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Mayor and Citizens Address Racist Comments

The August 17, 2020 Council meeting had on its agenda a correspondence item from a citizen which contained some inflammatory statements regarding Black Lives Matter and a denial of “systemic racism.”

As a result, there was some activity among a number of us in New Providence who are pushing for more recognition of race issues.  The letter was specifically addressed to the declaration I had submitted to the Council related to systemic racism.

I spoke and addressed the obvious distortions and racist comments from the author.  There were two other people speaking about the letter and one was a surprise, Mayor Al Morgan.  Mayor Morgan’s statement at the beginning of the meeting was very encouraging.  The portion of most interest appears below:

Unless you have been directly impacted as a person of color, there is truly no way to understand exactly what people of color feel and experience. We have to respect that and every member of our community. Racism pervades everywhere, in places, and in ways we cannot even imagine. With an open and compassionate heart, we have a responsibility as human beings to listen and truly hear the voices of those who have directly suffered from the effects of racism, learn, and do all we can to help make it better.

It is my job as Mayor, and our Council’s job to make our community as safe, welcoming, and as inclusive of all as possible, providing every opportunity we can for issues and concerns to be heard, and then, to do all we can to help make things better for everyone in our community. It is process, and a journey, but together we can and will make it better.

 Another speaker was Leslie Hall, a resident of New Providence.  Leslie was addressing Mayor Morgan’s comments regarding the letter received by the Council.   Earlier in the meeting a Council member commended the Mayor for his presence during a serious power outage in town.  Her words follow:

The Mayor did everything but go up on that pole when everyone’s power was out.  Everyone in this community and certainly everyone on Council and certainly everyone in a leadership position, should behave about that letter the same way that they would behave if there was a power outage.  It is that important.  Just because it’s not your power going out or you are not a victim of racism, doesn’t mean that you can sit idly by and not respond to a letter like that with the same level of outrage that the Mayor spoke with this evening.  

 I do want to thank the Mayor for addressing that letter.  I want to call on all of the residents of our community and especially everyone in leadership roles to also make their voices heard and to condemn every single time a letter like that or a comment or any type of language is heard.  Transcribed by Allen Swanson

 These words being expressed by the Mayor and citizens are very encouraging and make me optimistic that continued dialogue on issues of race will continue.