Tanglewood Park’s history resurfaces with wristband controversy

Tanglewood Park’s history resurfaces with wristband controversy
July 11
00:30 2019

By Bridget Elam and Judie Holcomb-Pack

While celebrating America’s 243rd Independence Day, a Tanglewood Park visitor became appalled by what she saw on her wrist.

While floating on the lazy river at Tanglewood Park’s Paul Brunsetter Aquatic Center, Sage Magness (who prefers being identified with the pronoun they) noticed that the pool admittance wristband, which they initially assumed was a depiction of the American flag, was not the American flag.

“As I was floating, I was staring at my wristband and I said, this is not the American flag. This cannot be what I think it is,” recounted Magness.  Magness immediately asked their daughter’s other mother to weigh in on her assessment and soon realized their depiction of what was the wristband was not just an individual interpretation. 

Outraged, they went to the pool’s gate to ask who was responsible for ordering the wristbands. At that time, Magness was directed to the Forsyth County Parks and Recreation Department and messaged a complaint to them from home.

“I told them [Parks and Recreation] that I was very disappointed, actually appalled, that a public park in 2019 would be handing out Confederate flag wristbands at any point, especially on Fourth of July weekend.  This is really, really not okay.”

Magness said Parks and Rec’s initial response was they had been ordering the bands for several years with no complaints. Then they went further on to say that the wristbands were a generic red, white and blue pattern and Magness’ must have been cut in a way to resemble the Confederate flag. She then took a picture of the wristband and sent it to Parks and Rec., who then said they would pull the rest of the bands. 

Magness said it was hard to believe that the wristbands were approved through several levels of management before getting to the park without being noticed. 

In the interview with The Chronicle earlier this week, Magness said she was aware of Tanglewood’s history.

“I wondered how many people of color there at the pool were actually aware of the history of this park and this pool … and sitting there with that symbol of hatred on their wrists.”

The 61-mile stretch of land the park sits on was owned by the Reynolds family and 1951 it was willed to the white citizens of Forsyth County. The park was later integrated in 1971 after 20 years of segregation.

Magness felt it was their duty to speak up. 

“Others may not have been comfortable to speak up from fear of being targeted.”

In a response released Tuesday, July 9, Tonya McDaniel, Forsyth County Commissioner stated: 

“In light of the incident at Tanglewood, I would first like to say that we have to be mindful and sincere about complaints made by our constituents and/or visitors to Forsyth County. This is an opportunity for County Officials and Administration to revisit the mission, vision and values of the County. Bad choices were made by all. Thinking back, I am grateful for having mentors and leaders who helped me process those bad choices. After speaking to Dudley Watts, our County Manager, I believe Damon Sanders-Pratt has admitted to the errors made by the organization and assured me there was no malicious intent. Dudley has assured me he has set some sensitivity concerning oversight. This is definitely concerning and I am confident we will do better. I don’t believe it to be intentional. However, if any findings that confirm differently, expect there to be consequences.”

Magness says they are glad to hear that the County is taking the matter seriously, but seeing it put into action is when she’ll believe it.   

Forsyth County was home to Magness for many years and their daughter was born here and her love for Winston-Salem was apparent. 

“Come on Forsyth County; I’m rooting for you.  You’ve taken so many steps forward, don’t take steps back.”

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