I was present when Kevon Gainer proposed painting “Black Lives Matter” in a prominent space in Greenville. His proposal followed a series of protest marches and rallies which the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism (CAR) and Mapinduzi helped organize. These protests followed the horrendous killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Armaud Arbry by law enforcement and their surrogates.

In part because there were just such police killings of Sean Rembert Jr., Brandon Joyner, David Melton, Cedric Pritchard and “Jonny” Ramirez in Greenville, Washington and Nash County, the protests culminated in a well-organized, peaceful rally in front of both Greenville police headquarters and their West Fifth Street substation.

Kevon put out a call on social media to gather at the Town Common later in June to paint the street as other activists had done throughout the United States. I was present to show CAR’s support and witnessed the beginning of the sidetracking by well-intentioned “allies” attempting to “help” Kevon.

The painting did not happen that day, and now it appears the initiative shown by righteous black youth has not just been hijacked by Greenville City Council but forbidden by a 4-3 vote! Mayor Pro Tem Rose Glover stated: “I’ve seen in this city that black lives don’t matter.”

Not only was the initiative sidetracked and, eventually, co-opted by the city, but also the conservative City Council members betrayed the trust of the residents, arts community leaders and the very subcommittee they created. By withholding their devious plan from fellow City Council members until the last minute, they have displayed how deeply they have miscalculated.

A different City Council, similarly, took down Martin Luther King’s name off our main downtown street — the only city in America to do so!

For those who doubt the importance of supporting younger people’s attempts to determine their own destiny, I refer you to “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes.

Don Cavellini


Cavellini is co-chairman of the Pitt County Coalition Against Racism.