On April 23, 2013, as reported by local media outlet Star News, a typical feel good story:
Last night, Martinsville City council heard a presentation on a survey of Martinsville-Henry County residents conducted by students of the Piedmont Governor’s School, as part of Nina Huff’s junior research class.
The goal of the survey was to show residents’ thoughts about the quality of services provided by the city, opportunities in community life, and overall local quality of life.
Over 2,000 surveys were distributed to city and county residents, who were at least 18 years of age, with around a third returned completed. According to students in the research class, most responses were from county residents.
Students designed and created a patchwork quilt with scenes depicting what they had learned from the survey, which was donated to the city to be placed on public display.[LINK]
Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, don’t it?
16 and 17-year-old students giving back to their community.
Wait! Hold on. A city councilwoman took great offense at the design of the quilt. Openly chastising the students until several cried.
What offended her so? The highlighted image on the quilt.
A local call in talk show had a segment on this. One of the last callers said she was told by one of the students that the square in question represents a student “in the dark” and across the bridge stands “an enlightened” student after crossing the bridge of education.
I could buy that.
Actually, I’ve since seen a video of the meeting and it bears this out.
Councilwoman Sharon Brooks-Hodge then goes on to rant about it during a phone interview, (included in the video.) The phone interview makes her sound even more angry and unhinged.
”…I am the only dark person on city council.” ( She either does not know the city’s previous mayor was ‘dark’, or just chose to leave it out. The city’s former city manager was also ‘dark’)
Her business website describes her as a former journalist and corporate communications executive as well as a professional speaker and writer.
Well now, ain’t that special? She’s apparently a pretty accomplished woman.
At the students great expense though, this has become all about her.
There is a profound difference in ignorance and stupid. These young students have just learned that some folks can be both at once.
UPDATE: Before this interview perhaps she should have checked out the Martinsville Bulletin this morning.
Martinsville Bulletin this morning; “I don’t have a problem with the quilt being displayed” at the municipal building, Mayor Kim Adkins said. She said the quilt is “lovely work” and the students “put a lot of creativity into it.”
UPDATE II: A comment on a local TV show’s website.
My name is Merle Travis Rutledge Jr, known as a avowed Civil Rights Activist throughout this state as well as throughout this great country of ours, I come before you to say I stand with the Piedmont Governor’s School in regards to the Quilt Controversy. I believe the Quilt should be displayed for all to see. I am very proud of each and everyone of the youth that took the time to put together a great piece of history for Henry Co and surrounding areas.
After very careful view of the issue, this issue about the quilt has been overblown. It appears that the issue is being spoke for by one council woman and the NAACP Martinsville, Va branch. I understand Ms. Hodge-Muse [NAACP Spokesaoman] wants to protect her family. However, the motive and intent is wrong. This is not about race at all. This is about statements made by Ms. Hodge to a bunch of youth that was unacceptable without knowing the intent and motive of the project. I send this message out of love and not hate.
It comes a time when we all must admit that we rush to judgment and that we was wrong in our resolve. It is so much that can be done with this complex situation to ease the tension of our community and our great Commonwealth. I have yet to see any ill will in regards to the quilt, but those that have made comments and threats have made the situation into America’s nightmare. We all pray to wake up from this dream where we are all treated equally and fairly. This debate makes this dream deferred.
I understand the treatment of our people. It is a lot of work that must be done. However, this issue is the wrong way to go about it. We must love and respect our neighbor and their siblings like we would want them to treat our own.
Furthermore, I have a daughter and would never stand for the type of comments that was made at that setting. Any criticism should have been done with adults and parents in the room. It could have done so much to have a dialogue with each other instead of maliciously accusing each other of bad intentions.
Moreover, I am very proud of these youth and wish them the very best. However, we should all stand against any form of violence or hateful commentary. We have seen the worse in ourselves. The only thing we can do from this point on is strive to be better.
There are many people in this area, whether black, white, or any other race that disagree with Ms. Hodge handling of the matter. It is shocking to see so many say so many hateful words and promoting violence because they disagree. We all have a lot of work in making sure that we build bridges with one another instead of burning them down, one by one. I was one of the first to speak on the radio and condemn Ms. Hodge statement to the kids. It wasnt because of their race. It was because the matter was handled in the wrong way. We all have freedom of speech and expression. I am a civil rights activist and I would be going against my beliefs to deny someone that freedom, when I can very well protest my opposition of such expression. We all need to check ourselves and our resolve. We are making a issue of race, when there really is not one.
I am shocked at the critical comments from everyone on this issue. Those that made these statements that a race should be demean or treated unfairly should be ashamed of themselves. We are better than this. I want you all to go back and read the comments. We need to address the issue and not put the blame on race. The issue is Ms. Hodge had no business humiliating those children! Period! It is not a race issue or gender issue. It is a issue that she was wrong and needs to apologize.
In conclusion, It is so many to condemn what Ms. Hodge said and won’t condemn what Coach Patrick Gray Sullivan of Bassett High School Assistant Football Coach and Fiedale Collinsville Middle School Soccer Coach and Southeastern Oklahoma State University Will Condor said. If you forgot ladies and gentlemen than this is what the Coach said “I agree, somebody needs to smack that lady, she has no business being in the council” and Will Condor said, ” I don’t, I am a conservative WASP, the enemy of all minorities and libturds, and I’m glad because I would have to be doing something really wrong to agree with these freaks! Is it because your judgment has been so clouded that you really don’t have a clue to understand what is right and wrong. If so, than don’t be the one to judge! I’m in the mood for forgiveness to those that are sincere. We all need to practice what we preach. I wish the youth well and keep being a inspiration and light to the community. Please take each and every opportunity to learn from each other. It goes a long way from going from the darkness into the light.
Merle T. Rutledge Jr
And to understand what she thinks of Martinsville, consider this,