NOTE: There has been no reply to this letter from Dr. Byrd
May 9, 2002
Dr. Sandra Byrd
UNC-A Education Department (CPO 1950)
1 University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804
Dear Dr. Byrd:
I am writing to you in your role as member of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, as an educator, and as an active participant in the Rhododendron Royal Brigade of Guards Debutante Club.
Your work on minority education issues has received wide acclaim and I thank you and congratulate you on that work. I am appealing to you on the debutante issue because I see direct educational connections between the publicizing of the all-White, all-wealthy, all-exclusive debutantes and the overall impression African American and other minority students in the community have of themselves. To be sure, publicizing of the debutantes is not the critical variable or even a major variable, but it is one of many unnecessary messages of inferiority and division that our community sends to minority students-and it is one that is easily and quickly eliminated.
In fact it was eliminated from 1993 until the last couple of years when the RRBGDC suddenly abrogated an agreement made back then and published the debutante pictures. Enclosed is correspondence we have had with the RRBGDC over the years, most recently with your husband, President Jones P. Byrd. I regret that the Club under his direction, has chosen not to correspond or give any indication of their intentions or, indeed, explain why they decided to break with the agreement we made with the Club in 1993.
Our organization's work over the years has been to shine a public spotlight on the 'little things' in our community that cumulatively create a less than harmonious atmosphere for the citizens. We have worked closely with Mission-St. Joseph's hospital for six years on their diversity issues and currently serve on their Diversity Committee. We also persuaded WWNC radio to stop using the divisive "Dixie" as its theme song; persuaded the Town of Montreat to declare Dr. Martin Luther King's holiday a paid holiday for town staff; exposed the all-white Rod and Gun Club's misuse of the Asheville Watershed, and much more. We actually formed in 1991 during the successful effort to get the Biltmore Forest Country Club to change its discriminatory practices. Just this month, our request to the N.C. Advisory Council on Indian Education achieved fruition with their issuing of a powerful Resolution calling for change in the state's public schools on the use of American Indian sport mascots. Enclosed is a fund-raiser letter we sent out last year which will give a fuller picture of our work. I share all this to try to persuade you that our goals are constructive and our dedication long-term.
It is unfortunate that WNCCEIB is having to deal with other-wise positive leaders of the community on a racial issue that I would think they would immediately understand and want to address. If the debutante club proceeds to publicize their activities this June, we will be obliged to take our concerns public in a sustained manner that will educate the public, expose the contradictory duality of community leaders' commitments, and hopefully bring about positive change. I would very much like to avoid such a public campaign. But if people like yourself are silent publically and within the organization, it appears the club plans to proceed.
I am appealing to you to make consistent your work on the Community Foundation Board
and at UNC-A with your responsibility to the wider community by having a productive effect on the actions of the debutante club. I would welcome an opportunity to discuss this issue with you and, indeed, with your husband and any of the club's officers or members.
Thank you for consideration of this request.