2017: A Year in ReviewBy Yasmine Regester / December 29, 2017
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Dr. Alvin Blount Jr. passesThe Greensboro community mourned the loss of prominent Greensboro physician, Dr. Alvin V. Blount Jr., who passed away on January 6. At 94 years old, he was still seeing patients at his East Market Street office. Dr. Blount was the last surviving plaintiff of a 1963 lawsuit that helped integrate Moses Cone Hospital. He and the other plaintiffs were recognized by the administration of Cone Health and the state with a N.C. Historical Highway Marker located near the hospital on N. Elm Street. Dr. Blount was the first African American physician to operate at Moses Cone. In September 2016, Cone Health issued an apology to Blount for the racial discrimination he and others faced years ago and pledged to donate $250,000 to the Greensboro Medical Society Foundation towards scholarships for students entering various medical professions. He also helped establish the Greensboro Medical Society that was formed for African American health professionals. In 2010, The Evans-Blount Community Health Center, a healthcare facility in Southeast Greensboro, was named in recognition of him and fellow civil rights pioneer, George Harrison Evans, MD.
A graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and Howard University Medical School, he served his country as the first African American acting Chief of Surgery for a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital Unit (8225th MASH) during the Korean War from 1951 to 1952, the unit the famous television show of the same name was based on. He was later appointed to the position of Chief of Surgery in the 47th U.S. Army Combat Surgical Hospital.
Triad North Carolina Women’s March
More than 6,000 people participated in the local Triad North Carolina Women’s March in Greensboro, walking from Governmental Plaza to LeBauer Park. This march was part of a national effort, the Women’s March on Washington, to address women’s issues, which attracted mil-lions around the world marching in solidarity with more than 600 sister marches worldwide. The march took place the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, on January 22, to decry Trump and his stance on issues such as abortion, healthcare, diversity and climate change.
Trump’s Immigration Reform
President Donald Trump made immigration one of his top priorities upon taking office and effectively banned travel to and from seven majority Muslim countries — Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Somalia. Another part of Trump’s immigration crackdown included the hiring of 15,000 new border patrol and Immigration Customs Enforcement agents. The presidential executive order expanded the number of people targeted for deportation by including individuals who have committed any criminal offense where such charges has not been resolved, no matter how long ago or how minor.
The president’s signed order also called for the Department of Homeland Security to issue new agreements with local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws. The federal 287(g) program allows local law enforcement to detain individuals for deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Trump also promised to build a wall along the U.S. southern border between Texas and Mexico and to build more detention centers.
Greensboro’s faith community rallied around the immigrant population with a few churches allowing some immigrants to take sanctuary in their churches for safety. Later in the year, FaithAction International House took a group of volunteers to visit immigrant detainees in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. to offer support to those facing depor-tation.
In addition to new immigration legislation, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was eliminated. The federal pro-gram allowed childhood arrivals to apply for a work permit in order to remain in the U.S. According to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, North Carolina has the nation’s seventh highest population of DACA recipients in the U.S., with 27,386 approved applications.
Citizens debate police-worn camera footage law
Greensboro residents continued to challenge the Greensboro City Coun-cil and a 2016 state law that restricts access to police worn body camera footage. N.C. State Rep. John Faircloth of District 61 co-sponsored HB 972, now a law that states that law enforcement agencies have the dis-cretion to release body camera footage to people who are recorded. State law bars people from obtaining such footage, other than those in the vid-eo — or their guardians if that person is a juvenile. It permits the videoed person’s attorneys to view the footage. If the law enforcement agency denies a request to disclose the footage, any requests to view the footage would then require a judge’s order.
The Greensboro Police Department (GPD) faced scrutiny this year over the use of excessive force in two highly publicized cases, one involving a juvenile, Jose Charles, and second case involving Dejuan Yourse. Res-idents urged council to listen to the disciplinary recommendations by the Police Community Review Board (PCRB), which reviewed complaints from both cases that claimed excessive force by responding officers. Community members also expressed their concerns regarding the long process that one must go through to file a complaint against an officer, calling for an overhaul of Greensboro’s PCRB. Demonstrators took over the May 2 City Council meeting in protest of the GPD’s internal investi-gations and the council’s reluctance to challenge the state’s law on police body worn camera footage.
Greensboro clergy calls attention to homicides in the city
Greensboro clergy and community members called for the city to address the lack of police response to an increase in murders in communities of color. By September, there had been 29 homicides citywide, with many of them unsolved. The Greensboro Pulpit Forum of Clergy held a healing ceremony for the community in September in order to address the next steps in the efforts to address violent crime in the city. The group also suggested more pro-active measures, rather than reactive, that do not include over-policing communities of color. Data from the GPD shows that as of December 10, 2017, the total number of homicides increased to 37.
Greensboro vigil for Charlottesville, Va.
An estimated 1,000 people gathered at Governmental Plaza in Downtown Greensboro for a candlelight vigil to remember the lives lost during violent protests that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. Hundreds of White nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a Unite the Right Rally in opposition to the removal of several Confederate statues. When counter protestors gathered to rally as well, they were met with violence. The next day, at the height of the mayhem, a gray Dodge Challenger plowed into demonstrators protesting against White nationalists, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Reports stated that another 14 people were treated for other injuries sustained in the protests. Greens-boro’s vigil was just one of more than 100 marches and vigils held around the country in response.
Ralph C. Johnson Way Bridge Connector
The new bridge that connects East Cone Boulevard to Nealtown Road was unveiled and opened to the public on August 30. It was named after the late Rep. Ralph C. Johnson, former N.C. House District 58 repre-sentative. He was hailed as a longtime community leader and a staunch supporter of the connector. The connector gives residents of Nealtown Road easier access to stores at the Pyramid Village Shopping Center and also acts as an alternate entrance to the White Street Landfill.
City Council Elections
Greensboro voters elected two new council members, at-large Council member Michelle Kennedy and District 5 Council member Tammi Thurm. Both women defeated incumbents in the November 7 Municipal Elections. This is the first time that eight out of nine council seats are held by a woman, with the exception of District 3 incumbent Justin Outling, who is an African American male. It is also the first time that no Caucasian males were elected to serve. Current council members will now serve four-year terms instead of two years. The newly elected council wasted no time getting back to the city’s work by approving $60 million worth of construction on two new parking decks in Downtown Greensboro at its first business meeting in December. Despite some pushback from community members, citing the debt the city was putting on the people, funding for the parking decks was approved. Both decks will include hotel and retail space.