WILMINGTON TEN PARDONS PROJECT PANEL - As North Carolina Central University School of Law Professor Irving Joyner (2nd from the right) speaks, (from left to right) Carolinian editor Cash Michaels, Wilmington Ten leader Dr. Benjamin Chavis and lead defense attorney James Ferguson listen during a panel discussion about the successful pardons project during the NNPA Mid-Winter conference Jan. 23rd in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. [ Photo by Fran Farrar of The County News]
PARDONS TEAM AT NNPA - NNPA Chairman Cloves Campbell (right) poses with members of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project (from left to right), co-chair and Wilmington Journal publisher Mary Alice Thatch; project coordinator and Carolinian/Wilmington Journal writer Cash Michaels; co-chair and NCCU Law Professor Irv Joyner; Wilmington Ten leader Dr. Ben Chavis; and Wilmington Ten lead defense attorney James Ferguson [Photo by David I. Muir]
WILMINGTON TEN PARDONS PROJECT TEAM - Members of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project Team pose before a Jan. 23rd panel discussion at the NNPA Mid-Winter Conference in Florida. From left to right, Wilmington Journal publisher Mary Alice Thatch; Carolinian/Wilmington Journal writer Cash Michaels; Dr. Benjamin Chavis; NCCU law Professor Irv Joyner, and Wilmington Ten lead defense attorney James Ferguson [Photo by David I. Muir]
EXPECT GOP LEGISLATIVE
REGRESSION, SAY CRITICS
By Cash Michaels
The long era of Republican legislative dominance has now officially begun.
With the first GOP governor in over twenty years starting his term, and a Republican-led NC General Assembly kicking off its much-anticipated legislative session yesterday – the first of many, thanks to redistricting – Democrats are lamenting what they see as a period when progress achieved under their leadership in the areas of education, business growth and the state’s social fabric, will erode.
Translation - especially for North Carolina’s communities of color – the clock is about to be turned back, especially when Republicans are expected to aggressively implement voter photo ID; cut unemployment maximum benefits from $535 a week to $350 a week; and dramatically raise the state sales tax on food and services in lieu of eliminating the state corporate and individual income taxes.
“If you look at who it impacts, it impacts low-and-moderate-income individuals, says state Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham). “Sales taxes are inherently regressive, and 60 percent of our population, particularly 60 percent of the low and moderate income, are going to be paying more rather than less.”
The result, analysts say, would be to raise taxes on middle-class and poor citizens in the state, while the wealthiest 20 percent of citizens making at least $1 million would actually get a $41,000 break
According to Alexandra Sirota, director of the nonprofit NC Budget and Tax Center in Raleigh, Republican lawmakers in the state Senate are floating the idea of raising the sales tax on food from two percent, where it is now, to a whopping eight percent. In bad economic times, when citizens cut back on shopping and spending, a state tax system dependent solely on sales tax revenues would fail to raise the requisite revenues needed to improve schools, build roads, and meet the ever increasing needs of the state.
Pointing to Kansas, Sirota says, “Tax cuts have not generated improved economic performance in states where they have been implemented.
Beyond their questionable tax reform agenda, there is little doubt that Republican leadership insistence on a mandated voter photo identification law is also raising concerns. The NC NAACP – which is holding it’s seventh Historic Thousands on Jones Street march and People’s Assembly on Saturday, Feb. 9th - is calling it nothing short of the voter suppression of communities of color, the elderly and young people.
“North Carolina elections are working,” said NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. William Barber during a press conference last week. “North Carolina had the largest increase in voter turnout between 2004 and 2008. North Carolina was one of only six states where more people voted this year than in 2008 (200,000 more). Black registered voters turned out at a 70.2% rate, exceeding the rates of 68.6% for whites and 54.3% for Latinos in 2012.”
Rev. Barber continued, “Instead of trying to restrict voting in the 150 year anniversary of the emancipation proclamation and 50 year anniversary of the march on Washington, we should as a people - Democrat and Republican- should be trying to protect and expand access to voting rights and NOT attempting to restrict and suppress them. This is why we must fight these efforts locally in our state and nationally with every tool available.”
The NCNAACP leader apparently hit a Republican nerve.
“This is as insulting a diatribe as I have seen in years,” wrote Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Beaufort) in a Jan. 23rd response to Barber’s press conference remarks. “The NAACP has a proud history of working on behalf of black Americans to address the problems of society directed at them. You tarnish that with your racist diatribes and your race-baiting attitude.”
“The photo requirement to vote is to prove that one is who they say they are,” Rep. Speciale continued. “Nowhere in anyone’s minds but yours and your fellow race-opportunists is race, ethnic background, or color of one’s skin mentioned, insinuated or inferred regarding the proposed voter ID laws.”
“You do minorities and the elderly a disservice when you assume that they are incapable or incompetent to the point that they cannot provide a photo ID to vote,” maintained the Republican lawmaker. “Photo ID’s are required in nearly every aspect of American life, and most Americans over the age of 16 have some form of photo ID. Your talking points make no sense, as you ramble on with Constitutional phrases to give an impression that you know what you are talking about, and it is apparent that you are grasping at straws. Your attempts to make minorities and the elderly believe that they are victims in this effort is contrary to common sense but apparently necessary to your economic survival.”
Rep. Speciale concluded his email rebuke of Rev. Barber by saying, “Your comments, both today and in the past are racist and inappropriate, therefore, I request that you remove me from your email list.”
The Carolinian called Rep. Speciale’s legislative office Jan. 31st and left word to confirm that he, indeed, sent the email to Rev. Barber, and to confirm its content. At press time, he had not returned our call.
Democratic State Sen. Floyd McKissick, who says voter ID “has the potential of preventing 600,000 people in the state [from voting], adds that he and other Democrats in the Legislature – like new Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Larry Hall of Durham – will have to fight every issue as they come, especially those that negatively the poor and communities of color.
“Absolutely. We’ll be fighting vigorously and courageously, whatever the issue may happen to be, making certain that the public is enlightened as to the way the Republican majority wants to take this state,” McKissick said.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
INTERIM RALEIGH POLICE CHIEF GETS GROUPS ENDORSEMENT
After last week’s police chief candidates’ forum where the three finalists for Raleigh Police Chief answered questions and met the public, The Raleigh Police Protective Association, a group of 600 officers on the force, has endorsed interim Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to get the job. "Interim Chief (Cassandra) Deck-Brown exhibits the characteristics that are essential in the next police chief: experience, knowledge, expertise and integrity," the group said in a statement this week. Like Chief Deck-Brown, the other two finalists – Chief Bryan Norwood of Richmond, Va. and Deputy Chief Malik Aziz of Dallas, Texas, are all African-American. During last week’s forum, they all spoke of the need for community policing, gang control, and greater technology for fight crime.
DURHAM CHURCH IS SUED FOR SINGING PRAISES TOO LOUD
Nine families living close to the New Hope Church in Durham have had enough, and have filed a lawsuit complaining that church leaders have refused to turn down the decibel level of their praise and inspiration. Those families, residents of The Hills of Southpoint on Fayetteville Road claim that noise from New Hope is “akin to rock concerts,” and interferes with their peace. The church counters that it has complied with the neighbors’ requests to turn the music down, and even has changed worship times.
WCPSS’ SOCIOECONOMIC DIVERSITY POLICY HAILED IN DUKE UNIVERSITY STUDY
Despite criticism from the Tea Party conservatives who took over the Wake County School Board in 2009 and ended the policy, a new Duke University study this week shows that Wake’s old socioeconomic diversity policy maintained the best racial balance of any major public school system in the state. "Wake County, with its longstanding policy of busing for economic balance, maintains relatively integrated schools." The study added that school systems dependent on school choice “in lieu of busing, such as Charlotte-Mecklenburg, have higher rates of racial imbalance.”
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
STATE TEEN PREGNANCIES AT HISTORIC LOW, SAYS STUDY
[GREENSBORO] Improved methods of contraceptives, in addition to decisions to forestall sex, may explain a dramatic drop in teenage pregnancies in North Carolina between 2003 and 2011, say members of the NC Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. Teen pregnancies during that period dropped a stunning 28 percent, even though the rate of sexual activity among NC teenagers remained basically the same. Per the most recent figures available, less than five percent of North Carolina girls, ages 15 to 19, became pregnant. However, almost 14,000 teens did become pregnant in 2011 – more than the national average – some officials say still needs to be addressed.
CHARLOTTE NETTED $163.6 MILLION FROM 2012 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
[CHARLOTTE] The final figures are in on what the economic impact of last summer’s historic Democratic National Convention was on the Queen City of Charlotte. With approximately 35,000 visitors attending, $163.6 million was generated, with $91 million in direct spending. City officials had been projecting at least $200 million before a private firm crunched the numbers for them.
LT. COL. BELL APPOINTED ACTING COMMANDER OF NC HIGHWAY PATROL
[FAYETTEVILLE] With Col. Michael Gilchrist retiring at the end of this week, Lt. Col. Gary Bell has been appointed to take his place temporarily as acting commander of the NC Highway Patrol. New Dept. of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan says that Bell, “has a breadth of experience and demonstrated leadership skills that make him well-suited for this assignment. He has garnered the respect of his peers as he has risen through the ranks of the patrol over the past 27 years.” Lt. Col. Bell has overseen patrol statewide operations, managed the Professional Standards Division, and commanded Troop B. Col Gilchrist steps down after over two years in command.
CASH IN THE APPLE -01-31-13
By Cash Michaels
HK ON J 7 – Before we say or do anything else, mark your calendars now for Saturday, Feb. 9th, for the Seventh Annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street – the People’s Assembly March and Rally. This year’s theme is “Mobilizing to End Poverty and Economic Injustice.” Gather in front of Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh at 9:30 a.m., then march down to the NC Legislative Building on Jones Street at 10:30 a.m. to rally for justice. For more information, go to http://www.hkonj.com/, or call (919) 682-4700.
NNPA CONFERENCE – If ever it was to be proven to me how much securing pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten a month ago today meant to people, it was definitely proven last week during the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the African-American newspaper group that sponsored the effort.
Last week in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the NNPA held its annual mid-winter conference, and welcomed Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project members Dr. Ben Chavis, Prof. Irv Joyner and attorney Jim Ferguson and myself to talk about our victory, and we did so, shortly after screening a short video of the Jan. 5th pardons ceremony worship service conducted by the NCNAACP at Gregory Congregational Church in Wilmington (go to YouTube - http://youtu.be/0CQjBiUOPb4).
Nary an eye was dry after the video, because NNPA black publishers were able to see members of the Wilmington Ten, and the family members of the deceased Wilmington Ten members, happily receive their official certificates of pardon, signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue.
Afterwards, the panel talked about the challenges of obtaining the pardons, and what it means to the African-American community, and the still ongoing civil rights movement.
To make a long story short, the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project story is one of total community effort, of bringing together the Black Press, the Black Church, civil and social rights activists, academia and social networking. The Black Press led the way, but we were smart enough to realize that weekly stories alone weren’t going to get the job done, weren’t going to apply the requisite pressure needed to get the job done.
Thus, an extraordinary coalition was built based on close partnerships. No question that our partnership with the NCNAACP was our most significant, and to this day, we’re proud to have had it.
Our panel discussion inspired NNPA publishers to replicate the same kind of effort in their respective communities. If that is indeed the case, then I’m even prouder of our effort here in North Carolina for being the source for more movements of justice.
Now onward to the documentary.
WARREN BALLENTINE – I’m sure the “Truthfighters” out there know who Warren Ballentine is. Ballentine, who lives in Durham, NC, helms the nationally syndicated “The Warren Ballentine Show” (heard in the Raleigh-Durham weekdays at 10 a.m. on Power 750 WAUG-AM). An attorney by trade, Ballentine has addressed many of the top issues in the African-American community, particularly economic empowerment.
But now Ballentine is in a bit of trouble himself. Recently, the radio host esquire was hit with a six-count indictment by a federal grand jury for an alleged $9.7 million mortgage fraud that dates back to 2004. Specifically the charges are bank fraud, making false statements to lenders, wire fraud and mail fraud.
He is expected to make his first federal court appearance Feb. 5th, though it’s not clear at press time where.
I don’t know Ballentine personally, though I have met him twice, the last time being at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last summer. Our laws say everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
So all anyone can say is pray for the brother, and hope that he is able to mount a strong defense against these charges. It never fails that those who step forward from amongst us, get targeted for one reason or another.
Stay strong, Bro. Ballentine.
CISSY SPEAKS ON WHITNEY – In her new book, “Remembering Whitney,” Cissy Houston, the mother of Whitney Houston, who died February 11, 2012, says that she misses her super talented daughter, but admits that she was no angel. Mother Houston had no respect for Whitney’s husband, singer Bobby Brown, and lamented the fact that her daughter had a drug problem that eventually caught up her, causing her untimely death.
I haven’t read the book, but I have no doubt that Cissy Houston speaks her mind. She’s entitled to. She lost her dearest baby, and the world lost an extraordinary talent.
SUPER BOWL SUNDAY – Ok, so who do you have, the San Francisco 49ers, or the Baltimore Ravens in this Sunday’s Super Bowl? I love the heart of the Ravens’ Ray Lewis, and given that this is his final NFL pro game as a player, I have to go with him. The Ravens have shocked everyone this year, proving that they are the team with heart and skill.
So the Ravens all the way, baby!
(Lord I hope I just didn’t jinx the team.]
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.myWAUG.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my 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.