Monday, July 29, 2013
Jackie Wagstaff removed as Chair of the Political Committee of the Durham Committee of the Affairs of Black People
The Executive Committee of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has censured Jackie Wagstaff, chair of the groups Political Committee. The decision came during an emergency Executive Committee meeting held on July 27th.
“The Executive Committee concluded that her behavior has been insubordinate, uncollaborative, extremely impolite and inappropriate for the setting of our meeting,” Randal Rogers, chair of the Durham Committee, stated in a press release.
The Executive Committee voted to suspend Wagstaff from participating in any activities of the Durham Committee as its Chair of the Political Committee and in representing herself as the Chair until a vote by the General Body.
Wagstaff has been criticized for actions during recent Durham Committee meetings. Wagstaff has, on numerous occasions, questioned the input of members based on her assumptions of elitism. Members of the Durham Committee say Wagstaff’s outbursts set the tone for a class divide within the Durham Committee.
Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr., vice-chair of the Durham Committee’s Political Committee, has assumed the role of Political Chair. McKissick will preside over the interviews of candidates for Mayor and City Council to be held at the St. Joseph AME Church tonight through Wednesday.
The censure of Wagstaff is the first major move of Randal Rogers, chair of the Durham Committee. Rogers became Chair after Philip Cousin moved to San Francisco to become pastor of Bethel AME Church. Rogers, an unknown in local politics, is highly respected by members of the Durham Committee, and the move to censure Wagstaff has added to the credibility of his leadership.
Members of the Durham Committee say the move to oust Wagstaff is proof that the organization is headed in the right direction. Many were not happy when Wagstaff was appointed to Chair the Political Committee, and efforts to remove her have been underway for months.
Outsiders criticized the Durham Committee for selecting Wagstaff. The Rev-elution defended the Durham Committee’s right to select leaders they consider best to serve. I argued that Wagstaff has a long history of activism and political involvement that more than qualified her for the position.
The Rev-elution’s position assumed a gentler more refined Wagstaff. Comments came on the heels of a volatile campaign to elect commissioners to the Durham County Board of Commissioners and the controversial 751 project. Wagstaff was said to be in the center of hostile exchanges at voting precincts that forced the Board of Elections to call a special meeting to address verbal abuse.
Roger’s decision to push for the censure of Wagstaff sends a message related to the internal affairs of the Durham Committee. The organization no longer wants to be limited by the type of activity that has long defined the group. The discord that has kept so many away has been challenged in a way that rekindles credibility to arguably the most powerful local black organization in North Carolina.
It is also notable that Rogers didn’t stray from informing the press of the decision to censure Wagstaff. In the past, the Durham Committee has worked tirelessly to keep its affairs limited to membership. As embarrassing as the censure of Wagstaff may be, the way it has been handled, and the willingness to communicate with the public, combines to send a strong message regarding the future of the Durham Committee.
It’s critical that Wagstaff not be demonized for her actions. As controversial as she has been, Wagstaff is that rare leader in Durham. She has carried the torch for the poor and maligned for a long time. Her concerns are legitimate – we should never forget the needs and affairs of the least of these. They too must be heard. The flame that fuels Wagstaff is rooted in good intentions.
Maybe she has made assumptions. That’s what happens to a person fighting for the marginalized. Hopefully, a place can be found for Wagstaff to serve. Maybe that will be with the Durham Committee. Maybe her place is somewhere closer to those she knows best.
At the end of the day, Durham is made better because of the Durham Committee’s decision to find that place in the middle. There’s far too much work to be done to limit things to the voices of a few. The decision not to compromise unity has to be respected. The decision to share it with the rest of Durham should be celebrated.
Watch out. The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People is back!
We missed you.