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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
I stand here again tonight with a heavy heart over the loss of a friend and an associate. Billy Sudderth was a great man who went above and beyond the call of duty seeking justice and equality for people who have many times been forgotten and not accounted for in this community.
I came to meet Billy during the issue with the pools that were demolished by Hickory Incorporated back in 2011. I would like to thank this very body for helping bring together the circumstances that created the Citizens for Equity in Government movement during that time. If not for those circumstances, I wouldn't have gotten to know Billy Sudderth, Walter Witherspoon, Jesse McArthur and other gentlemen of Color and their perspective, the way that I was allowed to. I had associations with Larry Pope prior to that time, but these circumstances took our relationship to a whole new level.
When President-Elect Donald Trump has spoken about rebuilding the inner cities of our nation, which let's be honest, the poor state of inner cities has mostly effected minorities, he has stated that these minorities should give the populist movement a chance, because what has been going on is not working.
Eight men met at Starbuck's in Viewmont just to talk and come to an understanding about what we had seen. The gentlemen I mentioned above along with Joe Brannock, Harry Hipps, Cliff Moone, and myself were the precursor to what Mr. Trump espoused. 'What did we have to lose?'
This body didn't take us seriously at the time, but we all know that you learned to take us seriously.
But I'll get to Billy. Billy was the founder of the Citizens for Equity in Government. He's no longer with us and y'all haven't heard from the CEG in a while, but please do not mistake this and think that the CEG movement is no longer with us. It is very much alive in this room tonight. Billy and Larry are in this room with us tonight.
I was at Billy's funeral last week. It was another uplifting celebration of another man who lived a life for others. It was spoken from the Bible, Romans chapter 12, which is a Book about Man versus Government in relation to God:
The chapter is about Love in Action
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I don't think anyone in this room can say that Billy didn't show this body respect. Larry Pope and Billy Sudderth had different methods in dealing with the government here in Hickory. Larry would many times be openly militant and bristle with hostility standing at this podium. Billy was soft spoken, mild mannered, courteous, conciliatory, and overly respectful to this body.
Larry was told that it's easier to attract Bees with honey than vinegar and that was Billy's exact approach -- 'the attitude of gratitude' and both were summarily dismissed by this community.
The other day, Billy's pastor talked about fighting the power and doing the right thing. This was in reference to Ridgeview's relationship with y'all. I felt the energy, the room crackled, during this part of the service. The emotion was palpable.
You could feel Billy's spiritual presence in this moment. Billy always seemed to enjoy the struggle. Billy focused on the perpetual battle. I don't think he even cared about winning or losing. Larry Pope wanted to win. He always thought that one day we would win. He told me exactly that. Billy and Larry both thought that government would provide an eventual victory, if it ever came, probably through the court system. Personally, I don't consider the circumstance of a court ruling to ever be a victory.
Personally, I don't enjoy the struggle. Life is too short to struggle. I would openly ask Billy, Why do you expect the very government that is mutually viewed as an opponent to provide you an ultimate victory?
Billy would reply in his cool manner, "HaHa... I know man. I know." You have to go into a battle with an expectation of victory. You have to fight to win.
But, I can never pretend that I went through what gentlemen like Billy and Larry went through and completely understand their perspective.
Billy's pastor the other day said you gotta love yourself before you can love others. What I learned from Billy is that you've gotta love your neighbors before you can love yourself. Billy and Larry took the hit to their personal being and welfare to move the ball forward. They were sincere team players. They were sincere community members. They were leaders. It was never about them. It was always about others.
God has always used imperfect people, imperfect actions, imperfect processes to demonstrate his power. Billy was that person... Larry was that person... I am that person on this night.
Numerically this is an ending year 2+0+1+6 = 9. The end of so many things. Next year is a beginning year 2+0+1+7 =10... 1+0 = 1 ... a new beginning. It is time for a fresh start. It is time for reconciliation.
Billy came before this body over the past couple years seeking your help in building a Multi-Cultural Resource Center in Ridgeview next to the library. Billy looked at this Multi-Cultural Resource Center as a way of our local government reconciling with Ridgeview for what happened with the swimming pools. I don't know where that issue stands, but let's give Billy and this project the respect it deserves. Billy showed you respect, let's have mutual respect.
At some point in time, I hope we can give him a spiritual victory that he didn't get to enjoy when he was physically present.
Feel the Power... Do the right thing.