The Rev. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church, is defending holding tonight's OCR public meeting at his church.
In a letter to the editor published today, Johnson says the criticism from school board member John Tedesco and school board attorney Ann Majestic about meeting at Martin is "ill-advised." The meeting to give feedback to federal civil rights investigators probing Wake's elimination of the diversity policy will start at 7 p.m. at 1001 E. Martin Street in Raleigh.
Johnson touts Martin Street Baptist's "long history of involvement in the spiritual, social, economic and sometimes political health of Southeast Raleigh." He writes that a more neutral site isn't needed "because the essence of Martin Street has always been to open its doors to all citizens, regardless of race, color, class, gender or political affiliation."
(In her complaint letter to OCR, Majestic calls Martin Street Baptist “a decidedly non-neutral location,” citing how critics of the school board have frequently held events there.
Johnson gets more pointed when he discusses "the creation of the first high-poverty school in this area, Walnut Creek Elementary, birthed out of the school board majority's student assignment policy, is within 2 miles of this site location." (He's evidently not including the already fairly high-poverty schools in Southeast Raleigh like Barwell Road Elementary.)
"From what I understand, the complaint by the NAACP and supported by other groups is based on racial discrimination," Johnson writes. "Who could better help OCR understand the effects of this than those directly impacted by it?"
Johnson fires another shot at Majestic and Tedesco, saying they "seem to have falsely concluded that everyday citizens can't think for themselves."
"The residents of Southeast Raleigh are not a faceless mass of biased, closed-minded individuals suffering from a case of social amnesia. To suggest that they can't formulate a 'balanced representative view' is regrettable," Johnson writes.
"Not everyone living in this area has embraced the NAACP's complaint with the BOE and some have not discounted the position of creating neighborhood schools," Johnson adds. "Can one really assume that the entire neighborhood is of the same opinion? I think not."
(A question to consider is whether the forum, whose site was chosen by the complainants and who are also handling the signup of speakers will produce a balanced turnout. Will the people who speak be from the neighborhood or the usual group of diversity policy supporters who've shown up at school board meeting and events all around the county?)