Local African-American leader says Confederate statue should stay

PADUCAH, KY – The Confederate statue controversy seen in many communities across the nation is making its way to Paducah leaders.

City Commissioner Richard Abraham said he doesn’t have a problem with the Gen. Lloyd Tilghman statue staying where it is on Fountain Avenue. “Absolutely, let it stay —the good, the bad, the ugly,” he said.

He was describing what we can learn from the statue. Abraham said when the statue was erected originally, it meant something different. But now, there is an African-American in an elected position in Paducah, and the community is moving forward.

He said removing the statue won’t fix the problems African Americans face every day. “I am an African-American man, and I don’t have a problem with this statue,” said Abraham. “Tearing it down won’t change that, and it wont change my plight.”

He said the statue controversy across the nation is diverting our attention from real problems.

“If you look at the numbers for my demographic, it’s horrible,” said Abraham. He’s talking about statistics like these: 66 percent of African American children are born into single-parent households, according to Kids Count. The NAACP states that African Americans are five times more likely to be incarcerated than white people.

“We got to have a conversation, and people have to want to listen,” said Abraham. That’s what is happening at Washington Street Baptist Church every Thursday.

“When you become friends with people, you can hear things that maybe you can’t hear from a stranger,” said Beth Khadem.

She, along with Brad Holland, is a part of Race Unity Group Paducah. Their group started several years ago and they discuss hard topics like what happened in Charlottesville, VA.

Khadem said the group thinks the statue should be taken down and moved to a museum. While Abraham disagrees, he said it’s the conversation that counts.

“When we come together, it’s a neutral place where people can express their views,” said Holland. He said anyone and everyone is welcome. Holland said it’s a group that gets to understand each other’s perspectives and can then understand problems.

Abraham said he believes in Paducah and knows that the city is stronger together.  “I trust Paducah,” he said.

Abraham said he thinks that some of the petitions for and against removing the statue will eventually make it to city hall.

The local NAACP’s J.W. Cleary clarified that Abraham’s statement may reflect some local opinions, but it does not reflect the opinions of all African Americans in Paducah. He said the local chapter will be discussing the statue at their meeting on Sunday.