'White History' sign could prompt changes in Hope Mills parades
Posted July 5, 2013
Updated July 6, 2013
Hope Mills, N.C. — Town officials are considering adopting tougher rules for participation in parades in Hope Mills after an entry in the Independence Day parade prompted complaints.
Farmer Donnie Spell, who has driven his tractor in the Hope Mills parade for years, tacked a sign saying "White History Month – Hug Wht Ppl" to a trailer filled with watermelons that he pulled down Main Street during Thursday's event.
Spell's tractor also featured a Confederate flag, which officials said he's flown before during the Independence Day parade.
His entry form for the parade lists only his antique tractors and a load of watermelons for sale.
"There was no mention of any type of signage," Town Manager John Ellis said. "At the lineup, our parks and recreation director saw it. The gentleman was asked to remove it. We thought it had been removed."
Spell couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
"I think, if you talk to him, you're going to see it's not anything meant to be vicious," Mayor Jackie Warner said.
Warner said she and other officials have received complaints about the sign, and the incident has upset her.
"I worry that, the day and time we're in, we need – I don't want to have to say be cautious – but I think we have to be respectful of all," she said.
Some local residents said they would question the sign but wouldn't be offended by it.
"It would catch my eye. I would be kind of like, 'What's the deal?' Why are you doing something like this?'" Carletta Santana said.
"I would think about it, but it wouldn't bother me to that point, you know, because I'm my own person," Giovaughn Jackson said.
Ellis said Hope Mills wants to keep its parade "a wholesome family event," so officials are going to see how other towns handle parade entries to determine how to prevent future problems.
"This particular incident is one of those things that we’ve got to get beyond, but we’ll try to do a better job in the next parade," Warner said.