Group plans event to promote unity


Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A local group formed to address hot-button issues both locally and nationally is set to host a community education event.

The Rocky Mount Racial Justice Group will hold a community forum titled “Unity and Diversity in Troubled Times,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the Barnes Building Auditorium of Edgecombe Community College’s Rocky Mount Campus. A variety of non-pork food will be available from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Chip Smith, an organizer of the Rocky Mount Racial Justice Group, said the upcoming forum is in response to the divisive policy coming from President Donald Trump’s administration when Trump signed an executive order in January calling for suspended entry for citizens of seven Muslim countries.

“We’re taking preemptive steps here in Rocky Mount to try to prevent that kind of divisiveness from taking hold here,” Smith said. “In particular, we want to show connections in kind of the history and experience of different people in town that work to bring us together and not divide us.”

Smith said there will be four local panelists from the Twin Counties who will speak briefly about what’s going on in the Muslim community. Muqtasid Abtasid Abdus-Salaam will talk about the history of Islam and Palestine, Meriem Abdus-Salaam will discuss women in Islam and society, Smith will do a presentation on immigrants, slaves and refugees and Merdiakae Williams will do a presentation on unity, diversity and solidarity.

“There is a lot of commonality and struggle between the African-Americans and Muslims right now,” Williams said. “They’re being discriminated on and being builled. They’re definitely being attacked because of their choices to identify with their Muslim culture.”

Smith said an open mic session will take place during the second hour of the program, which will provide an opportunity for a question-and-answer format as well as general discussion from people in the audience.

“Emerging from the discussion will be specific action plans that build on the evening’s exchange of ideas,” he said.

The Rocky Mount Racial Justice Group was formed in 2015 in response to the killing of nine people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.