Andre Knight Preaches During Rocky Mount City Council Meeting Monday September 11, 2017 “Don’t Blame Me!” Video
The following is a transcript of the 13-minute speech made at the Sept. 11 meeting of the Rocky Mount
City Council by Councilman Andre Knight in response to pubic comments alleging the council is too
focused on the Downtown Event Center instead of fighting crime, which has left poor black
neighborhoods out of the equation:
“I just want to say that pretty much people know my sentiment on the Confederate
statue-monument. I assure you, it’s not a delayed response or action or stalling tactics.
We are dealing with that matter and hopefully speedily with a resolution.
Also just wanted to say that normally we don’t respond during public comment, but first
thing we probably will wake up tomorrow and see in the newspaper Andre Knight,
Reuben Blackwell, Lois Watkins and Lamont Wiggins was slapped with not having
compassion for the black community and our black youth.
I know Mr. Samuel, I taught him in school, I think he’s a fine young man. But we, this
council, since 2003, have fought both day and night to improve the condition of this city,
both black and white. This town was founded in 1867 and for over 100 years we didn’t
have representation of black citizens on this board until George Dudley. Well, prior to
that in Reconstruction, we did have black elected officials. I think it was three. Then the
turn of the century, Jim Crow laws, which intimidated blacks, and they did not run for
Since 2003 this entire council has been fighting to improve the conditions, especially
housing. We have more housing now in these under-served communities, in these black
communities as some say, that never had development in over 50 years. You see
development now. You see the Beale Street Square; you see the Genesis Estates, Red
Rowe, now near Stalling Way.
The second thing this city was plagued with was the high utility bills from a deal that we
entered in, and that deal or that agreement wouldn’t end until 2026. And we fought to
bring down these utility bills that was plaguing our citizens both black and white, young
We fought for recreation throughout the city, south Rocky Mount. Put millions of
dollars. Which I grew up in south Rocky Mount. It was a safe haven for me. Claremont
is getting ready to be redeveloped.
We fought in education when Nash County commissioners didn’t even want city dollars.
We fought to keep the inner-city schools open. Couldn’t even get citizens to come out
and support or go to the school board and fight for O.R. Pope where these little children
lives in those communities. That was the pillar along with churches, St. James, East End,
North End, and those communities.
We’ll get back to them. Why are you closing these communities when you said these
communities have the highest poverty rate and illiteracy rate? Why are you closing
them? Now Williford School. Now Parker is on the chopping block. We keep sitting
idly, we aren’t going to have any schools inside the city limits of Rocky Mount.
We fought for public safety. Shotspotters, body cameras, the youth curfew, the list goes
on and on.
The last thing I want to say is about economic development. Downtown was dead. I was
born in 68. It was the flight. Went towards Tarrytown. Rocky Mount grew westward.
Nothing in east Rocky Mount. We’ve tried to bring this city back, the core of our city
where black folks live. And don’t tell me we ain’t done our jobs. Have you done your
They don’t want downtown to survive. If it weren’t for this council it would be on I-95,
Wesleyan Boulevard or Benvenue Road. But look where it is. Don’t tell me what we
haven’t done. Tell me what y’all have done. Everyday: negative, negative, negative
because they don’t want Rocky Mount to succeed.
CSX coming here. Talk about crime; crime everywhere. Crime didn’t just start. They
were robbing where I was living. But I had a daddy and a mama, a neighbor, an auntie
that would tear my hind part up. Don’t blame me for those that are fatherless and
motherless. It takes the church. Where your pastor at? Who going to the county
commissioners who’re closing your schools? Both Edgecombe and Nash. Who going
there? Who going to the school board? Who going to the PTA meetings?
Don’t come here and blame me when I sacrifice my time for less than a few pennies a
month. Meetings after meetings. Strategies after strategies. Some people in this town
didn’t want it to grow. Not where you live. Fighting for economic development on the
east side of town. One grocery store. Been fighting and fighting and fighting.
It runs deeper than me. It runs deeper than Reuben. It runs deeper. It’s an institution all
over this country and this city that don’t want to see certain parts grow because they
survive off the poor.
And some come here and challenge us with the Bible, but my grandmother said when
you see a fool, hear a fool, let them be a fool. I’m unbossed, unbowed, ain’t scared and
speak my mind and God fearing too. How dare you challenge me when you haven’t done
your part. If you’re pointing your finger, put it in your own eye before you come put it in
So I just want to say tonight: We want to save our children? I don’t like black boys
killing black boys. But white men were killing black boys. Black families were being
torn up, sold off, raped. This stuff runs deep. Not just 20 years ago, five years ago, 10
years ago. You can’t break that stuff in no five years.
I can’t stop no boy who got a gun in his hand that got a vendetta against his buddy, know
he’s hanging on the corner. Bang Bang. We don’t have enough cops to stand on every
corner. But we’ve got enough eyes in the community to reach one and teach one. So
when you start reaching and teaching, bring them to the council meeting. Meet your
What can I do? But don’t blame me. I grew up poor but I ain’t killed nobody. I didn’t
steal from nobody because I had a strict daddy and mama. Don’t blame us. Blame the
criminal justice system when it was crack cocaine that gave black men life in prison, 21
years in prison. When they were calling them crack babies, monkey babies. But now
you’ve got a repentant spirit on what’s out here now — opioids. You come here, you
won’t get arrested, you just get treatment. Where was the treatment for those mothers
when people brought crack into south Rocky Mount, Little Raleigh, the neighborhood
and sold crack cocaine? And they died on the street and left crack babies. Where was the
sympathy for them then? But it is now. Where does the justice system swing now? How
long? Not long that the black man must wait. Been praying 200 years. Been fighting 200
years. Don’t blame me.
The last thing: We can fight racism and we can fight black on black crime, white on
white crime, Mexican on Mexican crime, or whatever you want to call it, crime is crime.
Where’s your march on these cameras right here? WHIG-TV every morning spitting out
venom about your city because you got a black majority. I’m going to tell it like it is.
Bamboozled 19-no 1898. Wilmington Riots when they chased black elected officials and
white progressive people. Killed them and through them in the river because they were
being progressive. Some folks don’t want this city to be progressive. Don’t blame me I
talk about race. Race was here before I got here. It was here when my grandma cooked
in the cook kitchen, worked in the tobacco factory, washed the laundry and took out the
pot. Guess what, it’s still here. You know why? Because we didn’t address it.
So pardon me that I took too long, but don’t come here blaming me. I haven’t mistreated
I know right from wrong. And I’m going to fight on this council as long as I can for
equality and parity for all, and for those who didn’t have it for a 150 years when you was
underrepresented and not represented at all. Don’t blame me, go to the root of the
And if you’re going to quote the Bible quote it from Genesis to Revelations. Touch not
my anointed. Do my prophet no harm. It’s better for you to have a millstone tied around
your neck than to touch the least of these and be at the bottom the ocean and you die and
know where you’re going. Don’t come quote the Bible to me. My daddy is a preacher,
and I’m one and I know the Bible. And I know lie and a lying prophet when I see it. Now
go tell that. Thank you.”