SAVANNAH, Ga. - The Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials is holding its annual convention in Savannah this weekend, with leaders planning to focus on the case of Genarlow Wilson, a young black man imprisoned for engaging in consensual sex as a teen.
The need for justice in that case and others is the message hundreds of black leaders from across the state will spread during their visit to Savannah.
"Everyone is asking: 'What's going on in Georgia?' We thought we were beyond that," said Democratic state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, the president of the association.
Mr. Brooks began the four-day convention Thursday afternoon at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, surrounded by a dozen fellow black leaders.
Mr. Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17. He has served two years of a 10-year sentence and will be required to register as a sex offender.
A judge earlier this month ruled that it was "cruel and inhumane treatment" to continue to keep Mr. Wilson in prison. However, Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker is appealing to keep Mr. Wilson behind bars.
That's a direct violation of Mr. Wilson's civil rights, Mr. Brooks said.
"The message to Georgia, the nation and the world is: We've come a distance, changed the law and made progress, but we still have a long way to go," Mr. Brooks said.