Sunday, July 27, 2008

Enforce the rule of Law. Pastor harrased by Ignorants and racists K.K.K. Members. Jessie Stensland.

A prominent Oak Harbor pastor has been targeted by hoodlums purporting to represent the Ku Klux Klan.

Fannie Dean, long-time pastor of Unity Fellowship, said the trouble started about a month ago at Oak Harbor Thrift. Dean runs the church's thrift store, located on Goldie Road.

She has received hateful, racist calls. Someone broke a window. She started finding notes scrawled on paper or cardboard. The messages said things like "Get out" or "You gotta go" and they were signed "KKK."

Dean found the most recent message Wednesday morning. It said simply: "I'm running the KKK."

Dean said she's not scared, but she's sad this still happens in the community.

"They may be running the KKK, but I know the man in charge," she said, referring to a higher power. "People are trying, but they can't stop me. I've come too far to turn around now."

Dealing with racism is nothing new for Dean, a well-known and outspoken African-American woman in Oak Harbor. She said racists came to her home and burned her family's vehicle years ago. She sometimes feels disapproving stares as she moves about the community.

"The haters are still out there. You better believe it," said Dean. Still, the well-loved pastor is anything but an angry person. She's downright cheerful and enthusiastically speaks about her love of God.

Grace Schiffman, Dean's close friend and a member of the church, said she believes Dean was targeted because of her prominence as an African-American woman. The pastor organizes the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. program. She and her church sponsored the Juneteenth celebration, which celebrates the freedom of black people from slavery. Dean and families from her current church are building Mission Ministries Outreach on Goldie Road.

"We are not going to let them stop us and they're not going to prevent us from building the church," Schiffman said.

While Dean isn't frightened, Schiffman said some members of the church are concerned for her safety.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said deputies are investigating the case, but they have no leads. He said the actions fit the definition of a hate crime.

"This is something we take very seriously," he said.

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