The leader of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People said he supports the bravery of protesters who pulled down the Confederate statue in front of the old Durham County Courthouse last month.
Omar Beasley, chair of the Durham Committee, issued a statement that calls for trusting Durham African-American leaders such as District Attorney Roger Echols in the process for dealing with the remains of the statue. Beasley said he walks past the downed statue all the time.
“I used to wonder why on Earth do we have this monument here in the middle of downtown. To me it celebrated terrorists. People who rose up against the country,” he said. Beasley pointed out the statue was put up in 1924, “in the middle of Jim Crow. They put that there as a symbolism to the [African-American] community that we own you, we enslaved you, and this will be here as a symbol for the rest of your lives.”
Beasley said Confederate statues encourage anger.
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The letter from the Durham Committee states: “The statue and others like it are the burdens of Black people. This is our battle with history. These are brutal symbols of hate. The members of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People are indebted to all advocates of change. We are grateful for the witness of millennials for taking matters into their own hands. We are reminded of the scores of white residents who fight to end institutionalized racism.”
Beasley said he supports the protesters who brought down the statue.
“I support them, and I salute their bravery,” he said.
Beasley said Wednesday he wrote the Durham Committee’s statement after another Durham group, the People’s Alliance, called for Durham County Commissioners to value the statue at zero dollars.
The Ministerial Alliance released a statement in August that read, in part: “It is in the spirit and hope for the ‘beloved community’ that The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Durham and Vicinity calls for the immediate removal of all symbols of the Confederacy that are displayed on government property including our United States Capitol.”
Beasley wants to work with the Durham Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Durham branch of the NAACP and other community organizations to have public conversations on race.
Beasley said his 13-year-old son has been asking him questions about racism and white supremacy.
“We’re looking for Durham community leaders to have this conversation. And not just black folks. Our partners who are white, Latino, Latinx — Durham is a melting pot now,” Beasley said. “We need everybody at the table.”
The Committee’s statement said they respect “the leadership of District Attorney Roger Echols, County Manager Wendell Davis and the Black men and women who serve as members of the Board of County Commissioners. We affirm their witness as Black People and believe in their will to resolve the matter.”
Commissioners Brenda Howerton and James Hill are both African American. The Committee previously endorsed Howerton in Durham’s primary and general elections and Hill in the general election. Beasley said Wednesday that Echols will do what’s right about the statue. He also said he trusts the judgment of the commissioners.