This is my rebuttal to Carl W. Kenney's article, "Durham, Heal Thyself." Kenney's article is an indication of what some people will do to get in the good graces of whom they consider power brokers. Kenney, who is a Christian minister, in his zeal to please, threw together a twisted tale, painted caring citizens with the ugliest color of hatred, and misquoted a traumatized victim with the exact opposite of what the individual stated. I was very upset when I was told about the article and apprehensive after reading it. Little did I know when I got to the Hayti Heritage Center early to get a choice spot to put my video camera in place that the taping of this public meeting would vindicate me, and others, of the false accusations volleyed by this well known columnist. Although Mr. Kenney and I were at the same meeting, the meeting that I videotaped and the one that Minister Kenney wrote about contradict each other.
Converse to the article written by Kenney, not a soul advocated violence at this meeting. My opinion is: Only a person who wants to keep a certain group of people down will find it a problem for them to voice their opinions and their suggestions for next steps. It was nothing like a school board meeting; everyone had an opportunity to speak. The Human Relations Commissioners and the Human Relations director listened. The overwhelming majority of the people who spoke stated that they thought that the parents speaking out about the abuse allowed by the Durham Public School system led to the cross burnings.
School board member Jacqueline Wagstaff (who was not the first person to speak) stood up from her seat and walked down front when she made her speech. She didn't speak in anger. She sat down quietly when she wasn't speaking. She was not defiant.
She had attended Rabbi Friedman's meeting and said that she thought that it was well and good. Jackie made a suggestion--for white people to let the black community plan for themselves and then come together instead of white people planning for black people, if it's really about unification.
Contrary to what Rev. Kenney wrote in this article, Ms. Wagstaff never said that white people had to get permission from black people to do anything nor, based upon what his article said that Rabbi Friedman whispered into his ear, did she say that white people had to wait on black people to tell them what to do. I am sure that white people know what to do with other white people to resolve problems including the abuse of children of African descent within Durham public schools.
Kenney would have you to believe that only members of Concerned Citizens spoke at the meeting. There were people from various organizations there. They stood up and stated their organizations' names. Some people were there as individual citizens. Some of the participants were from other counties.
There was more diversity there besides black and white. He only mentioned skin color. There were people of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American backgrounds present. Even some of them stated that there was a connection between the cross burnings and the parent's cry for help.
As for the profanity that was credited to Jim Fields, he never said it. He said "you know" and spelled the last few letters of the words.
Kenney claims that he wanted the victims of the Durham public school system who have joined Concerned Citizens (his article named the group Concerned Black Citizens when the name of their group is Concerned Citizens) to become more humble. What is wrong with letting the world know that their children are being traumatized by the school system and that School Superintendent Ann Denlinger, as well as the majority of the school board members, refused to formulate a plan to justly resolve the problems and answer their questions? They were civil while they made their connection between their public outcry and the cross burnings.
I don't understand Kenney. Does he want to degrade the victims further? He certainly did attempt to degrade me and the memory of my mother. The principal of Brogden Junior High School and representatives from the Duke Power Bus Company refused to take action to prevent the hate crimes against me by white male students who were spitting on me, throwing dimes in my face, and calling me nigger. They were grabbing at me in a sexual nature as well. These two entities could have formulated a plan to protect me but they chose to ignore my mother's pleas for help, just as the current Durham public schools' administration is doing to students to this very day. This lack of response and apathy by those who have the power to intercede happened in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and it has gotten worse now in 2005. This lack of a plan of action by the school system and the corporation, led to frustration and the decision to teach me how to defend myself.
Yes, my mother taught me to defend myself. But those were not my sentences. Those were Kenney's sentences. In my opinion Carl Kenney intentionally misquoted me. Every sentence of the quotes he attributed to me was not true. He used some of the words that I used but in a sinister and divisive way. He twisted my words to mold them to fit the story as he wanted to write it. He may as well have not even come to the meeting and written it at home while the meeting was going on.
I commended the parents for not resorting to violence against Ann Denlinger and the school board members who have allowed the abuse of their children to continue.
His quote stated that I commended them for getting their box cutters and going after Ann Denlinger, which was completely the opposite of what I said. He said that he could not believe what he was hearing. He should have stayed with that thought because what he wrote certainly was not what he heard. The videotape proves it.
He claims that he had witnesses that he contacted to verify what I said. Why didn't he contact me? He intentionally did not contact me prior to writing the story. He claims that he wants unity. His actions show that he does the opposite of what he says he wants. He had the opportunity to talk with me before he submitted this article to the Independent Weekly. He chose not to. How many people are going to read his article and not read this one? How many people are going to believe his lies? How many people will use Kenney's article to justify burning another cross or worse? It seems that he had come to the unity meeting to find fault with the people of African descent and to write a negative story.
He did not write what the white people said when they stood up to speak. He only mentioned what the Rabbi whispered into his ear. I thank the creator for giving me the wisdom to tape this meeting not just for posterity.
Editor's Note: Because the Independent incorrectly quoted Anita Keith-Foust at a public forum on May 29 following the three cross burnings ("Durham, Heal Thyself," June 1, 2005, indyweek.com/durham/2005-06-01/news.html), we offered her the opportunity to respond at length.