NAACP Chief: No Problem With Brooks
WILKES-BARRE — The head of the local chapter of the NAACP said officers have no problem with the chairman of city council following a call for action by a former officer last week.
“The NAACP Wilkes-Barre branch would like to clarify that there is no ill will between the civil rights organization and Councilman Tony Brooks,” chapter president Guerline Laurore said in a news release.
“Mr. Brooks has always been gracious and supportive of our undertakings in the community. Furthermore, he will continue to support us as we work to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons, and to eliminate race-based discrimination,” Laurore said in the release.
The Citizens’ Voice last week obtained a copy of a letter former chapter secretary Erika Petrole sent to some city officials asking council to take action after Brooks made a comment to her in June regarding tanning and being “born black” that she said offended and appalled her.
The comment was made at an event in June, and Petrole said “it didn’t set in right away,” but she spoke with a friend who advised her she “should be offended due to my position within a highly recognized organization.” Petrole and Brooks are both white.
Petrole acknowledged Brooks apologized when he learned she was offended, but she still “would like to see something put in place that council members are to be careful how they speak to the public.”
Brooks denied the comment was racist, adding he is in an interracial marriage and that he was “poking fun and joking about myself about tanning.” Brooks’ husband is Sri Lankan and Pakistani.
Laurore noted Petrole, who has since resigned from the chapter’s executive committee, did not seek the committee’s approval when she drafted her letter, and “it was drafted without our knowledge or consent.”
Laurore said chapter officials “remain grateful” to Petrole for her service and wish her the best in her future endeavors. “We hope, however, that this situation will be put to rest expeditiously so that Councilman Brooks and Ms. Petrole can both move forward, and hopefully, have a positive rapport for the benefit of the community.”
Brooks seemed touched upon hearing the content of the release.
“I’m very appreciative of their support and continue to look forward to working with the NAACP on common issues for the betterment of Wilkes-Barre,” Brooks said.
Laurore later said she issued the news release because, based on comments on social media following the story last week, “it appears the community might believe we have some issues with Tony Brooks when, actually, we do not.” She feared “the community might be losing sight of what we’re here for.”
“We still have a (Wilkes-Barre Area) School Board member who refuses to resign after making egregious comments,” Laurore said, referring to Ned Evans, who last month made a crude comment on Facebook about a student sex scandal involving a teacher in Arizona.
“As a parent with a master’s-level clinical psychology degree who has worked with children who have been seriously molested and their families for seven years, I’m very appalled by the remarks,” Laurore said. “I’ve witnessed first-hand the impact of severe molestation on children, and it is no laughing matter. And we have a school board member who thought it was funny.”
The NAACP as well as the school district superintendent and other school board members have called for Evans to resign, but he has thus far flatly refused.
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