Charleston City Hall

Charleston’s hotly debated Commission on Equity, Inclusion and Racial Conciliation recently got a favorable outcome at Dec. 21’s city council meeting, with a measure to make it a permanent fixture in Charleston passing first reading after being denied twice by city leaders earlier in the year.

Part of the shift can be chalked up to a change to the proposal itself leading up to the last meeting. Some of those were in language, others more significant.

Gregorie

One particular amendment, a change in the name, may make a difference, according to Councilman William Dudley Gregorie.

“We changed the name — it’s now Human Affairs and Racial Conciliation,” he told the City Paper. “It expands the reach of the commission, and its name alone shows it’s more inclusive. While we had inclusion and equity in the prior name, naming it human affairs gives us the opportunity to have a broader reach to deal with inclusion, especially as it relates to the LGBT community.”

The change of heart in some council members can also be credited to conversations and negotiations with individual council members, said local Black Lives Matter leader Marcus McDonald, who worked with the commission.

“It was the effort, the conversations, the pressure,” McDonald said. “I’ve spoken to every single council member since it was last voted down. There’s a point where you have to start paying attention to what people are saying.”

Gregorie and McDonald are both hopeful that the measure will pass its second reading on Jan. 11, with two new council members — Stephen Bowden and Caroline Parker — seated for their first meeting ahead of the vote.

“What we have now is really reflective of the best of Charleston,” Gregorie said. “A city that clearly understands its role in creating a council that is attempting to take the apology made a few years ago and make it a real, acting, living document that takes steps toward eradicating the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow.”