Two Sussex Council Members Oppose NAACP Grant, Stir Up Controversy

GEORGETOWN, Del. - Two Sussex County Council members are taking heat after choosing not to support the local NAACP financially at Tuesday's meeting. The controversy started during the typically mundane grant-giving process that defines the end of every council meeting. 

It all started with the reading of a requested grant for $500 to the Lower Sussex County NAACP, which called for $100 from each council member. After hearing the grant request, Councilman Sam Wilson spoke up. 

"You can take my name off," he said. "I'm not paying anything unless you describe what that says. What's NAACP stand for? I don't understand."

There was a lull, and then Councilwoman Joan Deaver responded, creating a back and forth between the council members. 

"You don't know what it means," she asked.  


"That's what I asked," Wilson responded.

"You don't don't know what it stands for," she repeated. 

"What's it stand for Joan," he asked once again. 

After some back and forth, the Financial Director read out that it stood for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. That was when Councilman Vance Phillips chimed in. 

"What's colored," he asked. "I'm with Wilson. This is an organization that obviously is directed at a certain race. It strikes me as inappropriate in this day of racial equality."

"Sounds like discrimination to me," Wilson responded.

"I'll pull mine from that as well," Phillips said. 

Councilman George Cole then suggested that the three supporters split the $500 grant. This was accepted by a vote of 4 to 1, with Wilson in dissent. After it passed, Wilson asked one more question. 

"Where's the workshop convention being held," he asked. "You know?"

"Not where the klan meets," Deaver said quietly. 

The council then moved on to a proposed grant for a symphony, which Phillips agreed to give $500 towards. In response to this, Deaver spoke up once again, prompting a stern response from Council President Michael Vincent. 

"They all white people there," she asked about the symphony.


"I think we need to keep some of these comments to ourselves," Vincent said. "Some of these things don't need to be said by anybody up here."

In the aftermath of this squabble, both sides have given differing accounts of the exchange. Both council members have stood by their decisions, arguing  supporting the NAACP would be an act of reverse discrimination.

"I call it discrimination," Wilson told WBOC at an interview at his farm Thursday afternoon. "It's reverse discrimination. And it's not fair on either side. You can't have reverse discrimination I believe." 

Phillips made similar arguments, saying race-based groups like the NAACP actually divide society. 

"I think we have arrived at a point in society that we can no longer tolerate organizations that divide us by race," he said. 

But Jane Hovington, the president of the Lower Sussex County NAACP, said the idea that her organization only represented black people was false. 

"It's a lie," she said. "It's a blatant lie. Because we do. We support black, white, whatever. If somebody comes to me and they have an issue, than we support that issue." 

She said that her neighbors have been concerned about the comments as well, saying her phone has been ringing off the hook since Tuesday's controversial meeting. 

"They have not even taken in consideration the effect that this is going to have come November," she said.  

Meanwhile, in Georgetown, Mickey Downs, who is a resident of Milton, said the whole exchange was inappropriate for a public meeting, saying all the council members should have shown more restraint.  

"That kind of stuff just needs to stop happening," he said. "We need to be able to keep - get ourselves straight. And make decisions without having this type of commotion going on."

The controversy has escalated to the point where even the state NAACP has responded. In a statement, Richard Smith said that the remarks were "sad and shameful." 

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