Novant Health ends sponsorship of Faith Fourth over Confederate presence

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, July 20, 2022

FAITH — Novant Health — the title sponsor of the Faith Fourth of July parade, for years the centerpiece event for the surrounding area and one of the largest in the state —  announced it is withdrawing its sponsorship of the event because of alarm over Confederate symbols and representation.

Novant’s decision comes on the heels of an ongoing letter-writing campaign from across the community aimed at letting sponsors know many residents are alarmed to see re-enactors, dressed in Confederate uniforms, stopping periodically to fire blanks from rifles over the heads of parade-goers, along with other representations of the Confederacy.

Groups sporting Confederate insignia and symbols have long participated in the parade, but last year, enough of a protest arose from the community that the town talked about the issue, but the consensus was that it represents part of the history of the country, and that the parade is open to participants of all other organizations as well, including Black Lives Matter.

This year’s parade had at least three separate participating groups that represented Confederates.

The letter-writing campaign was not started by Alissa Redmond, owner of South Main Book Shop in Salisbury, but she has, albeit somewhat reluctantly, taken the lead on it publicly. Redmond is starting a group called Readers for Change tonight and had already planned to use the first meeting as an opportunity to write letters to Novant and to gold and silver sponsors of the parade, asking the companies to reconsider their support. But she was contacted by letter-writers well in advance of the meeting, and she realized the campaign was already up and running.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Novant Health provided a written statement in response to questions about the letters and the company’s continued support of the parade.

“Novant Health has decided to discontinue our sponsorship of several events in the area which do not align with our values of diversity, inclusion and equity,” the company said in a statement. “We are using this opportunity to strengthen our sponsorship evaluation process and we’ve invited the organizers of the events in question to engage with us in conversation about how we may work together in the future to foster safe, inclusive environments for the entire community. We remain committed to supporting and investing in Rowan County with activities that more closely align with our values and celebrate the diversity of our communities.”

Redmond said she and others who have already written letters got a quick email response from the company’s vice president of public relations, and that “it made us all very excited” because in the email, he says the company would “use this as an opportunity to do better.”

In addition to Novant, Redmond said letters have also gone out to Food Lion, Gerry Wood Auto, Miller Davis, F&M Bank, Duke Energy and Sheetz, though to her knowledge, none of the other companies have responded.

“We are meeting to launch a major campaign” tonight, Redmond added, and more than 125 people have responded on Facebook that they are planning to attend. “Of course there is no way to know where all those folks are so they may not all show up, but we are expecting a good turnout.”

“I can’t raise my children and not say something about this” said Redmond, mother to two daughters who are non-white. “This is a community effort, but I will say I had to think really hard about doing this, and about being the public face of this, because I know I’m going to be on the receiving end of a lot of hatred. In the end, I felt I had to do it as a responsible mother.”

“People have been waiting for this to end for a long time,” she continued. “There are a lot of people, me included, who would love to attend this parade, but until I feel it’s a safe environment for my children, I will not attend. Firing guns over the heads of children? Even if they are blanks. I’m not OK with that.”

She said she is aware that for many, the argument is the Confederacy is part of the country’s history and should not be buried.

“There is such a strong push for preservation in this area that I’m not worried about maintaining the history of Salisbury and Rowan County, but I’d like to see us moving toward a more inclusive future for everybody.”

Calls to town representatives were not returned by deadline.