President Charlyne Jackson-Fields’s Editorial in the Free Lance Star
Earlier this week our community recognized the 70th anniversary of the very brave actions of the all-black Walker-Grant High School class of 1950, which was denied the opportunity to walk through the front doors of the Fredericksburg Community Center for their graduation ceremony. Instead of entering through the back door, they held Fredericksburg’s first civil rights protest at the Community Center with the support of the Fredericksburg Branch NAACP and marched nonviolently in their caps and gowns downtown to the Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) where they chose to hold their commencement ceremony.
Today our communities are frustrated and saddened as we struggle with our responses to the shocking tragic murder of George Floyd by police and other actions of brutality against persons of color over the years. We are proud of much of the nation’s peaceful responses and calls to action as we are reminded that we must continue to employ the same nonviolent philosophy of the 1950 Walker-Grant graduates to fuel our current call to correct continued social injustices.
As a local branch of the NAACP, we are reminded of the historical impact of the NAACP’s leadership and its long legacy of civil responsiveness to matters of great inequality. It is this form of response that was and has been at the heart of our nation’s civil rights movement, which has guaranteed certain basic inalienable rights to all people. It is that same responsiveness that will continue to ensure the protection of these rights and the reduction of social and economic inequities throughout our country, including those in education, housing, employment, safety, and healthcare.
We take tremendous pride in the work and actions of the Fredericksburg Branch NAACP, other civil rights organizations, and brave local citizens of all races over the years to ensure that the civil rights movement in Fredericksburg was a model civil movement without the violence that other communities had to endure. Nonviolent responses continue to be the manner the Fredericksburg Branch deals with current civil rights issues, including active and ongoing dialogue with our elected officials and the members of our police department. They have always welcomed our recommendations and have sought our input.
Although the Fredericksburg Branch has not been a sponsor of the marches to support social justice during the past week, including the march on May 30, we are pleased with these primarily peaceful protests involving many diverse members of the community. We are particularly proud of the engagement of many young people in the marches expressing their concerns about social inequities.
We are very disappointed, however, to hear of the fires at the Fredericksburg Police Department and hope this violent event is not tied to local protests against police brutality. We are also dismayed about the scattered violent incidents that have occurred because of the actions of some individuals. These actions are inappropriate and jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of community members, including the protesters. We do not condone or support any violent actions by anyone.
We invite the community to join the Fredericksburg Branch NAACP in our continued efforts to address social injustices, including ways to further enhance police-community relations to ensure that our community does not face the brutal actions that many other communities have faced.
As our organization’s national leadership has stated, “This [current situation] is not new. We have seen this before, and we have persevered. Let’s work together to channel our frustration to create the change we seek…We must protest peacefully, demand persistently, and fight politically. But most of all, we must vote in November.”
The Fredericksburg Branch NAACP is very proud that nonviolence responses to social injustices is our philosophy and that of our community; it is our proud legacy. It is the only way we can continue to tear down the walls of social injustice and social inequities to ensure that future generations of people of all colors will have enhanced social, economic, and political power.