Condemning Eli Karatassos's remarks

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Mr. Karatassos,


We, the members of STAR (Savannah Taking Action for Resistance), a 2,100+ member activist group, were highly disappointed to hear about your behavior at the most recent HSMC meeting in reference to the removal of Panhandle Slim’s Nina Simone mural, especially in regard to your treatment of Alicia Miller Blakely. As there is no audio from that particular meeting, we have taken into account the statements of Ms. Miller Blakely and several others in attendance.


According to Erika Hardnett, “I've been to several HSMC and have been thoroughly in shock and dismay at the behavior and attitude of the Chair Person Eli Karratassos. The meeting on Oct 5th 2017 was no less shocking. The chairman was very disrespectful, especially to new board member Alicia Miller Blakely.  As Mrs Blakely, an African American woman, tried to tell her story as why the Nina Simone picture was special to her, a neighborhood she grew up in. Karatassos immediately cut her off and yelled out into the audience "This is not about RACE and it's not going to be made into a black and white thing!!!"  It was shocking because he rudely interrupted her in mid sentence (and) he had no idea what she was going to say. It almost felt as if he was waiting for an opportune moment to use race as a dividing point and used the African American board member as his launching pad prematurely. I sat there with my mouth hanging open as he went on with his attitude of disdain towards the Panhandle painting and anyone who seemed as if they were in favor of the painting. I left early but not too early to miss him calling a fellow board member "Boy." I left shaking my head in disbelief.”


According to Scott Stanton, you interrupted Ms. Miller Blakely when she addressed why she liked the painting on the wall; the moment she said, “as a black…” you silenced her by yelling that the matter was not about race and that you would not allow her to “make it about black and white.” Mr. Stanton felt such a reaction proved that it was really about race, but, as you held the gavel, you used your power to shut down such a conversation.


We, the members of STAR, write to formally support Alicia Miller Blakely and condemn the behavior and abuse of power by Mr. Karatassos. Using one’s position of power to silence the voices of POC, especially WOC, will only further divide the communities of Savannah and repress our minority members. Historically, Savannah has a tenuous relationship when it comes to race relations. If we hope to grow and improve as a city, we must listen to all of our members, especially those whose voices have been historically repressed.


Best,

The members of the STAR community



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