On March 31, a benefit was held at the Grey Eagle for Edward Chapman, who had been wrongly convicted, sentenced to death and imprisoned on North Carolina's death row for 13 years.
It was a great affair with a nice turnout of people who wanted to support Mr. Chapman spiritually and financially, since the state of North Carolina and the town of Hickory have refused to compensate Mr. Chapman for his wrongful incarceration — one that was a perfect storm of incompetence and, possibly, illegal actions by the Hickory Police Department and the district attorneys office.
Unfortunately, this event, which should have been celebrated in the African American community, was in fact nearly bereft of an African American presence. While I was there I counted only four other African Americans in attendance; our African American Mayor was not present and only one other public official, Cecil Bothwell, thought this issue important enough to lend his support and presence.
I observed no clergy from the African American churches, those same clergy who found time to protest the right of certain citizens in the community to receive benefits based on their lifestyle could not find time to come and show support or encourage their parishioners to attend.
Perhaps I missed representatives from Urban News, the local African American radio station or any prominent African American presence, but I doubt it. Those so-called leaders might want to take a look in the mirror and remember that what happened to Edward Chapman could just as easily have happened to any one of us, or our sons and daughters, simply because of skin color.
We owe it to Mr. Chapman — and every young African American male that makes up a disproportionate portion of the prison population — to acknowledge the injustice that was done, and celebrate Mr. Chapman’s freedom. …
The irony is that Mr. Chapman does not hold the animosity that one would expect from an innocent man kept on death row for 13 years with the specter of execution hanging over his head, which makes it doubly sad that his own community did not see fit to honor his struggle, courage and perseverance. We should have filled the Grey Eagle. Shame on us.
— Jesse Junior