North Texas Daily

UNT, Denton leaders form coalition to explore racism

UNT, Denton leaders form coalition to explore racism

December 03
03:13 2015

Sarah Lagro | Staff Writer

@lagroski

Following a hot North Texas summer that saw boiling racial tension, city government leaders and local thinkers have formed a group to explore the community’s relationships between races.

The Denton Together Coalition officially got underway in November when Denton Mayor Chris Watts signed a proclamation establishing the group.

It consists of several local organizations, including the county NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens, UNT, Texas Women’s University and North Central Texas College. North Texas school districts, churches and the police chief are also members of the coalition.

“I wanted to bring together a set of individuals that represent the uniqueness and diversity of Denton,” Watts said. “When we come together and engage in real conversation about our cultural and social differences, we can learn to celebrate, honor and appreciate the value diversity brings to this community.”

Over the summer, following the terror attack at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina where nine people were murdered, a nationwide rebuke of Confederate relics prompted people in Denton to debate whether the Confederate soldier statue on the Denton Square should remain there.

The statue served as the battleground for locals, including students from UNT, to discuss racism in the area and nationwide. The gatherings sometimes attracted dozens of activists and Denton police officers.

Willie Hudspeth, the Denton County NAACP president, has led the charge to remove the statue from the Square since the early 2000s, but the summer’s events motivated him to reinforce the campaign against it.

“I’m glad people are talking about it,” he said, “but I’m very glad people are listening. This is long overdue.”

The episode reached its climax when two people spray-painted in red “This Is Racist” across the statue and in the days that followed, a man brought an assault rifle with him while he debated Hudspeth and other activists.

The Together Coalition held its first meeting Nov. 19 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Watts said residents presented their experiences with race relations in the area and the need for discussion about race and diversity in schools.

“Our goal is to be proactive and address any issues that are concerning to our community,” Coalition chair Sheryl English said in a City of Denton press release. “We want to address the issues so we can continue to live in a harmonious city.”

The group plans to host more town hall meetings in 2016, but none have officially been scheduled.

Featured Image: Denton County NAACP President Willie Hudspeth defends his beliefs with a Denton resident beneath the Confederate soldier statue at the Denton Square last summer. Dalton LaFerney | News Editor

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