In Chatham County, ‘Black Lives Matter’ Billboard Raised Next to Confederate Flag

Activist Kerwin Pittman raised more than $10,000 for 'Black Lives Matter' billboard to compete with. nearby Confederate flag. (Photo by Bee Ess via Facebook)

By patmoran

July 17, 2020

Activists raised more than $10,000 for the ‘BLM’ billboard after Chatham man installed a large Confederate flag nearby.

On a stretch of highway outside a small North Carolina town, a massive Confederate flag has been joined by a gigantic Black Lives Matter billboard. 

Drivers can see the billboards on US Highway 64 East’s business route as they head into Pittsboro, Chatham County’s government seat.

“Shoutouts To The Community of Pittsboro That Came Together To Make This Happen,” Kerwin Pittman, the activist who spearheaded the 8-by-24-foot Black Lives Matter billboard, posted on Facebook Monday. Pittman is the founder and director of Recidivism Reduction Educational Program Services.  

The billboard reads “Black Lives Matter” in large, bold text, followed by “paid for by RREPS & Emancipate NC,” in smaller lettering. It was financed by a GoFundMe campaign launched last month by Chatham County resident Lea Ciceraro, which has raised more than $10,000 as of this report. 

“Pittsboro, North Carolina, is a close-knit small town filled with kind hearts, artists, farmers, families, and a community that is here to change the world for the better,” the GoFundMe page for the billboard reads. “Those Confederate flags do NOT represent who we are as a community.”  

The billboard costs $450 for 28 days, plus a $350 one-time charge for the vinyl, WTVD reported. Pittman told The Hill that $2,000 from the fundraiser will be donated to two Chatham County organizations:  $1,000 to Chatham Organization for Racial Equity (CORE) and $1,000 to Emancipate NC. 

In a phone interview Wednesday with The News & Observer, Pittman said he worked closely with the community in choosing the sign’s message.

“They wanted it to be known not only to the Confederate supporters, but also as well as the individuals … in the town that are Black, that they are supported, that their lives matter,” he said.

The Confederate flag was originally raised by Pittsboro native Sam White, The Chatham News Record reported. WTVD described White as “a man angry over the county’s removal of Confederate monuments.” A few still share his sentiments.

“The money for putting up that billboard would have fed a lot of starving and homeless people,” posted one Facebook user on WTVD’s page. “THINK ABOUT THAT BLM.”

But Pittman said the sign has a powerful message: “We are here and we are not going anywhere.”

In contrast, Pittman told WRAL the Confederate flag intimidates many people

“As a Black man, it makes me feel like I’m not wanted in this town,” he said. 

In the past, tension over Confederate symbols has boiled over in Pittsboro.

Last November, after months of protests, local officials removed a Confederate statue that stood in front of the Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro. Then, last month, protestors clashed at the site of the removed monument.

The monument’s protectors reportedly attacked the counter protesters with hockey sticks that they were using as flagpoles. Pittman was on the scene shooting cell phone footage of the attack, which he posted on Facebook. 

“It was like a mob attacking individuals with different poles and sticks and different things of that nature,” Pittman told WRAL at the time. “And that is highly unacceptable.” 

The Pittsboro Police Department subsequently issued warrants for the arrest of Tommy Parnell, a pro-Confederate demonstrator, for felony assault with a deadly weapon.

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