Chavis urged healing during 1898 “Unity” event

Benjamin Chavis
Ben Chavis

By Cash Michaels

November 19, 2021 12:30AM
Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

[WILMINGTON] Saying that, “Healing starts in the mind. You’ve got to want to heal,” the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, leader of the Wilmington Ten, joined others November 10th commemorating the 123rd anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre in urging those attending a special “Unity” service at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church to “heal forward.”

“I believe that Wilmington is a better city because we finally decided that we’re not only going to study the past but learn from the past and we decided we’re going to live a different kind of future,” Chavis, also the president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), said.

“There’s something about this city…, there’s such great potential, such great promise,” Dr. Chavis continued. “But the forces of racism, the forces of oppression, the forces of economic exploitation would try to keep us divided so we think each other is the enemy.”

“If Wilmington, North Carolina can have a healing, I believe America can have a healing,”

As a member of the Wilmington Ten, Rev. Chavis, along with nine other activists, was falsely accused in 1971 of firebombing a white-owned grocery store during riots in the city. The following year, they were all convicted and sentenced to prison. Their prison sentences would be shortened in 1977 by then Gov. Jim Hunt, but it would take over forty years in 2012 for them to receive pardons of innocence from then Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Dr. Chavis has led the NNPA - a national association of Black-owned newspapers - for the past several years.

Also speaking at the unity service were newly re-elected Mayor Bill Saffo, NC NAACP President-elect Deborah Dicks-Maxwell, also currently the president of the New Hanover County Chapter of the NAACP, and Ms. Bertha Todd, a 92-year-old local historian and retired educator who was among the first during the 100th anniversary of the Wilmington Race Massacre to lead a commemoration and worked to create the 1898 Memorial Park in 2008.

The unity service was the culmination of ten days of important events commemorating the 123 anniversary of the Wilmington 1898 Race Massacre, where white supremacists violently took over the city government, and relentlessly killed Blacks, and forced others to flee for their lives, to take power. The bloody, racist event ushered in the infamous Jim Crow era throughout the South.

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