Tuesday, September 20, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            At 92 years of age, Elizabeth Tucker sees each and every day as a blessing.
 She’s in relatively good health and active. She owns her own home. And soulful peace is just a porch and a prayer away.
“A happiness peace,” Tucker said with a smile, on a rainy Labor Day afternoon. “That’s what it means to me.”
So why is this lady news? Because in a world of Tea Party conservatives versus same sex marriage versus a struggling US economy versus an even more struggling black president, Elizabeth Tucker reminds how past generations confronted bad times and dark days.
With faith, family and remembering what’s really important.
“So many my age have been gone on,” she says. “Some say the world is changing too fast.”
And yet, Mrs. Tucker’s world doesn’t change unless she wants it to, and that gives her peace.
            The Harnett County native, a devout Christian and churchgoer, has seen a lot over the almost 100 years she’s lived. Mrs. Tucker remembers a simpler time in life, a time when the church was the center of all living, and family was both a blessing, and responsibility from GOD.
            She’s raised eight children - six girls and two boys - all good, productive, GODfearing adults now. One allowed Mrs. Tucker to ride with him on a property owner’s cart where he worked.
            She loved it.
            “I’ve never seen a family that pulls together like hers, “ says close friend Mrs. Jones, who used to stay with Mrs. Tucker for a while. “They stick together. That’s one thing I’ll say.”
            “I was raised like that, and it’s one thing I teach my children,” Mrs. Tucker says proudly.
Tucker has  maintained her beautifully tailored garden which graces her home since 1975. Cacti and spider plants are just two of the many floral creations there. A swing under the trees is inviting. Many of the figurines were gifts from friends over the years.
            “Just three pieces I bought myself,” she says.
            This close to nature, you’ve got to be close to GOD,” said Mrs. Hazel Logan, a close friend who marvels how Mrs. Tucker has taken good care of her garden.
And Mrs. Tucker is particularly proud of her turnip green garden growing in her backyard. Nothing like a fresh pot of homegrown greens for evening supper, to cap off a fine day for this peaceful lady.
“They aren’t hard to plant at all. Wash ‘em real good and cook them down. I season them with pork,” she said with a smile.
Mrs. Tucker’s friends and adult children check on her, and drop in on her, every day. And she welcomes them all with a smile, and a comfortable place to sit.
Ask her what she thinks of how Raleigh has changed, particularly will the new downtown construction, and Mrs. Tucker says she couldn’t tell you. She hasn’t been downtown to see. It’s all built for another generation. Outside of seeing to some personal business every once in a while, Tucker says there’s nothing there for her.
That happiest times in her home have been when she’s held birthday parties there for her children. The laughter and fun, the good fellowship with the kids and their parents. Sometimes, she can sit on her porch, and still see the children laughing and playing.
Ask Elizabeth Tucker what the secret is to reaching age 92 with sound mind and strong faith, and she’ll tell you hard work.
“ I work when I can do something,” she said. “I’m doing it.”
Asked if she prays every day, “ Mrs. Tucker quickly replies, “ Pray every day and night, boy,” followed by a healthy laugh. “Don’t make me lose prayer.”
“Prayer does change things.”
Mrs. Tucker says GOD speaks with her “very often,” telling she right from wrong “even now,” she says.
And if anything comforts her spirit, it’s singing the cherished hymns of old.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” Tucker soulfully recites. In the morning, it’s “I’ll Fly Away” that gets the 92-year-old out of bed, ready to face the day.
If Mrs. Tucker has a criticism of the church today, it’s that Christians aren’t abiding by GOD’s Word as they once did. Indeed, she says, if the church adhered to the literal word of the Bible, she thinks the world would be better off.
“Today the children are raising the parents, instead of the parents raising the children,” Mrs. Tucker observed. “The children are telling the parents what to do. That’s not good, not in my book. How about in your book?”
Like most African-Americans, Mrs. Tucker admits she never thought she’d see the day when the nation would be led by a black president, Barack Obama. She says she prays for him, given all of the challenges he has these days, and hopes that he’ll be safe, and overcome.
Mrs. Tucker smiles when a younger reporter tells her that while he may have more book learning (she suggested first that he did), that it is she who has more education, because she’s lived twice as long, and has done many, many more things.
“That’s right,” the 92-year-old said with a smile. “Just hook your wagon up and travel!”

By Cash Michaels

            Calling it a “wonderful school,” District 4 Wake School Board member Keith Sutton says Walnut Creek Elementary, a $25 million high poverty school in Southeast Raleigh, has great promise, but still faces tremendous challenges that could inhibit progress.
            “Right now it’s [population] is up to around 850 students. The capacity of the school was for 800, so it’s already over capacity,” Sutton told the audience during the District 4 candidate’s forum last Thursday at the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center.
            “There are less than fifty white students, so it is overwhelmingly African-American and Hispanic,” he continued.
            The original goal was to keep class sizes at 20 students per, but that’s proved to be fleeting, Sutton concedes.
            “Because of the influx of new students, the school has become a very attractive school, and the word has gotten out into the community about the school, and the teachers, and the things that are there,” Sutton said. As a result, parents and guardians are finding ways to get their children into the school.
            By law, if an affidavit is presented verifying a child’s legal address in the district, then the school has to enroll them, Sutton said, causing administrators to deal with trying to maintain a reasonable teacher-to-student ratio, and explosive growth at the same time.
            “We’re already at the point where we’re having some initial conversations about putting mobile units on the campus of Walnut Creek, which is not something we anticipated to do,” the District 4 school board member said.
            “I don’t know they could even go. So we have some challenges at Walnut Creek.”
            Thus far, since the school opened in August, the projected over 80 percent free-and-reduced lunch and over 50 percent low achieving is holding, Sutton says. To address the challenging student population academically, the school day has been lengthened by 45 minutes - from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Classrooms are outfitted with the latest technologies, from smartboards to flat screen TV’s to Wii systems.
            The teachers are handpicked from all over the country because they have the requisite experience in reaching students in high poverty schools, Sutton continued.
            Sutton, who has served on the board since being appointed in 2009 to finish out the unexpired term of Rosa Gill, also says that Walnut Creek Elementary is also the only school with both a universal breakfast, and universal lunch, meaning that every student eats both meals daily at no cost.
            Because of the academic demographics of Walnut Creek Elementary, its annual budget is approximately $1 million more than other comparable elementary schools, Sutton confirmed, because of all of the special resources.
            This is exactly what many critics of the GOP-led Wake School Board predicted earlier this year when Republicans voted to change Walnut Creek Elementary, while it was still under construction, into a neighborhood school.
            The logical question now is given Wake Supt. Tata’s emerging “blue” student assignment plan, which is expected to be finalized and presented to the board for review on Oct. 4th, how many more high poverty schools beyond the 60 the system already has will be produced, and can the county afford them in the face of dwindling resources?
            “Walnut Creek is going to be successful…but can we continue to make more Walnut Creeks in Wake County, especially given the funding challenges that we’ve had here at the local level?” Sutton rhetorically asked, strongly implying that the answer is no.
Sutton says the school system has had budget cuts for the past 3 to 4 years, while the student population continues to grow by 2,000-3,000 students each year. As a result, funding from the Wake County Commission Board, which has been flat for several years, amounts to a cut to per-pupil spending every year. 
            To add insult to injury, the Republican Board majority refused to ask either the GOP-led county commissioners, or the GOP-led General Assembly for more money.
            “We needed to advocate for more funding,” Sutton said, adding that more resources are needed in Wake’s schools. “ I think that was an issue.”
            Sutton wants to see “increased learning and better achievement” among students in District 4.
            When asked what plans he had to help attract qualified teachers to low-performing schools in District 4, Sutton said the board should give the superintendent and staff more resources to go out beyond Wake County in search of more qualified teachers. Sutton supports partnering with historically black colleges and universities - many of which started as teachers colleges - to recruit more black teachers into the classroom.
            Sutton also said “we need to respect and listen to our teachers more” so that Wake public schools are more attractive to prospective educators.
            Even though “neighborhood schools” is now the official policy for the Wake School Board student assignment, Sutton would still like to see student diversity as a goal along side proximity and stability.
            Regarding the needed construction of new schools to meet the projected 200,000 student population by the year 2020, Sutton agreed that a sizable bond referendum needs to be placed before the voters shortly so that construction could begin in time to meet the closing deadline.
            Republican leaders on the board realize the need, but say now is not the time to float a bond while taxpayers are dealing with a bad economy.
            Conservative candidates for the school board, like Donna Williams in District 6 and Heather Losurdo in District 3, maintain that they would want to find wasted money in the school system budget first before agreeing with floating a bond referendum.
            Sutton countered that given recent audit, there are no wasted funds, and the school system is operating as lean as possible.
            Sutton’s opponent in the District 4 race, Venita Peyton, failed to show up for the forum, complaining on her blog that she wasn’t consulted as to the format, and accusing the sponsors of being “Democratically controlled.”
            Of the five scheduled candidates forum sponsored by Wake Up Wake County and the Wake County League of Women Voters, Peyton is the only candidate to refuse to attend. No other candidate - Democrat or Republican - has complained.
            On Tuesday night, Sutton joined the board’s Republican majority in voting for establishing two single-sex leadership academies by next year.
            Modeled after similar, virtually all-black schools in Guilford County which have proven successful, the academies will be part of an expanding choice package of schools Supt. Tata says the system will offer under his blue student diversity plan.


 READY FOR THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION - On Tuesday, Sept. 6, two vanloads of community leaders from Raleigh attended the year-out rally in Charlotte marking the official countdown to the 2012 Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Arena. Pictured, from left to right, are Virginia Tally, Octavia Rainey, Joy Long, Tommy Thompson, Brad Thompson, Doris Burke, Don Mial, Lindy Brown, Junious Sorrell, Kristi Tally, Dwight Spencer. Not pictured are Monica Coleman, Jannet Barnes, Marshall Harvey, Margaret Whitman , Delano Rackard, Rick Baskett, Dr. Dumas A. Harshaw, Jr., Sharon Harshaw, Montica Talmadge, and Henry Lancaster. [Cash Michaels Photo]

FOR SIMPLER TIMES - Mrs. Elizabeth Tucker, 92, proudly stands in front of her garden in Raleigh. With a strong belief in GOD, Tucker says life would be better if people would just follow GOD’s commandments. [Cash Michaels Photo]


            One Stop/Early Voting for the Oct. 11th elections is scheduled for Sept. 22 -23; Sept. 26- Oct. 7, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. at the Wake Elections Board, 337 S. Salisbury Street in Raleigh, and on Saturday, Oct. 8th there from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.. In Cary, Early voting is scheduled at the Herbert C. Young Community Center at 101 Wilkerson Ave. Oct. 5-7 - 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and on Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information call 919-856-6240.

            The candidate’s forum for District 8 Wake School Board candidates incumbent Ron Margiotta and challenger Susan Evans will take place Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. at the Carey C. Jones Community Building, 309 Holleman St. in Apex. The forum is sponsored by Wake Up Wake County and the Wake County League of Women Voters.

            Voter turnout will be a key issue in elections now and in 2012, and yet there are those who choose not to vote. Why and are they correct? That will be the question when two teams debate, “ Why Should I Vote?” Saturday, Sept. 24, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Poplar Springs Christian Church, Fellowship Hall, 6115 Old Stage Road, Raleigh. This event is free and the public is welcomed. Moderated by Carolinian Newspaper reporter Cash Michaels.


            [ASHEVILLE] Cross the Vance-Aycock dinner off your social list this year. The popular Democratic Party fundraiser has now been temporarily renamed ‘The Western Gala.” Why the change? Because for 50 years, the occasion was named in honor of Confederate Gov. Zebulon Vance, and white supremacist Gov. Charles Aycock, who served in 1900, and called for African-Americans to be “scared off” leading up to the 1898 Wilmington race massacre. A committee will come up with a permanent name for the annual fundraiser.
            [GREENVILLE] Thanks to an emergency grant from the US Dept. of Labor, North Carolina will receive $2 million to hire temporary workers to help cleanup and repair efforts in counties hit hard by Hurricane Irene. The workers in question are those who were dislocated as a result of the storm, which caused upwards of $400 million in damage to property and crops across the state. Some of the funding will also aid humanitarian and safety efforts. $750,000 is available now, officials say. 1100 homes were destroyed by Irene.

            [CHARLOTTE] Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools (CMS) has been awarded the $550,000 Broad Prize for Urban Education to help fund scholarships for needed children. The award, provided by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, is given to school districts which show the most academic progress over the course of a school year in closing the racial achievement gap. Over half of CMS’s student population is free-and-reduced lunch.

By Cash Michaels

            MODERATING CANDIDATES FORUM TONITEThe Wake Voter Education Coalition, in association with the NC Black Women’s Empowerment Network and Alpha Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  presents the 2011 Candidates Forum, Thursday, Sept. 22, 6 - 8:30 p.m. at the Martin Street Baptist Church Family Life Center. Candidates in the Raleigh City Council, Cary Town Council and Wake School Board races will be showcased. Yours truly will be moderating the forum, so come out to Martin Street Baptist Church
            MORNING “JOKE” - As much as I love MSNBC (and I do, though I loved it more when Keith Olbermann was still there), there is one personality there who has the ego of a fool, and the arrogance of a danged fool.
            I’m speaking of Joe Scarborough of “Morning Joe.”
            The Republican former congressman from Florida rides herd every weekday morning from 6-9 a.m., playing host to some of the top newsmakers and politicians in the land. Sometimes there are thoughtful, engaging and topical discussions about the issues of the day.
            This is usually when Scarborough keeps his big mouth shut, because once he does open it, things go down hill fast.
            For example on Monday’s edition, “Joe-zo” the clown made a startling prediction - that President Obama would NOT run for re-election, even though my mail box is stuffed with letters from the Obama campaign every day.
            Scarborough, who has no love whatsoever for Obama, says despite the fact that the president has already made it officially known that he is running again in 2012, if his poll numbers continue to slide in the face of a worsening economy, that Obama may indeed exit, stage left.
            What’s Scarborough up to? Causing mischief in the Democratic Party. He knows there are some Dems who would love to see Secretary of State Hillary Clinton perhaps run in the 2012 primaries against the president, and win.
            While there are indeed some anxieties about the 2012 race and Obama’s uphill battles against the Republicans, to suggest that the first black president of the United States would just abandon because things are tough, is repulsive to say the least.
            But not surprising coming from the say all, see all, but know nothing Joe Scarborough. He’s just not trying to make stupid headlines, but Scarborough is trying to diminish the president by suggesting he hasn’t got the guts to stay.
            No wonder Keith Olbermann cussed him out on live TV during the 2008 campaign (Scarborough can’t stand Keith, and the feeling is mutual).
            I could write all day about A.M host I lovingly call “Morning Joke” on MSNBC, but quite frankly, Scarborough isn’t worth it.
            Maybe one day his cohostess, Mika Brzezinski (who thoughtfully disagrees with every lame-brained thing this accidental head-of-hair says) will just not say a word after Joe delivers one of his rear-smart tirades, and just smack the ignorance out of this guy.
            Smack ‘em, Mika. Smack Scarborough for all of the years he’s treated you like a piece of dirt on-air. Smack the arrogance out of the guy.
            Only then can America get up in the morning, turn on our TV sets to MSNBC, and watch Joe sit there, waiting for YOUR permission to speak.
            Now THAT would be a topical discussion.
            Betcha Pres. Obama would enjoy it too!
            CENK JOINS KEITH ON CURRENT TV - Great news for Cenk Uygur and the Young Turks fans. Cenk is bringing his unique style of progressive political insight to Current TV starting later this year. Current TV, home of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" weeknights at 8 p.m., will schedule the Los Angeles-based "The Young Turks" at Keith's lead-in at 7 p.m..
            In case you don't remember, Cenk hosted "MSNBC Live" for several months earlier this year after Keith Olbermann left MSNBC in January. Uygur drew some of the highest ratings in that 6 p.m. timeslot , but fell out of favor with MSNBC management because of his bold style of "speaking truth to power" about issues other cable hosts soft-soaped.
            Cenk was eventually taken off the air and replaced by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has now been given that timeslot permanently. But it was clear that Uygur would eventually end up at Current when Olbermann invited him on his show several weeks later.
            "The Young Turks" is the most popular You Tube show online, drawing an estimated 20 million viewers a week. Cenk and Current TV hope to draw as much of that as possible leading into the 2012 elections.
            I HATE HOCKEY - That’s right, hockey is for barbarians, and they know it! What other so-called “sport” actually allows its players to take off their protective gear (helmets and gloves), face off in the middle of the ice (thus stopping the game), and beating each other bloody and senseless in front of a yelling and screaming crowd, which includes MOTHERS AND FATHERS WITH THEIR YOUNG CHILDREN?
            Polls show that an overwhelming number of people who follow the game want the fighting. Thus my statement, “ Hockey is for barbarians!”
            But let me refine that a touch to be fair.
            Because college and Olympic hockey bans fighting, it would be more accurate to say, “NHL (National Hockey League) professional hockey is for barbarians.”
            There, you happy now?
            Now please keep in mind, I’m no milksop or prude. Last time I looked, I’m all man, and now that I’m considerably over the half-century mark in age, I have every intention of staying that way.
            Yes, as a child growing up in Brooklyn during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, I played all of the sports (except hockey), my favorite being basketball, and knew of all of the star players.
            And I used to get hurt a lot, naturally. That’s because, growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, one of the roughest communities in the nation, our parks were all asphalt with broken glass in them, and our streets - with parked cars on both sides on weekends (huge street cleaners forced folks to move their cars every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.) - were our touch football fields.
            They had broken glass too. Ever try eluding the opposing team, running over the glass and try not to slam dead on into a parked car (or one coming down the block)? Now THAT takes skill!
            Only time I ever played inside of a gym was for PE at school. In the neighborhood, only the big high school and college players took to the gym floors, while little runts like me just sat down and watched.
            So I full well know the rough and tumble of growing up poor and playing sports. And the one thing I loved about those “good old days” is that the few times we had fights, there were those of us who would move quickly to break it up, primarily because we didn’t come out to break heads.
            Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, when we knew two guys had it in for each other, we’d actually let them fight, and then, when it was clearly over, step up, declare it over, encourage them to shake hands, and THEN we would start the game. This way they got it out of their systems, and we could all concentrate on having fun.
            All of us went through that rite of passage, and we were the better for it.
            And that’s why, as the child of a single parent growing up in the ghetto, I never involved myself in any kind of wanton violence. Defend myself? Sure. Boxing? Of course! Martial arts (man, did I love me some Bruce Lee movies)? Absolutely!
            But no one ever taught me to go out seeking a fight to hurt someone, and using a sport as an excuse.
            Hockey is exactly that. Hockey is a professional crime scene.
            We can thank our American neighbor to the north, Canada, for founding this barbaric, uncivilized “sport” for the demented (and, again, I deem it demented when parents take young children to an event where grown men are beating each other bloody barefisted for sport).
            If you look up “Fighting in Hockey” online, you’ll see the following from Wikipedia to prove my point:
“Fighting in ice hockey is an established tradition of the sport in North America, with a long history involving many levels of amateur and professional play and including some notable individual fights. Although a definite source of criticism, it is a considerable draw for the sport, and some fans attend games primarily to see fights.”
“Fighting is usually performed by one or more enforcers, or "goons"—players whose role it is to fight and intimidate—on a given team and is governed by a complex system of unwritten rules that players, coaches, officials, and the media refer to as "the code". Some fights are spontaneous, while others are premeditated by the participants. While officials tolerate fighting during hockey games, they impose a variety of penalties on players who engage in fights.”
“Unique to North American professional team sports, the National Hockey League (NHL) and most minor professional leagues in North America do not eject players outright for fighting but major European and collegiate hockey leagues do, and multi-game suspensions may be added on top of the ejection. Therefore, the vast majority of fights occur in the NHL and other North American professional leagues.”
So why am I bringing this up now, beyond the fact that hockey season is underway? I’m not a hockey fan, and it’s safe to safe that most of my readers aren’t either. It’s not part of our culture, even though the NHL does have some black players.
Because I don’t want to wait until someone else is knocked unconscious to say something. That’s too easy. Everybody on ESPN and everywhere else will be pontificating, the controversy will die down, and things will go back to business as usual.
And parents will continue taking their children to these barbaric games, and those kids will continue to learn barbarism just because that’s the way they did it decades ago in Canada when the game was invented.
That’s the only reason why they still do it today…that, and the fact that it makes money because the fans want it.
So I maintain that NHL hockey is a barbaric enterprise where some of the most skilled athletes on the face of the Earth literally do their best to kill each other, in front of children, just because it’s tradition and a moneymaker.
And we’re too proud to admit it, and do something about it.
We are a sad, sad society indeed!
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 in your life. Bye, bye.


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