Published: Aug 10, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Aug 08, 2011 06:54 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Four local leaders will be honored for their contributions to civil rights, social justice and equality when their names are added to the Peace and Justice Plaza later this month.
The plaza, outside the old Courthouse and Post Office on East Franklin Street, bears the names of nine leaders who dedicated their lives to promoting equal rights for all.
Four more names will join them on Sunday, Aug. 28: Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles M. Jones and Dan Pollitt.
They were chosen by a citizen naming committee and approved by the Town Council. The honorees, all deceased, were selected for having shown a lifelong commitment to the causes of peace and justice in Chapel Hill.
"We're really blessed that they're a part of our community," said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. "Not only because they left us having achieved extraordinary goals but because they have never rested on their laurels. They never saw the work completed, and so while we should be very proud as a community ... we can't just sit back and rest on our pride and declare this work around peace and social justice and equality complete."
The council dedicated the plaza in 2009. The steps outside the Post Office have historically been a gathering place and protest spot.
Honoring the work of activists is a reminder not to take freedoms and liberties for granted, said Michelle Laws, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. Their work reminds residents that there is always more to do, she said.
"It's reminder that peace and justice doesn't just happen automatically," she said. "It takes the effort of people who understand and believe in the principles that this country was founded on."
Karen Abbotts' grandfather, the Rev. Charles Jones, will be honored on the 28th. The town should catalogue the achievements of all the activists, she said.
"Even though they're gone, one way or another they all contributed to history and to furthering the civil rights of all people," she said. "Recently the Chapel Hill Museum closed. To lose our history would be a dangerous thing, so I think it is important that these people are remembered in a very public place where people still do gather for various special causes."
The four new honorees at Peace and Justice Plaza are:
Yonni Chapman. A community historian, Chapman worked as a labor and civil rights organizer. He was dedicated to the need for the university and town to commemorate the history of their residents.
Rebecca Clark. A nurse, Clark spent more than 70 years urging black residents to vote, often driving them to the polls herself. She worked as a nurse at UNC Hospitals until 1979 when she retired.
The Rev. Charles Jones. Jones was the pastor at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, and later became the first pastor of Community Church of Chapel Hill and worked as a social justice activist.
Dan Pollitt. A UNC -CH law professor, Pollitt helped desegregate restaurants and stores in Chapel Hill in the 1960's. He also helped Dean Smith recruit Charlie Scott to UNC has its first black basketball player.
A reception will follow the ceremony at FRANK Art Gallery, 109 E. Franklin St.