Over 80 protesters gathered in front of the Orange County Courthouse to hear speeches at a July 4 demonstration calling for racial equity from school rooms to courtrooms in Hillsborough and beyond.
Del Ward organized the protest with the Hate-Free Schools Coalition and Action NC to bring light to the racism Black Hillsborough residents experience.
“This is a solidarity movement,” Ward said. “Solidarity with Chapel Hill, solidarity with Raleigh, with Charlotte, with Los Angeles, with Minneapolis, with all over the world. Everyone’s coming out.”
Patricia Clayton, the president of the Northern Orange County chapter of the NAACP, recalled her own childhood experiences with racism, like drinking from segregated water fountains in front of the courthouse where protesters stood.
She remembered the jeers she heard every day on her bus rides to then-segregated Orange High School.
“I graduated in 1969, and rode the bus with white folks. I rode from Orange High to Reaper Street — that’s an hour ride — I was called names from Orange High to Reaper Street every day,” Clayton said. “I went to Orange High three years before it was totally integrated. I know about racism.”
Clayton said protesters can keep up the fight for civil rights through voting, especially in the upcoming election.
“Don’t sit at home and make excuses. I want you to do the mail-in voting, because we don’t know what COVID-19 is going to be like. I want you to go ahead and request your absentee ballot, and mail it in,” she said. “Don’t sit at home.”
Tommy McNeill, a businessman, former political candidate and speaker at the event, called upon Superintendent Monique Felder to address racial disparities in suspension, literacy, teacher hiring and beyond.
“Students of color are disproportionately disadvantaged in our school system,” he said. “School closures due to COVID-19 increase the learning gap between Black students and their white counterparts. Black students are less likely to have the technology or internet access for remote learning.”
Curtis Gatewood, an organizer with the Stop Killing Us Solutions Campaign, said he came from a protest in Chatham County where his group received threats just hours earlier from “white supremacist terrorists.”
“We are being murdered by homegrown terrorists right here in America, and it’s time to stop,” Gatewood said.
Gatewood called for reallocations of funds away from law enforcement, and a “defense department that never defends Black people,” he said.
Dr. Kimberly Muktarian, the president of Save Our Sons, a nonprofit advocating for fair sentencing laws, also spoke on what she called a “revolution of every kind” in cities across the state and the United States.
“We came into a country that did everything by force, but they yelled ‘democracy,’ and we found out that democracy don’t always work. We found out that being nice, playing nice and playing the good guy doesn’t always work,” Muktarian said. “We even had to know that we were already good, and good enough to have justice.”
Ward said he’ll be returning back to the corner of Churton and Margaret next week, just feet from the seat of Orange County government. In his speech, he called on other white liberals to listen to and elevate Black people's demands.
“I hear a lot of white liberals say, ‘Oh, I support the movement, Black Lives Matter, but it’s really just a few bad apples,'” Ward said. “Well I was raised in the South, and I know how the rest of that saying goes: a few bad apples ruins the whole bunch, and, furthermore, we’ve been having bad apples since the incarnation of this country, since the incarnation of police. It’s damn time we start looking at the tree that’s producing the bad apples.”
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