Citizens speak from the heart regarding Civil War statue


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Keith Rivers, president of the local NAACP, spoke passionately during a public comment period.

Keith Rivers, president of the local NAACP, spoke passionately during a public comment period.

In the aftermath of the massacre in South Carolina, there have been various efforts to limit the use of Civil War symbols on public grounds and buildings. One of those symbols was the Civil War statue on the grounds of the Pasquotank County Courthouse.

The local chapter of the NAACP had taken a cue from the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House, to push for all Confederate symbols to be removed everywhere. In so doing, they lit a fire of Confederate pride that they could not control.

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In a stunning display of patriotism, so many people came to the courthouse — for the Board of Commissioners meeting — that virtually all seats were taken, with standing room only, in Courtroom C.

In order that everyone would have an opportunity to speak, the commissioners adopted a three- minute rule with up to an additional three minutes if someone else who had signed up, wanted to provide their time to another speaker.

Board Chairman Winslow offered a prayer on behalf of all present, to remember the persons who lost their lives in the Charleston, S.C. attack and for the families of the victims who in their grief understood the word God. Through their sobbing, they expressed their forgiveness to the young man that had cost them so dearly.

Then, the chairman asked that everyone in the room conduct themselves with fairness and respect. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the chairman called the meeting to order and announced the first speaker from the list of persons who had signed in.\

To say that these speakers were well versed in history, would be an understatement. Each of them, in their own way, addressed the history of the Civil War and what it meant to the State of North Carolina, and in some cases, what it meant to their individual families who have either lost their lives or had fought simply for the purpose of defending their State. In one case, a speaker related that of the numerous states, where slaves were kept, the largest states were New Jersey, Ohio and Indiana as opposed to the traditional belief that slavery was the sole province of the Southern states.

Practically every speaker stated that they had great pride in their city and that the elements that were driving us apart, as people, are elements that have an agenda that is advanced by the racial divide in this country. While the speakers were respectful, very few were willing to pull any punches. The greatest applause line of the evening came when one of the speakers blamed the media that seems to stoke the flames of race relations.

Some people spoke very eloquently, such as Alex Leary, a former educator in this area who cautioned all of us present to understand history in attempting to address the very serious issues that were being spoken of.

He related various facts about the Civil War era and the participation of soldiers from North Carolina and Virginia who fought on the side of the Confederacy for the State and not for the cause.

While most of the speakers were white, a few were African-American, including Keith Rivers, the President of the local NAACP. There were a few interruptions where comments were made while he was speaking – which most observers agreed were unnecessary — but Rivers understood the seriousness of the situation and did not reply.

In no case, were there inflammatory words from either side; and, for the most part, everyone respected each other nor were any criticisms broached. In one instance, when Mr. Rivers was speaking, one member of the audience shouted “there is no hate” to which all agreed.

As we look back at recent events, talking about a monument and what it means to all of us as individuals, one must agree that there is vastly more that brings people and neighbors together than that which separates us. And for that, if the people of this area can find God and Love in their heart, in the best traditions of Love Thy Neighbor, Elizabeth City will be a better place for this heartfelt debate over a monument that honors our Civil War dead.