A Texas town known as a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity drew at least 150 people for a Black Lives Matter protest over the weekend.
Vidor, described by Texas Monthly in the 1990s as the state’s “most hate-filled town,” was notorious as a “sundown town,” all-white municipalities where signs warned African Americans to leave town before dark. A Klan chapter from Cleveland, Texas, marched through the community in 1993 after the federal government attempted to integrate public housing in the town.
The town’s history meant numerous people were skeptical when the rally was announced, with some expecting a trap, but the event took place as planned Saturday, according to Texas Monthly.
Although the town of about 11,000 people is approximately 97 percent white, the crowd was multiracial, with speakers including Rev. Michael Cooper, the president of the Beaumont, Texas NAACP, and Maddy Malone, the 23-year-old Vidor native who organized the event.
“We need to make sure that we are the generation of change. You may be seventy-five and you grew up a certain kind of way, but change is here at twenty-three,” Cooper said Saturday as he gestured to Malone. “I’m fifty-four. I was a part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution.”
Another speaker, a Texas A&M University history major introduced only as “Mitchell,” read a list of historical milestones for American race relations, culminating with the 2003 retirement of segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), a onetime Democrat who switched parties over the Civil Rights Act after running for president as a third-party “Dixiecrat.”
“Further research will be able to show you the damage that systemic racism has done to the African American community,” Mitchell told the crowd. “We must be not only not racist but anti-racist.”
Devon Noe, who introduced himself as “Vidor’s resident gay black guy,” told attendees ““I’ve had to deal with a lot. I’ve had bottles thrown at my head while walking through town. I’ve had people jump the curb to attempt to hit me with their vehicles. Still, I know Vidor is a very damn good place. I hate the fact that the media paints a picture of us from fifty years ago, but there are good people here.”