refugee” after losing his plantation during the Civil War.
Actors playing confederate troops were also going to be on hand to talk about their experiences.
“Who put this out? This is unbelievable,” said Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake, who had a hard time believing what she read when showed the post. “Any part of this looking at it is irritating.”
The timing is also problematic; The event was on June 19, better known as Juneteenth, which is a day celebrated for slave freedom.
“This is terrible. This is unacceptable in Mecklenburg County.”
Mecklenburg County officials agreed. Late Friday afternoon, they posted this tweet saying they were not aware of the event and contacted organizers and had the event shut down.
The town of Huntersville put out their own message, saying they’re aware of the situation and though they have not yet fully investigated the incident, they stand in solidarity with Mecklenburg County’s message. The town also announced they’re putting their annual contribution to the plantation on hold for the new fiscal year while investigations into the event take place.
“I don’t want it swept under the rug, I don’t want it ignored. I don’t want to sit down and do a whole lot of talking. What will be the actions that relates to this,” said Leake.
Mayor Vi Lyles took to Twitter to weigh in on the event, too, saying the plantation should have known better.
The following Monday, the Carolina Raptor Center emailed out their own statement. The center is located on the Latta nature preserve. In their statement, they noted they are independent of Latta. They are also offering free admission on June 19.
“Because we believe all people should have access to nature and outdoor activities, we invite you to connect with the natural world by visiting our facility no matter your racial background, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, social class, or sexual orientation,” the statement read. “Raptors don’t discriminate and neither do we.”
Read the full statement from Carolina Raptor Center below:
Carolina Raptor Center (CRC) is an environmental education organization dedicated to the conservation of raptors and other birds of prey. Our facilities are located on the grounds of Latta Nature Preserve, Mecklenburg County’s largest nature preserve. However, we are an independent non-profit organization that is not affiliated with Historic Latta Plantation.
The Raptor Center deeply values the diversity of our community and stands in support of racial and social equity. Because we believe all people should have access to nature and outdoor activities, we invite you to connect with the natural world by visiting our facility no matter your racial background, ethnicity, nationality, gender identity, social class, or sexual orientation. Raptors don’t discriminate and neither do we.
Because we are committed to equity and access, the Raptor Center will open on June 19, 2021, without a prescribed admission fee. Come observe Juneteenth at CRC and contribute what you can in our donation box. This is an open invitation for our community to observe the holiday, while celebrating freedom and enjoying nature together.
But not everybody thought it was a bad idea.
“I thought it was great,” said Kim Cook.
Kim Cook and her husband David have been coming to the preserve for years. It’s become their Friday night date night hotspot. They see the event as a teaching moment to show where we were, and where we are.
“We can tell our children this is the way it was, this is the way it is now and we’ve come such a long way,” she said.
“This is bringing a part of our history – not a good part of our history. But it’s bringing it to life in a way that people can experience rather than just read about it in a book,” said David.
Commissioner Leake says she’s going to bring this up at the next board meeting to see if she can an explanation for the event.
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