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Adkins seeks unity on city council
Mayor doesn't support Hodge's remarks

Sunday, April 28, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins on Saturday criticized how city Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge voiced offense to an image on a patchwork quilt given to the city by high school students who created it.

In a prepared statement, Adkins said she found Hodge’s “combativeness to make a point (that she was offended by the image) disheartening.”

During an interview Saturday, Adkins said she had received about 50 phone calls and “a couple of hundred” emails from people nationwide regarding the incident. Most who contacted her were former residents of the Martinsville area; none were supportive of Hodge’s actions, she said.

Adkins said in her prepared statement that Hodge made comments during a phone interview with a local television station “where she implied I supported her actions” at the April 23 council meeting.

“I do not” support Hodge’s actions, Adkins emphasized in the statement.

Hodge did not return a phone call for comment.

“I take responsibility for not managing the meeting in a manner that would have resulted in a different outcome and subsequent days that followed, where emotions were high” among community residents, Adkins said.

“There is a balance between letting people have free expression and having integrity in how the city’s business is conducted,” she said.

She added that she asks Hodge, the council and the community “to consider refraining from any further emotional responses that will further divide our community and instead look for ways to bring our community together.”

Juniors in a Piedmont Governor’s School research class created the quilt to highlight their experiences in doing a citizens survey for the city. During the council meeting, they presented the quilt to the city to be displayed at the municipal building. However, it has not yet been put on display.

During the presentation, Hodge said she was offended by a square on the quilt that depicted a dark-colored person on one side of Philpott Dam and a gold-colored person on the other.

The confrontation caused students to cry as they left the council meeting.

Hodge was elected to the council in November and took office in January.

In her statement, Adkins said she considers Hodge to be “a diligent member of council,” and she is impressed with the new councilwoman’s “eagerness to learn everything she can about city government and her role” on the council.

Still, Adkins said Hodge’s combativeness with students during the meeting was “counterproductive to my pledge as an elected official to ... create and support new opportunities, where commerce can thrive and those most in need or in situations of hardship can see a path of hope.”

Adkins also said Hodge’s actions conflicted with Adkins’ pledge to “tackle many of our challenges in a manner that is inclusive (of all city residents), productive and ultimately uplifting,” creating a sense of pride.

Adkins said that like Hodge, she considers racial tensions to be a challenge facing the community.

“While the description of the scene in the quilt could have been described in a better way, it was not purposely meant to offend anyone,” she said.

Because of the incident at the council meeting, Adkins said she has “a new perspective” that today’s youth, who eventually will be “our new generation of leaders ... see those of different races (as being) not so different at all.”

It will be that generation, she added, that “will create a new normal in our city where a description of skin color will not ignite an emotional response” such as Hodge’s reaction to the quilt square.


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