Black group leaders call on North Charleston to work together to combat poverty, crime

James Johnson of the National Action Network. File

Black leaders in the Lowcountry gathered at North Charleston City Hall on Tuesday to call on city officials to work with them to help revitalize poor areas and lower crime rates.

“We have some very serious problems in our community,” said James Johnson, state coordinator for the National Action Network. “We are not here to bash any city or county. We are asking the cities to join in to help us in these communities.”

Johnson called the press conference, along with representatives of the North Charleston NAACP and The Coalition: People United to Take Back Our Community, to discuss urban crime and “the state of the black community.”

He also mentioned the need to address police brutality and racial profiling in the wake of last year’s shooting of Walter Scott, a black man who was killed by a white police officer.

The city is working with the U.S. Department of Justice on a plan to expand its community outreach program, Mayor Keith Summey said during his State of the City speech last week.

Also last week, representatives from the groups met with Summey and police Chief Eddie Driggers.

“It was a very productive meeting,” said Maurice Scott, vice president of Charleston County National Action Network. “There’s a lot that needs to be done.”

Ed Bryant of the North Charleston NAACP said the city needs to be proactive in annexing “doughnut holes,” small properties that are surrounded by the city but have not been annexed into the city.

“We need to give them the same right to vote,” he said.

Meanwhile, Johnson said some homes in North Charleston are so dilapidated “they look like they should be in a third-world country. ... I hope that the cities and counties will work with us to revitalize these communities. ... We know poverty breeds crime.”

Thomas Dixon of The Coalition compared the situation to separate water fountains for whites and blacks in the 1960s.

“There are disparities in economic opportunities,” he said. “There are disparities in housing. There are disparities according to racial lines within the city of North Charleston, the city of Charleston and the Lowcountry.”

He said such disparities are a new form of separate-but-equal treatment. “If we continue to ignore that, basically we have just contributed to the new Jim Crow of the 21st century,” he added, “and it’s about time for us to recognize that that’s not acceptable and we’ll do everything we can to change that.”

The city of North Charleston declined to respond to the press conference.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 843-937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.