WALLINGFORD — The leader of the Rutland County chapter of NAACP is leaving her home following months of racially motivated harassment targeting her and her young family members.
Tabitha Moore, director of the Rutland Area chapter of NAACP, said Friday she’s already found a buyer for her home, but doesn’t know yet where she and her family will move.
“It’s been heating up for a while, since June,” she said. “A number of nonspecific threats and different incidents have been growing.”
Among the incidents was the vandalism of a wooden pallet Moore had decorated for Wallingford Day, which sees town residents decorate wooden shipping pallets and display them in their yards. Moore’s, which a friend displayed on their lawn, bore Black Lives Matter imagery and had white paint thrown on it near the end of August.
“The tipping point for me, though, was watching what our community did when my daughter was successful. She’s been working for a while trying to figure out what to say to the School Board, and she finally did,” said Moore, referring to her daughter, Reese Eldert-Moore, then a student at Mill River Union High School, in June convincing the School Board to allow the BLM flag to be flown at Mill River Union High School.
“The School Board saw reason with her presentation and that of other students, but watching what grown adults do to children was the tipping point for me, and I started paying more attention to how my family was being affected by the work we’re trying to do, and how they’re still being affected even right now,” said Moore.
Also, the School Board decided to allow the Pride Flag to be flown in support of LGBTQ students, but following backlash and a petition to put the flag issue to a vote despite that power being vested in the board, it decided to hold off from raising the flags until a flag policy could be further developed.
Moore said her daughter had been targeted by people on Facebook, seemingly over things her mother has said publicly. “Why would you target a kid? It makes no sense except that you’re really uncomfortable with the progress we’re trying to make and you’re not very savvy about how to have this conversation with adults,” said Moore.
She said she’s suspended her campaign for high bailiff, a countywide seat, not because she plans to leave the county, but because campaigning, finding a new home and seeing to her family’s needs don’t allow for it.
“I love Wallingford, and I love the Rutland area in a lot of ways, but I don’t have to kill myself to make it a better place especially when people are just being awful for no reason,” she said.
Moore grew up in Wallingford, left in 2006, came back to Vermont in 2009 and lived in Clarendon briefly before buying her home in Wallingford. She said the town is full of good people who support her, hence the reason she’s stayed as long as she has, but it’s become too much.
Moore isn’t the only Black person in a public position to face this issue. Her story is similar to that of Kiah Morris, who in 2018 ended her re-election campaign to the Vermont House of Representatives owing to racial harassment. Morris represented Bennington.
Morris will host two poetry readings to raise money and assist in Moore’s relocation.
The performances will be held at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday at Democracy Creative in Burlington. Also, there are tickets for a livestream of the events that can be found at kiahmorris.com/fortabitha.
“The hope is that art can cross boundaries, upset expectations and bring both joy and reckoning,” Morris stated in an email. “This performance is a manifestation of my love for Tabitha and, I hope, of the wider community’s love and support as well.”
Moore said she and Morris are both public figures, but everyday Black and brown people face similar struggles.
“The number of people that leave because they can’t handle the racism, because of the way that racism is so insidious here and the way people respond when you say hey, that was racist. it’s just too much,” Moore said. “The level of offense people take when you point out an act is racist is just — it’s almost too draining to have to deal with their reaction.”
She said Vermont isn’t mostly white by happenstance, the eugenics program and escaped slave laws from generations past have played their part. “If we are to end systemic racism, we must remain committed, we must remain in it,” she said. ”So I’m just repositioning myself, I’m not leaving. I’m going to continue to do the work in Rutland County and across the state. If anything, this just strengthens my resolve and lets me know we’re doing good work.”