NAACP leader fears Ferguson could happen in Nacogdoches - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

NAACP leader fears Ferguson could happen in Nacogdoches

NAACP members from the SFA chapter watch Ferguson racial violence coverage. (Source: KTRE Staff) NAACP members from the SFA chapter watch Ferguson racial violence coverage. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Jonathan Tyler, the president of the NAACP chapter at SFA, said the situation in Ferguson is a"pivotal point in history." (Source: KTRE Staff) Jonathan Tyler, the president of the NAACP chapter at SFA, said the situation in Ferguson is a"pivotal point in history." (Source: KTRE Staff)
Reverend Leonard Sweat, president of Nacogdoches NAACP (Source: KTRE Staff) Reverend Leonard Sweat, president of Nacogdoches NAACP (Source: KTRE Staff)
SFA NAACP poster (Source: KTRE Staff) SFA NAACP poster (Source: KTRE Staff)
NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) -

What's happening in Ferguson prompts communities everywhere to ask a very serious question? Could it happen in your hometown?

East Texas News spoke to NAACP leaders in Nacogdoches, who are from different generations, to see what they had to say about the racial violence that occurred Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Nacogdoches has about 10,000 more residents and more diversified demographics than Ferguson, Missouri.

“There could be a Ferguson situation here in Nacogdoches,” said the Rev. Leonard Sweat, the president of the Nacogdoches branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Sweat's concern prompted him to call a meeting several weeks ago between law enforcement and minority leaders. He wanted authorities to know that “especially in African American communities, that the police are the enemy.”

Sweat said Nacogdoches has a history of oppressing black people and is certain racial tension carried over from the sixties still exists.

“I may get worse here in this city,” Sweat said.

Another generation of NAACP leaders has been watching the racial tensions of the 21st century.

“This is a pivotal point in history actually that will go down as something that's being repeated over and over and over again,” said Jonathan Tyler, the president of the Stephen F. Austin State University branch of the NAACP.

Understandably, the events stir emotions among these young black men, but the NAACP members say they would not resort to violence.

“I can definitely tell you no one in the NAACP is part of any of the violence because one of our things we were built on is peace with protest,” Tyler said.

As illustrated this summer at a candlelight vigil conducted at SFA shortly after Michael Brown was shot and killed.

“Non-violent demonstrations are the way to go in order to get answers that we want because violence just begets violence, just begets violence,” Tyler said.

The NAACP leaders are a generation apart, but they agree education and discussion could prevent racial violence in East Texas communities. Have they reached the goal? They say, not yet.

“The justice system has failed yet again,” Tyler said.

“It's time for a change right here in Nacogdoches,” Sweat said.

The NAACP is now launching a petition to urge the Department of Justice to complete their federal, criminal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown.

Dr. Osaro Airo, the director of SFA's Office of Multicultural Affairs, said they are going to bring in a speaker with ties to Ferguson.

“We're bringing in State Representative Courtney Allen Curtis who is a native of Ferguson and he represents the district in that area, so he's going to come and kinda talk to us about lessons of Ferguson to kinda educate us about what he's seen, things that we don't see and also kind of maybe what led up to this level of unrest and to make sure this never occurs in Nacogdoches,” Airo said.

The town hall meeting is scheduled for February 26. Closer to that event will be the Office of Multicultural Affairs' Diversity Conference set for January 31. References to the racial unrest in Ferguson are expected.

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