MRS. BLACK NC HAS A MISSION
By Cash Michaels
She calls herself “the first bald beauty queen of North Carolina,” and for good reason.
But it’s not by choice.
When Sandra Dubose-Gibson of Raleigh was being crowned Mrs. Black North Carolina last weekend at St. Augustine’s College, it was indeed with a beautiful, yet hairless head. A bold, daring fashion statement of personal choice and style perhaps?
A bold and daring personal statement, for sure, but about courage in the face of physical challenge. Gibson, a happily married woman of 15 years and proud mother of two girls, has suffered from the autoimmune disease alopecia areata - a condition of patchy hair loss that can be brought on by iron deficiency - since the age of 25.
The resulting loss of hair 12 years ago, at such a young and vital age, forced Gibson to deal with deep issues of low self-esteem and purpose in the face of an irreversible disease that threatened many of her hopes and dreams in life.
But only if she let it.
“I entered [Mrs. Black NC] because I know that it would be bigger than me,” Gibson told The Carolinian Monday. “If I could stand and represent women like myself who have been challenged with low self-esteem, whether it be because of hair loss or whatever the issues were, that it was going to make such a powerful statement to so many women.”
“I did it for myself, I did to prove that it can be done, and to help other women be inspired, and motivated to liberate themselves.”
Leading by example for her two daughters, ages 13 and 9, was also part of Gibson’s mission, not just in entering the competition, but also in her roles as motivational speaker, actress, singer and documentary filmmaker.
The Bronx, NY native has appeared in theatre productions across the nation, including in the popular gospel musical, “ Mama, I Want to Sing.” Gibson has performed with gospel great Walter Hawkins and R&B veteran El Debarge.
And in 2008 Gibson produced the documentary, “Project Liberation: My Alopecia Experience,” from which her song, “I’m Beautiful” comes from.
Why did this disease strike Sandra Gibson?
She doesn’t know. Though there is a history of autoimmune deficiency in her immediate family (Gibson’s father died of lupus), she is the only one with alopecia areata.
Born healthy with a full head of hair, Gibson began noticing a bald patch in her hair in her mid-twenties. Soon more little circles of patches began to appear over time.
“That’s not a style that any women would chose,” Gibson quipped, noting how alarmed she became as the condition progressed. It was more than a “bad hair day.” She didn’t want to leave her house, and indeed couldn’t without a hat.
Gibson felt helpless; she couldn’t even look in the mirror. One of a woman’s most personal cherished and coveted attributes was disintegrating every day, right in front of her.
“There was nothing I could do about it, other than cover it up,” she recalls. Gibson admittedly went through a period of “shame and hiding,” fearing that others would find out, and be judgmental.
A dermatologist told Gibson what it was, and that there was no cure. It wasn’t long before her eyebrows and eyelashes were gone as well.
“It took me through a period of depression,” Gibson recalls, “and I had to redefine and rediscover who I was outside of those physical attributes, and really tap into the woman that I am inside, which is really the essence of beauty for everyone.”
That is the lesson that Gibson says she is “passionate’ to share with the world.
Today Gibson feels empowered enough to wear stylish wigs when she wants to. She is not hiding shame anymore, and her triumph in the Mrs. Black North Carolina Pageant is self-confirmation of that, given that she was crowned bald, photographed bald, and has done TV interviews sans a full head of hair.
Turning “lemons into lemonade” is Gibson’s mission in life now. As the new Mrs. Black North Carolina, she will travel the state making appearances, and speaking to women and at gatherings about her condition, and the strength it has taken her to overcome it.
“If you don’t love yourself,” Gibson says, “How are you going to expect anyone to do it? It’s not a choice. It’s something that you have to do to have a happy life.”
For more information visit: www.SandraDubose.com
NC Justice Center, Great Schools in Wake Weigh in On Student Assignment Proposal
RALEIGH (March 29, 2011) A new report issued by Great Schools in Wake and the NC Justice Center says the Wake School Choice plan, authored by consultant Michael Alves, does not prioritize student achievement highly enough and lacks clear policies to ensure all schools are high-performing.
According to Alves and Wake Education Partnership Vice President Tim Simmons , the Wake School Choice plan is a series of general guidelines and assumptions that illustrate how a controlled choice model could work in our school district. Recognizing the incomplete nature of the Wake School Choice plan, the new report emphasizes that without fact-driven policies that are clearly defined, easy to understand, and consistently implemented, this plan could easily degrade the academic quality of our schools. It could also cause greater instability in assignment, limit school choice and substantially increase costs—all of the things that it was precisely not intended to accomplish.
"If the Wake School Choice plan or similar controlled choice plan is ultimately accepted as the only politically palatable compromise for our current situation, then strict guidelines that allow instruction to be successful must be in place for such a plan to succeed," said John Gilbert, former 16 year veteran of the Wake County School Board.
Outreach will be a key part of successful controlled choice, the report says, in order to inform the public of how the plan works and what choices are available. A controlled choice system must aim to avoid racial and economic segregation, as well as guarantee transparency so that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background or race, will receive a fair shot at attending high quality schools. It will be imperative that the Board of Education make a commitment to balanced schools, and this commitment should be reflected in Board of Education policies. Further, these policies cannot be waived, relaxed or ignored, or the “control” part of a controlled choice plan will become meaningless.
“We strongly encourage the school system to ensure that the student assignment plan adopted in Wake County gives top priority to student achievement while addressing concerns about proximity and stability,” said Matt Ellinwood, a policy advocate with the NC Justice Center. Ellinwood continued, “As Superintendent Tata himself noted, ‘a student assignment plan has to address avoiding high concentrations of low-performing students.’ Low performing schools drain countywide resources and all students receive a diminished education.”
The report argues that revising, but not abandoning, Wake County ’s current node-based assignment policy also warrants serious consideration. The overwhelming majority of parents surveyed last year indicated satisfaction with assignments and school calendars. In addition, strained financial resources will make it difficult to implement an entirely new controlled choice system effectively.
The report concludes: “We believe that the Wake County Public Schools’ Student Assignment staff has the knowledge, talent and good judgment needed to fine tune our current node-based system and create greater stability in assignment. And by augmenting our magnet program, we can extend choice to more students. In sum, we already have a modified choice plan with great potential to be enhanced for the benefit of all.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Yevonne Brannon, Chair, WakeUP Wake County, firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-244-6243; Matt Ellinwood, Education & Law Policy Advocate, NC Justice Center, email@example.com, (919) 861-1465
state news briefs
MECHANICS & FARMERS BANK MAINTAINS PROFITABILITY STREAK
[DURHAM] In what financial analysts say is an amazing streak, M&F Bancorp, the corporate home of Durham-based black-owned Mechanics and Farmers Bank, continues over 100-year streak of annual profitability. In its latest report M&F posted $339,000 net profit for 2010. It ended the year with $312.3 million in assets, with $201.8 million in loans. A spokesperson said they were proud of M&F’s “unbroken record of profitability” since it opened its first branch in 1908, despite the current bad economy. M&F Bank has branches in Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
STATE HOUSE PANEL PASSES HIGH SCHOOL ACCREDITATION BILL
[RALEIGH] In reaction to accreditation controversies in both Wake and Burke counties, the state House Education Committee this week passed a bill that will prohibit state universities from using high school accreditation for admission, scholarship or loan considerations unless that accreditation comes from a state agency. The measure also mandates that the state Board of Education begin accrediting school districts at the school districts expense. The bill does not address how it affects out-of-state attending college in North Carolina, or whether an out-of-state college will honor a North Carolina accreditation, compared to one from a recognized independent organization.
NC JOBLESS RATE DROPS SLIGHTLY TO 9.7 PERCENT
[GREENSBORO] A tenth of a point drop is what separates February’s statewide 9.7 unemployment rate from January’s 9.8, the NC Employment Security Commission says. While the improvement in the North Carolina unemployment rate may be, at best, modest, observers agree it is a far cry better than the 11.4 percent from a year ago February 2010. The state figure is higher than the national average of 8.9 percent.
triangle news briefs
CARY POLICE URGE SAFETY AGAINST ROBBERY
With more than 200 Cary homes having been robbed just in the past 15 months, police there are urging residents, particularly in the Waldo Rood Blvd and Cary Parkway areas to lock their doors and garage doors at night. Thieves have burglarized residences through open pathways, taking purses or whatever value they can find. The robberies have been nonviolent thus far. Cary police urge neighborhood vigilance. If you see something, call Cary police at 469-4012 or Cary Crime Stoppers at 919-226-CRIME.
PROGRESS ENERGY REPORTS LOW LEVELS OF JAPANESE RADIATION
Low levels of radiation from the nuclear plant breach in Japan is being detected in North Carolina, say officials at Progress Energy. Sensitive equipment at Progress Energy nuclear reactors in both South Carolina and Florida are detecting very low levels of Iodine 131 radiation from the nuclear leaks at the Fukushima plant in Japan. Fukushima was damaged after the monster tsunami several weeks ago. Official maintain that there is no threat to US citizens thus far.
WAKE COMMISSIONER STAN NORWALK STEPPING DOWN
Veteran Wake County Commissioner Stan Norwalk has announced that he is stepping down from office by the end of the year for health reasons. Norwalk, 79, says he and his wife will move to Oberlin Park, Kansas to be closer to his children. Norwalk, a Democrat, has been a staunch defender of the Wake school system’s socioeconomic diversity policy. His departure depends on his ability to sell his home in a timely manner.
Shaw Champions Honored By Governor
(Raleigh, NC) - North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue Tuesday welcomed Shaw University's football, men's basketball and women's basketball teams to the Executive Mansion in a celebration of their Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) titles.
"There are little boys and little girls all over North Carolina who are going to see your pictures in the papers tomorrow, they're going to see you on YouTube, on the internet and they're going to dream about being you," said Governor Perdue at the reception. "They're going to be inspired because of the way you live your life. I have to tell you, as the Governor of North Carolina, I'm inspired by you.
"I thank you for your commitment to excellence both on the field and the court, and in the classroom," she continued. "You're what makes all of us who are older, like me, understand that America and North Carolina's future is mighty strong."
The event honored the 2010 Shaw football team, and the 2010-2011 men's and women's basketball teams, all of whom won CIAA championships this academic year and advanced to NCAA tournament play.
After Shaw President Dr. Irma McClaurin thanked Governor Perdue for the reception, she spoke to the student-athletes in attendance. "You have gone on to prove that with very little you can do a lot. We don't have the greatest stadium, we don't have the greatest set of resources, but what we have is heart, and what we have is endurance, and what we have is perseverance."
The football team won the CIAA championship, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, finishing the year with a school-best 9-3 record.
The men's basketball team won the CIAA Tournament, and made it to the regional semi-finals in the NCAA Tournament. They finished the season with a 23-9 record.
The women's basketball team qualified for the NCAA Tournament with their win of the CIAA Tournament, and advanced as far as the Final Four for the first time in Shaw women's basketball history. With a 25-12 record, they finished the season ranked 12th in the nation.
After the event, President McClaurin stated that from this point forward, Shaw University will be known as the home of Champions.
HONORING THE SHAW BEAR CHAMPIONS - Tuesday afternoon at the Governor’s Mansion, there was a plethora of “bears,” but Gov. Bev Perdue didn’t mind. In fact, she gladly welcomed the CIAA champion Shaw University men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the football team, along with Shaw University Pres. Irma McLaurin. The Lady Bears competed in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight last week. [ Sherri Fillingham, Steve Worthy photos]
 SANDRA DUBOSE-GIBSON