Protesters turn Labor Day into a rally against racism

by Amy Kingsley

Black leaders from all over Guilford County gathered on Labor Day under threatening skies to repeat the call from July 4th to end racism.

The unity march included politicians, activists, poets and singers, all of whom delivered messages condemning racist acts in Guilford County. Speakers offered evidence that racism still permeates society, including the firing of County Manager Willie best earlier this year and the high suspension rates among students in Guilford County Schools.

The same coalition of leaders unveiled the “Declaration of Intolerable Racism” on July 4 and held a rally a week later. The Guilford County Coalition Against Intolerable Racism timed the Labor Day march to coincide with a daylong boycott by black citizens of all businesses except those owned by blacks. The march started at 11:15 a.m. at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on East Market Street and ended around noon at Governmental Plaza.

“Enough is enough,” was the message delivered by High Point Mayor Pro Tem Bernita Sims.

“Our need to gather is a tragedy,” said Mazie Ferguson, president of the Pulpit Forum. “It is a tragedy because some of us have marched in hundreds of marches before.”

Close to a dozen speakers and performers approached the microphone to express their dismay with the white leadership of Guilford County. County Commissioner Skip Alston raised the specter of Best’s firing, which occurred after one of the notoriously argumentative commission’s most rancorous meetings. He accused David McNeill, the interim county manager, of scheming with county commissioners to fire Best. But he did not reserve all his salvos for his fellow commissioners.

“We are tired of you spying on our black police officers,” he said in reference to the recent Greensboro Police Department scandal.

A number of young people took advantage of the day off of school to participate in the march. Wesley Morris, president of the History Club at NC A&T University, addressed the crowd on their behalf.

“Capitalists are taking care of our neighborhoods before we can,” he said. “And you know what they’re doing to them, they’re taking the money out of our neighborhoods.”

Several of the marchers carried placards urging the city to save the old blacks-only institution JC Price School, which is slated for demolition to make way for a new Greensboro College stadium. In other school news, Amos Quick and Deena Hayes talked about the urgency of ending educational inequities.

“2006-2007 should be the year of black children’s education,” Quick said. “Let’s make it that way.”

The Coalition will be meeting again on Sept. 12 in High Point to plan future activities.

– Amy Kingsley