By Robert L. Buggs, Sr.
NAACP Gary Branch Legal Redress Investigator
Merrillville councilman Jeffrey Minchuk apologized for his indiscretion several years ago of appearing in blackface. The apology was offered at a March 9, 2021 Town Hall Meeting. He resigned as vice-president due to the gravity of the incident.
Steve Mays, Gary Branch NAACP president had articulated to Merrillville Council President Rick Bella that Minchuk should resign. However, at the March 23, 2021 Town Hall meeting it was business as usual with Minchuk still on the council representing Ward 3.
Bella’s apparent corrective action was diversity training for Town Hall administrators. Robert Buggs, Legal Redress Investigator of the Gary NAACP Branch took offense to what appeared to be little more than a weak, self-serving tactic.
Buggs, present at the March 23, 2021 meeting expressed his objection to the apparent lack of empathy by the Council members. Buggs asked if there was anyone there who did not know what the Klu Klux Klan was and what they stood for, to raise their hand. When no one raised their hand, Buggs stated it was not diversity training they needed.
Before starting his presentation he gave each of the councilmen a collage of several photos of Black men, boys, women and girls’ bodies hanging from trees. He asked them to look at them as he recited a poem made famous by legendary singers Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, “Strange Fruit.”
“Southern trees bearing a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the Poplar trees ”
The purpose of this Buggs said, is to demonstrate that nothing about what Minchuk did was funny. Black people were hanged and set afire while they were alive.
“Scent of Magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.”
The Klan did this not for the WHO they were but for the HUE they were!
The councilman only “glanced” at the photos which further demonstrates why the vote for censure on March 9, 2021 was 4 to 3. Black Councilman, Richard Hardaway, abstained. He was later voted to the vice-president position for what was viewed by many as his loyalty to whites.
Merrillville has demonstrated racism from its inception. None of its primary committees are chaired by a Black person. This has been done when Blacks in the town of Merrillville represent a slight majority.
Despite the NAACP calls for Minchuk to resign or be removed from all committees, he is allowed to remain seated to make decisions for the Black residents who he made mockery of, and their murdered and tortured ancestors. So Merrillville, we are fired up and ready to go!