We’ve been reporting on the city of High Point’s discussions of reparations for Black folks who have historically been crushed under the city’s heel. The plan addresses housing disparities, health inequities, the education gap, economic opportunity and transportation access, and reviews and revises municipal operations to make them more equitable.
Reparations are long overdue everywhere in this country, which was founded and built on free slave labor. But longtime High Point watchers might be surprised that the Furniture City is the first in the Triad to begin figuring out what reparations might look like.
High Point is far from the most progressive city in the Triad. This is the city that in 2014, declined to name a street for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Urban planning deliberately separated Washington Street, High Point’s Black epicenter, from the rest of the city after the Civil Rights Act passed, effectively shuttering 150 Black-owned businesses. The city’s first Black Mayor, Bernita Sims, was forced to resign after being charged with writing a bad check.
And we must recount here the case of Al Heggins, who in 2015 was High Point’s human relations director — that is, until she ran afoul of the High Point Police Department after initiating a series of forums to discuss police-community relations, and was verbally reprimanded for using the term “white supremacy” in the city. She also had discrimination complaint on file against the city with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Heggins was fired by mail, after which the city disbanded the 13-member board of the Human Relations Commission and enacted nine new members. This initiated another EEOC complaint.
All this is not to come down on High Point so much as to say that if High Point is looking at reparations, the rest of us cannot be too far behind.
Heggins, by the way, bounced back from her experience in High Point to become the first Black member of Salisbury City Council in 2016, then the city’s first Black mayor in 2017. At the time, Salisbury’s mayor was an appointed post, generally given to the candidate who won the most votes in the prior year’s election. After Heggins’ tenure, they changed the rules to make mayor an elected post. Heggins lost her 2021 re-election bid to Karen Alexander, a white woman, by 18 votes.
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