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On Wednesday, March 15, the newly formed National Action Network (NAN) chapter of Colleton County held its first press conference to officially announce the issues they plan to discuss in Colleton County. At that press conference, chapter President Erika Davis said: “the organization plans to discuss the issues related to Workplace Injustice, Education, and Police issues in Colleton County.”
Also at last week’s press conference, Colleton Chapter Vice President, JD Davis, discussed what she called “several major issues occurring in the Colleton County School District.” She specifically cited pay, vacant positions, low graduation rate and special education needs as being the top problems. She talked about how teachers pay out-of-pocket for school supplies, and, although they are reimbursed, the reimbursement goes into their paycheck causing double taxation to occur. Officials with the Colleton County School District have not confirmed any of these allegations.
“Pay is low, there is a lot of vacant positions and it’s estimated that 70 to 100 teachers may be leaving the district,” says JD Davis. “This issue is affecting the entire low country region of which Colleton County is a part of,” she says.
Both JD Davis and Erika Davis are Colleton County residents.
JD Davis shared statistics with those who attended the press conference. According to her, Colleton County High School’s graduation rate is about 53 percent, which is 50 percent below the state average.
The school district cites a higher graduation level: no one at the district level confirmed or denied her stated statistics. “Changes need to be address abruptly,” says JD Davis.
First Vice President of the local chapter, Delbert Dubois, discussed issues surrounding police brutality, bias, discrimination and how the African-American community is impacted by the police system. “I joined the National Action Network to help get justice from law enforcement and to effect change that will stop discrimination and bias toward African-Americans,” said Dubois. Additionally, Tyeesha Aiken, chairperson for a local domestic violence task force, said she will work on disparities in the sheriff department. “I want everyone to stand together in the community to see change happen for the betterment of all and for everyone to get involved to help make a difference in Colleton county,” says Aiken.
The State NAN President, Elder James Johnson, was also present at the local press conference. He addressed the issue of no black representation on Walterboro City Council. Johnson is a Charleston resident, he does not live in Colleton County but does lead the statewide NAN efforts.
“The county is 59 percent African Americans and 39 percent Caucasians and we don’t have any representation,” said Johnson. Colleton County Council does consist of several African-American elected leaders, as does the Colleton County School Board. To address his concerns, NAN attorneys said they plan to file a federal lawsuit to change the method of electing Walterboro City Council from members-at-large to single-member district elections. “It’s not only Colleton County, NAN is looking at other counties in the state who don’t have single-member district elections where African-Americans don’t have representation in those districts…. Enough is enough, we need representation for African-Americans across the state of South Carolina,” says Johnson.
NAN’S attorneys have been contacted on the matter, but a suit against Walterboro – or against other municipality about race – has not yet been filed.
NAN has nine chapters in South Carolina. Johnson will be working with the Colleton County chapter to discuss their issues along with support from neighboring chapters in Jasper, Beaufort, and Hampton counties. On the state level NAN has also put together domestic violence and suicide prevention initiatives to discuss the increase in domestic violence and increase of the suicide rate among young people reported Johnson.