City’s map slights minorities

Published 8:24 pm Saturday, September 24, 2011

By Domenick Epps
Guest Columnist

Although many people in the African-American community are aware of the redistricting process in Suffolk because of the media, many have not been properly informed about the issue and therefore are not engaged.

After reviewing the city’s proposed redistricting map, I am forced to wonder whom it favors.

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The NAACP has proposed a competing map, which some have suggested gerrymanders voting districts to protect one individual, Councilman Leroy Bennett. I think the NAACP map has submitted a great map, but that’s just my opinion.

By moving Bennett from the Nansemond Borough into the Cypress Borough, the city’s proposed map takes away the strength of the African-American vote. Both Bennett, who represents Nansemond, and Charles Brown, who represents Cypress, are African-Americans; only one of them could run for election to City Council if the city’s map were approved.

The fact that Bennett was blindsided by the city’s proposal proves that there is a division within the African-American community, and it is well known that “a house divided cannot stand.”

That division could wind up costing African-Americans more than just Bennett’s representation. If the city’s map is approved, in the future, instead of having three people who understand the needs of the African American community, we could find ourselves lucky to even have one. If Bennett and Brown choose to run against each other, for instance, the minority vote could be split, costing African-Americans the Cypress seat, as well.

Such a result would be detrimental to African-American interests. Take, for instance the Fairgrounds project. This project will do more harm to African-American entrepreneurs, specifically the barbershops and beauty salons on East Washington Street, without proper representation. Organizations such Inner City Athletic Association, Downtown Association, P.R.E.V.E.N.T Ministries and others that work with the minority youth could be affected in a major way.

What about roads? We have already seen how long it takes roads and drains to be fixed in our communities, especially on Hall Avenue. Do you really think our concerns about the communities where we live would be a major priority if we lacked African-American representation on City Council?

Stop voting for people who give the best speeches but fail to produce results. Politics is politics but injustice is injustice. We all have a voice, but when our voices become divided, then we all lose! If you will stand for nothing you will accept anything.

Do something about it. Otherwise don’t complain when more buildings are torn down and more budget cuts affect you.

Domenick Epps lives in Suffolk. He can be reached at