A Georgia politician who joined an election meeting for “black only” press said he failed to act inclusively.
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Mayoral candidate Van Johnson, Savannah’s First District representative, checked in at meeting at the Bolton Street Baptist Church last Wednesday to talk with other mayoral candidates and journalists before the November election, according to the Savannah Morning News. Signs that read “no audio or video recording” and “black press only” hung on the church doors.
One non-black reporter from Savannah television station WTOC was reportedly not allowed inside.
Johnson has since apologized for taking part.
On Thursday, Johnson told WTOC, “I was invited as a 2019 Savannah mayoral candidate to give a candidacy statement to a gathering of African-American community leaders. I accepted this invitation as an opportunity to share my vision for a progressive Savannah, as I have with business, civic, labor, neighborhood, veteran, political, Latino/Hispanic and LGBTQ groups in private and public settings. I did not coordinate or schedule this event and did not participate in any of the discussions beyond giving my statement….”
“While this decision of this group is unfortunate,” he continued “I work toward the day when we trust each other enough to be inclusive in all of our gatherings.”
He also addressed the situation at a local meeting on Friday.
“While I had a responsibility to the people inside, I also had a responsibility to the people outside,” he said. “I had this unique opportunity to be that bridge, to build communication and to encourage understanding, but on this singular occasion, I did not perform as I always have. And today, I apologize for my actions in this instance.
“I’m human,” he added later. “I make mistakes.”
The event was reportedly organized by Rev. Clarence Teddy Williams, who owns the consulting company The Trigon Group. A Trigon Group spokesperson did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s interview request, and Williams is reportedly not commenting on the meeting.
According to the Associated Press, Regina Thomas, a former Georgia senator who is running for mayor, was not at the meeting because it wasn’t inclusive and she had other plans. Thomas was unreachable by Yahoo Lifestyle.
“This is not my idea,” Chatham County commissioner Chester Ellis, who did attend the controversial meeting, said before entering the church, according to the Savannah Morning News.
Yahoo Lifestyle contacted meeting members, including former Mayor Edna Jackson, Alderman Estella Shabazz, Commissioner Ellis and candidates Johnson and Louis Wilson. None returned requests for comment.
Mayoral candidate meeting at Bolton Street Baptist Church is selective in its attendees. “Black press only” pic.twitter.com/n769HBBG9c
— Savannah Morning News Opinion (@SavannahOpinion) March 27, 2019
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