An architect and Kinston High graduate introduced at the Feb. 20 Kinston City Council meeting as the town’s newest community development planner suddenly withdrew his application on Thursday, citing pressure from the city over a 2016 Facebook post.
Staff introduced Javad Suggs at the council meeting one week before he was to begin work and while his introduction was not on the city agenda, City Manager Tony Sears said he was introduced Monday night as a new employee.
“Technically Monday he was introduced, yes,” Sears said. “He has withdrawn his application from the City of Kinston.”
Suggs, who began school in Lenoir County as a kindergartner, said he moved from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh last year to work as an architect, but was interested in coming home to Kinston.
“I already had a lucrative job: office, benefits and a mentor,” he said. “It was the perfect situation for a young architect. Then I heard about this position. The responsibilities were so idyllic to me … I felt that I couldn’t pass it up. I had always daydreamed about going back and doing things in Kinston.”
When he got the job, Suggs put in his notice, ended his lease in the Triangle and came to Kinston in time for the meeting where he was told he would be introduced to the city council.
“Everything seemed like it was fine at that point,” Suggs said, adding that staff members lauded him for coming back, especially for leaving behind larger cities.
“It took a tremendous act of faith,” he said. “I was willing to go back to school. City planning is something that I’ve always been interested in as an aspiring developer. The opportunity to give back was all worth it to me.”
But overnight, Suggs said things changed.
“Somebody got a hold of a Facebook post I made on December 30,” he said, a post he described as “only disparaging to the systems of white supremacy,” and forwarded it to “the powers that be.”
After more than a day of not hearing anything, Suggs said he received a call asking him to meet with Sears on Thursday.
Suggs said there was no mediation: He was asked to either withdraw his application or the city would rescind its offer.
“They didn’t ask for an explanation; I gave one, but it didn’t matter at that point,” he said.
Sears said Friday he could only state that Suggs had withdrawn his application on Thursday and did not comment further.
Suggs said his experience has been indicative of the very post he shared, which noted how the ethnicity of the complainants are the true drivers of policy.
“When white people stand up, as sad as it is in this country, things happen faster,” he said. “None of my white friends were offended by what I said. I don’t have a problem with white people, I have a problem with the race systems that keep certain people subjugated and repressed.”
Suggs said he was told city employees can’t have that sort of representation, which he said would hamstring any viable candidate for a community development job.
“How do you go about progressive city planning without having a conversation about these ineptitudes?” he said. “You can’t do it the way I approach it.”
Suggs said there is a “canon” of studies in the Triangle focusing on voting discrimination, socioeconomic racial divides and crime in Lenoir County and Kinston.
“All that stuff is interrelated. You can’t separate one from another,” he said.
“Some people don’t ‘want anything to change and that’s why it was so easy — instead of a (public relations) glitch, this got to somebody that felt threatened for some reason and needed to make sure that I didn’t move forward with this position.”
Suggs is figuring out his next move. He had to make the difficult call to his former employer only to find his vacant position had already been filled; an unhappy result from the three weeks’ notice Suggs gave out of professional courtesy.
“I do want to do something for a community; not necessarily Kinston at this point, but some small town,” he said, hoping for a progressive town where his work wouldn’t be “an uphill battle.”
As for Kinston, he said he hopes residents who are outraged will make their voices heard by contacting the city manager’s office or speaking with their council members.