Openly gay Durham city council member addresses school after having appearance canceled

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- An openly gay Durham city council member finally got her chance to speak Tuesday night.

Vernetta Alston was set to kick off Black History Month celebrations in February at Immaculata Catholic School but her appearance was canceled because of planned protests.

Those protests never happened.

"I first walked onto this campus 31 years ago," Alston said Tuesday, referring to her time there from kindergarten until the sixth grade. "Now I'm here again because of all of you. Thank you for being an example for everyone in Durham and for me personally. Thank you for showing me how to fight."

She said she felt it was the wrong decision to cancel and that the experience did "hurt."

"We're in a place now to celebrate tonight and be a stronger community through that experience," Alston said.

She talked about her grandmother's influence on her life growing up in Durham as well as her commitment to public service in her speech.

Brad Williams, who sings in the choir, is a parent at the school.

"I don't know if it's really possible to completely make up for the way this was handled at the beginning but I think this is as well as it could've gone," he said. "The Lent and Easter season is the most important part of the Christian calendar so I think there might be some serendipity that it's happening tonight as we enter that period of reflection and atonement."
Copyright © 2019 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.