Salisbury mayor invites Confederate groups, NAACP to discuss “Fame”
By Liz Moomey
SALISBURY — Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins has invited several organizations to discuss “Fame,” the Confederate monument on Innes Street, at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday in City Hall.
Heggins invited the N.C. United Daughters of the Confederacy, Robert F. Hoke Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Rowan Chapter of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, Salisbury-Rowan NAACP, Salisbury Indivisible and Women for Community Justice.
She also asked Rowan Museum director Aaron Kepley, Mayor Pro Tem David Post and City Manager Lane Bailey to attend.
The monument was vandalized in March when yellow paint was splashed on it. “Fame,” which sits in the median of West Innes Street at Church Street, was also splattered with paint on Aug. 18.
“Fame” is on property conveyed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy by the city of Salisbury. And Heggins’ request comes after similar monuments across the nation have been removed from their location or relocated. After the March 20 vandalism, the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP demanded the City Council to hold a public hearing on the removal of Fame.
Heggins said her goal is to start a conversation with vastly different groups.
“I’m proposing we come to the table with open minds, open hearts, open ears and the extended hands of friendship to exchange our thoughts about Fame and how our community should move forward,” her invitation states.
NAACP President Gemale Black said he will attend the meeting Tuesday but the organization sticks to its original statement about a public hearing.
“We demand that the City Council hold a public hearing on the removal of the statue to a proper museum or less controversial public space,” the March 20 statement said.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans has declined Heggins’ invitation, said Jake Sullivan, chief of staff of the North Carolina Division.
Sullivan said the Sons of Confederate Veterans feels there is nothing to discuss.
“This whole exercise is simply a political distraction to take advantage of historical ignorance, partisan frustration and to shift focus away from real political issues, like crime and poverty,” Sullivan said. “We firmly believe, and a canvass would bear this fact out, that those who wish to see Fame removed are very few in number and represent extreme political views.”
Black said he was not surprised that the Sons of Confederate declined to join Tuesday’s conversation.
“It just shows to me they don’t care about the statue,” he said.
Black argued that the monument should be removed, especially since the Bell Tower Green park will be constructed in the block next to Fame.
When the monument is removed, Black said, then the Sons of Confederate veterans will come out and speak.
Heggins, in the invitation, said only one representative from each stakeholder will be allowed to create an environment to prevent a side being outnumbered.
“The emphasis is to hear one another,” she wrote in the invitation. ”I will facilitate, as I have the background, training and experience to do so. I also care very deeply about how each of you feel about Fame.”
Bailey said he plans to attend Tuesday’s meeting. Because there will be only two council members in attendance, it will not need to be open to the public.
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