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Civil rights organizations commend Prescott for taking early stand against Stringer’s comments

A crowd estimated, by the Prescott Police Department, at 450 people march in the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Peace and Justice March through downtown Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

A crowd estimated, by the Prescott Police Department, at 450 people march in the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Peace and Justice March through downtown Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

The “immediate, bold stance” taken by the City Council against racially disparaging remarks by a State Legislator from Prescott in late 2018 apparently helped to avert a statewide NAACP boycott of Prescott.

In a Jan. 10 letter to Mayor Greg Mengarelli, Arizona NAACP President Charles Fanniel stated that after speaking with Mengarelli last week, “I am convinced that we, the NAACP Arizona State Conference, have made the right decision by not calling for or endorsing a boycott of the City of Prescott, Arizona.”

In addition, Fanniel said, “I want to commend you, Mayor, for your council members, city manager, citizens and organizations that took an immediate bold stance to denounce the negative, racist and divisive comments made by Rep. David Stringer.”

Talk of a travel boycott of Prescott emerged in early December, after Stringer’s recorded comments asserting that African-American immigrants “don’t blend in,” and that non-English speaking immigrants pose a burden to the U.S., were published by the Phoenix New Times.

Although the Prescott City Council called a special meeting for Dec. 4 and voted to condemn Stringer’s comments and ask for his resignation from the legislature, the president of the East Valley NAACP put out a call on social media for a travel boycott of Prescott.

Mel Hannah, chairman of the Arizona Commission of African American Affairs, said Thursday, Jan. 17, that a statewide boycott was never in effect. “As far as we’re concerned, there is no boycott,” he said.

Mengarelli said Thursday that he was “very pleased with the position of the state NAACP.”

City officials say Hannah reached out to them about two weeks ago, and Mengarelli then met with Hannah in Phoenix during last week’s state inauguration.

“When we found out the position the City Council took, we thought it was appropriate — being opposed to the very racist and bigoted remarks (by Stringer),” Hannah said Thursday. “We thought (the city’s stance) was very commendable, and we wanted to acknowledge that in a public way.”

Hannah, Fanniel, and Connie Jackson, second vice president of the Arizona NAACP, are expected to attend the Prescott City Council meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, to read letters of support for Prescott.

The presentation will come after a city proclamation on the Jan. 21 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The proclamation states: “Whereas Reverend Dr. King taught us about equality for all, we will remember to treat all peoples, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or religious and/or spiritual practice, with dignity and justice.”

Fanniel’s letter also refers to the slain civil rights leader. “We need more than ever to promote love, peace, understanding, respect, and appreciation for all cultures,” Fanniel’s letter states, “As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: We should all be judged by the contents of our character, and not by the color of our skin.”

Since the December controversy, Mengarelli said the city has been working to reach out more on promotion of diversity in the community.

For instance, John Heiney, community outreach manager for the city, said his office would help to promote upcoming events such as the schedule planned for the week of MLK Day.

Recent Prescott College graduate Brittini Ward has been involved in the planning the week of activities to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The various events include a “Just Us” community mixer, a showing of the “Color of Fear” documentary movie, and a community panel featuring law enforcement officials from local communities. (See related story). They all aim to promote a more inclusive mindset for the community.

Mengarelli said the city also is looking ahead to events for Black History Month in February, such as a possible display at the Prescott Public Library. Heiney added that the city is working with Yavapai College on an event celebrating Black History Month.

While the idea for a city diversity board emerged during earlier talks, Mengarelli said subsequent discussions have indicated that “the most important thing we can do is to build relationships and see what might happen from there.”

Stringer, who announced during a Dec. 6 Prescott Valley Town Council meeting that he does not intend to resign from the Arizona Legislature, did not respond to a Daily Courier request for comment Thursday.

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