“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
The special called meeting of the Board of Commissioners on April 24 drew an outpouring of protest, coupled with deep emotion and painful public commentary.
Much of the source was from local residents but there was also significant representation from elements outside of the county.
The debate centered on efforts to issue a proclamation requested by the organization, “The Sons Of Confederate Veterans,” to recognize the month of April as Confederate History month and a specific day as Confederate Memorial Day.
The practice of issuing a proclamation has occurred for a number of years without debate. Based upon what occurred last Tuesday, the sentiment has clearly changed in the aftermath of Charlottesville, Virginia.
There is strong belief that the time to move beyond honoring vestiges of the Confederacy has come, but that does not mean that we as a community cannot come together in unity to acknowledge an important part of our collective history. It is in that light that the following is offered to municipalities and County Government for consideration:
1. Future attempts to honor/recognize activities or groups relative to the Civil War era should focus on the generic Civil War;
2. There should be intentional effort made to reflect a holistic approach to history of the period;
3. Wherever we have community recognition and symbolism of the period, we should similarly seek balance. For example, if there are street names honoring the Confederacy there should be balance with street names honoring African Americans or Union officials;
4. We should establish a racial reconciliation commission, perhaps under the Fayette Visioning umbrella and representing diverse elements from the community, that works toward healing old wounds and bridging the divide.
I recently had the blessing of attending a joint Fayette County religious event, where a predominantly African American congregation fellowshipped in unity with a predominantly Caucasian congregation. They spoke of how the congregations came together after a particularly ugly instance of racial hatred in our county almost a decade ago.
The event brought tears of joy to my eyes and left me with the inevitable question: If it can be done on the religious front, is it time to do it in our local government and municipalities?
I believe with all my heart that the answer is YES.
Terrence Williamson, President
NAACP, Fayette Branch