The Liberty County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is hosting a community meeting on the issues of race, religion and politics.
The forum is from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 1347 Shaw Road. It is open to the public.
Liberty County NAACP President Graylan Quarterman said the incident in Charlottesville, Va., two weeks ago demonstrated the need to have continued conversations about these three relevant topics.
Violence erupted in Charlottesville when white supremacist groups clashed with counter protestors over the possible removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
A car, driven by an alleged white supremacist, plowed into a crowd of people, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
“You would think that due to the atmosphere we are currently in, this forum was just created…but not so,” Quarterman said, adding this meeting was announced Aug. 4 and the Liberty NAACP held a previous community meeting in 2015 to address the same three topics.
He said the 2015 meeting was sparked by the Charleston church mass shooting as well as ongoing national racial division ignited by the Ferguson, Mo., riots in 2014 when a white officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed an African American, Michael Brown.
Quarterman said the Charlottesville incident demonstrated these three issues continue to polarize the nation.
“What happened in Charlottesville should not be of any surprise to anyone because this current administration has festered hatred from the time it started running its campaign,” Quarterman said. “It is time for our leaders who are of sound mind to speak wisdom to power and require the president to speak in a unifying voice. Not a voice of division. But more so a voice of inclusion and that has not been done.”
Quarterman said President Donald Trump’s lack of immediate response was telling.
“Our president, he is not limited on words,” Quarterman said. “He is not limited to respond in the media or twitter. He’s very responsive and so his lack of response was by calculation. It was not lack of information.”
And he said he thinks some hate groups feel emboldened under the current administration.
“I respect the office of the United States… however I am mindful of the folks he put around him,” he said. “He has put some individuals around him whose track record show that they have been racists and divisive. I tell individuals that if you want to show me your true character show me your friends. Then I can see your character. So I look at the people around him, which shows his character. And the people around him support this divisiveness…that is why folks like the KKK, the nationalists and other groups…seems like they have a pass to do the things that you see in Charlottesville. This must stop.”
In the aftermath of the incident in Charlottesville, the Liberty NAACP and the Liberty County Minority Chamber held a peaceful vigil.
“The purpose of that event was to show compassion for our sisters and brothers,” Quarterman said. “When something happens within our borders of the United States and it has a national effect, if we don’t respond to it we open ourselves up for the same thing. And we wanted to give a platform that folks who were concerned within this community could come and show their moral support and pray for, in unity, for those folks who were going through Charlottesville as well as make a call to our local and congressional leaders to be more responsive when things like this happen. And to speak up especially when our President of these United States is reluctant to respond.”
Quarterman added there is a disparity in how law enforcement handles protests in our nation.
“As we witness what happened in Charlottesville we saw that our law enforcement did not do their job,” he said. “They did not protect the innocent bystanders. And we have seen that so often in our country where the least of ours are not protected by the people we called to lead and serve our country.”
Quarterman said he was a participant of the first Million Man March in 1995. He offered a comparison on how that was handled versus the incident in Charlottesville.
“There was over a million men at the footsteps of the Capital and we were not allowed to even take a pocket knife. Not any weapons at all,” he said. “But let’s say that those million men were allowed to take weapons…the National Guard would have been called out. The active Army would have probably been called out, the Air Force and everything else. So there is no doubt that there is a segment of this community that responds differently to African Americans than they do to Caucasians. That march (Charlottesville)…if those were African Americans that walked up there with guns and bats and stuff I can assure you that the city would have been shut down…That march (Charlottesville) was not planned to be safe. And I just believe that it was strategically planned that the police responded in a delayed fashion. That is my opinion.”
Quarterman said everyone should have the right to protest peacefully or to be able to express their First Amendment right to free speech.
“But hatred has no place in our country,” he said.
At Sunday’s meeting, Interim Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry will be the opening speaker. Panel members include Pastor William Flippin Jr., Pastor Debra Grant-Neal, Dr. Otis Johnson, State Representative Al Williams and Pastor Dale Thornton.
“I think until we sit down and continue to have conversations…we will sometimes have misunderstandings about how individuals govern and how individuals deal with racial issues and religious decisions,” Quarterman said. “I think it is important that we pull a community together.