Task force to lead ‘community conversation’

Goals: to explore disparities, eliminate gaps in equality

Posted 7/3/20

The Racial Justice Task Force of the 18th Judicial District is partnering with Chatham government and nonprofit leaders to host a virtual community conversation on racial justice in Chatham’s …

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Task force to lead ‘community conversation’

Goals: to explore disparities, eliminate gaps in equality

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Posted

The Racial Justice Task Force of the 18th Judicial District is partnering with Chatham government and nonprofit leaders to host a virtual community conversation on racial justice in Chatham’s criminal justice system on July 10.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic and limits on gathering sizes, the event will take place over the Zoom videoconference platform from 10 a.m. to 11:30. Pre-registration for the event is required, but anyone who registers can attend.

Several public officials and community members — including state Rep. Robert Reives II, Chatham Sheriff Mike Roberson and Hispanic Liaison founder Ilana Dubester — will speak about racial justice from their perspectives. Following the speakers, facilitators will invite Chatham residents to join the discussion.

Founded in 2015, the Racial Justice Task Force works to understand how racial minorities are disproportionately represented in the criminal and juvenile justice system.

Karen Howard, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and one of the scheduled speakers at the event, said she’s grateful for the opportunity to have a collaborative conversation with people involved in different racial justice efforts in the community.

“My hope is that we will hear things from each other that are helpful but that also that we will not look at this as a one-off event — that we will recognize that there’s work to be done and we probably need to keep having these kinds of conversations, and perhaps even committees arise out of those conversations that do work, research and bring information back to the groups represented by the speakers,” she said.

Guided discussion in the event will include focus on:

• The causes of race-based disparities in criminal justice

• Filling systemic and institutional gaps to eliminate inequality

• Using data to understand and eliminate inequality

• Setting public goals for Chatham County to achieve.

For more information, or to participate in the event, go to:

https://unc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIqdO6rpjMpHNb_1W6xqJ1sQ9Jm5Y0WfqwL

Others scheduled to speak at the event include Stephanie Terry, Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity (C.O.R.E.); Mary Nettles, president, NAACP Chatham Community Branch in Pittsboro; Janeallen Wilson, director of training, N.C. Victim Assistance Network; and Del Turner, a member of the Chatham County Board of Education.

On July 4, the week before the Zoom event, the Rev. Curtis Everette Gatewood has planned a demonstration at Pittsboro’s Justice Center. Gatewood, a former high-profile NAACP member who was suspended from the national organization after allegations of sexual misconduct, is calling his event — announced on Facebook — “Stand Against White Supremacist Terrorism.” It’s set to begin at 10 a.m.

Gatewood, who has led a number of “Stop Killing Us” marches in recent weeks, wrote on his Facebook page that attendees “will exercise our ‘right to peacefully assemble’ near the place in Pittsboro, NC, where on 6/17/20, certain women and other attendees, were violently attacked with hockey sticks attached to large confederate flags, as they attempted to exercise their right to freely protest, and exercise their ‘freedom of speech’ against the injustices we blatantly see occurring throughout our nation.”

“Why Pittsboro?” he wrote in the post. “Because, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, ‘a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Further, God ask that our ministries ‘go ye into all the world.’”

Neither Chatham NAACP branch is affiliated with Gatewood or sponsoring the event.

“I have found no group in Chatham County who has stepped forward to say they invited Rev. Gatewood or is sponsoring any event on July 4,” said Bob Pearson, a member of NAACP Chatham Community Branch who is working with the Equal Justice Initative to memoralize Chatham’s six lynching victims.

Still, Howard said she hopes the July 4 event will be a positive opportunity to inform and engage the community.

“There is absolutely every opportunity for that right now — we are in a moment we can either let slip by or we can use for the good, or we can throw something on the flames and stoke them without really addressing the matter,” she said. “I hope that would not be anyone’s goal.”

Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com.

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