Buncombe Community Remembrance Project: December 2021
Historical Markers Installation Ceremony – Remembering
October 30th started off as a cool and drizzly day, and over time the rain got harder, but it did not keep hundreds of people away from the ceremony. .It began with a central ceremony at Pack Square Park and later moved to each of the sites for the unveiling of the three historical markers:
For Mr. John Humphries – College & Spruce Streets
For Mr. Bob Brackett – Triangle Park
For Mr. Hezekiah Rankin – Craven Street & Emma Road
Many of the people who came to the opening ceremony traveled to one or more of the unveiling sites. The Buncombe Community Remembrance Project was honored to have three of the Equal Justice Initiative staff – Cyan Blackwell, Keiana West, and Kayla Vinson – attending and participating in the day’s events.
In this photo collection, the story of the day is captured. The members of the Project are grateful for the photos taken by Michael Oppenheim, courtesy of The Community Foundation of WNC.
If you weren’t able to attend the Historical Markers Ceremony or wanted to view it again, this video captures the opening ceremony and the unveiling of the markers at each of the three sites. This 70 minute presentation includes the speeches from three key staff from the Equal Justice Initiative as well as the top three winners for the Buncombe County Essay Contest reading their essays.
Essay Contest Update
A key tenet of EJI’s Remembrance Project is Empowering Community Education. Ensuring that the transgressions of our past are not repeated necessitates teaching those transgressions to today’s youth. It is therefore fitting that Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools’ students and educators were central to the Historical Markers Installation Ceremony held on October 30th.
(Read the entire article about the Essay Contest which includes links to the top three winners’ essays here.)
In this video from the Equal Justice Initiative, the truth about Confederate-named schools and why they need to be re-named is revealed. As stated in the video, “truth and justice require us to confront our history honestly and commit ourselves to dismantling the legacy of racial injustice.”
Remembrance Projects Nationally and Locally
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is a great partner not only to Buncombe County but all communities willing and working to address their history of racial injustice. Below are three elements the Project wanted to highlight that were shared by EJI.
- EJI is currently working with nearly 100 communities to advance Community Remembrance Projects in their communities. A little more than half of these communities have erected historical markers. You can find out more about the communities that have erected EJI sponsored Community Remembrance Project markers here.
- If you were unable to attend the ceremony, you can view what is on each of the markers, front and back, here as compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative.
- The full stories about each of the three men lynched are captured in this document.
The Historical Markers Ceremony got attention from local media. The Asheville Citizen-Times shared some photos of that morning here.
Calls to Action or Engagement
- African American Heritage Trail Advisory Committee: Buncombe County residents that are aligned with the criteria listed in this link are encouraged to apply to be on this committee. The application period is open through December 10th. Get details about the Trail here.
- Reparations Commission update: The city of Asheville now has nomination and application forms available here. There are several categories for participation. Deadline to submit is December 22nd with appointments now set to be made by February, 2022.
- Support Robert Thomas, Sr. Many of you are aware that Rob Thomas, Jr., one of the lead organizers of the Racial Justice Coalition, has been working to get his father out of prison. We learned that happened on November 27th! If you can support him during the challenging re-entry process, go to this GoFundMe page that provides details.
- Before the guilty verdicts were announced, an outrageous comment was made by a defense attorney for one of the white men charged in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. She noted there were too many Black pastors in the courtroom. Because of that comment, clergy from around the country traveled to the courthouse in Brunswick, GA, to be in solidarity with the family of Mr. Arbery. One of those was the executive director for Carolina Jews for Justice. Read her message from November 18th here.
Support Afghan Refugees in Asheville. Asheville has welcomed nearly 20 Afghan refugees as of mid-November. The maximum number of refugees is capped at 40. Those newly arriving to our country need many things. You can help. Click here to indicate the ways you can assist. You can give in a variety of ways, meeting specific needs, volunteering for transportation, giving resources for the purchase of gift cards. (Read the entire call to action here.)
Support a Trip to Montgomery
If you are looking for a way to support this Project, here is a way to do so financially.
As noted in previous editions of this e-newsletter, members of the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project are hoping to travel to Montgomery, Alabama some time in the next year as invited guests of the Equal Justice Initiative. As part of that trip, the Project would like to include people who want to attend but may not have the financial resources to do so.
The Project is asking members of the Buncombe community to make a tax deductible donation so that everyone may be able to attend. By going to this site offered by The Community Foundation of WNC, gifts will be set aside to make that possible.
Thanks for your consideration.
Back in 2019, Bryan Stevenson offered this video about how “we can’t recover from this history until we deal with it.” The United States has been hiding from this history, and it needs to be addressed in order for healing to begin.
This e-newsletter not only covers what the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project is doing but also offers other news, events and stories that align with its work. Below are some items that are noteworthy. As always feel free to share any or all of these items or the entire e-newsletter.
- As in each edition, here are articles, blogs, audios and videos focused on racial injustice and inequity and efforts to make positive change locally, regionally, statewide and/or nationally. Items are organized into categories to help readers more easily find those that interest them.
- What It Means to be Black in Asheville: Join Dr. Dwight Mullen for an update from The State of Black Asheville on Monday, December 13th, from 6 – 8 pm. Dr. Mullen will present data that describes policy outcomes in education, healthcare, housing, justice, and economic mobility. Get further details and the link to register here.
- Want to learn more about “urban renewal” in Asheville? Check out this website launched earlier this year from one of those victimized, Priscilla Robinson, back in the late 1960’s.
- Woody Eisenberg has graciously shared his photography with the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project with photos from the Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama and the disassembling of the Vance Monument. He announced his new photo exhibit documenting the deconstruction of the Vance Monument which is on display at the North Asheville Library. It runs through January 2nd, 2022. Get further details here.
- The Center for Craft on Broadway has an important exhibit highlighting African American/Black artists from WNC. “Black in Black on Black: Making the Invisible Visible” is open at the Center, M – F, 10 am – 6 pm, through January 7th. Get details here.
- Dontae Sharpe Pardoned! Many calls were made to Governor Cooper to pardon Dontae Sharpe. In this story from NPR, it’s reported that Governor Cooper has done so. It can sometimes appear that getting involved to make your voice heard is futile, but this shows where the efforts of many to demand an action can result in a victory. Thanks go to all who led this effort and to those who listened and acted!
On-going or Latest Update:
- Dr. King’s Celebration Moves to Virtual Platforms: The Board of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Association of Asheville and Buncombe County announced that the majority of its 2022 Dr. King commemoration events will be moved to virtual platforms again this year due to concerns of keeping supporters safe from COVID-19 infections, including breakthrough infections. Most events will be pre-recorded and will be viewable on the Association’s YouTube Channel, as well as the Association’s website. (Read the entire article here.)
- The keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast in January 2022 has been announced. Go here to learn about Marcia Johnson-Blanco. Her topic will be “Give Us the Ballot Box: The Urgency of NOW!”
- The topics of racial injustice, equity, healing and reparations are not easy conversations to have but are important and necessary. The annual African Americans in Western North Carolina conference at UNC Asheville discussed those topics and more last month. This article from the Asheville Citizen-Times offers some of the highlights.
Buncombe County has created this webpage that provides information and resources to help our community. The state of North Carolina provides this page as well. Additionally, the NC Black Alliance offers this webpage dedicated to the latest information on COVID-19 for members of the Black community.
Afghan Refugees, African American Heritage Trail, Dontae Sharpe, Dr. King Commemoration 2022, Equal Justice Initiative, Equity Over Everything, Essay Contest, Mr. Bob Brackett, Mr. Hezekiah Rankin, Mr. John Humphries, Pandemic Resources, Remembrance Project, Reparations Commission, Robert Thomas Sr, The Folding Chair