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6:36 AM Fri, Jan. 18th

Prescott Mayor, NAACP report ‘positive’ meeting on race

Discussion generates ideas for making Prescott more welcoming to African-Americans

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli and other community officials met with three members of the Phoenix-area NAACP civil rights organization and a representative of a Prescott College group Friday, Dec. 14, to discuss concerns that arose over recent racial comments by state Rep. David Stringer. Pictured, from left: Michael Powell; Rev. Reginald D. Walton; East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr.; Mengarelli; Prescott College student Brittini Ward; Prescott City Manager Michael Lamar; and Prescott Police Chief Debora Black. (City of Prescott/Courtesy)

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli and other community officials met with three members of the Phoenix-area NAACP civil rights organization and a representative of a Prescott College group Friday, Dec. 14, to discuss concerns that arose over recent racial comments by state Rep. David Stringer. Pictured, from left: Michael Powell; Rev. Reginald D. Walton; East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr.; Mengarelli; Prescott College student Brittini Ward; Prescott City Manager Michael Lamar; and Prescott Police Chief Debora Black. (City of Prescott/Courtesy)

While a boycott of Prescott by the East Valley NAACP remains in effect, a Friday meeting between Prescott officials and members of the Phoenix-area civil rights organization reportedly made inroads into resolving the matter.

Both Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli and East Valley NAACP President Roy Tatem Jr. referred to the several-hour-long private luncheon meeting on Dec. 14, as “positive,” and say that a number of ideas emerged for making Prescott more welcoming to African-Americans.

“It was a really good conversation,” said Mengarelli Friday afternoon. “It was very, very positive.”

Tatem added: “I feel the meeting was very positive and productive.”

Still, both sides acknowledge that the travel boycott of Prescott that Tatem called for earlier this month has yet to be lifted.

Tatem made the call for a boycott in a Dec. 4 letter to incoming Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers in response to state Rep. David Stringer’s comments that immigrants from Africa “don’t blend in,” among other racial comments. Stringer is from Prescott.

Tatem maintained that the boycott should continue until Stringer is removed from the Arizona Legislature. That prompted Mengarelli to reach out to Tatem, and the two agreed late last week to meet.

Tatem said the meeting that occurred in downtown Prescott generated a number of ideas for actions that Prescott could take to allay concerns that arose in response to Stringer’s comments.

For instance, Tatem said, the group discussed the possible creation of a Prescott “diversity board,” as well as a possible city position that promotes diversity and inclusion.

“I feel there are ways the city could create an opportunity for multi-cultural events, even if the community is predominately Caucasian,” Tatem said.

Mengarelli reported after the meeting that although no firm directives came from the meeting, “There are some initiatives we’re working on.”

He added that the city may be ready to release information about the initiatives next week.

“We want to make sure Prescott is welcoming to everyone,” Mengarelli said.

IS PRESCOTT UNWELCOMING?

The mayor said he was surprised to hear that Prescott was considered “unwelcoming” to African-Americans even before the comments by Stringer.

“(Some of the people at the meeting) voiced that there is a perception from certain African-American groups that they should avoid Prescott,” Mengarelli said. “That was surprising to me.”

Tatem said the perception likely stems from a lack of diverse activities in Prescott, as well as “no evidence of co-mingling or a multi-cultural experience.”

While Tatem said he believes Prescott “has work to do to brand its image as a welcoming community,” he said Mengarelli “has taken a great leadership role” in moving toward a more welcoming community.

Tatem noted that all of the Prescott representatives at this week’s meeting “denounced David Stringer’s comments, and were vehemently against his position.”

And even though Stringer has indicated that he has no intention of resigning from the legislature, Tatem said the tone at the meeting, as well as the possible actions by the city, could help to convince him and the NAACP “that David Stringer is really an isolated anomaly.”

Along with Mengarelli and Tatem, the Friday meeting also included: two other Phoenix-area representatives of the NAACP, Michael Powell and Rev. Reginald D. Walton; a representative of an African-American group at Prescott College, Brittini Ward; City Manager Michael Lamar; Prescott Police Chief Debora Black; and three representatives of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce.

Stringer did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Courier Friday.