NNPA STORIES -
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS – 01-10-13
WAKE SCHOOL BOARD HIRES SEARCH FIRM FOR NEXT SUPT.
The Wake County Board of Education this week voted to hire a Nebraska search firm to vet candidates for the next superintendent. By a 7 to 1 vote, the board chose McPherson and Jacobson to conduct the search. School Board Chair Keith Sutton said he wants the entire board to be part of the search process, which he maintains will be open. The firm will be paid $47,030 for its services.
WAKE, NC HAVE THE MOST BOARD CERTIFIED TEACHERS
The Wake County Public School System continues to have more nationally board certified teachers than any other school district in the nation, according to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. Wake has 2,299. That number contributes to North Carolina having almost 20 percent of all board certified teachers in the nation, which is 19,799m out of 102,237 nationally.
EIGHT PEOPLE VIE FOR WAKE SCHOOL BOARD SEAT
Now that District 1 Wake School Board member Chris Malone has left to join the NC House, eight candidates have filed to fill his open seat, published reports say. All but one of the eight are Democrats, including Don Mial, who unsuccessfully ran for the Wake County Commission Board. Wake School Board Chair Keith Sutton says he’d like to see a new board member chosen by the end of this month.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
OVER 612,000 NC VOTERS HAVE NO DMV ID
[RALEIGH] According to a new report by the NC Board of Elections, 612,955 registered voters in North Carolina do not have identification issued by the NC Division of Motor Vehicles, an d the majority of them are Democrats. The finding is important because the Republican-led NC General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory have vowed to make voter identification their top priority as the new legislative session begins. Reportedly, 6,624,672 voters are eligible to vote in the state, with 5,007,790 having a valid DMV or state-issued ID. Of the over 612,000 without official ID, 324,997 are Democrats. Half of voters who don’t have state-issued IDs are white.
MCCRORY GREETS STATE LAWMAKERS AS SESSION STARTS
[RALEIGH] As state lawmakers came to Raleigh with their families Wednesday to be sworn-in for the start of the new two-year term and long session, Gov. Pat McCrory, who was just sworn-in last weekend, greeted many, in an effort to begin forging new relationships as his term in office begins. For the first time in 140 years, North Carolina has a Republican governor and Lt. governor to work alongside a Republican-led state House and Senate. McCrory said he’s forward to “a team effort” with the GOP Legislature.
NCDOT CHIEF TATA WAS “HEARTBROKEN” TO BE FIRED FROM WAKE SCHOOLS
[RALEIGH] Gov. Pat McCrory’s new state secretary of Transportation, Anthony Tata, told WRAL-TV News this week that he was “heartbroken” when he was fired by the Wake County School Board four months ago as schools superintendent. Because of friction with Democratic members of the school board, plus big problems with school bus scheduling at the beginning of the school year, Tata was shown the door amid controversy. He’s says he’s confident that his past military training will make him successful on his new position.
THE GOV. MCCRORY ERA BEGINS
By Cash Michaels
This Saturday, North Carolina’s first Republican governor in 20 years, Pat McCrory, will be ceremonially sworn into office.
The formality is largely symbolic, since McCrory officially took the reins of power last weekend when he was officially sworn in January 5th. He wanted to take the job over from outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue prior to the NC General Assembly – which is also majority Republican – gaveling into session this week.
For many Democrats, the prospect of not ruling the governor’s office, or either house of the state Legislature (or the Congressional delegation, for that matter) is disturbing. McCrory, a former longtime mayor of Charlotte, will serve for at least four years, unless he’s later re-elected.
And though state lawmakers serve only for two years, Republican-drawn redistricting maps, in the likelihood that they’re upheld by the courts, pretty much guarantee that the GOP will control the General Assembly for the next decade.
What North Carolina will look like in the areas of education, economic prosperity, access to affordable healthcare and housing, and the social safety net to the poor in ten years, is up for debate. And political observers are already predicting a bloodbath of change once McCrory and GOP legislative leaders begin carrying out their conservative agendas for the state.
McCrory has already made it clear that he fully intends to sign some sort of voter identification into law, though published reports suggest he may opt to broaden the requirements beyond just photo ID.
The NCNAACP, with whom McCrory met with recently, has started a petition, asking him and the GOP legislative leadership to govern as moderates.
“We, the undersigned, urge you as esteemed leaders of the state of North Carolina to reject efforts by extremists on the far right to govern only for the good of a few and instead, that you remain moderate, do what the North Carolina Constitution requires, and govern for the good of the whole,” the NCNAACP petition reads. “The Republican Party now has a super majority in this state and as all of us believe, with great power and influence comes great responsibility. We are praying for your courage to act as leaders in this new year and always for the good of the whole.”
McCrory, however, has made no public pronouncements to comply.
The governor also has signaled that big oil and gas companies will see a “welcome” sign from his administration, with McCrory touting the many jobs he believes will come with fracking for natural gas, and opening up North Carolina’s coastline for oil exploration.
It should be no surprise to anyone that Gov. McCrory will seek major education and tax reforms during his first term in office, believing that North Carolina is long overdue for both.
McCrory’s choice of administrative officials has already drawn concern in progressive circles. Arch-conservative businessman Art Pope, known for his Tea Party associations, and bankrolling the 2009 of the Wake County School Board, and the 2010 Republican takeover of the General Assembly, has been appointed by McCrory to be assistant budget director, meaning that Pope will have enormous sway over the governor’s budget decisions.
Attorney Kiernan Shanahan, the tough-talking conservative former federal prosecutor whose law firm’s motto is, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight,” is now McCrory’s Secretary of Public Safety, encompassing the State Bureau of Investigation among other state law enforcement and emergency agency services.
And then there’s perhaps Gov. McCrory’s most controversial appointment, failed Wake County Schools Supt. Anthony Tata, who was fired four months ago after botching school bus scheduling, and starting partisan fights with Democratic board members.
Tata, a retired US Army brigadier general and former Fox News commentator who once wrote that Sarah Palin would make a better president than Pres. Barack Obama, is now McCrory’s new Secretary of Transportation, in charge of the enormous NC Dept. of Transportation. Similar to when he took over as Wake Schools superintendent, Tata has virtually no experience with statewide transportation issues, but the governor assures all that Tata’s wartime experience in Afghanistan will more than make up for what he lacks for his new post, even though that’s yet to be seen.
What is yet to seen in the power relationship between Gov. McCrory and state GOP legislative leaders is who will lead, and who will follow.
The governor prides himself on being a take-charge, results-driven administrator. McCrory’s drive to get things down may run up against the political ambitions of House Speaker Thom Tillis [R-Mecklenburg] and Senate President Pro Tem Leader Phil Berger [R-Guilford].
Both Tillis and Berger, who have been in power for the past two years, are not likely to follow the Republican governor. They don’t have to. The state House and Senate are veto-proof, so neither has to negotiate with the governor over measures they disagree with.
And neither is likely to wait for McCrory to learn the ins and outs of state government. Both have their own agendas for the state – agendas that have crunched up against each from time to time, and now that they have complete power, the likelihood of occasional philosophical brushups and overreaches is enhanced depending on the degree of control each Republican leader believes he should have.
Time will tell how Gov. McCrory will measure up in his control of state government, and just how much of that control he will really have.
WILMINGTON TEN HONORED WITH
PARDONS, AND PRAISE
By Cash Michaels
[WILMINGTON, NC] For Mary Alice Thatch, publisher of the Wilmington Journal, it was a sight she wasn‘t sure she’d ever see. But it was because of her efforts, and the team that she put together through the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), that made this day of justice for the Wilmington Ten possible.
“We knew that we would not stop fighting,” Ms. Thatch, who co-chaired the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project – an NNPA justice outreach effort – triumphantly told the joyful crowd at historic Gregory Congregational United Church of Christ last Saturday.
Indeed, many of the hundreds of people who jammed into the small black church to see members of the Wilmington Ten honored with the certificates of pardon, signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue, declaring them innocent, agreed.
The forty-year long injustice was finally, and officially, coming to an end.
“God demands justice for all of us,” NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, who presided over the one-of-a-kind pardons worship ceremony, preached from the pulpit.
“And we must demand it for each other,” he continued.
Five surviving members of the Ten – Dr. Benjamin Chavis; Wayne Moore; Marvin Patrick; James McKoy; and Willie Earl Vereen; were joined by the families of deceased members William Joe Wright; Anne Sheppard; Jerry Jacobs and Connie Tindall, to receive both the certificates, and the pens with which Gov. Perdue – whose term in office ended Saturday just two-hours before the worship ceremony –
signed on December 31st.
The tenth member, Reginald Epps, lives in Raleigh, but has shied away from all Wilmington Ten gatherings as he has struggled to rebuild his life over the years.
Each member, now forty years older from when they were framed and convicted as young civil rights activists in 1972 by, as Gov. Perdue stated, the “naked racism” of a corrupt prosecutor, proudly received their honors with a handshake and a hug from Pardons Project attorney Irving Joyner, as ecstatic onlookers in the church wildly cheered.
Gregory Church was once where white supremacists drove by in pickup trucks in 1971, firing their weapons, hoping to kill, if not terrorize, Rev. Chavis, and as many of the black students who had taken sanctuary there a possible.
Wilmington then was a small southern town that exploded in racial violence after black students boycotted the racist schools of the New Hanover County Public School System. Rev. Chavis, eight other young black males, and a white female social worker named Anne Sheppard, would later be arrested, convicted and sentenced to 282 years in association with that violence, though there was never a shred of evidence that they were connected in any way.
But on Saturday, Gregory Church became a place of overwhelming joy and pride. What citizens, black and white, had known for forty years was now reality before their very eyes.
The Wilmington Ten always were innocent!
“This is a great moment, a great moment in the history of North Carolina,” proclaimed James Ferguson, who served as Wilmington Ten lead defense attorney forty years ago.
Under North Carolina law, each member of the Wilmington Ten is entitled to apply for up to $50,000 in compensation from the state for each year of false incarceration, not exceeding a total of $750,000.
Though all of the Wilmington Ten did spend some time in prison, they all had their individual sentences commuted in 1978 by then former Gov. James B. Hunt.
However, after the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned all ten convictions, based on gross prosecutorial misconduct, it directed North Carolina authorities either to retry the Ten, or dismiss all charges.
For thirty-two years, North Carolina did neither, effectively leaving the Wilmington Ten in legal limbo. Most of the defendants had trouble getting work, or keeping a job. Many were shunned by their communities.
And at least two members – Jerry Jacobs and William Joe Wright – died directly because of diseases they contracted directly from their imprisonment.
But none of that was being debated at Gregory Church last Saturday.
Indeed, Dr. Benjamin Chavis vowed that “pieces of silver” would not come between the Wilmington Ten after all they’d been through.
“This is a great day for the movement,” Chavis said happily. “A great day.”
CASH IN THE APPLE FOR 01-10-13
By Cash Michaels
JOY IN WILMINGTON – If you were not at Gregory Congregational Church in Wilmington last Saturday, you missed a truly unique moment in history.
Five of the six surviving members of the Wilmington Ten, and the families of the four deceased members, all receiving their official certificates pardons of innocence, signed by Gov. Beverly Perdue, along with the pens she signed them with on Dec. 31st, 2012, in a worship ceremony that will never be forgotten.
It was a fitting end to an extraordinary campaign to seek the legal freedom of ten civil rights activists who were falsely convicted of conspiracy in 1972, in connection with racial violence a year earlier in the port city.
Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP – who has been a powerful partner in our efforts - presided over the ceremony, and delivered his stirring keynote remarks to a jammed-pack, standing room only overflow crowd that saw people literally lined up out the church doors.
Among those chosen to speak on the program by the NCNAACP, was yours truly.
I graciously declined.
Why? Right behind me on program was my intrepid boss at the Wilmington Journal, Ms. Mary Alice Thatch, the dynamic leader who started this all.
True, as coordinator of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project, I naturally would be expected to say something at such a gathering.
But something from inside told me, “No, this is Mary Alice’s time. She has sacrificed so much for this effort, has gone through so many challenges, and even had to live through the loss of her mother, Wilmington Journal Publisher Emeritus Willy E. Jervay last year.”
Mary Alice deserved, in my opinion, at least one day of complete happiness. This project was her baby from the very beginning.
In my bones, I wanted my Wilmington Journal boss to take the total spotlight, and allow the community to give her all of the love and applause she deserved.
And guess what? I was right, and it was heartwarming to see Mary Alice bask in the well-earned glory, and thrust her happy fist in the air in victory.
What I had to say was not needed. She said it all.
But perhaps the most powerful moments for me were watching each member of the Wilmington Ten receive their certificates of pardon, and their pens from attorneys James Ferguson and Irving Joyner – two of the best litigators on this, or any planet.
To see the people of Wilmington hail each of them - Willie Earl Vereen, Marvin “Chili” Patrick, James “Bun” McKoy, Wayne Moore and the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis - as righteous heroes, was a sight to see…and feel.
This was a REAL victory after years of struggle. Ten American citizens, getting their full rights back after they were viciously ripped away.
The families of the four deceased Wilmington Ten members – William Joe Wright, Anne Sheppard, Jerry Jacobs and Connie Tindall – proudly stepping forward to also receive the official vindication they always knew were due.
It was history, delightful God-sent history.
A day I’ll never forget.
I was asked a few days later how being coordinator of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project has changed my life. I couldn’t answer that because it’s still too fresh, too new. Plus, my responsibilities have immediately shifted to now producing a documentary about what we did, and the challenges we faced (more about that in later columns).
But how this experience changed my life is not at all important. I know, for a fact, that what our coalition of the willing did was to change the lives and legacies of ten courageous people, who took the blows forty years ago so that all children could get an equal, quality education, free of racial bias.
That’s what we set out to do, and GOD blessed us by leading us to the Promised Land of our goals. What we did has now made North Carolina history, and civil rights history.
We have now, like the Greensboro Four, and the Little Rock Nine, completed the book on the Wilmington Ten.
And one more thing – at his funeral last August, I promised Connie Tindall, as he laid in his casket, that we would get those pardons of innocence.
Promise kept, Connie. Promise kept.
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 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.