Home Local News ‘Y’ALL MEANS ALL’: Richmond County marchers call for equality, accountability in representation

‘Y’ALL MEANS ALL’: Richmond County marchers call for equality, accountability in representation

Richmond County native Taryn Masterson leads a march through downtown Rockingham in support of the LGBTQ community. See more photos below. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Just days after the end of PRIDE month, several protesters marched through downtown carrying signs in support of the queer community.

The group met Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot across from the Richmond County Judicial Center, where the Board of Commissioners was set to hold its monthly meeting hours later.

“Initially, we were here to plead for an apology from the commissioners regarding their offensive statements towards the LGBTQ community,” said organizer Taryn Masterson.

Masterson, a Richmond County native now living in the Triangle, was one of several people who spoke out at the board’s June meeting in reference to a social media comment made by Commissioner Andy Grooms.

Grooms had shared a screenshot showing a photo of then-student Elijah Crumpton who was nominated prom king — and was also wearing a red dress. The commissioner’s three-word commentary: “This is sick.”

Click here to read more about the backlash in June.

“We are no longer here for an apology, we are out here for accountability,” Masterson said. “This is a statement that ‘We see you’ to the commissioners, and a statement to the queer community in this area that we are here and we stand for you.”

Jerry Tilley, who also spoke at last month’s meeting, said the march was to also make the statement “that you cannot represent anybody if you don’t represent everybody.”

“It’s about equality,” said Tilley, who carried a sign reading, “You don’t have to be gay to be outraged,” and wearing a shirt with a multi-colored Richmond County and the phrase “Y’all Means All!”

“Think about it, if that picture of Elijah had been a student kneeled in prayer and Andy Grooms said, ‘This is sick,’ they’d have been lined up outside this courthouse demanding his outing,” Tilley added. “And nobody cares, and that’s just the mentality of Richmond County and we’re here to change that.”

Crumpton was also at the march, marching down the street wearing a rainbow flag like a cape.

“I’m super happy for the people that came, and I’m super happy for the support system I had from the jump,” Crumpton said. “I’m glad that everybody showed up just for this moment, it means a lot to me. It shows that we have a community out here who are willing to fight for our freedom and the right to do what we want.”

Crumpton said there was a lot of support from the school, even from the principal and teachers.

“They were very supportive of what we had going on, they were very supportive of me, so I’m very happy that I went to Richmond Senior High School. It was a very open school.”


Also joining the demonstration was Jara Flowers, who — like Masterson and Tilley — was denied the opportunity to speak at the July commissioners meeting because her topic, “inclusion and diversity in county representation,” was deemed “not germane” by Board Clerk Dena Cook.

Click here to read more about the denials and the county’s public appearance policy.

“As a 10-year veteran, I’m highly offended that my First Amendment rights have been basically taken away from me,” Flowers said, adding that she served the country “honorably” in the U.S. Army.

Flowers said she and her wife invest in local real estate, flipping houses and bringing rentals into the community.

“I’m offended my rights were denied and I wasn’t even given an explanation as to why it was denied.”

Prior to the walk, Masterson said Pride started as a protest “because people like us were not being heard, were not being seen – were being challenged, were being abused, were being bullied.”

“So this just continues that statement through the month … through the year that we are absolutely here and we’re not going anywhere.”

Masterson said she and the other organizers knew a lot of people would be out of town or at work during the time of the protest, but said those that did show up “…stand with us…they stand for the community. It’s a powerful statement, regardless of what comes of it.”

Tilley said there have been others who have contacted them through social media who wanted to be there and support the cause but had other obligations.

Masterson added that there are some in the county who are “still afraid” to speak out about “their queerness or even as an ally” because of the backlash they may receive.

“And that’s exactly why we have to do this.”