Editor's Note: The following piece was submitted by Mark A. Williams, interim president of the Gwinnett NAACP.
Over the years, I have kept abreast of the Snellville City Mayor and Council activities and interactions through the Snellville Patch and by way of what is shared with me from community members.
Last Monday, I decided to attend the meeting and see for myself what some have described as racism, controversy, divided, etc. The major discussion of this particular meeting centered on the Mayor’s attempt to appoint a black woman as city clerk to replace a white woman.
Upon entering the room, I saw a majority of Blacks on one side and Whites on the other and wondered to myself—“What is going on here?” I quickly realized that most of the Blacks sitting together were members of a local black church. Once the meeting started and the preliminary information was read, it quickly turned to the divide over the city clerk position and the appointment of the black woman. During a discussion period, Tom Witts commented that he was more disgusted with race baiters than racists to which the Mayor remarked that she never mentioned race.
As I listened to the reading of the city charter, the comments made by the city officials, the comments by community members and what I didn’t hear, I began to ponder the race baiting comment made by Mr. Witts. I didn’t hear or have read a reason as to why the Mayor would want to replace the city clerk. I will admit that I could have missed it since I don’t read every Snellville Patch email I receive. However, I did hear the reading of the charter outlining the powers of the Mayor and during that reading it was quite clear to me that protocol was not followed.
Upon exiting the room, I ran into Melvin Everson. We briefly chatted and I left the building. During the week, I continued to think about the meeting and the issue of racism or race baiting. I decided to look up some stats on the racial make-up of the community when Melvin Everson served on the city council from 2001-2004. The 2000 census data showed that Snellville’s population was 89.6 percent White and 5.4 percent Black.
I asked myself, “Who voted for Melvin?” Surely, Melvin didn’t win his city council position with all black votes. Hypothetically, let’s say Melvin did win by receiving all the black votes. We still have to consider that he served as Mayor Pro Tem for three years and was voted into that position by his council peers, who more than likely were White.
Melvin later went on to win House seat 106 in 2005. As of the 2010 census data, Snellville’s population was 61 percent White and 30 percent Black. Again, did Melvin win as a result of a strong black voting block? I remember seeing Whites standing on the corners of Highway 124 and Ronald Reagan as well as Highways 124 and 78 holding up Vote For Melvin Everson signs.
Is Tom Witts correct? Is this an attempt to race bait or is the city council racist? Since I don’t know the city council personally and this was my first city meeting, I can’t speak to the latter or the former. However, I can speak to the fact that Snellville, like the county as a whole, is changing in terms of its racial makeup and that people of color will play a part in shaping the outcomes of local elections. However, as people of color we must not allow ourselves to become pawns in a political chess game.
During this last city council race, there was an attempt to get a Black person elected to city council. Will there be an effort to find a Black candidate for the upcoming Mayor and City Council seats? Will those Blacks, in support of the Mayor, pit a black candidate up against the Mayor? Is Melvin Everson willing to run for Mayor? I think then we will be able to answer the question of Racism or Race Baiting?
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