The predominately black community of Walnut Tree in Stokes County was annexed into the Town of Walnut Cove last month after a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination.
The case was handled by the new Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights, the non-profit legal center started by Mark Dorosin, who was fired from the UNC Center for Civil Rights after the UNC System Board of Governors voted to ban the center from entering into litigation.
Dorosin says that he has worked with similar cases in the past with the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
“When we were doing work in Moore County in 2008, 2009, 2010, one of the things that were revealed was how the annexation laws in place at that time really disadvantaged under-resourced, minority communities,” said Dorosin.
A provision put into the state’s annexation laws from this case, that was meant to make it easier for economically disadvantaged communities to get annexed, was used by the citizens of Walnut Tree. But petitions for annexation were still rejected, which led to the lawsuit.
“We reached a settlement which included…the Walnut Tree community being annexed into Walnut Cove,” said Dorosin. “And so those residents are now being fully included in a community that they always felt part of.”
The community will see a drastic reduction in utility bills as they will now be provided with garbage and water services through the Town of Walnut Cove, but Dorosin says even more important than that is having the ability to vote for their own elected officials.
“For a lot of the folks that was the most significant thing, to be able to really hold the elected officials accountable who are making the decisions that most closely impacted their lives,” said Dorosin.