A community meeting was held Wednesday in Savannah, Ga to offer a platform so candidates could make their case but a notice on the door stated that no white reporters would be allowed to attend and cover the event.
Savannah Now reported that “Black press only” was one of the signs posted to the doors of at the Bolton Street Baptist Church where the public meeting took place. “No Audio or Video recording” was the other posted sign. Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, who coordinated the event, declined to comment on the entry policy where reporters were excluded due to their race.
Many of those who attended the event such as former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, and Chatham County Commissioner Chester Ellis also did not comment. Savannah Alderman Estella Shabazz, who used to own a paper and is a member of the Black press, also did not want to go on record.
Savannah Alderman Van Johnson, who is one of three African-Americans seeking to be mayor, commented after the meeting. He shared that he spoke about his vision for an inclusive and progressive Savannah.
“I came in and I gave my vision for an inclusive Savannah, a progressive Savannah, and I laid out a message of why I felt I was the best candidate for mayor,” Johnson said. “Believe me, I’m uniquely qualified for this opportunity, and I wanted to make sure the individuals assembled knew that.”
However, he also said that those who organized the meeting had every right to set guidelines.
“It’s not my meeting,” Johnson said. “I was asked to come and give a statement, so I came and I gave a statement. What I said in there, I’ll say out here.”
Van Johnson still felt he was the person to bring both sides together.
“Again, I’m trying to relay a message. I’m trying to set forth a vision. I think part of the reason that we’re in this place of distrust and tension,” he continued. “I think we’re in need of leadership to help bring the people together, and certainly as the mayor of this city, I will attempt to bring people together.”
Louis Wilson, another Black mayoral hopeful, also refused to speak out against the discriminatory policy.
“I didn’t plan the meeting so I can’t comment on that part,” he said. “I came to say what I had to say.”
Regina Thomas, another declared candidate and African American, chose not to attend the meeting. Thomas found it to be divisive and polarizing. She attended her Bible study instead.
“I’m encouraged every day by people of all persuasions,” Thomas said.
In total, 50 people reportedly attended the meeting.