OMNIBUS, an organization of Black firefighters in Winston-Salem, N.C., is fighting to change decades of institutional racism within their fire department.
Fox 8 reports that the group, along with representatives from Emancipate NC, Hate Out of Winston and several other organizations, gathered outside of station 1 in Winston-Salem to demand that the fire chief and the city address the multiple allegations of racial and sexual harassment that have plagued the department.
“This is not a first step. This press conference is the nuclear option. These men and women would not be here if they could have been heard,” attorney Dawn Blagrove, with Emancipate NC, told reporters. The group said that these allegations are not recent and that the city has ignored years of concerns presented by Black firefighters.
“Why does a new young fire officer have to be greeted at his desk with a gorilla mask? Why do we have to tolerate the type of tying of nooses at training sessions without recourse or support? Why does the N-word ring loud throughout stations in the city?” Thomas Penn, with OMNIBUS, told Fox 8. “There are certain things young men have been willing to come forward with and share with us, but they fear retribution, retaliation, not being promoted, transferred to alternate stations. It runs the gamut,” he added.
The group issued a press release outlining its demands, one of which is the dismissal of Chief William Mayo. I feel like I’m obligated point out that this mans is a racist named Chief Mayo.
At this point, I honestly feel like our timeline is being written by the folks who made Soul Plane.
The group also has demanded the implementation of bi-quarterly mandatory diversity training, enforcing zero tolerance when it comes to the Code of Conduct policies on social media and that an external investigation is launched into Chief Mayo, Captain Chris Belcher and Captain Kevin Shore, who they believe have violated the code of conduct when it comes to its social media and sexual harassment polices. The group says they sent their demands to the Winston-Salem Fire Department 15 days ago and have yet to receive a response.
It’s very likely that systemic racism exists in some form or another in most workplaces, no matter the profession. Instances of discriminatory practices have been found in work places ranging from strip clubs, to newsrooms, to tech companies. This isn’t even the first instance of racism in a fire department as late last month, The Root reported two Florida officials were fired after a mural whitewashed the faces of two Black firefighters.