Friday, August 2, 2013
General Body of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People votes to allow Wagstaff to remain Chair of Political Committee
It’s fitting that the meeting was held at the St. Joseph AME Church. It was a battle for the soul of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.
Some called it a clash between the old Durham Committee and emerging leadership. The new school feels foiled by the perceived lack of willingness of old heads to share the reigns of control. They claim the powerful organization is held back by a class divide that makes it hard for some to participate.
Jackie Waagstaff was the reason for the meeting. The Durham Committee’s Executive Committee censured her as Chair of the Political Committee. On last night, the troops showed up to cast votes to determine the fate of the controversial former member of the City Council and School Board.
Wagstaff won the battle.
The vote was taken after heated conversation and name calling. It was the type of battle that has long been the trademark of the Durham Committee. After years of battling to unseat Lavonia Allison, the former Chair, last night was back to usual for a group hard pressed to define its role within a community in need of its guidance.
After years of hearing the echo – the Durham Committee is dead – all seemed headed in the right direction when Randal Rogers pushed for the removal of Wagstaff. Many present last night raised serious questions related to the integrity of the Executive Committee’s decision. Many wondered why. Others asked why now.
The decision to allow Wagstaff to remain as Chair of Political Committee sends a clear message regarding the state of Durham’s black leadership. It’s a message that has been lingering near the backdrop of the internal affairs of the Durham Committee for decades. The quarreling has been construed within the context of personality differences and leadership style. There’s much more going on than many are willing to concede.
Complaints about Wagstaff’s leadership style and personality have been understood from a vantage point that assumes the merit of black privilege. It’s a point that Wagstaff and her supporters have raised. The mistake that members of the Executive Committee made was to dismiss the validity of that contention.
The attempt to remove Wagstaff unleashed a nemesis that has fought for the soul of Durham’s black community. That enemy can be found in virtually every black community that strives to press for the greater good of all black citizens. At issue is more than the competency of Wagstaff. At issue is the way we measure and support black leadership that comes from a place outside the norm.
This battle is about class and sub-culture. It’s an issue that Wagstaff has raised. In doing so, the Executive Committee moved for her censure, which left many believing she was being removed for the reasons she exposed. A lack of substance, beyond the personal, left space for a challenge to the Executive Committee’s recommendation.
The result of last night’s vote provides an opportunity for the Durham Committee to have a real conversation related to the unspoken truth on the table. How can the Durham Committee effectively represent all of Durham when it grapples to affirm and respect the voice of those shaped in the grammar and ways of the streets?
That’s not to suggest that the Executive Committee moved based on a disconnection with Durham’s marginalized sector. What is implied is the need for significant dialogue regarding ways to overcome the assumption that the Durham Committee is an organization designed to affirm the black elite. Failure to do that will further alienate the Durham Committee from the people Wagstaff represents.
I recommend that Randal Rogers call a meeting to discuss the state of Durham’s black community. Invite the larger community to participate. Allow Jackie Wagstaff to share in the planning of the summit. Build a bridge beyond what happened last night.
It’s the best way to mend that which has been broken. If you take time to listen, the voice of reason can be heard.
End the war.