Vigil held in Roxboro days after KKK drives through town

Two people at the Roxboro vigil on Tuesday evening. Photo by AJ Janavel/CBS North Carolina

ROXBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — The Roxboro community organized a prayer vigil Tuesday after the Ku Klux Klan drove through town Saturday.

Decades ago, the town dealt with racial issues from the KKK.  And for many community members it is still fresh in their minds.

unity-rally-and-kkk-photos
CLICK TO VIEW 12 PHOTOS FROM THE UNITY RALLY AND THE KKK PARADE

However, the community was focused on not letting the weekend KKK incident hurt their town.

Dozens of community members made their way to New Mount Zion Baptist Church for the vigil.

Each one of them was welcomed inside by “Mr. James.”

James, who did not want to use his last name, is the greeter for the church. However, it was not that long ago he did not always feel welcomed in town.

Previous story: Roxboro police chief says KKK parade ‘created fear’ among residents

“The first time I laid eyes on them I was a young kid 5 or 6 years old,” James said. “And that was the time they told us we had two days to move out of the house,” he added.

The KKK left a burning cross on his front yard when he was younger, forcing him and his young siblings to move. But he says that wasn’t the only time he dealt with the KKK.

“As a teenager I would hide in the woods. When I walked down the woods I would hide in the woods,” said James. “They were riding trucks, and they were after us. They were after little black boys, like me, ” he added.

Decades later the KKK is still affecting this town, but the entire community feels the pain.

“Makes you sick to your stomach,” said Merilyn Newell.

Newell is the mayor of Roxboro. She actually saw the KKK convoy making its way through town.

She says her community is one of love.

“When this community comes together it will be in love, and it’s going to be in tolerance, and acceptance and that’s the message tonight,” said Newell.

And every part of Tuesday night exemplified that message as the community came together, holding hands, hugging and lighting a candle to symbolize unity.

People like Mr. James say that’s all you can do when faced with hate.

“I can’t change the way someone else feels — all I can do is give them love,” he said.

The Roxboro Police Department is asking anyone with video of any crimes of hate during the convoy to come forward so they can pursue charges.

Police officials say even with the video online they can’t act unless there is a complaint.

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