Wooster/Orrville NAACP and Westminster Presbyterian Church Response to Vendor Contract extended by the Wayne County Fair Board
It is our view that there has been a gross injustice committed in the handling of the Vendor Application for a #BlackLivesMatter booth at the Wayne County Fair scheduled to take place on September 10-15, 2016. We believe that the Fair Board has acted unfairly and breached its civil responsibility in responding to the booth application by the Wooster/Orrville NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and Westminster Presbyterian Church on February 18th, 2016. Upon receiving the vendor’s contract on Monday, August 15, 2016, both the Wooster/Orrville NAACP and Westminster Presbyterian Church were disheartened by the appearance that the Fair Board had deliberately excluded the NAACP in order to silence the voice of an underrepresented minority. To exacerbate matters, the Board continues to approve and permit the sale of oppressive and bigoted symbols such as the Confederate flag. It is incumbent upon all readers of this press release to take action to come to the aid of those fighting for justice in this matter.
Andries Coetzee, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church and member of the NAACP, has stated that he will take the matter up with the Wayne County Fair Board’s president, Mr. Don Reichert, and secretary, Mr. Pete Armstrong. Rev. Coetzee states:
“It seems very difficult to believe that the exclusion of the Wooster/Orrville NAACP and its president Ms. Juanita Greene was an accidental omission. The fact that Mr. Armstrong called me, a white male, on Friday August 12 and informed me of the Fair Board’s decision, that I then again mentioned to him that the booth was a joint venture between the church and the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, and then to get the contract only in Westminster’s name, while no contact was made with Ms. Greene or the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, is blatantly disrespectful of the NAACP and its leadership.
One cannot help but see this deliberate omission of the Fair Board as racist and sexist. While the board claims the approval of the sale of the Confederate Flag by vendors is a right under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it does not appear that they want to extend the same right to a #BlackLivesMatter booth.”
Since August of last year, a coalition of individuals and churches (including Westminster Presbyterian Church and the Wayne County Unitarian Universalist Fellowship) led by the Wooster/Orrville NAACP, has been petitioning the Wayne County Fair Board to uphold the welcoming family atmosphere, and diversity of Wayne County, Ohio. These efforts have proven fruitless as the Wayne County Fair Board has become more persistent in its resolution to allow vendors to sell or display Confederate flags and/or Confederate flag merchandise. In January of 2016 the Wayne County Fair Board’s president, Mr. Reichert, was instrumental in passing such a resolution at the Ohio Association Fair Managers Board (OFMA that states that the OFMA “does permit and will support a Fair 's decision to allow private vendors to sell Civil War merchandise including but not limited to Confederate and Union flags and banners, clothing memorabilia, and other related items at their fairs.” Permitting the sale of such items perpetuates the attitude of racism and intolerance that has crippled the soul of our country and continues to threaten our integrity as a nation. It is shocking to see that such pernicious symbols are allowed to prevail in light of the strides made for American civil rights over the years past.
In their effort for the fair to be a welcoming event for all of Wayne Counties’ residence, the Wooster/Orrville NAACP and Westminster decided to apply for a #BlackLivesMatter booth with education as its sole purpose. The objective of the booth was clearly stated in the application; it aims to inform and enlighten fairgoers on the history as well as the present-day perception for African Americans regarding the Confederate Flag, and the profound effects of white privilege, specifically on the Wayne County community, and on our society in general in the United States.
In her response Juanita Greene, president of the Wooster/Orrville NAACP states:
“It is very disappointing that the Fair Board lacks the desire to make the Wayne County Fair a welcoming and safe place for all fair-goers. While I do recognize the right of patrons at the Fair to wear and display symbols expressing their political and social views, it is heartbreaking that the Fair Board, representing the people of Wayne County, will allow vendors to sell and make profit from a symbol of hatred and racism. This is not an issue of freedom of speech; this is about ignoring the aspirations of our community that strongly feels that the flag represents racism and hatred against people of color. We need the people of Wayne County to claim back our identity as a welcoming and accepting people, as we all have a moral duty to protect the rights of all people, especially the minority.”
Currently there is an online petition where community-minded people can respond to Ms. Greene’s call to action and add their voice to uphold the atmosphere of inclusion and tolerance, as well as the diversity of Wayne County, Ohio and the Wayne County Fair. Please visit wpcwooster.org/petition and express your support. It is time for the peoples of Wayne County to voice the view of the majority and stand up against exclusion and bigotry. Please take action here.
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