Durham hosts national call to action on systemic and institutional racism
Representatives of Durham County groups including Organizing Against Racism (OAR) Durham, Durham Clergy United, Durham Branch of the NAACP, Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and others host a press conference at the Durham County Administration Building.
thank you to the ad hoc coalition of leaders with whom I'm here, assembled that are speaking, were attempting today to speak very loudly about claims and allegations that surfaced in our community, and we're asking for transparency. Were asking for an investigation we're asking at the allegations be vetted in terms of their veracity and in the conduct that brought them on. Be ferreted out. America at this time is fighting to viruses. As you well know, we're fighting the novel Corona virus. Kobe Kobe, 19 Rather is relatively new, but we're also fighting an age oh virus of racism that has been with us since the Republic was born. Racism may manifest in various ways, shapes of phones. It inevitably causes violence. It may manifest in an attempt to castigate someone's leadership. It may manifest in an attempt to undermine authority. It may manifest with a hostile work environment, or it may be the consequence of implicit bias. Here in Durham County County Manager Window Davis has made some very significant allegations that are raced base. He has alleged that Heidi Carter has discriminated against him because of race and based on race. Again, we're asking for full transparency. Mr. Carter has an excuse. Me, Mr. Davis has an impeccable record, but we want to make sure his allegations are appropriately vetted for veracity of the veracity of his allegations are appropriately. We want to also make sure that to the extent actions precipitated those, uh, his allegations, we want to make sure Miss Carter's actions are exposed and they are ferreted out because they have absolutely no place in our society. In this day and age, I want to summarily say what our purposes today as I you we're here in no way, shape or form to incite animosity. Just the opposite. This group, this coalition of leaders, is here to help facilitate harming again. I want to thank you all for taking the time to covers. I am a Durham native, born and raised, attended segregated Durham City schools, graduated from Hillside High School, had all my post secondary education at historically black colleges and universities and have spent the past four decades teaching communication skills and public speaking at North Carolina Central University. I'm a Durham Public Schools Board member representing District One A. That means central and South East Durham. For 16 years, I am a national and state school board leader. I am no stranger to the ugliness and the disastrous effects off systemic racism, especially as it affects the education of black Children, Dr Cottage E. Woodson wrote in his iconic book, The Miseducation of the Negro. This statement one should rely upon protests on Lee when it is supported by constructive programs. More currently, activists, rapper Killer Mike says to fight against systemic racism, we must plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize. I am pleased to say the dorm public schools has done and is continuing to do just that. We're committed to fighting systemic racism by always being reflective. We're committed to fighting it by training each certified employees with implicit bias and micro aggression training. And part two of that training was interrupted by Covert 19. But I'm pleased to say that 80% of that training has been completed in phase two. One of the most deadly effects of systemic racism is the inability to read proficiently is a constitutional obligation to provide each child a sound basic education and the ability to read and calculate proficiently is basic. We will provide an elementary students beginning in August a literacy initiative, which provides equitable access to re sources so that every every school has access to the same resource is across the district. That's from Mangham to Spohn. The math initiative was instituted this last year to a set of satisfying results. Now we still have a ways to go, but we have a plan and we're mobilizing it. Discipline is still an issue, and during public schools, black boys are still suspended more than any other demographic, and black girls are close behind. The schools are microcosm about community. So is black and brown. And we know that you can go down to any courthouse to go down in a courthouse and see young black people brown people sitting there. The good news is that we've mobilized restorative justice centers and practices to offset out of school suspensions. We understand the need while Children to stay in school. So the board policy has been strengthened to insist that the stay in school options are provided by the district. Great news people. DPS has led the way for the state. When the pandemic hit, we started out feeding program and distribution of learning materials, using our transportation Department classified and certified volunteers part of the process. The governor recognized us. It is very first press conference. We're gonna hurt ahead of the curve and DPS. We don't wait for school to come back open to start virtual learning on last Thursday night during Public Schools, Board of Education voted to present Chromebooks to every child K through 12 enduring public schools. Now Channel ABC News talked about Durham doing that. Then they showed a picture of weight counting. I don't know what that was. Okay, but every K 12 student and during public schools will receive a chromebook. Now, this is a response to systemic racism. At its best, we're gonna ask the county and the city to help us provide hot spots so that not only will our Children have connectivity connectivity, but our families also learning is still going on. A small high schools have completed graduation successfully as South Point Mall, using the drive thru process to stay safe and obey safe distance while still recognizing our graduates individually along with their families, for their commitment and successful matriculation. Next up, our graduation ceremonies for traditional high schools. So I want you to stay. Woke for that process for each school. Now, remember this every day is a fight for freedom and a fight against systemic racism. Our Children are watching us. They're listening to us. And they're depending on us. If not us. Who if not now, when? Now. We can't get tired now. So I want you to stay on the ground. Thank you so much. Thank you. My name is Omar Beasley. Now the chairman. Other term committee on the affairs of Black People. I stand this afternoon as the chair of one of the oldest black civil rights organizations in America. The Term Committee on the affairs of Black People. I stand on the shoulders of my black ancestors who fought and died that I may stand here today. I stand as American under the protections and rights afforded to all Americans under the Constitution of the state of North Carolina and the United States of America. I stand here in unity with organizing against racism. Derm clergy, United Dura Branch Kendall, based in Double A CP, the term Democratic women and other individuals who were represented here with us today. I stand with Commissioner Brenda Howard Zinn, the lone County commissioner standing up against a travesty going on on the board of County Commissioners. Derm. We can do better today. I stand acknowledging the groups and individuals that have come together to lend their voices against the fight of systemic races, not just violence. Racism that is a pale to policy making racism that is put on display by passive aggressive behavior. Racism because one chooses to not to grin and bear it in that intolerable atmosphere. Racism that is strictly in retaliation to calling out racism that 1 may have to endure derm. We can do better. Durham has acknowledged a letter that documents what many of us describe his racist racist behavior that was written by county Manager Brenda Wynn Dale Davis. Some of us are privy to the previous effort to oust Window Davis, which cost the county over $300,000 illegal feats. We have to ask, what are their true motives in trying to remove a man that has garnered national accolades while serving us as our county manager? On February 11th Window David Centers let it Ah, Heidi Carter in all the county commissioners. Seven days later, on February 18th Heidi Carter decided to publicly deny these allegations on February 24 for over 150 members from our community, came to the county commissioners meeting to demand an investigation and was openly disrespected by chairwoman Wind Windy Jacobs. With their comments off, many people have had their feelings hurt through this ordeal. During that meeting, she also went into closed session without the county attorney, which is a clear violations of county commissioner. Meeting longs. On April 27 no formal update on the investigation was given to us. Wendy Jacobs, however, did announce that they were publicly in investigating Window Davis for election interference. Professional misconduct, which is a violation of his employees rights by state law. Brenda Howard Zinn argued she was not aware of any such investigation and asked, Was there any other meetings going on that she wasn't privy to all May 4th Durham Committee on Affairs of Black People sent the letter to the Attorney General's office to seek assistance in getting a fair process and unbiased process in the investigation of Heidi Car, I will preface our ask with the request of Councilman Mark Anthony Middleton's plea for freeze on all of the investigations, while we agree with his plea until we hear a public response from chairwoman Wendy Jacobs, we can only expect them to do what they have been doing all along, which is plotting to fire Window Davis before his contract expires. Therefore, we're looking for the following answers. We demand to know what role Heidi Card has played in evaluating or selecting an independent oversight in these investigations. We demand to know in what meeting that the board decided to investigate county Manager Window Davis and put his original claim of racism on the back burner. We want to get an independent agency to do the following to substantiate if any personnel laws were broken by the announcement of the investigation on April 27th. According to General Statute 153 a Dash 98 privacy of employees personnel records to investigate the conduct contact of commissioners as a pertaining to professional conduct, open meeting and personnel violations to investigate possible violations by the Board of County Commissioners. Ethics policy In the midst of Kobe 19 Pant pandemic. What we all suffer from the same pain is our young people are going through marching, approached, protesting for in the name of George Fluid and many others has has suffered the same since this fate. I would ask everybody in terms to do what the citizens of Durham did this weekend. Practice restraint, be adults and let's do what's right by dirt. Good afternoon. My name is Kathy Reimer. Cyril's my pronouns. Are she her? Hers? And I am honored to represent the leadership team of organizing against racism. Durham, along with our co chair, Cameron Smith, who could not be, were here with us. Today we join this crucial community gathering with heavy hearts and in solidarity with the family of George Floyd on a daily basis. I received campaign emails from progressive candidates around the country proclaiming that this was not a normal week in America. But sadly, despite the constant media replays, the protests and the professed anguish of well meaning white people horrified by what we're seeing on TV this waas a normal week in America for our black and brown neighbors. Not only do we mourn the lives of George Floyd, Briana Taylor and amount Aubrey, whose names and faces fill our news and social media feeds, but we know that their deaths are just the tip of the iceberg and that there are so many more who have died unseen, UNM warned. And unheard. We also mourn the fact that a white woman was recently so threatened by a black man birdwatching in central part that she called the police. Her actions and the deaths of so many black men and other people of color are inextricably linked to our friends and neighbors of color in our own Durham community, whose body, souls and hearts are breaking daily. We see you, we honor you, and we strive to be accountable to you. To our friends and neighbors who identify as white, we invite you to join us in our ongoing journey to embrace and internalize the practice of anti racism we organizing against racism. Durham are a local alliance of committed activists, both of color and white, whose focus is on racial equity, education and engagement in Durham, while our efforts are local, were part of a broader network of community based organizations around the country hosting end out programs to advance racial equity in partnership with the Racial Equity Institute and other anti racism educators. Over the past nine years, several 1000 individuals have participated in programming offered in the triangle area. Our primary goal is to raise awareness of the legacy of historical, institutional and structural racism and to leverage this awareness as a catalyst for long term transfer mitt Transformational change. A key component of this work consists of race based caucusing that provides a brave space for both people of color and white people to heal from the internalized oppression we all experience due to centuries of white supremacy culture for white people in particular. This work helps us to identify and learn to counter act what author Robin DeAngelo calls white fragility. The discomfort and dispense iveness were socialized to feel when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice. We're here today as concerned residents standing in solidarity with the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and other groups seeking accountability across systems and institutions in Durham. In particular, we call attention to our letter and supported the committee, dated May 11th sent to Attorney General Josh Stein and the Durham County Board of County Commissioners regarding demands for a local investigation to address racism within the county. We have received no acknowledgement of or response to that letter. We feel strongly that it is unacceptable and inequitable for the Board of Commissioners to carry out any investigations related to the county managers allegations pending public, an unequivocal commitment to acting in racially just and equitable ways by the board's leadership and members. Repeatedly, members of the board are continuing to disregard and minimize the concerns of community members of color, reflecting the kind of Jim and Jane Crow culture of the past. We're no longer able to stand by watching our elected leaders blatantly perpetuate systems of racism and white supremacy as a progressive city, the champions many causes of Equity and Justice Way called on all residents who strive to be anti racist, both white and of color, to stand against these acts and with dignity, respect and courage to stand for what is right in the situation. A transparent investigation that takes seriously the initial claims of racism made by a person of color. All aspects of the investigation need independent oversight that is not directed, but or supervised by anyone elected to or staffed by the county Board of Commissioners. In light of these recent actions in their roots in our country's history, and culture of creating advantages for white people at the expense of black people, indigenous peoples and other people of color. We offer two key requests. First, a commitment by County Commissioner Chair Jay Jacobs and commissioner card here Carter to caucusing and wrestling with their whiteness through a community based organization that can also serve as an accountability agent. Second, an investigation that includes a task force to develop recommendations on policies to address racism within the county and ways to review ethics compliance for elected officials. Task Force would develop and implement guidelines for monitoring the progress made in creating a space where both the county commissioner and the county manager can work together equitably. We believe that issuing a genuine apology to the county staff and community members of color for the continued harm of institutional racism and white fragility would be an excellent way to begin this effort. We envision a Durham where our elected officials model for our community work of racial equity and also how to respond to claims of racial harm in a spirit of humility, reflection and commitment to transformational change. Cameron, the leadership team of away our Durham and I sincerely thank you for your attention. Attention and for your presence today. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Reverend Rifle Range, president of the Durham branch of the end. Double A C. P. I stand in solidarity. Look, all that unites us against racism. As you know, that the mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to insure the political, educational, social and economical equality of the rights of all persons to eliminate race based discrimination. We're here today because we're in support about Durham County commissioner, Manager uh, who has been ostracised and criticize. Talk about and we're trying to see that equality spans four. We know that racism still exist, but we strive for unity in the community when it spews into your job and work place among your co workers making it uncomfortable to perform your daily tasks. It not only impede you on the job, but in empty Jew in your daily living that includes your home where you have family. Well, now, as we stand with this profoundly horrific incident that has brought us here today, we're encouraged by the outpouring of protest marches and rallies around the world in honor of Mr George Floyd, but we will continue to work toward unity, even though I know it first. That racism waas in the sixties Racism is in the seventies eighties nineties, now into 20th century. How long have we got to deal with these strategies? It is time for us to come together as a people. We're supposed the united we stand and together we fall. But we are not together. If we were together, that would not be division among us. I believe a few today toe wet with us because of the situation that is at hand. And as we move forward together, we want to ensure that black lives matter and the n double Lacey's gained changes for the 21st century. Continue our work here in Durham towards permanently organized communities where the rights of black people are upheld. We continue to work towards health equality for all Americans way continue toe towards equitable dispensation of justice for all. We know that justice is a word that has been played out long ago, just us. But it's time for us to get justice and stand together and work together shoulder to go together so that we can continue to protect and support our youth and enhanced voting rights and fair representation. We need a free, high quality public education for oh, and a chance to live the American dream for all we have worked down through the years, trying to equate ourselves with our co workers. Let me take this self. I got to speak without co workers and we find that even on our jobs, we are ostracised criticized. We can do right, but we find out that we're doing wrong. So when is just is going to kick in for everyone? We need to love everyone. The Bible speaks of working in love and unity. But if you are not uniting with us in love, how can we work together, talked together, then get behind closed doors and discuss other situations? It is time for us to come together is never before, not only because of the terrorism in the looting, in the ostracised, Singh and the writing in the my up, migrating together, causing other confusions. We just thank God that were still able to stand strong in the Lord and in the power of his might that we might love one another and show that way. Our together, we call for our county elected officials to apologize to the black staff and the community. Even now, there are those that are together in rooms that are talking and strategizing when they should be communing with us to find out that everything should go by the rules. Now, when we continue to go past the rules that we have made a era that will affect not only Durham County but Durham City Raleigh, the whole state of North Carolina, I bid you that. We weren't together in unity. And Second Chronicles seven and 14 tells us if my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, then will I hear from heaven? I will forgive their sins and heal their lane. Thank you so much. Can't take a look. Thank you. Im de Triana Freeman, a Durham City Council member here. And I wanted to share a few words at this time and just noting that this moment has been really hard and we're hard pressed to make sure that we're focused on what's happening here and turn. But I do want Carl to call Teoh to the forefront as I watched George Floyd lay on the ground, tuft on the opposite side of the vehicle, pinned down by three offices who had already scream for his mother, had already passed away. I am deeply saddened and the pain that I feel, I'm sure that we're all feeling some here today, where I served as a council member call to action, and I want to continue to stand with my community and thank all that were out this weekend and over the last few a few days sign last few days. I wanted to impress upon us that we're here just asking that we uphold our principles of social justice and representing terms true, progressive value. We need healing right now. This year's we mourn the loss of a live Tony Mcd A and George Floyd and pre on Taylor and Amon Aubrey amid a Covic pandemic. I pray no more families lose their loved ones like this, and I pray for all the weeping mothers that they find closure. I acknowledge the anger, fear, frustration of the people in this community, and I want to thank all the peaceful protesters with Ascension and Pentecost on mine Where do we go from here with the uninvited mental health trauma. How white people will respond in this moment will matter. I am. I want to note that here in Derm the call to actually that the term committee made last month and the month before it is unacceptable that they've received no response. And as I mentioned it in my disappointment at the county at a City Council work session, I felt that that would have been enough. And it hasn't been so. I'm hoping that out of today's conversation, there will be more of a response. Thank you, Howard. I am.