Tuesday, July 5, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            With the release of the complete General Assembly-generated redistricting maps last week, both the Democratic Party and the North Carolina NAACP, after careful review, have left no doubt that the GOP-led Legislature’s redrawing of voting district lines throughout the state should, and will be challenged in federal court.
            "An initial review reveals partisan gerrymandering in the districts on the Rucho-Lewis Map," NCCU School of Law Professor Irving Joyner, who also serves as chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, said in a statement. "Currently, our state is fairly balanced in Congressional representation. However, this map creates three Democratic districts and ten Republican districts."
Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, concurred.
"Another major concern is that five counties covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are being removed from the 1st Congressional District,” he said in a statement, referring to Gates, Washington, Beaufort, Craven, and Wayne counties. “In the heavily African-American area of Eastern North Carolina, this district was developed intentionally to overcome years of disenfranchisement and voter exclusion. This change dilutes the voting power of these Section 5 counties to elect a congressional representative of their choice.”
The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) was passed to ensure that Southern states which denied blacks unfettered right to vote in the past, were prohibited to placing further barriers to that right.
For their part, GOP leaders in the state Legislature maintain that the maps are legal and fair per the VRA, and if anything, they worked to actually create more state House and Senate districts that African-Americans could be elected from.
Critics counter that the same party that tried to pass legislative restricts on voting by requiring voter photo ID and slashing One Stop early voting, shouldn’t be trusted to do anything to help African-Americans electorally, especially with President Barack Obama running for re-lection in 2012.
"The ultra-conservative, right-wing Republican leadership cannot use this map to claim they are concerned about African-American and minority political power and upholding civil rights," said Rev. Barber. "Once again the extremists in the General Assembly have used their power to continue a frontal attack on civil rights and voting rights.”
US Congressman Mel Watt (D-12-NC) isn’t buying it either.  He was also highly critical of the GOP maps that congressionally make it tougher for four white Democrats - Brad Miller in the 13th, Mike McIntyre in the 7th, Heath Shuler in the 11th and Larry Kissell in the 8th Congressional Districts - be elected by moving many black voters out of their areas.
“My assessment is that the desire of the Republicans to gain partisan advantage has led them to violate both the letter and spirit of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and court cases interpreting the VRA,” wrote Watt in a statement.  “The Republicans have gone out of their way to pack African-American voters into the 12th District and, in the process, have made race the compelling rationale for the proposed district.”
  “This is neither justified nor sanctioned by the VRA.  It represents a disappointing effort by the Republicans to dilute and minimize the political influence of African-American voters in the Piedmont by packing all of them into the 12th district so none of them have influence in adjoining districts.  It also represents a sinister Republican effort to use African Americans as pawns in their effort to gain partisan, political gains in Congress.”
Watt continued, ““The VRA was passed to level the political playing field for African Americans by neutralizing the impact of historic racial voting patterns that continue today.”
 “Overcompensating for racially polarized voting by packing more African-American voters into a district than reasonably necessary to offset racial voting patterns is just as violative of the VRA as not placing enough African-American voters with common interests in a district to offset racial voting patterns,” Rep. Watt further charged.  “Republicans placing too much emphasis on race, which seems apparent in the drawing of the 12th district as well as some other districts in their plan, will almost certainly result in protracted and costly litigation, uncertainty and cynicism.”
  “I regret that the Republicans have chosen a course of action that will have this result in an effort to gain partisan political advantage.”
What North Carolina Republicans have done with redistricting is the talk of the national political world.
“The real measure of a successful gerrymander is how many districts are competitive; the fewer, the better,” writes Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post. “Republicans have created a map in which 10 of 13 districts lean to their side to a significant degree, with three safe [black] Democratic districts that Republicans will never, ever be able to win. There are essentially no bona fide swing districts and the GOP has sucked every Republican it could out of the three safe Democratic seats.”
State GOP leaders plan to submit their maps to federal judges on the Washington D.C. Circuit Court, hoping that Republican judges will give them the green light. They’re sidestepping the US Justice Dept., which normally is the body that preclears redistricting maps, only because it is now run by the Obama Administration.
Either way, civil rights groups like the NAACP signal they are ready to fight the GOP maps wherever.
“We will carefully watch and vigorously defend the principles and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and our rights under the 15th Amendment of the US Constitution,” Rev. Barber said. “No matter who is in office, we cannot allow North Carolina to turn back the clock on civil rights and veer off a course that would provide equal representation for all."

By Cash Michaels

             Saying that, “…I for one, support the effort of our Superintendent to close the gap between our minority student population and our minority teaching force,” Wake School Board member Keith Sutton blasted his fellow board members for remaining silent as Wake Superintendent Anthony Tata comes under fire for suggesting that more black and Hispanic teachers are needed for an increasing diverse student population.
In a July 5 email to the rest of the nine-member school board, Sutton, who represents predominately-black Southeast Raleigh on the board, wondered why his colleagues were being so quiet while Tata was taking flak.
            “As critics attack efforts of what I think is a very noble effort of our Superintendent to increase the number of minority teachers, where is support from our board?” Sutton wrote. “Why are we silent?  We have all agreed on goals such as improving educational quality, and closing achievement gaps, and have supported plans to accomplish these goals.”
            Sutton continued, “We may not all agree on all of the things that we do as board members or that the superintendent does.  But it does seem to be quite inconsistent and paradoxical that we continuously talk about the failures of our minority and economically disadvantaged students and the strategies that are needed to improve their chances, but we don't support the things that will ensure they are successful.”
            Controversy erupted last week when Supt. Tata - struck that while black and Hispanic students now make up over 50 percent of Wake’s over 143,000 student population with 85 percent of the school system’s teaching force is white and overwhelming female - announced that he is already sending scouts out across the country to recruit more quality teachers of color.
            “If we have shunted the applicant pool of minority pipelines, then by definition we're not getting the best applicants across the spectrum,” Supt. Tata told WPTF-AM last week, adding that, “ It’s important to have the proper role models throughout the district.”
            The Wake superintendent’s challenge is huge. While the number of black college students earning degrees has dramatically risen over the past ten years, many of them are opting for employment in corporate America, where the salaries are comparatively better than teaching.
            But some of Tata’s fellow conservatives, both in the media and in published comments, whether by seeking more teachers of color, the Wake superintendent ran the risk of lowering the school system’s teacher standard.
            “…[I]f we're sacrificing overall quality just to get the right mix, that's where I guess I would question you," challenged conservative talker Bill Lumaye when Tata appeared on his WPTF-AM show last week.
            “It angers and sickens me to read that Wake County is going out of state to find teachers and overlooking qualified teachers who live here simply because they are not minorities,” wrote Grace Gates in a July 1 letter to the editor of the News and Observer.
            Retired teachers The Carolinian has spoken with expressed outrage that any educator of color is perceived to be less qualified by white conservatives just because of the color of their skin.
            When The Carolinian asked for open reaction to the white conservative premise that more black and Hispanic teachers would lower Wake’s standard of teaching, there was even more outrage.
            “It’s pure and simple racism,” remarked Arleigh Birchier of McGee Crossroads. “Any generalization about people based upon their ethnicity is racism.”
            “Highly qualified is highly qualified,” wrote Bobby Flanagan of Chapel Hill. “As a teacher I lean toward younger and younger for teachers. We need new thoughts and new energy.”
            Barbara Garlock of Raleigh wrote, “Why does hiring minorities equate with lower standards? That's insulting beyond belief. Hurts us all.”
            As The Carolinian first reported in 2007, Wake County Public Schools commissioned a special audit of system policies and practices with the targeted goal of reducing the racial achievement gap. Among the recommendations, “develop incentives to attract minority and male teachers.” During that year, out of an estimated 9,000 teachers in the Wake School System, only 196 were black males.
            Attracting and retaining more teachers of color was seen as an effective way to not only help close the racial achievement gap, but curb the high school dropout rate as well.
            At that time, a Wake assistant superintendent told The Carolinian that the school system was already recruiting black teachers from historically black colleges in 38 states, and was trying to “build better relationships” with the Triangle’s three HBCU’s - Shaw University, St. Augustine’s College and North Carolina Central University.
            A spokesperson for NCCU told The Carolinian that Wake Public Schools hired five of its graduates last spring to teach.
            Tata, who is scheduled to meet with NCNAACP President Rev. William Barber today to discuss the school system’s proposed school choice plan, has challenged the civil rights group to prove that it has pushed for more black teacher recruitment in the past.
            During that meeting, Barber told The Carolinian that he will provide evidence, by way of a national NAACP resolution adopted last year, and other documents, showing that the civil rights organization is on record calling for, “…a diverse teaching corps, generated by diversifying the pipeline of prospective teachers along racial, cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic lines, with a particular emphasis on strategies that allow communities to "grow their own" educators…”
            In August 2007 for a story titled, “Black Parents Under Fire,” Rev. Barber told The Carolinian, “Of course there is always a need for parental support of our young students, but strong parental support does not replace strong public policy that’s fair and just,” Rev. Barber said. “Public policy that addresses the resegregation of schools, the lack of adequate funding of schools in low wealth counties, the lack of qualified teachers of color in schools with predominately black student populations, and the lack of focus and math and science in these schools.”
            The Carolinian also has a record of press accounts of local NAACP chapters around the state in past years, including in Wake County, petitioning their local school boards to hire more black teachers.
            If Wake Supt. Tata wants to know why Wake has had a poor record of recruiting teachers of color to the school system, all he had to do was check with the state Dept. of Public Instruction.
            They aren’t interested.
            In that same August 2007 story, The Carolinian reported:
Getting more teachers of color into the classroom is seen as a priority by many in the educational community.
Many, but not all.
“The state of North Carolina is only really interested in recruiting teachers overall to the state,” Linda Fuller, Communications Officer for the NC Dept. of Public Instruction told The Carolinian/Wilmington Journal newspapers last spring.  “We don’t target particular groups of teachers. We want just teachers. So when we go and we have our recruitment effort, we target more towards, “Hey come to North Carolina to teach.”
“If we have 10,000 to 12,000 [teacher] vacancies a year, why would we go out and just recruit certain groups of teachers?” NCDPI spokeswoman Fuller asked. “Why wouldn’t we want to recruit all teachers?”
“That only highlights the problem that we have,” State Sen. Larry Shaw (D-Cumberland) told The Carolinian/Wilmington Journal newspapers last spring.  “[NCDPI isn’t focusing in on these kids…these black kids need role models, and [the high] dropout rate is unacceptable in any civilized society.”
“Obviously DPI isn’t sensitive enough to recognize this,” Sen. Shaw added. “Either it’s a lack of sensitivity, or they just don’t care!”
In an April 2007 story in Black College Wire Magazine, it was reported, “An analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows one black male teacher for every 63 black male students in public schools, compared with one white male teacher for every 21 white male students. If more blacks were teaching, more black men and boys would be graduating, some said.”
Four years earlier, Elizabeth City State University, historically a black teachers training institution, cosponsored along with the NC Legislative Black Caucus, a 2003 summit titled, “The Shortage of African-American Men in the Teaching Profession.” The summit recommended that the seeds for steering young black males into the teaching profession, perhaps by starting teaching academies, must be planted early while they’re still in high school, if not earlier.
Some call it, “Grow your own.”
“Black males are not there for us to even recruit,” Dr. Claude Mackie, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, told UNC-TV’s “Black Issues Forum” in 2003. “That’s the problem; we need to plant those seeds for young men to be going into the profession.”
Appearing on the same program, Lynwood Williams, then Assistant Superintendent for Pasquotank County Public Schools.
“There are a lot of school districts that who have kids who would come back home if the proper incentives were there,” Williams, who eight years later, is now the superintendent of Pasquotank County Public Schools, told UNC-TV.
Wake School Board member Keith Sutton, well aware that the pipeline for developing new, young black and Hispanic teachers has been running dry for a long time, says he’s supportive of Wake Supt. Tata’s efforts now to bring good teachers to the system from wherever he can find them, and he believes that Tata deserves the stated support of the Wake School Board.
In what seemed like a slap at board Vice Chairman John Tedesco, who also chairs the Economically Disadvantaged Student Performance Task Force, Sutton, who serves as vice chair of that committee, questioned in his July 5 email to fellow board members what the purpose of the ED task force was if it has no intention of dealing with the needs of underperforming students of color.
 “We parade speakers in from all over the state and country to talk about the resiliency in African American children and research on the racial achievement gap, and we do this for what?  When the exact policies and strategies that they promote such as cultural competency and cultural relevance, we can't or don't support,” wrote Sutton, the board’s only African-American member.
“If we are serious about ensuring that minority and economically disadvantaged children reach their full potential, then we must follow through on that promise,” Sutton continued. “All of these students will become adults, and when they reach that potential and if we can't support them as adults then are we really being truthful with them?  Are we really being sincere in our own efforts?”
Sutton closed his missive on a skeptical note.
“I am certain that as time goes on, and the minority recruitment efforts prove to be fruitful, there will be some of our board members who are silent now, but will be quick to take credit for boosting the number of qualified black teachers and administrators, or to take credit for closing achievement gaps for poor, minority students,” the District 4 representative wrote. 
At press time Wednesday, Sutton said the only Wake School Board member to respond to his challenge was John Tedesco. Sutton said Tedesco maintained that he has publicly voiced support for Tata’s plan on WPTF-AM and other venues.
The Carolinian checked Tedesco’s last recorded appearance on WPTF-AM online from June 20th .
While he did make remarks about battling teachers unions and associations, he made no mention of supporting Supt. Tata’s efforts at recruiting more teachers of color.


            [WILMINGTON] U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (NC) will continue her “Fighting for our Future” budget listening tour on Friday at Cape Fear Community College, McKeithan Center, 4500 Blue Clay Rd., Castle Hayne at 11 a.m.. Hagan is using her listening tour to hear directly from North Carolinians about solutions to reduce the national deficit. The Wilmington forum is the fourth and final stop on Hagan’s “Fighting for our Future” tour.

            [WINSTON-SALEM] Tony Awardwinning actress Phylicia Rashad in the s scheduled to perform at this year’s National Black Theatre Festival, held August 1-6. Rashad, best known for her trailblazing role as attorney Claire Huxtable in the hit 80’s sitcom, “The Cosby Show,” will star in the play, “A Charleston Olio,” costarring Kene Holiday of “Matlock” and Hattie Winston of “Becker.”

            [WINSTON-SALEM] Thanks to a $414 million budget cut to the 17-campus UNC System, Winston-Salem State University has had to cut eleven full-time employees, cut several of its adjunct professors, and layoff many of its temporary employees. The WSSU cuts add up to roughly 15 percent. The historically black college has also instituted a hiring freeze and prohibited noneducational purchases. Other HBCU’s in the UNC System have also had to make substantial cuts.



            The Republican-led General Assembly passed a budget that eliminated funding for drug treatment courts. But the GOP-led Wake County Commission Board unanimously voted this week to use part of a $1.05 million grant to pay two court employees to continue the special sessions. Advocates say drug treatment courts save taxpayers money, and provide a needed alternative to incarceration.

            The Chapel Hill - Carrboro YMCA is reportedly showing Boy Scout Troop 505 the door because it says the scouts does not agree with the Y’s nondiscrimination policy against homosexuals. The scout troop has used the Y facilities for two years, and now has a year to find other quarters. A spokesman for the scout troop says they are respecting the Y’s decision. He added that while the Boy Scouts doesn’t allow “openly” gay members, they don’t screen applicants. 

            Homeowners are now on notice from the city of Raleigh that they are to clean up any remaining debris from April’s tornado on their property, or else face the cost of city cleanup, and a $175.00 fee. If the property owner doesn’t pay, the Raleigh Inspections Dept. will do an abatement, and then put a lien on the property. Homeowners have a week to comply. If anyone has any questions, they are to contact the Raleigh Housing Inspections Dept.

By Cash Michaels

            UPDATING “OBAMA IN NC” - One of the projects I’ve been busy like a dog on these pasgt few weeks is updating my awardwinning 2010 documentary, “Obama in NC: The Path to History (www.ObamaInNC.com)”. With the capture and elimination of terrorist Osama Bin Laden, and the announcement of Charlotte being the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, it just made sense to update the production so that it can continue to inform thousands more beyond the thousands that have already seen it since its debut in January 2010.
            One of the things I’m doing is redoing the entire audio track. It’s called “cleaning it up,” making it sound better, making sure all of the levels and tracks are as even as possible. I’ve also re-recorded all of my narration on digital equipment.
            Hopefully, I’ll be finished with “Obama in NC: The Path to History 4.0” (quiet as it’s kept, there have been three versions thus far, including one update after passage of the health care reform act) before the month is out, and let you know when and where you can get it.
            And Wilmington, I’m still looking to bring this film there for you to see it. With the exception of a film festival, folks in the port city haven’t see it yet, and your story of 1898 is in it. So contact The Wilmington Journal and let them know you want the film to shown in your church, school, library or community center. It’s free to screen, and we’ll have DVD’s available for folks to purchase.
            I’m proud of this work, and I want everybody to see it.
            CASEY ANTHONY CASE - As we’re writing this Tuesday, the jury in the Casey Anthony case - the Florida woman charged with the 2008 first-degree murder of her two-year daughter Caylee - has just rendered its verdict - NOT GUILTY. The case has been going on for three years; the trial for over a month.
            Regardless of what you hoped the verdict would be, the media and the way it has exploited this sad, sad case, is still on trial.
            Let me be blunt - the media, especially cable news outlets like HLN, can’t help themselves.
            ABC News, for instance, reportedly paid Casey Anthony $200,000 for exclusive access to pictures and video of her deceased daughter. Anthony, in turn, used that money to hire high-powered defense attorneys to get her off.
            Always remember, their main reason for existing isn’t to cover the news, but to make a big buck. HLN (the sister network to CNN that was formerly known as “CNN Headline News”) has been the lead offender with such loudmouths as Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell.
            And I DO mean loudmouths. Have you seen and heard these two screeching drama queens? They essentially convicted Casey Anthony before the first witness took the stand.
            I’m not saying the evidence didn’t point in that direction. I’m saying it’s NOT television’s job to convict anybody.
            Contrast the loud, almost comic book coverage rendered by HLN in the Anthony case, to the dignified coverage of Court TV (now Tru TV) during the O. J. Simpson murder trial back in 1995. No question THAT was a controversial case, and yet, thanks to anchors like Rikki Klieman, Fred Graham and Terry Moran, the Simpson trial, which definitely had its share of drama, conducted business with dignity, insight and professionalism.
            Grace (a former prosecutor who also came from Court TV) has hyped the Casey Anthony case to such an outrageous degree, it’s no wonder there isn’t a hangman’s noose visible behind her in each wideshot.
            And don’t get me started on Jane Velez-Mitchell. She always looks on TV like she just left a bar, and she sounds like a truck driver on helium. The woman has all the class of a pig farm pickup truck.
            Both Grace and Velez-Mitchell have turned coverage of the Anthony trial into a cartoon show. Yes, I understand that Anthony’s family was dysfunctional at best, with lies galore flying to cover for the fact that a three-year-old little girl lost her life. But to then hype the situation even more just for the sake of TV ratings is a bit absurd.
            Right now there aren’t any other high-profiled murder cases on the horizon, but when the next one comes, we now know what to expect by way of cable television coverage, and from whom.
            And that’s a blasted shame.
             THE VERDICT - Apart from the over-the-top media coverage of the Casey Anthony case, I did follow this case, and did watch both the prosecution and defense deliver their summations.
             In my opinion, that woman was beyond guilty. Unfortunately, the prosecution didn't have enough to nail her.
            In the meantime, a two-year-old child is dead, and no justice has been done.
            IF YOU HAVE MONEY… By now you’ve been following the latest developments in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case,  the former head of the International Monetary Fund who was accused of assaulting a maid in a New York hotel.
            We just call him the “French guy” for short.
            Last week, bombshell news when the New York District Attorney’s Office, NOT the defense, reported that, despite the evidence that there was sexual contact of some sort between the maid and Strauss-Kahn, she has a shady past herself, even admitting to making up a rape story before.
            For the record, she isn’t an American citizen either.
            So now, as on Monday when this is being written, there are strong press reports that the charges against Strauss-Kahn will be dropped. The court restrictions on the suspect had already been relaxed last week, allowing Strauss-Kahn to travel anywhere within the US, but not leave the country.
            So what does this say? Now that the credibility of the accuser has been breached, prosecutors feel they can’t get a conviction on a man who has allegedly been involved in other sexual romps.
            Indeed, a French writer has wasted no time filing a complaint in France that Strauss-Kahn had allegedly sexually accosted her.
            For all of us here in North Carolina, this all brings tawdry back memories of the Duke lacrosse alleged rape case, where several white members of the Duke lacrosse case were accused by a black dancer they hired for a party of raping her.
            We all saw the rich families of those players buy the best legal talent in the state, pressure the criminal justice system, and ultimately show that the accuser had plenty wrong with her background and behavior.
            Enough to doubt her charges, and throw the case out.
            Why do we compare the two cases? Because in Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s case, if he wasn’t powerful international figure that many touted as perhaps the next president of France, but just black Joe Some without a pot to pee in, he’d be under the jail by now and the alleged victim would still be just that.
            But when you have money and you get hit with serious criminal charges, the world turns in your direction.
            We’re not saying that Strauss-Kahn is guilty (though the New York DA sure thought he had the evidence to prove such), and we’re not saying the alleged victim doesn’t have serious skeletons in her closet.
            But we are saying that we NEVER see such an immediate turn of events for broke suspects of color…NEVER. And it takes years after they’ve been convicted and spent countless years behind bars, before someone realizes that a mistake had been made, and they spend even more time trying to correct it.
            So let’s see what happens next.
            But remember, as long as you have money, YOU are in the driver’s seat.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.Power750.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.”
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, by Cash Michaels, honored this year as well by NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian your life. Bye, bye.

           Eugene Robinson, Congressman Bobby Scott, Elaine Jones, and John Payton
      during the NAACP LDF's 70th Anniversay celebration in Washington, D.C.

                     NAACP Legal Defense Fund Celebrates 70th Anniversary

                    Violence Increasing among Young Women

                    Strong Start Symposium Offers Solutions to Education Declines

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