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'Buckwheat' backlash builds in Wicomico


MARDELA SPRINGS -- Norman Christopher, the town councilman who sparked a month-long controversy by referring to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as "Buckwheat," was a conspicuous no-show last night as the council received two petitions for his removal.

At the end of a day that also saw 100 people in nearby Salisbury rally against racism, the Mardela Springs council president merely accepted the petitions. Asked what he would do with them, Leland Smith shrugged and said, "We've never gotten one before."

Last night's town meeting was the first since Mr. Christopher made the remark at the end of a routine business session almost a month ago. The crowd of 25 was split between those interested in Mr. Christopher and those interested in an application by a town resident who wanted to put a mobile home on his lot. The mobile home was approved.

Mardella Springs has a population of 360, four of whom are black.

At the Jan. 20 town meeting, Mr. Christopher explained that he could not reach government workers by phone because it was a holiday.

"I forgot no one was working," he said. "Everyone had Buckwheat's birthday off."

Buckwheat was the screen name of a black child who starred in the "Our Gang" comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s.

The meeting came after the Salisbury rally against racism.

Wicomico County NAACP President Warren White said the purpose of yesterday's rally was to begin a "healing of the social disease known as racism."

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