Memphis Branch NAACP President Deidre Malone urges constituents to voice concerns about the City Council appointment process to their area's council representative. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)
“If you don’t call it what it is and deal with it, racism that is, we as a society will never move past it, and Memphis will never be all that it can be for all of our citizens.” (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Expressing concern about the protracted way the Memphis City Council is moving to fill the vacant District 1 position, Memphis Branch NAACP President Deidre Malone is asking for citizen engagement.

“We are asking our members and all citizens who believe in fair and equitable representation to contact their City Council members and let them know that if they can’t get the appointment process right, then they must forward with a special election and allow citizens to elect all three vacant positions,” Malone said a Friday morning press conference at the Memphis Branch office on Vance.

The District 1 position became vacant after then-City Councilman Bill Morrison was elected Shelby County Probate Court Clerk.

Joined by officers of the branch’s executive committee, Malone said, “The reason we are speaking out as the NAACP today is because we are concerned that there is an attempt to put a person in District 1 who may not understand the needs of the community that he or she will represent.

“We are concerned that the representation will not be consistent with the will of the people who live and work in that district.”

A Dec. 4 council session ended abruptly when four members — Joe Brown, Patrice Robertson, Jamita Swearengen and Martavius Jones — walked out over concerns about the appointment process. None attended any of the specially-called sessions, including the one held on Tuesday with six members.

The four council members that walked out support Rhonda Logan, who was one of two remaining candidates before Lonnie Treadaway withdrew. The council had been deadlocked on Logan and Treadaway, including a marathon session on Nov 20 that extended into the next day.

District 1 is majority African American.

“The Memphis City Council narrowed their choices for the appointment of District 1 City Council seat to two individuals — One African-American female, Ms. Rhonda Logan, who has lived and worked in the district most of her life — and a white male, Mr. Lonnie Treadaway, who moved from Mississippi six months ago and moved into the district,” said Malone, acknowledging that Treadaway has withdrawn.

“We are concerned that there is an attempt to racially gerrymander the Memphis City Council in a manner that undermines the racial diversity of District 1. That just shouldn’t happen.”

The council is scheduled to meet in regular session on Dec. 18. Malone, who praised the four council members who “took a stand” with their walkout, urged them to “go to work on Tuesday and elect a City Council member for District 1 and, if not, move forward with a special election for all three positions (including District 6 and Super District 8-2).

The rules were changed in the middle of the game during the process to appoint a District 1 representative, Councilman Martavius Jones said. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Councilman Jones stood with Malone and the executive committee at Friday’s press conference. He plans to attend the Dec. 18 and said he could not speak for the three who walked out with him. At the time of the walkout, the plan was to be back for the Dec. 18 meeting, he said.

Jones said the manner of appointing a council member for District 1 was inconsistent with the way other vacancies have been handled.

“My take on this is just be consistent on everything we do,” he said. “My message to my colleagues is to be fair and consistent. …The rules changed in the middle of the game.”

City Council positions District 6 and Super District 8-2 became vacant after Edmund Ford Jr. and Janis Fullilove resigned following their elections to county posts.

“If the elected body can’t come to a consensus on District 1, we are really concerned about the process of appointing representatives for District 6 and At Large District 8-2,” Malone said.

“What is unfortunate about this unnecessary situation is that all three of those majority African-American districts will be without representation for three to four months. So much can happen in city government in that amount of time.

“So many needs will go unmet and unaddressed. …Ask yourself is that fair or equitable.”

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