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MLK Association of Asheville
"Our LIVES Begin To End The Day
We Become SILENT About Things That MATTER"
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Buncombe Community Remembrance Project: December 2020

Taking Stock

The holiday season is ramping up, and many may look back at this year with a feeling that, thank goodness, it is coming to an end. This has been an immensely challenging year, but the response from so many to be engaged in not just the work of the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project (BCRP) but other organizations working for social justice has been impressive, even inspiring.

Some of that engagement was seen In this past election when, despite the pandemic, North Carolina (and the country) had record turnout. Despite issues of safety, county boards of elections were able to recruit sufficient poll workers for Early Voting and on Election Day. And despite misinformation about voter fraud and irregularities, this election was considered by many one of the best run with “only minor hiccups”.     

It may be that likely we will not look back at 2020 with many positives, but we can see, as illustrated by the BCRP and many other organizations, that people can come and are coming together to make positive change. Read below for some examples of activities and actions that are doing so.

Also, please note that your involvement – whether it is through the giving of time, talent and/or treasure – has made and continues to make a huge difference. Thank you for all you do!.  

Ron Katz

Tell Us Your Story

We learn from stories, and there are many that can shed light on the history of Asheville and Buncombe County. The BCRP is already capturing some of those stories from Black members of this community in videos. However, if there are people who would prefer to tell their stories pertaining to racial violence and social injustices that they have faced or have knowledge of that occurred in their communities and have it written down, the Project has someone who wants to listen and write your story down.
     If you or someone you know are interested, please have them contact Dr. Joseph FoxDr. Oralene Simmons or Ron Katz who will connect you with the writer.

This is the first story from the Equal Justice Initiative being shared in this e-newsletter about the history of lynching. These are not easy stories to hear, but they are important to tell. The Lynching in America website from EJI is dedicated to share the history of this era of racial terrorism.

The Future of the Vance Monument

 In past e-newsletters, the BCRP offered a survey about what the future should be for the Vance Monument. Nearly 50 people responded to that survey, and from that survey more than 50% expressed the desire that the Monument be removed. About 30% suggested it should remain but re-purposed and renamed.

The survey results were shared with Dr. Oralene Simmons, co-chair of the Vance Monument Task Force. In this article from the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Task Force agreed with the survey respondents by voting 11-1 to recommend to Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Commission the removal of the monument. 

Supporting Black and LatinX Communities

Mountain Xpress has covered the annual grant awards celebration for CoThinkk, a grassroots philanthropic organization focused on advancing positive change. Led by members of local Black and Hispanic communities, the group distributed over $100,000 at its 2020 celebration on October 14th.
     Media entrepreneur and educator Aisha Adams brings the story here, and be sure to watch the 10-minute video highlighting the projects funded this year.

The Racial Justice Coalition is doing important work in our community. Because of community support, they’re 90% of the way to their $25,000 goal to fund their Walk the Walk Campaign. This is an effort to raise funds to support a Black Grassroots Outreach Team in collaboration with Black Asheville Demands and Just Us. To support this important effort, go here to donate. 

Supporting the BCRP

The Buncombe Community Remembrance Project’s continues its partnership with the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC). The Foundation has set up a fund on behalf of the Remembrance Project, and here is the link if you wish to support this important work. More than $31,000 of the $80,000 goal has been raised. (Note: Make sure to hit the link for the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project Fund in the first optional Question.) 
     The funding will help the Project:

  • Support its online presence, per the challenges that currently exist with COVID-19.
  • Reach out to national speakers that can address both the history of and modern-day violence against people of color.   
  • Offer scholarships to visit Montgomery, Alabama, the home of the Equal Justice Initiative, the Legacy Museum, and Memorial for Peace and Justice, for some who may be unable to afford the cost.
  • Install one or more historical markers to acknowledge our county’s history of racial injustice as well as recognize the vital contributions that Blacks have made to our community.
  • And, ultimately, bring a replica of the pillar from Montgomery that lists the names of those who were lynched in Buncombe County.

BCRP and the 2021 MLK Celebrations

As the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County celebrates 40 years of commemorations, the BCRP will be featured throughout the weeklong list of events. All events, starting January 15, 2021, will be free to the public and shared online through YouTube. Community and organizational donations will continue to support the Youth Scholarship Program as well as assisting with the completion of the BCRP. The Project seeks to bring the Historical Marker, established by the Equal Justice Initiative, to Asheville in recognition of three individuals of “record” that were lynched in Asheville/Buncombe County. (See more.) 

Want to Be on One of the Project’s Work Groups?

With the holiday season upon us, many of the work groups will be reconvening (virtually at the beginning) after the first of the year. If you are interested in learning more, check out the Project’s work groups.

Should you have questions (or want to join a work group), please contact Dr. Joseph Fox.

Addressing Racial Inequities

Here are articles, blogs, audios and videos that address racial inequities. In addition to noting examples of inequities, this section offers some efforts that are trying to positively address these issues locally, regionally, statewide or nationally.

Should you have items that you feel are appropriate to post for a future edition of this e-newsletter, please email Ron Katz.

The Election is Over, But…

The Georgia run-offs for two seats in the US Senate are happening in early January. If you or others are interested in helping get out the vote, please see the opportunities below:

  • The New Georgia Project: This organization, founded by Stacey Abrams, is recruiting volunteers from all states to register and engage Georgians. Sign up here.
  • Reclaim Our Vote: This organization shares ways to write postcards, text bank, and phone bank to engage minority voters in Georgia. Sign up here.
  • Frontline Election Defenders is a campaign to ensure everyone votes and every ballot gets counted. They have the goal to send out 100,000 postcards to Georgia residents by next month encouraging them to vote and helping to request their absentee ballot. Click here to sign up..

Pandemic Resources

As the pandemic continues to spread, it remains very important for all to have access to the necessary resources and information. BCRP wants to ensure all have that easy access.

Buncombe County has created this webpage that provides important information and resources to help our community. The state of North Carolina also provides this page that provides valuable information. Please take care, and stay safe. 

Photo of the lynching memorial taken at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Photo taken and provided by

Learning about and acknowledging the history of slavery, lynching, and white supremacy in our county and country is a first step of what the Equal Justice Initiative and the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project are about.

The photo above was taken at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It is one of many stark visuals that confront visitors, and this video offers why a “lynching memorial is needed”.

BCRP, Black and LatinX Communities, Black Asheville Demands, Just Us, Racial Justice Coalition, Remembrance Project, Vance Monument, Walk the Walk Campaign

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