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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: January 2022

The Beginning of a New Year – What’s Next?

Despite the challenges of the pandemic and the divisions in the country, 2021 was a successful year for the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project. The  highlight was the Historical Markers Installation Ceremony on October 30th. The dreary weather (a steady rain) couldn’t keep hundreds of people away from participating in the opening ceremony at Pack Square Park that moved to each of the three sites where one of the markers was unveiled.

With such a foundation laid, what could be next for the Project? The staff from the Equal Justice Initiative challenged the Buncombe community and the Project to keep the effort going (see the video below), and that is what the Project intends to do.

There are two specific activities that are in process.

  1. Starting in April, a three session workshop series is in the works to help people of color address the history of racism and move toward healing. Details will follow soon; the first 25 registrants will be offered a defray any out of pocket costs.
  2. A trip to Montgomery, Alabama is planned to see civil rights sites in early to mid-May. Of particular importance are two sites offered by the Equal Justice Initiative – the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace & Justice

Thanks so much for your interest in this Project. Check out the Project’s February e-newsletter for further details on both activities. Until then, consider joining the Project and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County for a week of activities later this month honoring Dr. King and continuing his legacy to build the “beloved community”.

Ron Katz

EJI Presentation: Buncombe Community Remembrance Project Historical Markers’ Installation Ceremony

At the Historical Markers Installation Ceremony on October 30th, the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project was honored to have three of the staff from the Equal Justice Initiative speak – Keiana West, Kayla Vinson, and Cyan Blackwell. Each offered powerful comments that are shared in the above video.

They noted the history of racial injustice as well as the efforts that need to continue not only in Buncombe County but throughout the United States. As Ms. Vinson asked, “what are you doing today to end racial injustice?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2022 Recognition Events

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County has planned most of its 2022 Dr. King Holiday recognition online again this year due to the rise in new cases and breakthrough infections of the COVID-19 virus not only in Buncombe County but throughout the nation. The Association Board is very conscious of the disproportionate negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of a darker hue.

(Read the entire article that includes the schedule of events starting with the Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, January 15th here.)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Project

Each year, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association’s Peace March and Rally Committee selects a Service Project to recognize the ultimate service and sacrifice that Dr. King made in order to fight for civil rights for underserved and underemployed individuals. His nonviolent protests led to many changes in housing and employment as he led protests during his short life.

Most notably were the protests for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56; the Albany, Georgia, Protests in 1961 to protest city segregation policies; the Birmingham Protests and Boycotts in 1963; the March on Washington in 1963; and the Protest Marches in Selma, Alabama, leading up to Bloody Sunday in 1965.

(Read the entire article that includes who the 2022 Partner is here.)

Calls to Action or Engagement

  1. In this article from last month, the city of Asheville is extending the opportunity for people to apply to be on the Reparations Commission. Learn more and get information on applying here
  2. In this call to action, the Racial Justice Coalition highlights an effort the Register of Deeds in Buncombe County, Drew Reisinger, is making on lands taken from native populations.
  3. The United for Youth logo competition has been extended to January 28th. Get details how youth, from 5th – 12th grade in Buncombe County, can compete and win prizes here
  4. The Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville Equity & Diversity Institute (LREDI) is an approved continuing education credit provider for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), North Carolina State Bar and Northwest Area Health Education Centers. LREDI supports, inspires, and equips executives, non-profit leaders, educators, students, social activists and other community members who intend to spark change and cultivate better communities through their professional careers. Learn more about LREDI by clicking here.
  5. Pledging to Vote is a key element in getting a strong turnout for an election. You Can Vote is a statewide nonpartisan nonprofit focused on registering and turning out voters often forgotten. They offer good information to help people navigate the process. Go here to pledge. Please share with your networks
  6. The N.C. Department of Revenue will be hosting webinars on the Business Recovery Grant Program on the following dates: Thursday, January 6th, at 2 pm and Tuesday, January 18th, at 10 am. This program provides assistance to businesses  impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Get additional details here
  7. An effort is underway to make Asheville City government more responsive to the community. Check out this overview to an Open Meetings Policy and ways people and organizations can support this effort.
  8. One way to take action: In early December, the Unitarian Universalist Justice NC marked the 80th week that UUs and justice friends across the state have gathered on Friday mornings to take action on the issues impacting our state and country. Along the way, they have deepened their relationships, grown as social justice organizers, and had a lot of fun! The organizer, Lisa Garcia-Sampson, is offering a NEW Friday Action Hour weekly email that will include a promo of the week’s actions, the Zoom link and the link to their Actions Google Doc. If interested, you can click here to sign up!

John Humphries (Buncombe Community Remembrance Project Historical Markers’ Installation Ceremony)

In this and the next two monthly editions of this e-newsletter, the Project will share the video the unveiling of the markers for each of the three Black lynched. In this first video, Mr. John Humphries is remembered for his sacrifice in 1888.

Remembrance Projects Nationally and Locally

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) continues to be a great partner not only to Buncombe County but all communities willing and working to address their history of racial injustice. Below are several elements the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project continues to highlight shared by EJI as well as one new item.

  1. EJI is currently working with nearly 100 communities to advance Community Remembrance Projects. A little more than half have erected historical markers. You can find out more about the communities that have erected EJI sponsored Community Remembrance Project markers here.
  2. You can view what is on each of the markers for Buncombe County, front and back, here as compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative. To see the markers, go to the following sites: for Mr. John Humphries – College & Spruce Streets; for Mr. Bob Brackett – Triangle Park; and for Mr. Hezekiah Rankin – Craven Street & Emma Road.
  3. The full stories about each of the three men lynched are captured in this document
  4. The Buncombe Community Remembrance Project is pleased to work with the Equal Justice Initiative. The latter shared their 2021 Activity Report recently.

EJI Confronts America’s History of Racial Inequality

In this video from 2015, Bryan Stevenson offers how “EJI Confronts America’s History of Racial Inequality”. Though EJI started out as an organization that focused on defending those on death row, it has evolved to look backwards to the history of racial injustice and move forward to reconciling that history where injustices of any kind will no longer exist.

Important News/Events/Stories

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. In this opinion by Dr. Dwight Mullen that appeared in the Citizen-Times, he shares his perspective on the changes needed to improve our community, particularly for those who are Black. 
  3. Recently, noted author, professor, feminist, and social activist bell hooks passed away. The Guardian offers this article about how she taught the world. 
  4. Virginia Pett has been a valuable contributor to this e-newsletter. She offers this review of the new book “The 1619 Project” compiled by Nikole Hannah-Jones based on the original NY Times Magazine edition. Here is a link to a series of podcasts from the original NY Times Magazine piece that offers highlights from that publication that reframed the history of the United States around race.
  5. There are many people and organizations making a positive difference in our community and region. Check out the CoThinkk Sixth Annual Awards and the Tzedek Social Justice Fund’s 2021 Impact Award Winners for some of those who are doing so.
  6. “Republican-led legislatures across the South have redrawn election districts using fresh census data, and the new maps will leave many communities of color in the Black Belt — a region of over 600 counties with large Black populations stretching from East Texas to Virginia — with less political power.” Get details in this article from Facing South. 
  7. Asheville Watchdog offers a great service to the community by often covering stories that other media don’t give proper attention. They recently won an award that will allow them to have a full time reporter that will monitor what is happening around reparations for Asheville and Buncombe County. Get details here.
  8. The Mountain Xpress offered this Q&A with Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, CEO of Eagle-Market Streets Development Corporation, about the history of the Block.

Pandemic Resources

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.

Legacy Museum, Lenoir-Rhyne Equity and Diversity Institute, LREDI, Mr. Bob Brackett, Mr. Hezekiah Rankin, Mr. John Humphries, National Memorial for Peace & Justice, new year, Pandemic Resources, Peace March and Rally, Reparations Commission, Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, The 1619 Project, The Block, Unitarian Universalist Justice NC, Vote

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