by Sheri Urban
On Wednesday, white reporters were barred from entering an event for black mayoral candidates in Savannah, Georgia.
Signs plastered onto the doors of the church where the event was held read, “Black Press Only,” — and the folks organizing the gathering held to the overtly racist standard.
According to the Savannah Morning News, the event was “coordinated” by Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, the owner of the consulting firm The Trigon Group, “to garner support for just one black candidate in Savannah’s mayoral election.”
Willams refused to comment on the no-whites-allowed policy.
WJCL’s Stephen Moody, one of the black reporters allowed entrance into the event, said photos, video, and audio were banned. There were also signs on the church doors expressing the same.
A number of prominent politicos from Savannah, including two mayoral candidates, refused to condemn the racist entrance policy to the cloistered event.
Former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson “declined to comment,” said the paper, as did Chatham County Commissioner Chester Ellis, who weakly deflected by telling the press that the policy was “not my idea.” Similarly, Savannah Alderman Estella Shabazz “declined to comment.”
Van Johnson, a Savannah mayoral candidate, spoke at the event. Instead of offering a condemnation of the discriminatory policy, Johnson iterated to the paper “that he believed people have the right to assemble and determine the rules of their assembly.”
“It’s not my meeting,” he offered. “I was asked to come and give a statement, so I came and I gave a statement. What I said in there, I’ll say out here.”
Failed 2015 mayoral candidate Louis Wilson, who is taking another shot at the political position this year, also spoke at the meeting. He, too, deflected over the controversial policy: “I didn’t plan the meeting so I can’t comment on that part,” Wilson stated. “I came to say what I had to say.”
“Meeting attendees were given a handout reporting the ethnic composition of Savannah’s population, as well as a vote breakdown for the 2015 election – when incumbent Jackson was defeated in a run-off by current Mayor Eddie DeLoach,” reported the paper. They also distributed an editorial from the Savannah Herald, which is black-owned, titled “United We Win, Divided We Lose,” penned by former Mayor Otis Johnson.
“If we come together and decide what we want and who we believe will work best for us to get it, then we have a chance to advance,” Johnson urges the black community in the piece.
The former mayor once committed to writing a memoir titled “From N***** to Mr. Mayor,” though the “N” word was not censored. However, in January 2017, he changed the titled to, “From ‘N Word’ to Mr. Mayor.”
“The “N” word, he writes in the introduction, has too much power and means too many different things to different people,” reported Jane Fishman at the Savannah Morning News.