Meeting

Residents speak Monday night in front of the Denton County Confederate Memorial Advisory Committee in Cross Roads about why the Confederate monument in Denton should be removed despite an earlier committee’s recommendation to keep it up and add context to it.

This story was updated Nov. 5.

CROSS ROADS — Denton County Judge Andy Eads finished a Monday night meeting at square one, reminding people that the official plan for the Confederate monument in downtown Denton is not to remove it but instead have its racist origins contextualized.

If the group of about a dozen people who showed up to the meeting Monday night is any indication, many people still want the Confederate statue to come down, despite whatever plan the Denton County commissioners have for it.

In recent weeks, county commissioners have appointed a committee, published an official monument website, opened a feedback email account and scheduled four listening meetings.

All of this came after another committee in 2018 recommended the monument stay in downtown Denton. The recommendation was to keep the statue up but to possibly add other plaques and statues denouncing slavery, honoring African American history here and adding historical context about the statue’s racist origins.

In its first of the four-part listening tour Monday night, the committee set up to carry out that 2018 plan came face-to-face with residents who did not seem to regard the county’s plan as the only path forward; all who spoke said they still want the option of the statue being removed to be considered.

“You’re not my voice,” said Willie Hudspeth, who has fought with county officials over the monument for decades.

About a dozen people attended the meeting. Of those, about half spoke. Others gave public comment forms to county officials.

From the speakers there were virtually no suggestions offered as to how the committee should move forward with the current plan. There was the prevailing assertion, however: The county should remove the statue. One woman did advocate for contextualizing the monument but did not recommend specifically how to do that.

The meeting also highlighted the low regard some people have for county officials repeatedly relying upon the advice of committees in addressing a sensitive issue that ultimately Denton County commissioners will have to settle.

“Be part of our process,” Eads told the audience. “That’s what this is about.”

Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell and Eads, who are both members of the committee, reminded the audience that the plan before them is the plan they’re going with. Still, Denton resident Jennifer Lane even questioned whether Eads should move away from the committee’s plan and start entirely from scratch.

The statue came to Denton during the Jim Crow era, not in the years immediately after the Civil War. Its two attached drinking water fountains, people in Denton say, were for white people only. The soldier atop it, to generations of people here, serves as a reminder of the outright discrimination that became the preference in place of slavery.

To leave it up, some say, would be to keep the reminder alive. Taking it down, others say, will work to “erase” history.

As of now, the county’s version of the plan is to add context in writing, something James Carr of Denton said will do no justice due to the monument’s prominence downtown and the way the soldier towers above the sidewalk.

“It cannot be equal, educationally or otherwise, [to] something next to it with text,” Carr told the committee. “It doesn’t express itself with text. It expresses itself with military regalia and white supremacy.”

The committee is made up of Eads; Mitchell; John Baines; Bill Lawrence, an associate of Commissioner Dianne Edmondson; Sheryl English; Dwayne Edwards, who was not present Monday; and Zenobia Hutton.

The next meeting is scheduled from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Precinct 3 Government Building, 400 N. Valley Parkway in Lewisville.

The third meeting, to be held in Denton, is scheduled to run longer, from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Denton’s Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 1300 Wilson St.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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