Monday, February 11, 2008

Wayne Winkler Melungeon Heritage Association Resignation Letter

Wayne Winkler
Feb. 11, 2008

On Tuesday, 5 February, I resigned from the board of directors of the
Melungeon Heritage Association. It is with great regret that I leave
this organization for I am quite proud of the work MHA has done over
the past decade in organizing events for the presentation of
information about the Melungeons. However, the consequences of MHA's
association with the Association of Turkish-American Associations,
along with the board's failure to promptly and properly respond to
the revelation of these consequences, have left me with no choice. As
such, I cannot nor wish to speak on behalf of the Melungeon Heritage

Obviously neither I nor the MHA knew all we should have known about
the connection between MHA and ATAA. No motion concerning official
support for any Turkish political position was ever proposed,
discussed, or voted by the board, so it came as a complete surprise
to learn from Joanne Pezzullo's post of 17 January that as far back
as 2000, "one of the leaders of Melungeons society, who participated
in the meeting of the Assembly of American-Turkish Associations
(ATAA) said that they support Turkey regarding the issue of the draft
law on so-called genocide on Armenians."

No one at this meeting was speaking for MHA in any official capacity,
and we don't even know if the quotation accurately reflects what was
said, but that is of little or no consequence. The implication is
that Melungeons, as represented by a group which by obvious
implication is MHA, supported the Turkish position on this issue.
That is simply unacceptable to me, as it is to many others. And
although it feels much like thanking the person who tells you your
spouse is cheating on you, I want to thank Joanne for bringing this
to my attention. I have passed this and other information found on my
own concerning ATAA to the board members and I hope they will take
appropriate action, whatever that might be at this point. We should
have known about this long ago; I am quite certain it would have
affected MHA policy, or at least my own actions.

I believe that in the beginning Brent Kennedy merely sought research
assistance for his work concerning the Melungeons and was encouraged
by the positive response of the Turkic World Research Foundation,
ATAA, and others. In hindsight, however, it was a bad idea for MHA to
connect with any such organization or to allow such a connection to
be made on their behalf. While I had doubts about the hypothesis of a
significant Turkish connection with the Melungeons, I failed to take
seriously the implications of the emphasis which was often placed on
this hypothesis.

One sometimes joins an organization – a church, a political party, a
civic organization, whatever – and sees flaws in that organization or
areas of disagreement, but maintains affiliation for what one
believes is the greater good. In this case, the greater good was the
service MHA performed in holding annual events for the presentation
of information and the opportunity for fellowship among Melungeons.
At this point, in light of a completely unacceptable and unauthorized
association of the MHA with a Turkish political position, I can no
longer balance the flaws against the perceived good. I hope MHA can
regroup and rededicate itself to presenting information about our
people. They are good people who have done good work, and I hope they
can continue to do so in some form. I simply can no longer be
associated with the organization.

It is pointless for me to apologize for the actions of others, of
which I knew nothing until recently, but I do apologize for not
knowing what was being done in our name at the time it was being
done, and for participating in the organizational inertia that kept
this connection prominent long past the time when the hypothesis of a
Turkish-Melungeon connection it represented had been marginalized, at
the very least. I look forward to the more of the promising research
coming from Joanne, Jack Goins, James Nickens, and others

(Posted with Permission)

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