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

Buncombe Community Remembrance Project: March 2022

Racial Justice Moving Forward

It is always more difficult to build than to tear down. Progress can sometimes be very slow if at all, but this quote from Rep. John Lewis offers a way for all to have the patience and the drive to keep moving forward. 

The efforts to move forward require learning and sharing the truth and continuing the healing; these are high priorities for this Remembrance Project. As reported in the February edition, a three-session series, “Marking History, Healing the Present, Protecting the Future” is being planned to start in mid-April. These sessions are free to Black members of the community, and a stipend is available to help cover any costs for those wishing to attend. Get details here. Please note the deadline to complete this interest form has been extended to Friday, March 4th.

This edition of the e-newsletter offers several calls to action and important news, events and stories. As noted in past editions, an important goal of the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project is to promote the activities, events and opportunities offered by organizations to make positive change. Racial justice aligns with addressing all oppressions and issues of social justice. For example, the result of NC redistricting is highlighted in yellow below. If we work together, positive change is not only more likely but also offers the chance for racial justice and healing to become more of a reality. 

Feel free to share any part or all of this e-newsletter with anyone who may be interested.

Ron Katz

The 2022 Rosa Parks Awards: Overview by Jonathan McCoy

This year’s Rosa Parks Award winners are announced in the above video. 2022 honorees include Kathey Avery, Sophie Dixon, Antanette Mosley, and Dr. Tiece Ruffin. In future e-newsletters, we will highlight each of their acceptance speeches, but here is the first from Kathey Avery and the second from Sophie Dixon. Get additional details from this article in the Mountain Xpress.

Calls to Action or Engagement

  1. While the focus of the Buncombe Community Remembrance Project is local, statewide, and national, it is impossible to ignore what is happening in the world, especially in Ukraine. Valarie Kaur from the Revolutionary Love Project shared this statement about the invasion of Ukraine. In her latest email, she offered this list of ways you can support the people of Ukraine
  2. The Racial Justice Coalition is asking people to take action to preserve some advisory boards that address racial equity. Get details and a way to take action here.
  3. The rights of those who are unsheltered is at the heart of this call to action from Beloved Asheville. Where can they go if there is no place for them? Please consider taking action.
  4. Equity Over Everything offers their monthly “Folding Chair: Keeping It Real” webinar on March 14th, starting at 6 pm. This month’s guest is Jonathan McCoy who will speak on having hard DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) conversations. Get details and register here.
  5. From March 11th – 15th, “Hate Ends Now: The Cattle Car” is a traveling exhibit on the Holocaust. Get the dates, times, locations and details for this event here. For the last two days of the exhibit registrations are needed. 
  6. The YWCA is sponsoring its 2022 Stand Against Racism challenge starting in April. Get details and how you can participate here.
  7. Do you or someone you know in Buncombe County still need high speed broadband? Please help get this important request to your friends, family, and neighbors to ensure NC has accurate data to make the case for high speed broadband in WNC.  The state GREAT grant is open, and they need accurate data at the state level ASAP.  If you need broadband internet, complete this 5 minute survey. Residents with landlines or cell phones may place a voice call to 919-750-0553 to complete the survey.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 up to date information to help people navigate the process. Go here to pledge. Please share with your networks

Hezekiah Rankin (Buncombe Community Remembrance Project Historical Markers’ Installation Ceremony)

In this edition of the e-newsletter, the video above is shared which features the unveiling of the last of the three markers from the Historical Markers Installation Ceremony on October 30th, 2021. In this video, Mr. Hezekiah Rankin is remembered for his sacrifice in 1891.

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. Redistricting update: In this article from NC Policy Watch, the three-judge panel substituted their Congressional map for the one drawn by the NC General Assembly and accepted the maps for both the NC House and Senate. The approved maps, as of February 23rd, for NC are US Congress (court drawn), NC Senate, and NC House.
  3. The Asheville Citizen-Times offered this guest column in early February about the support for Black businesses in our area. Thanks to Aisha Adams and Michael Dempsey for sharing this important information. 
  4. Fair Fight is an organization that has been focused on increasing voter access for people of color and others who have often had challenges in voting. They offered this list of comparable organizations working to make positive change.
  5. The PBS NewsHour highlighted three impressive US Supreme Court candidates that President Biden was likely considering to replace Justice Steven Breyer. This past Friday, President Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the next US Supreme Court judge.
  6. The RAIL Memorial Project began in July 2020 as an effort of McDowell and Buncombe County citizens to construct a memorial to the incarcerated workers who built the railroad up the mountain from Old Fort to Asheville in the late 1870s. Over 90% of the workers were African Americans arrested on petty charges and sentenced to three years or more of hard labor for petty crimes. These workers labored in horrific conditions and at least 139 died from injuries or disease. On October 17th, 2021, a memorial to their sacrifice was dedicated along the tracks at Andrews Geyser in McDowell County. Since October, RAIL has started a new project to attempt to locate the graves of some of those workers. This report details that recent effort. For more details on RAIL, go here.
  7. In this blog post from NC Child, the writer notes the single greatest threat to children’s health is poverty. The effort to end poverty needs to continue.
  8. In this segment from the PBS NewsHour, a settlement with a major gun manufacturer may signal some significant changes.
  9. In this commentary from Executive Director Rob Schofield from NC Policy Watch, he says it’s time for schools to say “yes to books, science, diversity…and discomfort.”

Celebrating Asheville’s Black History: Dr. Oralene Simmons.

Dr. Oralene Simmons shares “Celebrating Asheville’s Black History” in this video. She touches on her journey and her leadership in making the Prayer Breakfast and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, among other achievements, a reality.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2022 Recognition Events

This year’s Celebration started with the Prayer Breakfast and included several other events. If you didn’t get a chance to see some of the videos, this section is repeated from last month’s e-newsletter.

Special thanks goes to the good work of Aisha Adams Media. You can access each video through the MLK YouTube channel or find them organized by day here.

Confronting history, to heal a nation

Racial justice and criminal justice are intertwined. No one speaks so often or so eloquently about these topics than Bryan Stevenson from the Equal Justice Initiative. In the segment above from CBS Sunday Morning, Mr. Stevenson talks about his efforts to confront the history of the United States, not to blame but to heal.

Remembrance Projects Nationally and Locally

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) continues to be an important partner not only to Buncombe County but to 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.

  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 Equal Justice Initiative shared this webpost of the Historical Markers Installation Ceremony of October 31st.

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.

Bryan Stevenson, Dr. Oralene Simmons, EJI, Equal Justice Initiative, Executive Director Rob Schofield, Fair Fight, Folding Chair: Keeping it REal, LREDI, Mr. Hezekiah Rankin, Pandemic Resources, RAIL Memorial Project, Rep. John Lewis, Revolutionary Love Project, Rosa Parks Awards, The Folding Chair, YWCA

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