Fredericksburg Incident Exposes Tactical Divide Between Black Activists

Moe Petway. Photo credit: Free Lance-Star

by James A. Bacon

Back in April, Isiah Brown made a 911 call to the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office concerning a domestic dispute. Brown told the dispatcher that he was going to kill his brother but also said he was unarmed. When a deputy arrived, Brown was walking down the street away from his house with an object in his hand. According to body-cam footage, the deputy yelled at Brown to “show me your hands” and to “drop the gun.” He then shot Brown seven times. As it turned out, the object was not a gun but a cordless house phone.

Brown survived the shooting but was hospitalized and has undergone multiple surgeries. A special prosecutor has been assigned to the case, which is still under investigation.

The incident has done more than open up the divide between Black Lives Matter and defenders of the police, it has revealed a divide in the African-American community.

Moe Petway, president of the Spotsylvania Branch of the NAACP, jumped on the case. The NAACP negotiated the release of the video and 911 recording of the shooting and pressed for the investigation and special prosecutor. He has established a working relationship with local law enforcement authorities, he says, that allows the NAACP to accomplish things that street protests cannot.

“Change comes about by collaborating, working with people and trying to get things done,” Petway told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star. “Sometimes it may appear that you’re not as forceful as other people would like, but we’ve learned throughout time that we’ve got to negotiate and work things out.”

But the mostly younger followers of the BLM movement don’t have much patience with such an attitude.

“How are we as a community to feel safe with you coming up here and coercing with the same people who are oppressing us?” Japharii Jones with Black Lives Matter 757 asked Petway in an April demonstration outside the sheriff’s office. “How does it play in our favor for them to come out here and pass the mic and you to shuck and jive and move your feet in their direction and we’re out here suffering?”

The Free Lance-Star does a good job of exploring divisions within Fredericksburg’s African-American community over how to handle tragic incidents such as the Isiah Brown shooting. African-Americans are no more a monolithic in their thinking than whites or any other ethnic group.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


29 responses to “Fredericksburg Incident Exposes Tactical Divide Between Black Activists”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    The conflict between Mr. Petway and BLM 757 is eerily reminiscent of the 1968 divide between MLK and Stokely Carmichael that brought in end to the classic version of the civil rights movement. Old school case of a generation gap in play. I think Mr. Petway has the best chance of achieving meaningful results. It is a shame that the inflammatory rhetoric of BLM 757 will undermine the NAACP efforts.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    not really a BLM thing unless one doesn’t know what “Uncle Tom” means.

    BLM is the modern vernacular. Back in the day, it was the “Black Panthers”, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and way back when Harriet Beecher Stowe said something about it.

    And when the folks that don’t like BLM get wound up, they often include the NAACP.

    The guy that got it right was this fellow:

    The ORIGINAL BLM guy!×630/656e85b751308f6c4e32fc8dae5d1bf5/bloody-sunday-john-lewis-ap-1280.jpg

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Ralph Abernathy, pictured to the left of Lewis, was a far more impactful civil rights leader. If you only knew the history.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        See, now, there are times when this fool don’t rush in….but happy to hear your opinions as insiders….

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          well some folks lived during that time and now tell the truth about it while others ran and hid and don’t remember.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        I might know some but share your knowledge and educate! My point is that BLM is not a new thing nor is the fact that there have been different black organization and they did not see eye-to-eye either. The sixties were not exactly “calm” times for the race issues.. I’m sure you remember.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          Ralph Abernathy and King made a unique partnership in the civil rights movement. They were both young pastors in Montgomery and organized the famous Bus Boycott. King gets all the credit, deservedly so, for the success of the movement.

          But who was the man behind the scenes doing the heaving lifting of making the logistics of a year long bus boycott work? Who was brains behind the strategic success of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference? Who was able to deploy and spread the tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience? Who played phone tag between SCLC and JFK, RFK, LBJ, and Nixon? Who orchestrated the assembly of talented lawyers, amassed huge sums of money for bail, and leveraged the power of 1960s mass media? Who managed King’s relentless schedule of work between 1956 and 1968?

          Why it is Ralph David Abernathy. King would have been a mild footnote without this loyal and talented lieutenant. Ralphs autobiography “And The Walls Come Tumbling Down” was the first book to separate myth from what really happened.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I remember Abernathy but I also remember the other groups and players.

            And I think Abernathy would have been a likely supporter of BLM.

            The other thing to recognize is that King and Abernathy worked for non-violence – how many years ago – and what have they gained if they are still being killed by police?

            Would King and Abernathy be defending the police today?

          2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            No way Abernathy would have supported BLM. He opposed abortion with a passion and there was no room in his church for LBTQ. Liberal in civil rights, King and Abernathy were actually old school conservative Baptist ministers at the core.

            MLK 1961. Holt Street Baptist Church:
            “Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58 percent of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards. We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            Yep – but on that bridge, no?

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: ” We can’t keep on blaming the white man.”

            Not really what is happening though.

            It’s about what has happened to black folks that was done by the government.

            How many generations of blacks were impacted by Massive Resistance? How many did not get a good education and as a result not very good jobs and so their own kids were also disadvantaged.

            And NOW, we blame the black parents for not helping their kids education or not having dad around because of the way the legal system has discriminated against them.

            The damage has not really been mitigated. Black children of economically disadvantaged parents don’t do as well as kids of well-educated, economically secure parents, regardless of race, but we continue to “blame” the parents (and the teachers) for the child being unable to successfully get a good education.

            Few want to take responsibility to deal with the issue – easier to blame someone.

            Economically disadvantaged parents, need child care so they can work full time and the children need Pre-K so they can catch up to kids who do have well-educated, economically-secure parents.

            We basically are denying help to the kids because we blame their parents for being uneducated and poor.

          5. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Mr. Larry you need to fold up a small piece of cardboard and jam it behind the TV dial. Your picture is awfully fuzzy.

          6. LarrytheG Avatar

            James – can’t keep blaming black parents and liberal teachers… want me to tune it further?

          7. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            I don’t blame black parents Mr. Larry. The black nuclear family has been nuked by your team ever since the days of Lyndon Johnson. I don’t blame liberal teachers either. They were led to where they are. I do think the best possible solution is for self help. And I want to be there to lend a hand. Always have been.

            Yeah tune in that UHF channel for me. Better shows there than on VHF.

          8. LarrytheG Avatar

            James – “my team” has tried and failed to achieve everything needed but that is way different than not trying at all and telling them they are on their own.

            Remember, liberals wanted to bus because they KNOW that grouping economically disadvantaged by neighborhood leads to disparities in the kind of education offered.

            But there was tremendous backlash to that and it failed but not because they tried.

            Raleigh/Durham and some other consolidated systems are doing a modified version of it. They are busing disadvantaged kids to better schools if their parents want it.

            “My team” ALSO wants paid child-care for parents so they can get better educations and jobs.

            They also want Universal Pre-K for the kids.

            Your team routinely opposes all these things.

            Just have your team stand up and oppose child care and Pre-K and equity and see who won’t vote for them – a ton of people of color and urbanized folks because they know the Conservative record on improving public education. It’s terrible.

          9. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Busing failed. Remember Charlotte/Mecklenburg County NC back in the early 1970s. No improvements and the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional. Tired and worn out idea.

            Government paid child care. Might as well hand poor children over to the government as wards of the state.

            Universal PRE K. No thanks. Who wants their children to be dipped from head to toe in CRT at the earliest age?

            Conservative record on improving public schools. You have a point. George Allen made an honest attempt at reform in the 1990s with SOLS. But conservatives turned their backs on schools. I think because it was going to cost a fortune to achieve the SOL mandate.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar

            Busing DID FAIL but what was it trying to achieve? What problem was it trying to solve?

            If you think public education, Universal Pre-K is CRT, you are lost and definitely out of step with the majority of people .

            You’re opting out of the one thing that can really help economically disadvantaged kids and what would you do instead?

            That’s the problem with Conservatives.

            They simply don’t want to fund the investments required for kids and now they’re got it all tangled up with the Culture War.

            What message will Conservatives bring to regions that are not Conservative RoVa?

            How will they get votes from urbanizing and suburban areas on education?

            We’re going to find out because McAuliffe is all in on child care and Universal Pre-K.

            You guys can’t win votes beyond your base with the CRT argument. It will turn off voters.

          11. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            I think a good solution starts with this attitude by Malcolm X.

            “It is imperative that a man works. Get off welfare, get out of that compensation line. Be a man, earn what you need for your family, then your family will respect you. They are proud to say that’s my father, she is proud to say that’s my husband. Father means you are taking care of those children. Just because you made them doesn’t mean you are a father. Anyone can make a baby, but anyone can’t take care of them. Anyone can go get a woman, but anyone can’t take care of a woman. Husband means you are taking care of your wife, father means you are taking care of your children…you are accepting the responsibilities of manhood.”

          12. LarrytheG Avatar

            I don’t disagree with your VALUES at all but when you are denied an education and access to good jobs, it affects your children also.

            You don’t live in a neighborhood with good schools and you can’t really help your kid with his/her school work and often times, if you can’t get a decent job, you end up doing things that can get you in trouble with the law.

            Yes, there are SOME that despite the challenges, do escape that fate but the vast majority do not.

          13. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Agreed. The vicious cycle must be broken. But it must come from within not Uncle Sam or Uncle Ralphie. Those two have just moved people from one plantation to the next. Your team has had 56 years to work on this and only slight measurable progress can be found. Don’t be surprised to see more and more black Americans turn to Republican Populism for answers. The chief draw is self help, control over your own identity, and the freedom to chart your own course.

          14. LarrytheG Avatar

            James, do you think this is a Virginia-only issue?

            Do you think the GOP will offer something to black folks for better education of their kids or do you think they’ll blame the parents for being bad parents?

          15. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Yes. Education dollars need to follow the kid not the school system. The fastest course to better achievement results is school choice.

          16. LarrytheG Avatar

            Virginia-only issue?

            In terms of dollars following the child – we blame the parents for failing their kids – how does giving them vouchers fix this?

            This is the problem with Conservatives. They want to take tax money from everyone else and give it to parents that they say are irresponsible to start with and to voucher schools that are not held to the same accountability standards as public schools.

            That’s not a solution. It’s a fail.

            But ya’ll keep advocating that…as if people are going to go for it.

            Are Conservatives really serious about this?

          17. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Taking tax dollars? Irresponsible parents? Accountability? Which conservatives have said this Mr. Larry?

            I don’t blame parents. I want to empower parents with school choice. Those tax dollars for schools really belong to the parents. Let them decide what is best

            Your word choice indicates that some parents can’t stand on their own two feet and need government to solve their problems.

            56 years since 1965 demonstrates that government can only move the needle a bit despite trillions of dollars in spending.

            Lets build a steady footing for parents to make the choices for children.

          18. LarrytheG Avatar

            Do you think all veterans make good choices or that the for-profit providers
            all provide good value for the dollars? Are you familiar with the problems of giving
            unfettered choice?

            I’ve said before and will cotinue to say so, I’m okay with tax dollars being spent on
            non-public schools if they accept all demographics AND they are held to the same academic
            standards – SOLs or equivalent. And they lose the dollars if they don’t at least match
            public school results.

            We have a lot of blather ongoing about Richmond Public Schools – it’s a recurring theme in BR, that
            Bacon and Sherlock love to re-litigate over and over so they can blame the parents and the administrators
            but neither of them will admit that nearby Henrico County has the same problem and of course they don’t
            blame the Henrico administrators for that failure.

            When you have that kind of dellusional approach to this issue – sure they’d want tax dollars with no strings
            attached because they’re really not worried about the kids – it’s more of a political view about the CONCEPT of public education writ large – and not about what it really would take for the kids to excape their fate.

            If you want to really help those kids – you need to provide child care for the parents so the parents can find better jobs , get more education, etc. And the kids need Universal Pre-K to help them get started.

            When you guys favor voucher dollars and oppose child care/Universal Pre-K , you’re showing your collective hands real motivation. It’s really not about the kids – it’s about Conservative attitudes toward public education, so it’s a fail.

          19. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
            Baconator with extra cheese

            Except for King’s reported love of prostitutes.

          20. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            One of Ralph Abernathy’s top jobs as King’s loyal lieutenant was to cover up the endless lapses in marital vows. I think he was successful too. King biographers refused to explore this aspect until the late 1990s. One reason why was the trail of evidence was swept away by the diligent efforts of Abernathy.

  3. WayneS Avatar

    ““How are we as a community to feel safe with you coming up here and coercing with the same people who are oppressing us?””

    Unless that is a misprint, it does not make any sense.

Leave a Reply