Recently, it was discovered that Councilman Cecil Bothwell’s campaign had been distributing door hangers depicting the Rev. William J. Barber II of the NAACP speaking to a crowd, and Cecil with a raised fist standing behind him. Though Cecil now claims he did not mean for this to be read as Rev. Barber’s endorsement, the body languages of these two men depict otherwise.
As a volunteer with Asheville Showing Up for Racial Justice and a member of its coordinating team speaking on behalf of myself, and considering Cecil’s combativeness when receiving feedback from Asheville’s African-American community, this is not good allyship.
I lead two meetings every Tuesday. One is less formal and focuses on dismantling white supremacy within ourselves before leaving with concrete weekly goals. The other meeting is result-focused as we dive into tasks given to us by people of color leadership. The State of Black Asheville is a central document for us outlining the many areas of inequity plaguing the African-American community. And we hold core values, including mutual interest and accountability through collective action — meaning we aren’t here to save anyone and that we take our lead from communities of color.
It is my suggestion that Cecil attend these or the many other meetings as a way to sharpen his purpose for doing the work. It is my suggestion that he admit he needs to grow and to begin to take the lead from the powerful voices that have been speaking to him for years from the African-American community. If he wants to be elected as a people’s candidate, he might begin to listen instead of merely posing. The NAACP has implied that distributing the door hangers is not something the organization supports (http://www.citizen-times.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/09/28/letter-wary-campaign-dishonesty/106069576/), but there is still no word on whether or not the door hangers are still being distributed.
— Matilda Bliss
Editor’s note: Bliss reports that she is a volunteer with candidate Dee Williams’ campaign. Also, Xpress contacted Bothwell, who provided the following response: “I included the photo of me shouting support for Rev. Dr. William Barber on my door hangers because I fully support Rev. Barber. I think it takes a real stretch to look at that photo, taken at Mountain Moral Monday in Asheville in August 2013 and not interpret me raising the Black Power salute behind Rev. Barber as anything other than my support. I used that photo in my 2013 campaign and heard no criticism. In 2013, my campaign funded two buses to Raleigh to get people to Moral Monday events. In August this year, I released a video extolling Rev. Barber’s new role as head of the new Poor People’s Campaign. I think any effort to portray my support for Barber as somehow suggesting his endorsement of me is politically motivated, and quite completely contrary to my intent, or the message that the image conveys to most people.”