NAACP holds town hall meeting

Published 11:52 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Victor Goode, assistant general counsel for the NAACP, speaks during the NAACP town hall meeting on Tuesday night.

The NAACP held a town hall meeting Tuesday to answer questions about its redistricting plan, explain why it opposes the city-proposed plan and encourage the attendees to go to Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

About 80 people attended the town hall meeting at Tabernacle Christian Church on the eve of the public hearing by City Council to receive comment on the redistricting issue.

The meeting included some representatives from the main office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They included Victor Goode, assistant general counsel for the NAACP, and Kendra Glover, a paralegal for the organization.

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“I just want to encourage you all to come out” to the City Council meeting, Glover said.

Johnnie Edwards Jr., legal redress chair for the local branch, presented the NAACP plan and contrasted it with the city’s plan.

One of the organization’s main concerns is the black voting age population in the Suffolk borough, which it says is only about 46 to 49 percent once the jail inmates are excluded.

“That does not pass the test of a majority-minority district,” Edwards said.

Other concerns with the city map are the splitting of black voting blocs, particularly those currently in the Nansemond borough; deviations of about 4 percent in Suffolk and Cypress from the target population of 12,084; and the fact that the map puts Vice Mayor Charles Brown and Councilman Leroy Bennett both into the Cypress borough that Brown currently represents.

“You can’t take two black, sitting City Council members and draw them in the same district,” Paul Gillis said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “It’s illegal. You have to let them know that you’re not going to sit there and take it.”

Gillis also asserted that the city has a “master plan” to give black citizens four majority-minority boroughs, as proposed in a revised plan, and then take away three in a later redistricting.

“In 2014, it’s a possibility we can end up with one black city councilman and one black school board member,” one woman in the crowd said.

Glover said that the NAACP will submit its map to the Department of Justice at the same time whatever map the city approves is presented.

Tonight’s City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at 441 Market St. After the public hearing, City Council will have its first opportunity to approve a map. It could table the issue, but time is getting tight — there’s a deadline of Dec. 31 to have the entire plan completed, and there are several more steps in the process before that can happen, such as drawing precinct boundaries, finding polling places and submitting the plan to the Department of Justice.