When I moved to North Carolina two-plus years ago, I needed something to do, and having met Margie Ellison the previous summer, I soon became a member of the Chatham Coalition's Outreach Committee, chaired by Margie and Judy Hogan.
I was first given the job of organizing a listening" party in my neighborhood. With much help and a lot of phone numbers from Margie, we were able to have several such "parties" at Mt. Zion Church on Lystra Road in Chatham County.
Both white folks and African Americans came to these meetings, and they mostly agreed on what they liked about Chatham County, and what the problems were -- need for better education, more jobs, recreation for young people and a voice in county government, which was overdeveloping our county. These meetings stopped when the primary campaign began, but we hope to have more of such get-togethers with our Lystra Road neighbors in the coming year, if for no other reason, than to get to know each other and build community.
When the primary campaign got underway, I helped Margie canvas for Carl Thompson in neighborhoods south of Siler City. I also got to know him by attending meetings all over the county where he spoke. I quickly discovered that east Chatham or west -- the issues were pretty much the same as those expressed at Mt. Zion.
When Thompson won the primary in May, we all rejoiced, only to be rebuffed a few months later by the Board of Commissioners' gerrymandering districts and passing a proposal to return to district voting--a move that clearly disenfranchised African Americans, as well as the large and active voters in northeastern part of the county.
Going to work almost that night, Margie helped organize Save Our Vote, an African American group that aimed to educate other African Americans about the discrimination and resulting disenfranchisement of black voters inherent in the district-only voting scheme. In so doing, the Chatham County NAACP, League of Women Voters of Durham, Orange and Chatham, the Chatham County Democratic Party and other leading organizations publicly stated their opposition to the district-only scheme.
So, in just a few short years, I have learned that Margie is a great speaker and an even greater leader. Her role in this year's election was critical, and we all have Margie to thank for the defeat of the district-only referendum. Next year, she will be vice president of the Chatham County Democratic Women, as well as her commitments to the other organizations like NC WARN that was mentioned in the article.
Margie is also a good friend. I am lucky to know her and couldn't think of a better person to win your award. Thank you for shining the spotlight on such a worthy citizen.
Indy Week • 302 E. Pettigrew St., Suite 300, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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