By Greg Gelpi
On Saturday morning, a church full of community leaders and community members joined in celebration to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation and renew their fight for civil rights.
The Clayton County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hosted its annual Jubilee Celebration to take stock of the freedoms that minorities have, while reminding the community that the fight for freedom isn't over.
"Although this is a Jubilee Day, many of you know the struggle continues," Clayton County NAACP Assistant Secretary Vernice Scott said. "Hear me well. The struggle continues."
Clayton County NAACP President Dexter Matthews and many others took the opportunity to urge the organization's members, the community and elected officials to show up in force at Tuesday's meeting of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners to take the fight to the county. Tuesday's fight is to restore the crime scene investigation unit to the Clayton County Sheriff's Office.
The commissioners recently transferred the CSI unit from the sheriff's office to the Clayton County Police Department, a move newly elected Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill, Clayton County's first black sheriff, saw as discriminatory action taken against him.
State Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, the keynote speaker of the event, said she was glad to see the county commission more reflective of the community with three of the five members being black, but warned the gathering to "beware of wolves wearing sheep's clothing."
Just because they are black doesn't mean they represent black interests, Seay said.
"We just have to make sure that we do the right thing for the right reason for everybody," she said.
The Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves in seceded states to be free Jan. 1, 1863, but how free are people if they don't get involved and exercise that freedom, Seay asked.
"I've been up and I've been down, but I'm never turned around," the choir at Travelers' Rest Baptist Church sang, calling on those in the audience to continue the fight for the Lord.
Although it isn't on the commission's agenda, Commissioner Wole Ralph, who was recently elected, announced plans to amend the agenda, in attempts of reversing the transfer.
"The new year begins in the winter, but with this celebration we force the spring," Ralph, who is black, said, adding that this year is a chance to make lives of Clayton County residents better and make living in Clayton County better as well. "This is our season."
The CSI transfer doesn't fall along racial lines, he said, explaining that he and Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer, who is white, are the only commissioners opposed to the transfer. Ralph replaces Commissioner Gerald Matthews who voted for the transfer. Commissioner Virginia Gray, the only black member of the commission at the time of the vote, abstained from voting.