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After The Flag, Black Leadership Must Think Bigger Than Themselves
7/15/2015 1:19:49 PM

Kevin Gray
By Barney Blakeney

Columbia civic activist Kevin Gray is known as one who speaks plainly and pointedly about issues that impact the quality of life for South Carolinians.

And as America looks at South Carolina in the wake of the June 17 massacre of nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and the subsequent removal of the controversial Confederate Flag flying at the S.C. Statehouse, Gray has been unabashed in his comments about the legacy of those acts.

Noted community leaders including elected, appointed and anointed leaders, have issued statements about the removal of the Confederate Flag.

“Today in South Carolina division has been replaced with unity,” said Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley. And South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said, “This is a wonderful first step on the journey toward a more inclusive and caring South Carolina for everyone.”

But Gray said Monday the removal of the Confederate Flag from the statehouse grounds and all the glowing remarks about unity and inclusion may be hollow if the state’s Black citizens don’t move forward with a specific agenda for change.

Removal of the Confederate Flag is an opportunity for South Carolina to take an economic leap forward. The NCAA, one of the most notable holdouts honoring the NAACP economic sanctions imposed against the state’s tourism industry in 1999, already is poised to allow championship games to again be played in the state. The Charleston Chamber of Commerce said the state, now more than ever, is a place where people will want to come and visit.

Gray said that as others embark on an agenda to take full advantage of the benefits the flag’s removal will make available, Black South Carolinians must set an agenda.

“We don’t have a plan,” Gray said. “In a few years (political) reapportionment will be coming up. Neither our elected or other leadership has put forth anything that will help us move forward. We should be thinking about serious things - Medicaid expansion is an easy one, but there are other things like equitable funding for schools and urban development that includes low income people.”

Funding that puts financially imperiled South Carolina State University on par with other colleges in the state are among the “low hanging fruit” that easily can be reached by leaders who should be developing a collective agenda instead of preaching to the national media, Gray said.

“A lot of the voices we’ve been hearing have been saying more about themselves than about moving us forward. It’s had everything to do with them and nothing to do with us. Unless we organize and form a specific agenda, it’s going to be the same old thing for us. We will have to take something to the table and not wait for others to say what they will do for us,” Gray insists.

“Right now, it should be all hands on deck. Our leaders have to think about things bigger than themselves,” he said.

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