Leaders make Welcoming City statement

City Council Member Dan Besse reads the Welcoming City joint statement at City Hall on Monday, May 1, with City Council Member Derwin Montgomery beside him and supporters and community leaders standing behind them.

Leaders make Welcoming City statement
May 04
04:15 2017

Photo by Todd Luck



After months of controversy, City Council Member Dan Besse and community leaders released a Welcoming City joint statement at City Hall on Monday, May 1.

The Welcoming City statement came about in reaction to a coalition of residents asking for the city to become a Sanctuary City. Since Sanctuary Cities aren’t allowed by state law, Besse created a symbolic resolution to reassure immigrants and refugees that the city is a safe, welcoming place. Due to fears of retaliation from the General Assembly, some on the council were reluctant to support it and Besse withdrew the resolution last week, rather than face an uncertain vote.

Besse has since turned it into a joint statement endorsed by a multitude of community members and organizations, but not by the City of Winston-Salem.

“To those who are afraid, we here today have a message: You are welcome in our community,”said Besse.

Six City Council members did endorse it: Besse, Derwin Montgomery, James Taylor Jr., D.D. Adams, John Larson and Jeff MacIntosh. Besse said turning it into a community statement would prevent General Assembly retaliation. This won over council members like MacIntosh, who wouldn’t have voted for it because of the feared Raleigh backlash.

The statement was endorsed by two members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board: Elisabeth Motsinger and Deanna Taylor.

“All of our children need to know that they are welcome, that they are loved, that they are cherished and that we value very much their right to get an education and to feel at home and at ease here in Winston-Salem,” said Motsinger.

Other elected officials that endorsed it included N.C. Rep. Evelyn Terry and County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin.

Many faith organizations and faith leaders signed on like Rev. Willard Bass Jr., director of Institute for Dismantling Racism Inc.

“I applaud what has been done and I stand by it and would like to challenge the community to continue to change our culture,” he said.

Rev. Lia Scholl of Wake Forest Baptist Church described it as a way to embrace neighbors in “a love-filled way.” Rev. Craig Schaub of Parkway United Church of Christ said it helped reassure undocumented immigrants that they don’t have to be afraid of the police.

“We want to do everything we possibly can to build a sense of trust between neighbors and local law enforcement and that’s what this statement is calling for,” said Schaub

There are more than 100 signatures on the statement, with more currently being collected. Other signers included local NAACP President Rev. Alvin Carlisle, Rev. Dr. Stephen Boyd, Rev. Kelly Carpenter of Green Street United Methodist Church, Imam Khalid Griggs of Community Mosque, Rabbi Mark Strauss Cohn of Temple Emanuel, Compassionate Winston-Salem, Interfaith Voice and Interfaith Winston-Salem.

The language of the statement was the same as the resolution, with the omission of one section that asks the Human Relations Department to find more ways to welcome immigrants and refugees, which was taken out since its a community statement with no governmental authority.

To read the statement, visit

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Wali Pitt

Wali Pitt

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