a secret meeting was held on saturday between jimmy simmons, president of the casper naacp, and john abarr, a ku klux klan organizer from great falls, montana. the meeting took place at a hotel in casper, wyoming under tight security, the casper star-tribune reported.
the southern poverty law center and the united klans of america (uka) said tuesday the meeting was a first. abarr told the associated press on tuesday he filled out an naacp membership form so he could get the group's newsletters and some insight into its views. he said he paid a $30 fee to join the naacp - the nation's oldest civil rights organization - plus a $20 donation.
simmons said he asked for the meeting after receiving reports kkk literature was being distributed in gillette, about 130 miles north of casper. he also wanted to discuss race relations, including what he said were reported beatings of black men; details were not provided. abarr said he knew nothing about the hate crimes or the literature, which was distributed in a residential neighborhood of gillette in october.
gillette police lt. chuck deaton said there have been 10 hate or bias crimes reported in the past five years involving name-calling but no assaults on black people. deaton also said police were unable to speak with a young man distributing the literature, and he was chased away by neighbors. "in the 21 years that i've been here, that's the first i heard of the klan in gillette," deaton said.
eric wingerter, a spokesman for the naacp's national headquarters, told the star-tribune local chapter leaders aren't required to get permission to arrange meetings. united klans of america imperial wizard bradley jenkins of birmingham, alabama said in a telephone interview he sanctioned the meeting and called it a first between the kkk and the naacp.
abarr said, "i don't know if we accomplished too much. we're not about violence. we're about being proud to be white." mark potok, a senior fellow at the southern poverty law center, said there have been meetings between white and black groups, but nine between the kkk and the naacp.
he called the united klans of america a "copycat wannabee" group that's not the group responsible for violence during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, including the deaths of four black girls at a baptist church in birmingham. the original uka was dismantled in the 1980s following a lawsuit by the southern poverty law center.
potok said of the historic meeting, "i think it's outrageous and counterproductive. it gives legitimacy to the klan as an organization you can talk to." but simmons insisted the meeting was worth it. he said, "it's about opening dialogue with a group that claims they're trying to reform themselves from violence. they're trying to shed that violent skin, but it seems like they're just changing the packaging."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.