Tuesday, November 29, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            The president of the NCNAACP is urging the new Democrat-led Wake School Board, scheduled to be sworn-in Tuesday, to put diversity back into WCPSS policy, and also into the new school choice assignment plan, to ensure that the needs of the system’s most vulnerable students are met.
            “Why wouldn’t you,” Pres. Rev. William Barber rhetorically asked when interviewed Nov. 9th, one day after Democrat Kevin Hill won the District 3 runoff race to complete the five-seat Democratic sweep. “If you’re saying you’re not going to have it back as policy, then you’re in essence saying what other folks are saying - that diversity is somehow a bad word and dirty thing, and not good public policy.”
            The civil rights leader also wants the new board majority to follow-through on their promise to take a closer look at Wake Supt. Anthony Tata’s school choice assignment plan, which the board hurriedly approved several weeks ago.
            As District 4 board member Keith Sutton and several others have already said, diversity, or something similar, should be an equal component of the Tata plan to ensure equity in student assignment.
            However, that could guarantee a fight with the now-Republican minority, led by current Vice Chairman John Tedesco, and their backers.            
It was shortly after a Republican majority swept into office in 2009, campaigning on a promise of ditching the previously successful student diversity policy in favor of neighborhood schools, that diversity was officially removed as a element of board policy.
            Board Republicans, led by then Chairman Ron Margiotta, declared that busing for diversity was not only hurting the school system in general, but black children in the system specifically. Republicans suggested, without any empirical data to back them up, that long bus rides from Southeast Raleigh to suburban schools were detrimental for African-American students.
            The GOP rhetoric was to build a case for neighborhood schools, and dismiss any of the national recognition Wake had accomplished per its previous years of academic success through socioeconomic diversity.
            Rev. Barber said the Margiotta-led Wake School Board distinguished itself the moment it took control by immediately, and deliberately, ignoring past proven policy practices of consensus, and research and law, something the AdvancED international educational accreditation agency, which put the board on notice about its behavior, stated.
            AdvancED, to whom the NCNAACP complained to about the Republican majority on the Wake School Board, confirmed in its initial report last March that Margiotta and company dismantled the diversity policy without any empirical data to justify why.
            Indeed, the report continued, the board’s Republican majority consciously denied any evidence of academic improvement for black students, based on the diversity policy, that was occurring during their tenure in office, instead trumpeting their own “data” to the contrary.
            The ultimate concern of AdvancED, the NCNAACP, and others who carefully watched the Wake School Board was that its neighborhood schools plan would result in racially-identifiable high needs/high poverty schools in predominately black Southeast Raleigh.
            Principals complained, and AdvancEd confirmed, that the GOP-led board had no plans for appropriately dealing with the high poverty schools its neighborhood schools policy created. That fear turned into fact recently, when Wake Supt. Anthony Tata and staff allowed the brand new Walnut Creek Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh - which is 72 percent free-and-reduced lunch and over 50 percent low-performing - to run 149 students over-capacity to 929 for three months, before finally, last week, capping enrollment.
            Tata and the board had to act. With an AdvancED team due back in town this week for a followup investigation on the NAACP complaint, having the Walnut Creek controversy still dominating the headlines would have done more harm than good.
            Barber said the actions of the Republican majority on the Wake School Board set a “dangerous” precedent that if allowed to continue, would have spawned similar recalcitrant conservative-led school boards across the nation, using neighborhood schools as a “wedge issue” to win politically.
“We’re not just concerned with diversity,” he said. “We’re concerned about the negatives of resegregation, because we know with resegregation you get resegregated bodies, budgets, and buildings, instead of all of the sound building blocks of a quality education. We know if you don’t have a commitment to diversity, you’re not going to have a commitment to equity and resources, which means you undermine student achievement.”
The NCNAACP president wants the new board to make a comparison.
“We had a gold standard plan. We had a proven plan. Now what the community is asked to do is accept a hypothesis. Research does not show anywhere where they have used the so-called choice model, that it has performed better than the healthy schools - socioeconomic diversity resource plan that we had. And that’s been our argument all along. Not Democrat or Republican. Show us, the community, how what you are planning to do - do a side-by-side comparison - is better than what you had.”
            Rev. Barber is clear that the “old” socioeconomic diversity plan “had to be tweaked,” and thus wasn’t perfect. Because of Wake’s tremendous growth several years ago, students sometimes found themselves moved from school-to-school, or siblings were separated at different schools. Though the resulting student diversity manifested itself in high academic gains, the constant shuffling of students angered parents, and spurred a growing anti-diversity movement that resulted in the 2009 Republican school board sweep.
            The high growth also diverted Wake schools administrators’ attention from the practices that helped black and Latino students achieve, and after five years of success, those numbers began to suffer as well, something the Republicans politically exploited.
            Barber says the new Democratic school board majority should compare the new school choice plan to the old plan, and empirically show how “what we want is better than what we had,” as opposed to experiment with a new plan that is untested in a school system as large as Wake, which is currently the 16th largest in the nation.
            “The new board needs to assess how does this plan guarantees high quality constitutional well funded diverse public education for every child,” Rev. Barber said. “Does it ensure that poor children, minority children have access? It has to be done.”
            In fact, when Supt. Tata’s team developed various plans several months ago for the public to evaluate, the final two plans were labeled Blue - a school choice plan; and Green - a node-based plan very much like the old diversity plan, were indeed considered, which the blue plan winning.
            Barber says that comparison didn’t take into account all that the original diversity plan accomplished, and thus, was incomplete.
            He added that in private conversations, Tata said that he would like to see diversity as an element in the new student assignment plan, but the Republican-majority would not allow it, and he had to follow their direction.
            With the change in Wake School Board leadership now, Rev. Barber says the opportunity exists to ensure that the new plan meets the needs of the system’s most vulnerable children.
Rev. Barber noted that even the “father” of the school choice, Dr. Michael Alves, said that diversity must be part of any school choice plan in order for it to work.
            Dr. Alves visited Raleigh over a year ago when the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and Wake Education Partnership brought him in to broker a compromise choice plan. Chairman Ron Margiotta openly rejected Alves’ advise, saying the only diversity in the school board’s final student assignment plan would be the “natural” diversity already there.
            Barber says student diversity, along with the bedrock resources to teach all children effectively, is the formula for success in Wake County schools, even with school choice. Racial resegregation with a lack of resources for students of color, will mean failure, he added.
            The civil rights leader says the NCNAACP will petition to meet again with Supt. Tata, to followup on their first meeting with him earlier in the year. Barber also revealed that the civil rights organization will request a meeting with the new school board once it is situated.
            “We have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests,” Barber added. “We always seek to talk. We want to be a partner moving forward. This is about all of our children.”
Rev. Barber said he would consider attending the swearing-in of the new Wake School Board next Tuesday, but he is still barred after being charged with trespassing twice after demonstrations at the old Wake Forest Road headquarters in 2010. He said that the NCNAACP will “have people there.”
The tone of the 2011 Republican school board campaign, at times, was racial, with fliers picturing Rev. Barber and national NAACP Pres. Benjamin Jealous as black leaders looking to “take over” the Wake School System through the five white Democratic candidates.
            “That’s a throwback to the 1940’s and 1950s, that really, really hard race card,” Barber says. The civil rights leader stayed out of view, as to not make himself any more of a campaign issue.
Rev. Barber expects Tedesco, if he indeed stays on the board (he’s considering a 2012 run for state schools superintendent) and the other board Republicans to create as much trouble as possible for the Democratic majority over the next four years.
            “Not only did the Democrats win, but a philosophy won, a moral position won,” Rev. Barber said. The civil rights leader attributed the five-seat Democratic sweep on October 11th and November 8th to “fusion politics,” bringing blacks, whites, Democrats and Republicans together in coalition to being about needed change. The kind of fusion politics that North Carolina historically experienced in the late 1800’s in North Carolina between former slaves known as “Freedmen,” poor white farmers and Republicans.
            “What we saw here was in 2009, a radical, regressive, well-funded…we now know that all the way from the Tea Party; the Koch Brothers; Art Pope, who was said in an email was the architect of this plan to takeover public education, as a test case to see if a community would go backwards,” Barber said, adding that if it had worked in Wake County, the same effort would have spread across the country.
            The fusion victory,” Rev. Barber said, was a rejection of “this backwards mentality, this regression, this creating public policy that fosters resegregation and undermines the opportunity for high-quality, constitutional, well-funded, diverse public education.”
            “It is quite a moment that we must study and lift up.”

                                         MAYOR CHARLES MEEKER

By Cash Michaels

            After ten challenging years, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker is spending his last week as leader of the Capital City that he famously built up.
            On December 5th, Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane will be sworn-in as the new mayor, only the second woman in history to do so. She promises to continue the progressive course for the city set by Meeker. Indeed, it is because McFarlane promised just that in the October mayoral election, that she garnered over 60 percent of the vote in a three-person race.
            Meeker’s endorsement of her sealed the deal with voters.
            When Charles Meeker steps down from office next week, he leaves the growing city in good fiscal and cultural shape. Raleigh is the 43rd largest city in the nation, with a population of over 403,000 people, a bustling downtown complete with amphitheater and renovated convention center; reopened Fayetteville Street mall for new businesses, and skyscrapers ruling over the Raleigh skyline.
            “The progressive, professional and rational leadership provided by Mayor Charles Meeker…on the Raleigh City Council the past ten years…resulted in a resurgence of Raleigh, which is consistently ranked as the best place to live and do business in America,” says political consultant Perry Woods, referencing the Forbes Magazine most recent “Best Cities” listing
In 2001, Raleigh had a population of over 298,000 residents. Downtown was dying, the infrastructure was old and getting older, and culturally, the place was so boring, having the Legislature in session was considered good entertainment.
Call it Meeker’s neighborhood “vision-thing” if you will, but the quiet, unassuming young attorney who saw a mini-metropolis where others saw an aging city, went to work on that vision, and piece-by-piece, brick-by-brick, and program-by-program, the mayor led several city councils in turning Raleigh into a destination place for new housing, conventions, touring Broadway shows and concerts, and new marketplaces that have made the city come alive.
“Charles has always had a vision of Raleigh as an urban city,” says Brad Thompson, friend and former City Council colleague. “He supported transportation options and corridor friendly development long before those things became a part of the planning process. He always had strong opinions about what good public policy should be about, and sought it during his tenure as mayor to implement his vision.”
Laura Spader recalls a Mayor Meeker who was intensely interested in neighborhoods.
“Worked with Charles during his first few terms, and found his low key and respectful approach refreshing,” she said. “It allowed discussions of neighborhood issues often passed over in the past. Like cut through traffic and traffic calming measures, neighborhood policing, storm water management, park revitalization, rental properties and proximities of group homes. A lot of residents regained faith in their local government and its responsiveness to their bread-and-butter concerns.”
 “What Charles sometimes lacked in charisma he more than made up for in character and integrity,” Spader said. “Traits Raleigh needed in its leadership.”
Moving Raleigh forward. To hear Mayor Meeker tell it, why not?
“You try to take advantage of each opportunity that comes up,” he told The Carolinian shortly after Mayor-elect McFarlane’s victory. “Certainly there’s been a lot more activity downtown, both in the center city as well as east of downtown, with all of the revitalization that’s occurring there, and a lot more yet to come.”
“Certainly the parks and greenway systems have grown tremendously with the two bond issues. Our public procedures are much more open now in terms of hearings with neighborhood groups presenting about zoning cases; a lot more task forces with citizens making those decisions. And then finally, of course, all of the sustainability, more energy efficiency, better buildings, new vehicles coming in. So there really have been a lot of changes,” he said.
To Meeker, Raleigh city government has become a progressive and unifying force in the city, to move it forward, and making it an even more attractive place for families and businesses to live and work.
Feel free to call Charles Meeker, a Democrat, a liberal when it comes to social policy. He famously threatened to sue the now-defunct Republican-led Wake School Board when it began installing its infamous neighborhood schools plan that Meeker believed would resegregate the schools, and ultimately hurt the progressive image for the city.
But when it came to fiscal policy, the mayor was decidedly less liberal, making sure that growth in the city was strategic to both enhance Raleigh’s quality of life, and expand its tax base for future investments. The growth gave Meeker and the City Council the necessary tax revenues needed for the budget without raising taxes too often.
“We have had a flat budget the last three years, so our operating budget is still $385,000 or thereabouts. We have actually run even as we have not run a deficit, and we have taken capital projects that we’ve thought were necessary to help our growth, and those are all fully funded with the current taxes and fees. [Plus] we’ve been able to get some refinancing at lower interest rates to save money,” Meeker said.
The mayor attributes the city’s budget and planning success to having “a good city manager” in J. Russell Allen, who came aboard in 2001; and a good City Council that has been willing to be flexible and forward-thinking, cutting costs where necessary.
Even with the tough economy over the past several years, the city has not to lay employees off, Meeker notes. Benefits packages have had to modified to keep growing costs in line, but city workers still have their jobs.
Ultimately, the Raleigh model of fiscal responsibility is one Mayor Meeker believes state and national government should emulate.
Despite an exemplary record, the past ten years haven’t been all trouble free for the good mayor. In 2006, Raleigh sanitation workers walked off their jobs, complaining about low pay and bad working conditions. That same year, a qualified veteran black firefighter was passed over for promotion as fire chief.
And, of course, there was losing the profitable CIAA basketball tournament to Charlotte, and allowing the subsequent MEAC Basketball Tournament to leave as well.
Meeker drew heat and controversy in each instance, and yet, keeping his cool, looked for ways to find compromise, if not resolution.
When it comes to predominately black Southeast Raleigh, Mayor Meeker says more needs to be done for the city’s poorest district, but during his tenure, much has been accomplished.
“We certainly haven’t resolved all of the problems, but there’s no question that the crime rate and things like that are down significantly,” Meeker observed. “A lot of that is community policing…and that is a big improvement.”
Attorney John D. Burns says Southeast Raleigh had a friend in Mayor Meeker.
“Under his watch, the City began and continues to pursue an enforcement protocol against absentee landlords who allow properties to fall into disrepair - a problem of particular relevance to the Southeastern part of the city,” Burns says.  “And the new Comprehensive Plan, which was a major project and goal of the Mayor, contains a vision for the Southern part of Raleigh that will be remarkable. Also, don't forget that the Dix property, properly managed, will be a significant resource for Southside.”
The mayor points to the Enloe High School, East and Cooke streets areas, where young families are buying old homes and renovating them, stabilizing the neighborhoods. The city has also long partnered with several community development corporations to beautify neighborhoods and improve housing opportunities in Southeast Raleigh. Sparking small business development has also been a priority. The Wetlands Center and Center for Growth Park have added to the quality of life for the citizens there. The renovation of Biltmore Hills and Chavis Park have also been deemed successful.
But through it all, much more needs to be accomplished, Mayor Meeker admits.
“There is still a great deal of work to do. There is the whole area is not prosperous, and unemployment is a major problem,” even though Wake Med employs about 1,000 people from the area,” Meeker said. “But the city is putting its support there. The challenge is for the economy to turn around, and improve the employment situation, and continue with improving housing across the district.”
If there was one unresolved issue Meeker wished he could have tied up before leaving, it would be getting the council to approve the controversial Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, the planned new 17-story headquarters for Raleigh police, fire and emergency communications that the council has not given the go-ahead to because of design and cost.
One of America's most successful mayors, in my opinion,” attorney John D. Burns says. “Charles set goals, achieved nearly all of them, and stepped down after he accomplished them. The rejuvenation of Raleigh's downtown, the new commitment to a sustainable manner and method of city operations and growth and Raleigh's growing reputation as an excellent place to do business speak volumes about the effectiveness of Charles's quiet, understated, yet dogged style of leadership.”
Looking back on his legacy, Charles Meeker is a proud and pleased man. Beyond his decade as Raleigh mayor, the Yale University and Columbia University Law School graduate spent several terms as a Raleigh city councilor - from 1985 to 89, and 1991 to 95. He came into office under the late and legendary Avery C. Upchurch, who previously held the record of serving five terms before Meeker tied it.
The son of former United States Ambassador Leonard Meeker, Mayor Meeker now looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Dr. Anne McLaurin, who also declined to run for re-election this year to the Wake School Board after one term.
 The couple is also looking forward to the wedding of their daughter next spring, and taking a few trips next summer.
“I’ve got lots to do here at the law firm where I practice full-time. There’s no question that it will be different,” Meeker said. “In politics, it’s hard to know when to move on. This year seemed like a good time. We can have a good transition, and fortunately that’s turned out to be the case with Nancy McFarlane stepping in.”
“It has been a good ten years,” Mayor Meeker concluded, adding, “Hopefully the next ten will be equally as good.”

(For Wilmington Journal ONLY)
By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            Now that North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act has been repealed, there is some question as to whether Gov. Beverly Perdue will sign it into law, or veto it, given that she supported the original 2009 legislation.
But there is no question as to what Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, has done. He led the effort in the state Senate to gut the one law that prevented prosecutors and racially biased juries from sending black defendants to death row for the same crimes that white defendants were getting life for, a proven trend for years in North Carolina’s capital cases.
            The NC Senate on Monday voted 27-17 to dramatically change the law, requiring that death row inmates specifically prove racial bias, and racial intent in their own cases, instead of using statistical data of cases from that county or the state as evidence.
            Most legal experts agree that proving racial intent on the part of a prosecutor or jury is difficult, if not impossible. That didn’t stop Goolsby, or the other Republicans in the state Senate, from pushing passage of the RJA repeal.
            The state House repealed the measure during the summer session.
              Goolsby, an attorney, joined with the state’s district attorneys in vilifying the original law, saying that it was just another way to further cripple the state’s death penalty statute, and deny the families of victims the justice they deserve.
State sponsored executions have been on hold for several years in North Carolina because of litigation.
Senate Republicans, at the urging of the state district attorneys association, had victims’ families at a press conference Monday, telling the stories about how their loved ones were murdered, and how those convicted of the crimes should pay.
Republicans even had black family members speaking out against the Racial Justice Act.
In a controversial move, Republicans and district attorneys alleged that if the RJA wasn’t changed, death row inmates might even be paroled. RJA proponents, citing case law, rounded disputed this, saying the guilty would remain convicted, and only have their death sentences commuted to life.
When the measure hit the Senate floor, Goolsby forcefully pushed for repeal.
"We have a moral obligation to make sure justice is served in these cases," he said. "The Racial Justice Act has very little to do with race or justice. Instead, it's turned out to be a Trojan horse, a back-door attempt to end the death penalty in North Carolina."
The NCNAACP, one of the coalition groups that fought hard to protect the RJA, was not pleased after the Republican majority repealed the law. Rev. William Barber, NCNAACP president, called it “legislative racism, classism and regression.”
“It is Legislative Racism, Classism and Regression when a southern Legislature chooses to fight against the Racial Justice Act, which gives the courts an opportunity to review more information to ensure race is not a factor in anyone's death sentence,” Rev. Barber wrote. “We know from our bloody history that the only place where people are not concerned whether someone is being executed because of their race is the lynching tree. At the lynching tree, the mob doesn't want to know more information about the circumstances of the defendant's trial and crime. The lynch mob only wants to see someone swing.”



            A private property owner is allowing protesters with the Occupy Raleigh movement to use a gravel parking lot at the corner of Lenoir and Blount streets downtown. Two weeks ago, the Raleigh City Council voted not to allow the protesters to camp out on city-owned property over legal concerns. Currently they’ve been using a lot near West and Edenton streets to pitch their tents and store supplies.

            With 146,687 students, the Wake County Public School System is now officially the 16th largest public school district in the nation, rising two notches past the Montgomery County Public School System in Maryland, and the Philadelphia Public School System in Pa. WCPSS still remains the largest public schools system in North Carolina, with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools seconds at 138,100 students. Wake approximately adds just over 3,000 students a year. Student population is expected to reach 200,000 by the year 2020.

            If you are a 501c(3) charitable organization, then the Durham Police Dept. has free bicycles to give away to your group. DPD has several confiscated bikes that have been it its possession for longer than 60 days. Qualified charitable organizations with 503c(3) status can pick up the bikes from the DPD on Dec. 16 and 17. Bikes left over after that date will be auctioned off. Contact the DPD immediately to make sure your group is qualified.


            [RALEIGH] Progressive groups are urging Gov. Beverly Perdue to veto the repeal of the 2009 NC Racial Justice Act, which allowed death row inmates to challenge their death sentences if they could prove racial bias was a factor. If a judge agreed, their sentences would be commuted to life. But district attorneys from across the state alleged that some convicted murderers could actually be released as a result, a claim the acts supporters countered as not true. Monday night, the Republican-led Senate voted 27-17 to repeal the RJA. The bill is now with Gov. Perdue either for her signing it into law, or her veto.

            [RALEIGH] Trouble for Gov. Beverly Perdue as a Wake County grand jury Monday indicted three officials who worked in her 2008 gubernatorial campaign. Wake District Attorney C. Colon Willoughby announced that Peter Reichard, a Greensboro businessman and Perdue’s 2008 campaign finance director; Juleigh Sitton, former director of Perdue’s Western Residence; and attorney Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs, a law partner of Perdue’s first husband, were all indicted on obstruction of justice, with Sitton and Stubbs specifically charged with making false campaign finance reports. Published reports say federal officials are also looking into the Perdue 2008 campaign, which has had to pay a $30,000 fine, and return $20,000 in illegal donations.

            [RALEIGH] A federal judge has issued an injunction temporarily blocking the state issuance of the “Choose Life” license plate while the state law passed by the Republican-led NC General Assembly faces legal challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (NCACLU) file suit in federal court on behalf of four “pro-choice” car dealers, claiming that the pro-life license plate dos not allow for a plate expressing an opposing view. The state should not be discriminatory when it comes to opposing viewpoints, the ACLU contends. Republicans counter that the plates have been allowed in other states.

By Cash Michaels

            MARK YOUR CALENDARS - The Third Annual Bobby F. Garrett Throat Cancer Benefit will be held this Saturday December 3, 2011 at Saint Matthew AME Church at 3:00 PM.  The musical benefit is an effort to raise awareness about the disease and to raise funds for research and ultimately prevention.
            Throat cancer is a “silent killer” that is spreading rapidly in the African American community. Until recent years there was little known or said about throat cancer Fifty years ago, throat cancer was five times more common in men than in women, today it is only twice as common.  About 70% of those with throat cancer are detected at a late stage, therefore reducing the chances of survival.           
            When asked about the founding of the benefit by herself and her daughter, Dr. Alice Garrett stated, “after the care giving for eleven years of her husband and benefiting from the love and support of so many people during such a difficult time, we had to do something to give back, to help arrest this disease, and to help other families who might experience the same or similar trauma.
            All proceeds from the benefit go to the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which has partnered with the Garrett family.  To assist in the benefit efforts you may send tax-deductible donation to Garrett Benefit, 1607 East Martin St. Raleigh, NC 27610. Please write Garrett Benefit on the memo line.  Online donations are accepted at http://garrettconcert.kintera.org.
FREE FOR KWANZAA - The Ujima Group will co-sponsor the annual Kwanzaa festival Thursday, December 29, 2011 from 3:00pm -8:00pm at the Cary Arts Center.
The theme this year is “The Golden Years Paying Tribute and Honor to Our Elders” featuring the Chuck Davis Dance Company, exemplifying “peace, love, and respect for everybody”; Dr. Louise Toppin, the receiver of critical acclaims for her operatic, orchestral, and oratorio performances around the world; Dr. Michael Gordon, a 26-year veteran of Indiana University, a Master of Music and Education; and Kwabena Osei Appiagyei, a master musician and educator for the Ghana Dance Ensemble at the University of  Ghana-Legon.
Cary Kwanzaa is a communal, non-denominational, secular celebration that honors African-American people and their heritage. Hosted by Lester Thomas. Admission is free. Call Cary Arts Center at (919) 469-4061 or Lester Thomas at 919-380-7020 for more information.
HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY, TIFFANY - I must be getting old because I’m missing birthdays left and right these days.
            For instance, last week, I forgot to say “Happy Birthday” to my first born, Tiffany, who turned 29 on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24.
            Wow! Having a child who is 29 years old. That’s a weird feeling, but I’m grateful that she is sharp, beautiful, gainfully employed and creative. And even though she’s doing very well in her chosen profession, Tiff is still young enough to blaze a new trail if she wants. She has her MBA, so Tiff can write her own ticket if she chooses.
            So I’m very proud of my oldest daughter. By tradition, Tiff has one more year left of being a “kid” before she turns 30. So she better enjoy it while she can.
            Happy Birthday, Tiff. I love you madly.
            HAPPY (EARLY) BIRTHDAY, MARKITA - Now because I know, in the constant rush of things, I’m bound to belatedly do this after the fact, I’m doing it now. Happy Birthday to me wife, Markita, who will be celebrating her special day in a few weeks this month. If you’re reading this, I love you, and thank you for being my special life partner and mother of my children. Lord knows I’m not the easiest man to deal with, but through thick and thin, you’re there, and I thank you for 10 years of loving marriage.
            GOOD VERDICT - I applaud the Los Angeles jury in the Michael Jackson case for finding his doctor, Conrad Murray, guilty of causing the pop singer’s death, and sentencing him to the maximum penalty of four years in prison. Murray tried every way he could to talk his way out of it, but they weren’t buying it.
            So long, doc. You’ll have the next four years to think about what you did,
            OH HERMAN, HERMAN - When last we left Squirmin Herman Cain, ladies and gentlemen, the poor man was once again denying the sexual allegations of a woman. This one is claiming that Old Herm had been carrying on an affair with her for 13 years, and she had phone records to prove the two had been talking as recently as this past September.
            So let’s see, thus far we’ve had allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault and finally marital infidelity. This guy could give Bill Clinton lessons.
            Who do I feel fro in the sorry situation? Not Cain, a top headlining GOP presidential candidate in an otherwise lackluster field.
            I feel for his wife of over 40 years, Gloria Cain. From what I’ve seen of her and heard from her, she seems like a devoted, good Christian wife and woman. She believes her husband when he denies the allegations.
            But it’s clear that they’re not going away. If this man truly loves his wife, then Herman Cain should do the right thing, and step down from the race. He’s already embarrassed himself with his lack of basic knowledge as to how the world works.
            Why put your wife through this, and more?
            Do the right thing Herman. You’re never, ever going to be elected president of the United States.
            So do the right thing. This week. For your wife and your family.
THE NBA RETURNS - Well, assuming that the tentative deal has not fallen apart by the time you read this, it looks like we might be seeing some NBA basketball after all this year, starting on Christmas Day.
            The players and the owners tentatively agreed last weekend to end the five-month lockout (meaning owners locking players out) so that play could resume, and of course, money could be made by all. When you’re in a sport that depends not just on box office, but millions in television contracts, you try to resolve matters as soon as possible. They certainly learned that when the National Football League went on strike months ago, so it’s no surprise that the NBA had to go through the same thing.
            According to NBA Commissioner David Stern, assuming all of the legal barriers are overcome and lawsuits are now dropped, we should see a triple-header on Christmas Day as part of a shortened 66-game season.
            But here is the bottomline, and you’ll be hearing more about this from me in the coming months. There has always been a tension between the NBA’s players and owners when it comes to contracts and labor conditions. That tension goes back for more than 50 years, and you’d be surprised what the NBA owners used to get away with in terms of the pittance they used to pay top players - as little as $13,000 for a season in some cases - in “take it or leave it” situations.
            The history of how professional basketball teams exploited their players, leaving them high and dry in their later years, has yet to be told, and it’s a story we need to hear.
            So we’ll be watching how this new tentative NBA agreement shake out. Hopefully, it’s for the good.
            CONGRATULATIONS, J. R. - Though I rarely watch the show (Markita and KaLa do), I certainly was pleased when ABC-TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” crowned former US Army Iraq veteran J. R. Martinez the champion this season.
            As you know, Martinez, 28, was disfigured in 2003 when the Humvee he was driving in Iraq struck a land mine, burning at least 40 percent of his body. It took him three years of surgery for Martinez to recover. He later became a motivational speaker, and in 2008, joined the non-defunct soap opera “All My Children.”
            Now US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has become J.R.’s latest fan, congratulating him by phone, and noting the courage that J.R. has displayed in the competition, courage that represented other Iraq veterans who have been severely injured. These men and women served their country with pride and dignity. Many lost limbs. But all have tremendous heart and courage, and never gave up on themselves.
            J.R. shows that we should never give up on them. Good going, J.R. Good going, indeed.
            BLACK FRIDAY DISGRACES - You know, I love a great bargain just like anybody else, but some of the stories we’re hearing in the aftermath of last week’s nationwide Black Friday sales are truly horrific.
            In West Virginia, a Black Friday shopper with heart trouble collapses to the ground in obvious trouble…and other shoppers just continue to go by him, and even walk over the poor man. Walter Vance, 61, later died at the hospital, published reports say.  His wife say some nurses in the store did come to Mr. Vance’s aid, but did you really have to be a nurse to have the decency to stop your greedy pursuits, and help an elderly man in need?
            In Los Angeles, by now you’ve heard about the woman who allegedly pepper sprayed other Black Friday shoppers at a local Walmart to keep them away from some electronic stuff she wanted first crack at. At least 20 people were reportedly injured in the incident. The woman got away, but then days later turned herself in to police. She refused to answer questions, however, citing her constitutional right not to self-incriminate herself, so cops let her go. At press time earlier this week, police there were now saying that videotape of the incident shows the woman may have actually fighting off people who were crushing her in a jammed packed area of the store. If it can be proven that she was defending herself from being crushed, she may not be charged at all.
            If that's true, then it all goes to prove that people lose their everlovin minds over "special deals," and are willing to hurt anyone, at any price, just to get theirs. When folks decide that they have the “right” to attack you just because you’re standing in the same line they are for the same thing, then we really are losing our society. I expect that from children. Not morons looking for a good price on Xbox.
FALLON SHOW DISSES BACHMANN - I am absolutely no fan of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is currently running for president. Homegirl is a Tea Party leader, and as ignorant as they come, given some of her classic flubs about history and society.
But last week when Bachmann was a guest of NBC’s Jimmy Fallon show, the show’s band, the Roots, decided to play a 1985 instrumental song titled, “Lyin’ A-- B--ch.” The band thought it was so cute, the band leader joked about it on Twitter.
Well, it wasn’t funny. It was tantamount to inviting someone over to your home, and putting spit in the soft drink just because you don’t like them.
Yes, we need to fight the Michelle Bachmanns, Newt Gingriches and Herman Cains of the world as hard as we can. But we must NEVER, NEVER fall to a moral level where we do underhanded and sneaky things that are both mean-spirited and childish in nature. We, as a society, have an expectation that when controversial people, from all sides, are invited somewhere, that they will be treated with courtesy and respect by the host.
The moment Jimmy Fallon, who says he was unaware of what the band was playing, shook Bachmann’s hands and welcomed her as a guest to the show, that was a symbol of trust.
I know for a fact that if the same thing on a Fox News Channel program, I would have a fit, and rightfully so.
So what the Roots did was wrong. NBC and Fallon have apologized Bachmann, as well they should.
That was dirty, and completely unnecessary!
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. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.

HONORING THE MONTFORD POINT MARINES - Last week, President Barack Obama signed a law honoring the courage and sacrifices of the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal. Sen. Kay Hagan [D-NC] sponsored that legislation. Sen. Hagan is seen here at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C. with some of those Marines - (from left to right) Corporal Holsey Gillis of Philadelphia, Pa.; Lt. Col. Joe Carpenter; Staff Sgt. Eugene Groves of Belton, S.C.; Sen. Hagan (center); Staff Sgt. Charles Manuel of Wash. D.C.; Sgt. Earl Evans of Greensboro, NC; and Gunnery Sgt. Reuben McNair [Photo courtesy of Sen. Hagan's office]


Special to The Carolinian
WASHINGTON, D.C. - United States Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) applauded the Montford Point Marines this week as President Barack Obama signed legislation on Thanksgiving eve awarding the North Carolina-based African-American Marine unit the Congressional Gold Medal for their heroic and historic service. Hagan was the original Senate sponsor of the legislation.
"I am elated that the North Carolina-based Montford Point Marines will at long last receive the honor and recognition they deserve," said Hagan. "These African-American men put their lives on the line and served our country with distinction in the face of discrimination and intolerance. I feel privileged to have worked with these Marines and to have garnered the support of my colleagues to award these brave men the Congressional Gold Medal."

The highest civilian award bestowed by Congress, a Congressional Gold Medal bill requires 67 co-sponsors to be considered on the Senate floor. Hagan, the original sponsor, led the bipartisan push to garner support and pass this important legislation in time for the Marine Corps' 236th anniversary on November 10 and Veterans Day on November 11. Hagan introduced the Congressional Gold Medal bill on September 8 with Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patrick Roberts (R-KS), and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) as lead sponsors.
The Montford Point Marines Congressional Gold will now go through a design process with input from the honorees, the sponsors of the legislation, the Commission of Fine Arts and the United States Mint. The original medal will be preserved by the Smithsonian museum. Bronze duplicates will be available for purchase through the United States Mint. Original Montford Point Marines will need to have their DD214/Proof of Service Certificate on file with the Montford Point Marine Association, and can find the necessary forms at the National Personnel Records Center.

The Montford Point Marines is the name given to the first African-Americans who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. They trained at Camp Montford Point, near Jacksonville, North Carolina. African-Americans were brought into the Marine Corps in 1941, as a result of an Executive Order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Executive Order, which established the Fair Employment Practices Commission, stated "there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." 19,168 African-American Marines received training at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949. Many participated in the Pacific Theatre Campaign of World War II, distinguishing themselves by acts of great valor.

As recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal, the Montford Point Marines join a select and extraordinary group of people who have received the medal since it was first granted to General George Washington in 1776, including Mother Teresa, the Wright Brothers and Thomas Edison.

Monday, November 21, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            After a growing uproar from the Southeast Raleigh community, the Wake County School Board Tuesday unanimously capped enrollment at Walnut Creek Elementary School (WCES) at 862 students, effective this week.
But WCPSS officials still haven’t adequately explained why they allowed what Growth and Management Supervisor Laura Evans admitted was “a huge amount of growth” for the fledgling high needs/high poverty school, created by the Republican-led board’s neighborhood schools policy, to occur.
And can high needs students there, K-5, learn effectively in an overcrowded atmosphere their parents were promised wouldn't happen?
Originally constructed earlier this year for a student capacity of 780, the $25 million state-of-the-art facility, on traditional calendar, has now officially enrolled an estimated 929 students as of Nov. 16th, WCPSS says, putting it at 149 pupils over capacity.
All 929 students will remain at WCES for the balance of the school year - none will be moved, no more will be enrolled. Officials say the new 862 capacity cap will be reached through attrition, and limiting kindergarten enrollment in 2012.
Any new applicants to WCES will now be diverted to Creech Road Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh, which is on a similar calendar as Walnut Creek, school officials said.
Before the unanimous vote, Wake School Board Vice Chairman John Tedesco tried to lay the blame for the overcrowding on District 4 representative Keith Sutton without calling his name, saying that if Sutton, in whose district WCES resides, hadn’t convinced the board to change the school’s calendar from year-round to traditional, the capacity issue never would have occurred.
Year-round schools are able to handle larger total capacities because groups of students are tracked in on staggered schedules throughout the entire year, as opposed to just August to June for traditional calendar schools. 
In WCES’ case, the issue wasn’t calendar, however, but ineffective management of student enrollment.
Tedesco urged the board to reconsider making WCES year-round eventually, and also called for more schools to be built in Southeast Raleigh in the future.
While the issue of capping WCES’ high enrollment may have been settled, the damage it has left behind remains to be adequately addressed.
Veteran educators, like Marvin Pittman, retired administrator with the NC Dept. of Public Instruction, worried that even with new cap, the overcrowding is creating conditions at WCES that interfere with the delicate process of learning.
“My biggest concern, as an educator, is the number of children at the school,” Pittman told The Carolinian last week. “The school did not open up with the anticipation of [929] students.”
“The staff was hired with the anticipation that they would have small class sizes, and that the school would be small - about 780 students. That’s manageable,” said Pittman, whose church, Compassionate Tabernacle of Missionary Baptist Church in Southeast Raleigh has been vigorously supporting WCES even before it officially opened. “When you put into an elementary school [929] students, you’re asking for trouble.”
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Pittman told members flatly, “Overcrowding is going to be a problem.”
Under growing outrage from Pittman and other Southeast Raleigh community leaders, Wake Supt. Anthony Tata finally acknowledged last week that he and his staff allowed population at WCES to get out of hand.
“We believe that we are on the right track,” Tata told reporters during his weekly press conference last Friday. “[But} we believe that we need to take action now to stay on the right track, and stabilize the enrollment at that school because…the challenges of having too many children could…could potentially go beyond where we want to be.”
But why has it taken so long for Tata to “…believe that we need to take action now”? The fact that WCES has a capacity problem has been evident since it opened in August.
Most schools try to open at approximately 95 percent capacity for the expressed purpose of allowing for transfers and more admissions.
The Republican-led Wake School Board, however, reassigned exactly 780 students to WCES, its initial official capacity, from several other schools - primarily Barwell and East Garner elementary year-round schools - last February before construction was even finished. From the 781st student on, WCES was immediately over capacity, with apparently no controls in place to consistently manage the situation.
When classes officially began at WCES on August 25, 763 students - 17 short of capacity - were enrolled.
According to the WCPSS 2011-2012 Facilities Utilization Report, released just last week, on Sept. 22nd, 20 days after the 2011-2012 school year officially began, WCES logged in 891 students, 111 pupils above capacity.
From August 25 to Sept. 22 alone, WCES was allowed to enroll 128 pupils.
Indeed, according to WCPSS records, WCES was forced to accept students every week since the school opened. WCPSS continued to allow any child, whose parent or guardian brought an affidavit proving neighborhood residency per board policy, to be enrolled in WCES.
Indeed, sources say, children were still being enrolled as recently as last week.
Most of the WCES population swell was happening in kindergarten, first and second grades, Supt. Tata said, adding, “[They] got bigger than what we anticipated and what we intended.”
“I think we’re OK if we can get K, 1 and 2 back to where they need to be,” Tata said.
The situation is forcing school officials to find space on WCES ‘ campus for four modular units that won’t be ready until next summer, and has called into question their promise of smaller class sizes.
The capacity problem has now had an unintended rippling effect on other conditions at the school.
“The answer is not more mobile units, or hiring more teachers and putting them in the building,” Marvin Pittman, who also served as a Wake principal for many years, said.
Tata told reporters last Friday that WCES had 66 teachers, but sources say the school actually has 64 teachers, 29 of which have experience 0 - 4 years; 17 with 5-10 years in the classroom; and 18 with over 10 years of teaching.
At Tuesday’s board work session, WCES Principal Corey Moore said of the actual regular homeroom teachers, 12 were first year.
            Experience levels are key when it comes to effectively teaching high needs children.
A second assistant principal, more teachers and more teacher assistants are also being hired to get class sizes down to recommended levels, Tata said.
            But Pittman says those changes don’t really matter as long as the school remains over-capacity. A larger student population means larger class sizes, and that means teachers not being able to successfully employ the strategies necessary to reach each and every child in that class, because there are too many.
            “You’re going to need time…when you have a bunch of students, the teacher is not going to have the time,” Pittman says.
            Add to that the fact that the student population is high needs/high poverty functioning on a Level 1 or Level 2 low proficiency, and the challenge is compounded, Pittman says, especially for first or second-year educators on the WCES teaching staff, the ones most prone to burn out in high poverty schools.
            “If you go to that school, you’re going to find the teachers worn out, because they are trying so hard,” Pittman says, adding that they need the support of the community and WCPSS Central Office.
            The teachers at WCES also need for more money.
            Because WCES isn’t a Renaissance school, its teachers aren’t being paid extra for the required 45-minute longer school days they have to put in.
            Supt. Tata says his staff is “working on that,” hoping to have WCES qualify as the system’s fifth high needs/high poverty, low performing Renaissance school receiving federal dollars to compensate teachers.
            With 72 percent of its student population free-and-reduced lunch (F&R) - placing WCES among WCPSS’ top ten F&R high poverty schools - and an estimated over 50 percent classified as low achievers, parents, community leaders, and even school board members are concerned that the situation at Walnut Creek, almost midway through its first school year, is getting worse before much is being done to make it better.
Attempting to spin an emerging crisis into some semblance of success, without explaining an apparent failure in managing WCES’ growth, Supt. Tata told reporters Friday, “We wanted to make it a high demand school, and we did,” adding that that was the reason for the over-capacity.
The closest Tata came to explaining why he’s taken so long to deal with problem was when he said, “ Demand is higher than was anticipated.”
Area Supt. July Mizell told board members during their work session Tuesday that the high demand “was not predictable,” even though staff had been watching it all along, trying to find space in “nontraditional places” at the school.
Translation - the growth got way from them.
A chief source of WCES being “beyond capacity,” according to Tata, is the legal mandate that classrooms for kindergarteners and first-graders must be located on the first floor of elementary school buildings, one of the reasons why one of two special classrooms at WCES had to be converted to deal with the overflow.
“We’re working through some other solutions to house those students in the building,” the superintendent assured.
Tata admitted that because of its capacity issues, WCES “quickly leapt into…” the top five over-capacity schools in the system. He insists that because WCPSS is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars, additional personnel, new technology and programs into WCES, it is “on track” to succeed.
He added that his new school choice assignment plan “…will prevent this kind of growth from happening inside a school by managing capacity through firm controls and choice.” Enrolling only 115 kindergarteners next year will “right-size the elementary school,” Tata promised.
“We will not have an overcrowding situation unless we choose to breach the capacity limit set,” Tata assured.
            Retired educator Marvin Pittman is also hearing from WCES parents, and they’re concerned that with almost 150 more students than originally planned for, WCES hasn’t been able to appropriately stabilize into its core mission. Additional teachers this late in the school year means students may have a different instructor in front of them in February than they had in August.
            “These students need stability,” Pittman says. “They have just moved from other schools into Walnut Creek. They’re beginning to know their teachers, so now you have to disrupt them again to send them to another teacher. The parents are [concerned] about all of this transition, so just sending more trailers and more teachers is not the answer.”
            At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Pittman vowed that the Southeast Raleigh community “will work with you” to make Walnut Creek a successful elementary school. He said there are many retired educators who are willing to give of their time and energy to assist however they can.
            “We are a demanding community in Southeast Raleigh,” Pittman said.
            To attorney Mark Dorosin, professor at the UNC School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights, what’s happening at, and to WCES, “was predictable.”
“We saw this happening when the school board started reassigning students over the last few years,” Prof. Dorosin, who helped research and draw up the NCNAACP’s federal racial bias complaint against the Wake School Board with the US Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, told the Power 750 WAUG-AM program, “Make It Happen,” last Thursday.
“[The Wake School Board] created a brand new school that was racially-isolated, high poverty, and low-performing school,” Dorosin continued, noting that the Wake School Board never denied that, but to placate its critics, announced that it would compensate for it with more resources.
“And what we know is that that is an untenable model,” Dorosin said, adding that when it comes to what the new school choice plan offers, “Walnut Creek is the canary in the coal mine. The worst case scenario which we envisioned has come into fruition.”
Tuesday also marked the last Wake School Board meeting for Chairman Ron Margiotta - who lost his election after eight years -  and board members Dr. Carolyn Morrison and Dr. Anne McLaurin, who are leaving.
In his final statement, Margiotta, a Republican, said even though there had been tensions on the board during his tenure, he always found his colleagues to be respectful and professional.
He added that he was proud of his eight years on the board.
Democrats take over the majority on the school board on Dec. 6th.


            [RALEIGH] On Dec. 6th, Wake School Board member John Tedesco will find himself where he’s not used to being - in the minority. Thanks to the recent five-seat clean sweep by Democrats that retook the majority on the board, Tedesco, a Tea Party Republican, will now be in the minority until his re-election bid in 2013. But last week, the Garner representative indicated that he is giving serious consideration to running in 2012 for state superintendent of Public Instruction, the post that Democratic incumbent June Atkinson currently occupies. Tedesco, a proponent of neighborhood schools who has traveled across the state giving speeches before Tea Party rallies for the two years he’s been in office, says he will wait until after the holidays to make a final decision on a run. If he does run, Tedesco may have to run in a Republican primary first.

            [RALEIGH] State Senate Democrats and the NCNAACP called on Senate Republican leaders to ignore a request from North Carolina district attorneys to repeal the NC Racial Justice Act. The General Assembly reconvenes next week and could take up the matter. The law allows those convicted of murder to shoe evidence of racial bias by the prosecution. Prosecutors say the law only serves to prolong he court process.

            [WASHINGTON, D.C.]  The Republican-led Craven County Commission Board wants its legislative delegation to request a voter I.D. local law that would require residents there to show photo identification when they vote. US Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) is blasting the commissioners for the idea, saying in a statement that he’s “deeply disappointed.”
            “I am disappointed that the Craven County Board of Commissioners is among the latest to join a nationwide Republican-led initiative to suppress voting rights,” said Butterfield.  “Jurisdictions across the country and state are seeking tougher restrictions on voting only because it will disenfranchise young, minority, and low-income voters--all of which traditionally vote Democratic.  These efforts are purely political and have nothing to do with safeguarding elections.” Gov. Perdue vetoed the voter I.D. law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly last summer.


            A detention officer in the Wake County jail will not face criminal charges after an inmate he struck in the head is now unable to speak, walk or feed himself. Officer Michael Hayes was defending himself after the prisoner, Joshua Martin Wrenn, 29, attacked him, says Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby. Hayes hit Wrenn in the head with his fist to stop him. Willoughby says Wrenn was suffering from a brain aneurysm, which caused his later condition. Wrenn’s family, however, says they still feel the officer was responsible.

            The Republican-led Wake County Commission Board says despite a $500 million revenue drop, they were able to forge a new budget for the coming year which still provides vital services, and meets the needs of citizens. Revenues are starting to grow slowly again, says Commission Chair Paul Coble, and with no property tax increases. 
            Once again, the Durham County Courthouse is being rocked by controversy as Durham District Attorney Tracy Cline is publicly calling Durham Senior Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson guilty of  "moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption" because of his recent rulings against her. Judge Hudson has blasted Cline for several previous cases he’s had to overturn because, he’s ruled, Cline, as a prosecutor, had not handled them properly. Cline filed a response with the court, ripping Judge Hudson for his rulings against her, saying that it was personal. Cline wants Hudson removed from criminal matters.

MARGIOTTA'S GONE - Ron Margiotta, seen here with fellow Republican Venita Peyton, left the Wake County School Board Tuesday after eight year as a member, and two years as its chairman. A chair, Margiotta led the school system away from student diversity to a controversial neighborhood schools policy. Margiotta lost his bid for a third term last month, and with it, his Republican majority [file photo]

NEW RWCA PRESIDENT - Rev. Dr. Earl Johnson, pastor of Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, was elected Nov. 17 as the new president of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association. Rev. Johnson succeeds outgoing President Danny Coleman, who served two terms. Other elected officers include Michael Leach as the new RWCA vice president, Betty Poole as Secretary, and Bernard Allen Jr. as Treasurer. [photo courtesy of Christian Faith Baptist Church]


                             HATE CRIME VICTIM NOW LEADS NAACP BRANCH

NAACP BRANCH PRESIDENT OVERCOMES - [Arlington, Texas] Silk Littlejohn-Gamble, seen here taking the oath of office with her husband, Broderick (center) and pastor, Rev. Frederick Haynes III, was sworn-in recently as the new president of the Arlington NAACP. In 2007, Littlejohn-Gamble was viciously beaten in a hate crime, and slurs written on her home. [Photo Gordon Jackson of the Dallas Weekly]

           WHY WE ARE THANKFUL -  Every year at this juncture, we take the time to count our blessings.
            Or at least we should.
            True, there is much happening in our world, indeed in our nation and state, which makes us anxious, if not fearful about what could possibly happen next.
            Our economy is on life support. People who want to work, and are able to work, cannot find gainful employment.
            And our national and state leaders are playing Russian Roulette with our future, intoxicated with the potential power that partisan politics can bring.
            There are times when, just like you, we turn on the television, watch what’s going, and shake our heads wondering, “Lord, can it get any worse?”
            Of course it can, but that’s why we should be thankful.
            Our Bible tells us that when it comes to the faith that all of us should have in Almighty GOD, we should expect that it will be tested vigorously, and often.
            How else would we recommit ourselves to that which the Lord would have us do?
            In thanking Him for all that He has allowed us to accomplish and achieve, we also commit ourselves to doing more that helps the least of us, and brings justice and brings justice and mercy to all of us.
            That speaks to the blessing that is our community.
            We are a blessed people here in Wilmington. Despite our torrid history of 1898, the remnants of which have tainted our community for over a century after the fact, we still march on.
            We march on in demanding a better education for our children in our public school system.
            We march on in demanding equal opportunity in jobs and small business opportunities so that the families in our community can prosper and grow.
            We march on in demanding equal treatment under the law by our criminal justice system, and constructive alternatives to incarceration for some of our young people who need stronger direction and guidance.
            We march on in challenging our lawmakers at all levels, to stop the partisan bickering, and truly address the pressing needs of the people.
            And finally, we march on in joining all right-thinking people in praying for the safety of our president and his family, hoping that he continues to find the courage to stand up to those whose hatred of America’s true mission of freedom, justice and equality threatens us all.
            The fact that we and our families are still here, despite all that we face everyday in our continuing struggle to overcome, is reason, in itself, to be thankful.
            The fact that we still dare to stand, and lead, and speak out to inspire and educate so that others may be blessed by the fruits of their sacrifice, is reason to be thankful.
            And the fact that, despite all that we’ve been through as a people and community in the past; all that we are going through in the present; and certainly all that is yet to come to test our energy, faith, and strength of spirit, we are still standing strong, bloodied, but ever determined to march on until, as the old Negro National Anthem prescribes, “…victory is won,” means the blessing of thankfulness is truly bountiful in our souls.
            So we pray that as you and your family sit down for a delicious Thanksgiving meal together - something families rarely, and unfortunately don’t do anymore - you will look around that dinner table, look at the faces of your loved ones, and indeed count the many, many blessings GOD has granted you.
            There is much we can be thankful for, if only we open our minds and our hearts.
            To all of our many readers, advertisers, supporters and staff, Happy Thanksgiving.
             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. You can hear podcasts of the program by downloading segments at http://cashmichaelsradio.blogspot.com/
           And read more about my thoughts, opinions and stories 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. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.