Tuesday, February 21, 2012


By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            Wilmington will be one of the stops on the second leg of the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour , this time through Southeastern NC, announced the NC NAACP Wednesday.
            Co-sponsored by the NCNAACP; the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity; the NC Justice Center, the NCCU Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change and the AARP of North Carolina, the second leg, as the first through Northeastern North Carolina in January, is designed to shine a light on the extreme lack of resources and  opportunities for many of the state’s historically neediest communities.
            Other counties scheduled for the tour include Sampson, Pender, Robeson, Cumberland, Pitt and Wayne counties.
The Truth and Hope, Putting a Face on Poverty Tour is exposing the painful stories and faces behind the often "bloodless statistics" of poverty. On the first leg, observers  heard about:  
                A long-ignored crisis of electric bills that are tearing apart the delicate safety net for scores of families.
                26 beds available for a homeless population of 1,000 in Elizabeth City
                A community in Tyrrell County who fought 16 years for a sewage system while living with unsafe drinking water and soil full of septic overflow.
                A couple who both had jobs, but still were on the brink of homelessness with the low wages, high utilities and poor housing they faced in Washington.
                A recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill who faced poverty and unemployment if she followed her dream to return to her hometown of Rocky Mount and serve her community.
                Local officials in Washington County telling the stories of joblessness and poverty rates in small towns that reach nearly 40%.

By Cash Michaels
An analysis

            It is behavior you’d expect a partisan Wake School Board member to engage in, like Republican Tea Party favorite John Tedesco, who is running to be the next NC superintendent of Public Instruction.
            Or Republican Debra Goldman, who has also announced her intention to run for  North Carolina state auditor this year.
            Judging the motives of Democratic fellow board members through a purely biased political prism is standard practice for recent Republican Wake School Board occupants, like Chris Malone (who is running for the state House), and former Wake School Board Chair Ron Margiotta, who told bluntly told Democratic board members and anybody who would listen, “It’s either my way, or the highway.”
            Voters in Margiotta’s district last fall decided a higher way was indeed preferable, and kicked the conservative leader off the board.
            But this week, a new, unexpected partisan voice in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan Wake Public School System, has emerged.
            Wake Schools Supt. Anthony Tata has publicly accused Democratic school board members Susan Evans and Christine Kushner of “potential serious code violations” all because they were once members of Great Schools in Wake Coalition (GSIWC), a nonprofit advocacy group that has vigorously challenged Tata’s school choice student assignment plan, calling much of it into doubt, and warning that it could create more racially identifiable high poverty schools.
            “I have had multiple private conversations with these members asking them to sever their ties with this special interest group and they refused,” Tata wrote in a statement, clearly designed for public consumption, issued to The News and Observer Tuesday. “Membership in or support of special interest groups is strictly forbidden, as are secret meetings, secret draft resolutions and the like.”
            That public statement buttressed a stinging Saturday, Feb. 18 email Tata sent to Evan and Kushner, and copied to the entire board plus his senior staff, which directly accused them of being a “proud member of” GSIWC, and being “actively involved in” an alleged GSIWC attack campaign of “unfounded personal attacks on me and my integrity,” Tata wrote, reacting to a GSIWC press release the day before that questioned the true costs of Tata’s school choice plan.
            “Given each of your professed deep involvement in and adherence to the principles of this group, I am concerned that you endorse their attacks on me and my staff (unless of course you state publicly that you do not endorse them),” Tata wrote.
            “Attacks on my character such as those yesterday, which each of you implicity (sic) endorse through your association and support of GSIW, undermine our ability to move forward as an effective governance team, in my view. This is a very serious matter to me that demands some sort of discussion,” Tata wrote. “And to be clear, I could not care less about their attacks on me; what concerns me is your affiliation with this group and your implicit endorsement of said attacks and their subsequent impact on our governance and relationship with the public.”
            Neither school board members Susan Evans nor Christine Kushner were amused in their responses.
            “Mr. Tata,” Evans wrote directly in her response, “I am not sure that I appreciate your potential disrespect for me in implying that I have endorsed statements that GSIW released on Friday. While I have certainly acknowledged my previous affiliation with this group and defend their rights, as well as any other members of the public, to express their opinions, I am neither actively involved in their activities, nor am I given any advance notice of the content or distribution of their press releases.”
            Evans continued, “The GSIW folks understand that my role as a school board member is separate and different from their role as a community activist group and we are all respecting those boundaries.  I am disappointed that you would assume otherwise.  I am even more disappointed that you would choose to send such an accusatory public group email, prior to discussing your concerns with me privately.  I find this unacceptable behavior for a Superintendent to exhibit towards a Board Member and counterproductive to a respectful working relationship.”
            In her response, which at least starts with “Tony,” Christine Kushner, nonetheless, also took the school superintendent who works for her out to the proverbial woodshed.
            “I am deeply troubled by your email. Without the courtesy of a prior conversation, you have accused me, in an email to the full Board and your senior staff that is a public record, of conspiring with a third party group to attack your character. With all of the public records requests for Board emails, I must assume you know your broadside attack on me and another Board member is, and that you intended it to be, a public record. I believe this raises a serious question of judgment.”
            Kushner, like Evans, goes on to deny having anything to do with, or knowing anything about the GSIWC press release in question.
            The fact that you would make these unfounded allegations in a mass email without first raising and vetting them in a conversation with me is disrespectful and counterproductive to having a professional relationship. I have been completely respectful and open with you, even when you have had an "aggressive" (your word) conversation with me,” Kushner continued. “I do not appreciate being broadsided yet again, this time in a mass email that is a public record.”
            “This is not an acceptable way for a superintendent to treat a Board member. I expect you to treat me and the other Board members, your staff and WCPSS employees, and parents and community members with the utmost respect at all times,” Kushner wrote firmly, before ending.
            Tata wrote back the next day, apologizing “if you feel that I was disrespectful.” But that didn’t last long, given Tata’s issued statement Tuesday accusing both board members of possible school board code of ethics violations.
            Board policy prohibits members of acting under outside influence in their decisionmaking and governance.
            If Kushner and Evans, elected last fall to a new Democratic majority, are guilty of anything, the record shows, it’s following the school board policy exactly.
            Though strongly supported by the Wake Democratic Party and members of GSIWC (as a nonprofit, GSIWC could not endorse candidates in last fall school board elections), Kushner, Evans and NCSU Professor Jim Martin once elected, did not automatically scuttle Tata’s controversial school choice plan, as expected, though they did criticize it.
            Instead, because the assignment application process had already begun and they did not, despite their misgivings, want to cause further controversy, the trio agreed to allow the plan to go forward, warning Tata and his staff that they would be monitoring progress closely.
            Their campaign supporters, in addition to GSIWC, and even the NCNAACP, were angry and concerned. But the three, along with board Chairman Kevin Hill and Vice Chair Keith Sutton, stuck to their guns.
            That didn’t stop GSIWC from increasing the pressure, and raising questions about Tata’s plan.
            The group, joining forces with the NCNAACP, even held a public forum raising questions about the plan recently at Martin Street Baptist Church. Supt Tata attended, but was not allowed to answer questions, which he complained about afterwards.
            He is on record as to asking parents to remain patient as he and his staff work out the details as the registration process for this fall continued.
            That, apparently has not been good enough for some. So much so that an important cadre of Wake County’s business community, realtors, are openly questioning whether the plan will indeed work.
            “I am hearing lots of rumbling that this new assignment plan is not what it was billed to be,” wrote George Huntley, owner/broker with Huntley Realty in Raleigh, in a Feb. 20 email not only to all school board members, but members of the Wake County Commission Board, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and the Raleigh City Council. 
             “My buyers new to the area are spending more time worrying over school assignment than they should,” Huntley continued. “This is bad for business.” 
            When Tata went before the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors in December to display the plan, many there had also expressed misgivings as well because it could not, like the previous socioeconomic diversity plan, directly tie certain addresses to certain schools.
            Critics are livid with Tata’s supposed powerplay on two sitting Democratic board members, publicly accusing them of ethics violations and demanding that they denounce their GSIWC affiliations.
            They say Tata did no such thing with Republican board member John Tedesco, who travels the state speaking at Tea Party rallies; former Chairman Margiotta, a Republican, who made no secret of his support for the Republican Party.
            Indeed, Tata said next to nothing when Margiotta used school system personnel to obtain school system video for use in his campaign ad last year.
            And Tata said even less when he posed for a picture with Margiotta, which the chairman, in turn, used on his re-election campaign literature as an implicit endorsement, thus directly involving the schools superintendent in partisan politics.
            And when it comes to demanding that certain board members sever their associations with controversial entities that might, “…undermine our ability to move forward as an effective governance team,” Supt. Tata may have to be reminded he was never required to do so when he was first hired in December 2010.
            A retired US Army Brigadier general who had a few months of training about education administration, and only 18 months as a public school administrator, eyes were raised when many discovered Tata, before he came to Wake, was also moonlighting as a Fox News analyst who routinely criticized President Obama; a writer for Tea Party favorite Andrew Breitbart, the man who falsely accused USDA official Shirley Sherrod of being a racist; a supporter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Tea Party favorite Tata once wrote was better qualified to be president of the United States than Pres. Obama; and a novelist who wrote military adventures with very sexually explicit passages in them.
            Novels that any high school student in Wake County could get and read; and Youtube videos and online copies of Tata's right-wing commentaries that anyone can access even today.
            All of the above was overlooked when Tata got his three-year contract from the Margiotta-led Wake School Board in December 2010. Indeed, his contract, which was just extended six months,  allows him to continue to engage in those activities, as long as he does so on his own time. 
           Thus far, Supt. Tata has chosen to disengage from those associations, just like board members Evans and Kushner.
            “Now, you want to attack Kushner and Evans for being former members of a shoestring, non-partisan group made up almost exclusively of concerned moms, and claim that they are somehow undermining you by having the temerity to raise a few questions about your unproven and potentially destructive and costly reassignment plan?,” writes Rob Schofield of The Progressive Pulse website.
         “The bottom line: Absent some kind of sincere apology, Tata has irreparably compromised his ability to lead the Wake County school," Schofield continues, " in an honest and productive way.”

            If you are between the ages of 12 and 18 or are the parents of  children that age, you should attend the free Self Esteem Workshop, held tonight, starting at 6 p.m. at the YWCA on Hargett  Street in Raleigh. It will be led by Dorothy Shaw Thompson, a gifted presenter and parent counselor. This workshop should end by 8PM. This part of the Positive Youth Development Series being sponsored by the City of Raleigh.
 It is open to the public.  If you need transportation, call 833-6394.  Refreshments will be served.

            In an extraordinary personal attack, the chairwoman of the Wake County Republican Party has called outgoing NC Gov. Beverly Perdue, “The dumbest governor in America.” Wake GOP Chair Susan Bryant made the caustic remark last week during a county organizational meeting at Dorton Arena. The remark was so strong that even Pat McCrory, GOP candidate for governor, backed away from it when confronted, saying through a spokesperson that he neither agrees nor condones the remark. A NC Democratic Party spokesman called the remark extremely personal and unwarranted. Bryant’s claim to fame is losing five seats in a Democratic sweep of the Wake School Board last fall, this losing the board majority.

            In a 4-3 vote, the Republican-led Wake County Commission Board endorsed Amendment One, a proposed constitution change to the North Carolina Constitution that would out same sex marriages in the state, even though state statues already ban such unions. The amendment, which has been blasted by the NCNAACP as writing discrimination into the law, is scheduled to appear on ballot during the May 8 primary.


            [RALEIGH] Four million dollars in federal election funds to help North Carolina conduct the 2012 elections are sitting untouched because Republican leaders in the General Assembly to leave it alone for now. Indeed, they say they may not use any of it until after the May primaries. The money comes from the Help America Vote Act to assist in paying for early voting sites and train poll workers, in addition to maintaining voting machines. NC counties are crying out for the assistance, especially since the budget for the NC Board of Elections was slashed by $5 million last year and the new redistricting maps require massive retraining, but thus far, GOP leadership are dragging their feet to access the funding. House Elections Committee Chair David Lewis (R-Harnett) says the issue won’t be taken up until a special session in April.

            [WINSTON-SALEM] Because of injuries sustained in a car collision last December, state Rep. Larry Womble has announced that he will not seek re-election to the NC House this fall. The Forsyth County Democrat had been rumored to also be considering a run of state District Senate seat 32, but again, discounted that in lieu of his recovery. Forsyth County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon has announced that he will seek election to Womble’s District 71 seat, and Rep. Earline Parmon, also of Forsyth County, says she will run for the Senate District 32 seat in Womble’s stead.

            [GREENSBORO] State authorities say a six-year-old child suffering from the flu and other health complications died Feb. 4th as a result of the illness, the season’s first victim. Officials are not revealing the child’s gender, name, race or hometown in order to ensure the family’s privacy. Flu is known to be dangerous for very young children and the elderly, primarily because their immune systems that fight disease aren’t as strong as in adults. Thus far the flu season in North Carolina has been mild.


by Cash Michaels

            OSCARS SUNDAY - The Academy Awards air this Sunday on ABC. The movie favorite in the African-American community, of course, is the hit film, “The Help,” the story of a group of black maids in the Deep South during the 1960’s civil rights movement.
            Look for Octavia Spencer to take Best Supporting Actress for her role as “Minny.” Co-star Viola Davis is in a tight race for Best Actress that could go to Meryl Streep for her role as “Margaret Thatcher” in “Iron Lady.” Odds are against “The Help” being best picture.
            We’ll see Sunday.
THE FUNERAL - Well, what do you know? America finally got the chance to see a real black funeral last weekend. Whitney Houston’s family took the whole world to CHURCH with the almost four-hour homegoing service for the beloved singer and actress. Held at New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange, N.J. - the church where young Whitney grew up learning how to worship and sing gospel music - some of the most powerful stars in the entertainment business - from filmmaker Tyler Perry to actor/producer Kevin Costner, from singer Stevie Wonder to music producer Clive Davis (Whitney’s mentor) - came to pay tribute to the legacy of perhaps one of the greatest vocalists to ever grace a stage.
            The powerful were in attendance as well, from OWN’s Oprah Winfrey to ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer - both of whom credited with doing explosive interviews with Whitney Houston about her troubled life.
            But when it was all said and done, it was the indomitable spirit of the black church that carried the day, the power of both prayer and song from deep within the soul, reminding u all that no matter what Whitney’s numerous personal problems were, she was a child of faith who was struggling mightily to return to GOD’s good graces before she died.
            The testimonies of actor Kevin Costner, who gave Whitney her first big screen role in the now classic film, “The Bodyguard”; producer Tyler Perry (who must be credited with making his private jet immediately available to the family to fly the body back to New Jersey after her death in Los Angeles), who spoke of how Whitney hung onto her faith no matter how hard things became; and Pastor T.D. Jakes, producer of Whitney’s last and upcoming film, “Sparkle,” who delivered, in my opinion, the REAL eulogy for Whitney when he preached, “Death has not won,” were stirring at times.
            The singing of Donnie McClurkin, Kim Burrell, BeBe and CeCe Winans and others, was electrifying.
            Were there some folks I wasn’t impressed with. Yes. Somebody tell Pastor Marvin Winans that the next time he’s asked to deliver a eulogy, trying doing THAT, instead of selling himself, promoting prosperity ministry, and inviting the press to see more of his preaching at his church. He knew he had a worldwide audience, and acted like it. This event was not about him, and I wished he would have acted that way.
            Like I said, I appreciated Pastor Jakes’ approach to honoring Whitney in GOD’s Word - simple, comforting, true, steeped in the Bible and relating to why we were all there.
            Clearly, the most powerful scene was at the end, when Whitney’s gold coffin was being hoisted up on the shoulders of the pallbearers, and her recorded voice singing, “I Will Always Love You,” began playing, as if she were saying goodbye to the world.
            Powerful, indeed. 
             Thank you Cissy Houston and family for allowing the world to share in the homegoing of your baby girl.
            WHITNEY - Because I was very ill late last week (I’m better now, but not by much), I spent a lot of time sleeping and couldn’t watch the rebroadcast of both the Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer interviews with Whitney Houston, done in 2002 and 2009 respectively.
            Those interviews standout because Houston revealed truckloads about her life that was both shocking and sad.
            Thanks to Youtube, I was able to at least see the original broadcasts as they aired, and from the perspective of Houston’s death, found them even more fascinating.
            Whitney Houston was a blessed and gifted human being, of this there can be no question. But she was also cursed by that gift, to some extent the same way Michael Jackson was. The difference was where Michael never knew to let go; Whitney had a hard time knowing how.
            I’m not condemning anyone here. This is the nature of superstardom, whether it be in entertainment, sports or even politics. It is such an unnatural state of being that the demands of it overwhelms all good senses, making one think they can live forever, when in fact, their brightest light may never reach such heights again.
            Folks like Whitney and Michael have to deal with that, in addition to life’s normal problems, and most time, it can’t be done. The pressure, the demands become too much.
            So they turn to drugs or alcohol…or both.
            And the rest becomes history, a sad history.
            The performer believes they can handle it all - the work, the exposure, the personal life and the stimulants.
            It’s not long before they spiral out of control.
            Whitney says while she began taking drugs before she met her husband, singer Bobby Brown, it really became a problem after she hit the heights with her hit film, “The Bodyguard.” From that point on, she could not deal with superstardom.
            That superstardom eventually destroyed her marriage and family. And when it subsided, Whitney Houston was left with little, and had to struggle mightily to find her way back.
            And now, she’s gone.
            As happy as we all thought she was, she wasn’t.
            As free as we thought her talent, fame and money made her, it didn’t.
            And as much as Whitney professed her faith in GOD, and I believe she really meant it, she also professed her weakness for drugs and self-destruction. It was a constant battle royal.
            When Whitney’s voice and image return to us this August with the opening of the film, “Sparkle,” it will sadden us that she isn’t here to share the applause, and the love.  Word is she gives yet another extraordinary performance.
But it will make us smile that finally, Whitney is free, and safe from the demons that haunted her, and with the Lord she loved so much.
BOBBY BROWN - Say the name, “Bobby Brown,” and amazingly, people start taking corners in our community.
Some say the self-proclaimed “Bad Boy” who now calls himself  “BadA-- Bobby Brown,” is a thug performer who never grew up, had a propensity to break the law, and was a poor husband to Whitney Houston, and father to their child.
Brown’s defenders say the media was against his union with Whitney from day one, and have always tried to destroy him, and unfairly blame him for all that was wrong in Whitney’s life. They add that Whitney, in many ways, was just as reckless and self-destructive as Bobby was, and deserves as much blame for the drug use, alleged violence, and whatever else went wrong in their 15-year marriage.
So why don’t we all be “good Christians,” they beg, and just “leave Bobby Brown alone?”
So what do I say?
I say I agree with Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and the rest of Whitney Houston’s family, the folks who truly know what went on between Whitney and Bobby.
They want no parts of that person, and they especially want Bobbi Kristina, the 18-year old daughter, to steer clear of his influence until she’s able to get herself together in the aftermath of the death of her mother.
I’ll add that during their marriage, while there was much Whitney and Bobby did not reveal about the troubles that plagued them, there was much that they did share publicly, including on a reality TV show called, “Being Bobby Brown,” which put cameras in their dysfunctional home.
Once you do stuff like that, it’s hard for anyone to then say, “It’s none of your business.” Oh yes it is, because YOU made it so, more times than not, for money.
Bottomline, I’m from the old school when it comes to Bobby Brown. I see little evidence that he tried to protect his home from the demons of drugs and alcohol. I see little evidence that he tried to stay true to his marriage vows of fidelity to his wife. I see little evidence that Bobby Brown made any effort to grow up and be a good husband and father.
Some have said, “ Only GOD judges, so why should you?” My answer is actually another question, “Then why did GOD give me judgment to know right from wrong when I see it, and either say or do something about it?”
My point? If we don’t realize that there are plenty of low-rent Bobby and Whitneys in our community, then we might as well kiss the black family goodbye. The weaker the black nuclear family is, the weaker the black community is. And the weaker our community, then the weaker our basic community institutions will be, like the church and the Black Press.
There are lessons in that toxic relationship that call for us to make judgments so that we can learn, and not replicate the lessons of drug and alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, deep depression and marital fidelity. We can say, “That was them” all we want. I think we know there’s plenty of it going on right now.
The Black Church addresses some of this, but it’s time to step up that effort.
Men, support your women, don’t abuse them. They are the source of your families.
Women, if you have a good man, don’t try to undermine that. Work with him to both protect and provide.
The example of Whitney and Bobby shows us that we must all do better, if our families, and communities, are to survive.
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.

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