NCCU'S NEW CHANCELLOR - Debra Saunders-White was named the new chancellor of North Carolina Central University last week by the UNC Board of Governors. Her tenure begins June 1st. Saunders-White currently serves in the US Dept. of Education. Before that, she was the vice chancellor for Information Technology Systems at UNC - Wilmington, and a systems designer for highwer education at IBM. Saunders-White succeeds interim Chancellor Charles Becton, and former Chancellor Charlie Nelms. [Photo courtesy of the Campus Echo].
RALEIGH POLICE CHIEF
LEARNED TO LEAD
By Cash Michaels
When President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address Tuesday evening in Washington, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown was right there in the Congressional gallery as a guest of Fourth District Congressman David Price.
Only twelve days into her permanent position (she had served as interim chief since last October when Harry Dolan retired), Chief Deck-Brown was there not only to hear the president’s address, but also meet some of the Washington powerbrokers who could help her get the resources she needs to better protect the citizens of Raleigh.
That has been Deck-Brown’s job as a law enforcement officer ever since the African-American woman joined the Raleigh Police Dept. – the only police agency she’s ever worked for – in 1987, when Fred Heinemann was leading the department.
The Franklin County worked hard to learn under Heinemann, who introduced community policing to Raleigh; then Chief Mitch Brown, her brother-in-law; Chief Jane Perlov, the department’s first female chief of police, and finally Deck-Brown’s immediate predecessor, Chief Dolan.
From all of them, Deck-Brown says, she learned how to bring the community and police department closer together for better communication, interaction, and ultimately better public safety.
I’ve had the opportunity to [be] mentored by some very great leaders,” Chief Brown told The Carolinian in an interview last week. “Each one of them brought a different concept and a different vision to the police department, but the one thing that resonated with all of them was fairness, and seeing the humanity in our community, and wanting to make a difference.”
Chief Deck-Brown graduated from East Carolina University prior to joining the Raleigh PD. She served as a patrol officer, crime prevention officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, deputy chief, interim chief, and now chief. When Raleigh City Manager J. Russell Allen began a national search to replace the retiring Dolan, rank-and-file police officers with the department made it known loud and clear that Deck-Brown had their solid support, especially when she got rid of an evaluation test many thought was unfair and unnecessary.
Mgr. Allen told The Carolinian that when he measured Deck-Brown’s experience and accomplishments against other candidates were considered some of the best nationally, he was convinced she could do the job, especially since she already knew the department, and had 25 years already invested.
“She was the best choice,” Allen said.
Building on the strong foundation of her predecessors, and moving forward to lower crime, improve public safety, and keep pace with whatever homeland security measures are required to partner with the state and federal government against terrorism, are just some of the many policing challenges Chief Deck-Brown agrees she faces.
But also building an even better relationship with the community, and especially young people, so that they see a police officer as someone to run to, and from, is also a high priority for this new leader, she says.
Protecting the citizens of Raleigh, a city that has demonstrably grown in size and population since Deck-Brown first walked a beat, is a tall order. But the first black woman in the history of the Capital city to lead its police department says she’s ready for it.
“We have to be very smart about how we use our personnel and our equipment, to better serve the community,” Chief Deck-Brown says.
OVER 15,000 JOIN HK ON J’S
CALL FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE
By Cash Michaels
As far as the eye could see – from the NC Legislative Building on Jones Street, all the way down through the block-long plaza to the state Capital – an estimated 15,000 marchers, at least a third of which were high school and college students from across the state, joined the throngs for the Seventh Annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J)– The People’s Assembly last Saturday.
But unlike previous years, members of the black, white, Latino, gay, labor and activists communities came with more of a mission than ever before, alarmed by the quick actions of the first Republican majority NC General Assembly in recent history to stop Medicaid expansion, cut unemployment benefits and do precious little to address the state’s historic poverty levels.
“It was by far the largest, most diverse, most well-organized People's Assembly the NAACP has ever organized …,” said attorney Al McSurely, NCNAACP Communications chairman, who went on to call it, “…the largest civil and human rights rally on record ever in Raleigh.”
Led by HK on J convener, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, Saturday’s massive assembly forcefully addressed the key issues of economic sustainability and ending poverty; healthcare for all; voting rights, immigration; fairness in the criminal justice system, and educational equality, among others.
Joined by National NAACP Board Chairwoman Roslyn Brock, NAACP Board member Carolyn Coleman, and Wilmington Ten leader Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Rev. Barber blasted Republican lawmakers for voting to refuse federal money to expand Medicaid to over 500,000 more poor in the state (Gov. Pat McCrory has subsequently agreed with the Legislature); voting to firing all appointees to state boards, commissions, and even 12 special judges, in an effort to replace them all with Republicans; reducing unemployment benefits from $535.00 to $350.00 per week, in addition to shortening the payment period from 12-20 weeks and expanding the wait period for benefits to begin from one to two weeks; floating tax reform that would eliminate the state personal and corporate income tax in favor of raising the sales tax, which would severely burden the poor when buying food and other essentials; and pursue establishing a photo voter ID law, even though, by state Board of Elections estimates, at least 600,000 primarily Democratic voters in state do not have any form of official identification.
Barber also warned of Republican plans to make “right to work” part of the NC Constitution.
The NC NAACP president warned that even though the GOP has super majorities in both the state House and Senate, that will not stop the over 100 members organizations of the HK on J Coalition statewide from speaking out, and opposing what they see as regressive policies that could hurt the poor, perpetuate further economic injustice, and turn back the clock on civil rights.
“The just must live by faith, and know who we are,” Rev. Barber said, referring to why, no matter what critics and haters say to derail the movement, the diverse HK on J Coalition must stand strong together.
NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn Brock, noting that 2013 holds many 100th and 50th anniversaries of significant civil rights events like the 1963 March on Washington and hundredth birthday of the late civil right icon Rosa Parks. She also marked the Feb. 12th 104th anniversary of the birth of the national NAACP, saying that Black America must continue to lead the fight for equal and civil rights.
“HK on J,” Brock called out, “We are here, and we will not be silent!”
Ben Chavis, who once again thank former Gov. Beverly Perdue “for her act of courage” for granting pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten before she left office December 31st, said he was contemplating “coming home” to his native North Carolina from Florida, so that he could engage in the struggle here once again.
‘I’m glad to see this day coming back to North Carolina,” Dr. Chavis said, adding that the many young people there were “the future of the movement.”
“We need HK on J. We need freedom, justice and equality.”
Calling them “dinosaurs in the Legislature,” Chavis also remarked that regressive Republican lawmakers should be “cleaned out” and retired to the state museum across the street from the Legislature with the other “relics” there.
SUTTON CALLS COMMISSION BOARD’S “POWER
GRAB…A BLATANT OVERREACH”
By Cash Michaels
There’s been much criticism about the Wake County School Board authorizing the hiring of a legislative lobbyist to fight efforts by the Wake County Commission Board to own school properties and change school district elections, but Wake School Board Chairman Keith Sutton says there really isn’t much choice.
“It’s a power grab,” Sutton told The Carolinian in a telephone interview earlier this week. “I think it’s a blatant overreach by the county commissioners, and really just steps outside the realm of their authority.”
Indeed none of the Democratic majority on the Wake School Board were pleased with word that the Wake Commissioners had placed their “power grab” of school board authority and elections on their 2013 State Legislative Agenda. Beyond just taking over ownership of school properties, Republican commissioners want
their GOP colleagues in the General Assembly to change Wake School Board elections from nine separate district elections, to 5 district elections, and four at-large elections, meaning that Wake voters beyond their various districts could elect four of the nine district members.
The Republicans hope that adopting this electoral change would immediately give them a chance to topple the Democratic majority on the school board, which will currently remain in power for at least the next three years.
Sutton says the move is clearly political, and does nothing but ramp up the tensions between the boards at a time when they should be working together to put a school construction bond before the voters by next fall.
“It’s pure politics and…they’re just doing it simply because they can,” Sutton says, adding that there isn’t much that can be done to stop them beyond the resistance, namely a legislative lobbyist, that the school board exhibits.
Wake Commissioner Tony Gurley has blasted Sutton for now spending $100,000 in taxpayer money just to hire the lobbyist. The Wake School Board chairman replies, “If they had just left us alone, left the business of the school board to us, and took care of the business of the county commissioners, they wouldn’t have to worry about spending any taxpayer dollars on lobbying.”
Sutton says the question of who should own school system buildings and properties has actually been around for years. It is only now, because the NC General Assembly finally has Republican majorities in both houses, that the Republican-led Wake commissioners decided now was the time to move on the issue.
Because school boards in North Carolina don’t have the power of taxation, they have to get their funding from their local county commission boards. In many cases, school boards have to get their commission boards to sign off on bond referendums to fund new school construction.
Wake Commission Chairman Joe Bryan says because they fund the schools, the Commission Board should own the school buildings and properties. He and other Republican members say it is more efficient, and ultimately saves the taxpayers money.
The Democratic majority on the Wake School Board says school construction involves a lot more than just owning the properties. Intense planning goes into what schools must be built where to serve what areas, in addition to assigning students accordingly. The school system staff and board, not the Wake commissioners, are best suited to handle that, Sutton and company say.
The issue has ramifications beyond Wake, however.
The Republican-led New Hanover County Board of Education is watching the tension in Wake County very closely because it fears its Commission Board, and other Commission Board across the state, may ultimately want to do the same thing if the NC General Assembly signs off on the Wake Commission Board’s request.
They also fear Wake Commissioners legislative request to help fund charter schools in their area, saying that will just take further funding away from the public school system overall.
“…[S]hort-sighted and ill-conceived,” wrote NHC School Board member Derrick Hickey in a recent blog.
Other issues are keeping Chairman Sutton’s school board plate full. Filling Debra Goldman’s District 9 seat until this November is one of the newest agenda items the board must attend to.
Goldman, who left the board two weeks ago, came on the board with the Republican takeover in December 2009. Despite her many controversies, Sutton says Goldman was a “hardworking board member” who came for her constituency, and paid attention to detail.
Retooling the new student assignment policy in time for the 2014 school year was the subject of an extensive board committee meeting last week. Board members discussed how to reconstitute the plan so that stability, proximity, student achievement and diversity are important components.
Chairman Sutton says the one thing he feels the school system could do better this time is have the need for student diversity better reflected beyond just student assignment and the magnet school program. In fact, he says, he’s like to see a system Office of Diversity, similar to what Guilford County Public Schools, so that that standard is properly maintained in all areas, including procurement and recruitment.
“Diversity has to be part of your organizational culture,” Sutton says, ‘Not just a piece here or a piece there.”
In 2010, the then Republican-led Wake School Board gutted diversity out of the system’s Policy 6200 in its drive towards establishing neighborhood schools. Discussions are now underway to have it reinstituted.
Regarding school security, Sutton says a new task force, co-chaired by Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison and former Raleigh Police Captain Al White, is in the process of identifying members to serve.
Once up and running, the task force will review safety plans, emergency and threat preparedness throughout the school system, and make recommendations to the board in 90 to 120 days. The need for the panel arose after the school shooting massacre of 26 people – 20 of which were first-graders – last December at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Wake high schools and middle schools already have armed school resource officers in them, generally either off-duty Wake Sheriff’s deputies or Raleigh Police officers. But some groups have expressed concern about putting more officers in schools, particularly elementary campuses that are currently unguarded, making them “armed camps.”
Sutton says that certainly isn’t his intention, only the safety of all students. He assures that the task force will have diverse interests on it.
Recently the school board hired a search firm to move forward with the selection of Wake’s next permanent school superintendent. Board members are scheduled to sit down with the firm to express what attributes they want in the candidates.
Sutton says he’s heard nothing from the Civil Rights Division of the US Dept. of Education regarding the racial bias complaint filed by the NCNAACP against the Republican-led school board.
As for the complaint filed by the conservative Wake County Taxpayers Association to AdvancED against the board’s Democratic majority in retaliation for the firing last September of former Supt. Anthony Tata, Sutton says the system is still at “warn” status regarding its accreditation of system high schools, and it has one more report to file regarding issues it was directed to address.
Published reports indicated that in a January letter, AdvancED said while progress had been made, it felt more needed to be done for the school boards Democrat and Republican members to get along. It also wanted to monitor how the superintendent search was going, and how the new student assignment policy would be implemented.
STATE NEWS BRIEF FOR 2-13-13
WILSON MAN FINALLY FREED FROM GEORGIA PRISON
[ATLANTA, GA.] It’s not the complete exoneration he sought, but John McNeil is finally released from a Georgia prison after seven years. The Wilson, NC native had been sentenced to life after he fatally shot a contractor who was attacking him with a weapon outside of his home in 2005. A witness and a police officer deemed the shooting self-defense, but a year after the incident, prosecutors convicted McNeil of first-degree murder. On Tuesday, a Cobb County, Ga. judge, saying that mistakes were made in the first trial, re-sentenced McNeil to 20 years in prison, but gave him seven years credit for time served, and placed him on 13 years probation. To get the deal, McNeil had to enter a plea of involuntary manslaughter. “I just want to breathe freedom,” McNeil told reporters, accompanied by NcNAACP President Rev. William Barber, as he left prison.
The release was bittersweet. Last week, McNeil’s devoted wife, Anita, succumbed to cancer after a long struggle. Her funeral was last weekend. Rev. Barber, who presided over the funeral, said she fought valiantly for the freedom of her husband.
DHHS SECRETARY RESPONSIBLE FOR TEA PARTY WOMAN’S HIRING, MCCRORY SAYS
[RALEIGH] Gov. Pat McCrory, after ducking the issue for a week, finally admitted to reporters that the hiring of Dianna Lightfoot, a Tea Party activist whose disparaging tweets and Facebook postings forced her to resign last week as the head of the state’s pre-kindergarten program, and the failure to properly vet her beforehand, was the work of new NC Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos. “Mistakes were made,” McCrory said, referring to the controversial hire he says he had no input in. Lightfoot had a online paper trail of controversial statements, from calling former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a “butch,” to referring to gay people as “bigots.” She even called Pres. Obama’s healthcare act “enslavement.” Lightfoot was forced to resign two days before she was to take office. Ironically, Lightfoot was once opposed to publicly funded early childhood programs.
MCCRORY AGREES WITH NO MEDICAID EXPANSION
[RALEIGH] After waffling on the issue, Gov. Pat McCrory this week joined with Republican legislative leaders in calling for no expansion of Medicaid, saying that “it would be foolish” to put more poor people in the state program if the system is broken. A state audit found at least $1 billion in cost overruns, something Republicans say must be fixed first. They also don’t trust the federal government’s assurance that it would pay for the additional 500,000 patients for the next three years, and then pick up 90 percent of the costs thereafter. Critics say by rejecting expansion, not only are more poor people denied vital health care services, but the state stands to lose new federal money and at least 23,000 jobs that would come with it. State GOP lawmakers voted this week to stop Medicaid expansion.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 2-13-13
DUKE SUSPENDS FRAT AFTER “RACIST” PARTY
Duke University officials have suspended a campus fraternity that was accused of holding a racist party that stereotyped Asian people. Duke officials say they don’t know how long Kappa Sigma fraternity will be suspended, and they hasten to add that the suspension has to do with other issues that were being investigated, not the party. The national fraternity also suspended the Duke chapter last week, and Asian students held a protest on campus against the party. The chapter president has since apologized by letter in the student newspaper.
JUDGE CHANGES MIND, APPROVES WAKEMED SETTLEMENT
A federal district court judge, who previously expressed dismay twice with a fraud settlement federal prosecutors pushed in the WakeMed Medicaid fraud case, has now changed his mind, and signed off on the agreement. Judge Terrence Boyle did the about face last Friday, in effect deferring prosecution of hospital officials for two years for the admitted fraudulent billing for overnight stays that never happened. WakeMed, in turn, will pay an $8 million fine, and agree to fix its billing system. If it meets all requirements, charges will be dismissed. Judge Boyle originally wanted prosecutions, but agreed that doing so would shut WakeMed services to underprivileged patients.
FIRST DURHAM COUNTY RABIES CASE REPORTED
The first rabies case of 2013 has been reported for Durham County. A dead raccoon found on the front lawn of a home on Strawberry Lane on Jan. 29th has tested positive for rabies, Durham Animal Services Division reports. The raccoon was apparently killed by a dog, officials say. Pet owners are advised to make sure their dogs and cats are properly vaccinated and up-to-date.
CASH IN THE APPLE for 2-13-13
By Cash Michaels
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KALA – On February 14th, 2003, ten years ago today, my second precious daughter was born, KaLa. And we could tell from the very beginning that she was going to be very special.
And now, ten years later, there is no question we were correct.
KaLa is an excellent student in school, and always has been. And she is a very creative person, especially with her drawings, and arts and crafts. But she is also developing into a very fine writer and researcher, and KaLa’s grasp of facts and details at her young age is quite impressive, and in my totally biased opinion, will take her far.
But the thing that most impresses me about my youngest one is her heart, which she expresses every day through her singing. This child lovingly sings out loud and strong every day, and has even begun writing her own songs.
Perhaps my most favorite activity with my KaLa is sharing some of the music and movies from the past, introducing her Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder, showing her videos of some of the old classic performers, and also some of the best in classic black music.
To hear her, days later, seek out these songs and artists on her own, and sing along with them, is really a joy (though I must confess, KaLa found, “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” on her own.
So from your proud mother, Markita; older sister Tiffany; and me, Happy Tenth Birthday KaLa. We love you, and encourage you to keep learning, growing, and praying. Always practice those three, and you can’t go wrong.
MY FILMS AT 2013 HAYTI HERITAGE FILM FESTIVAL – I missed entering last year, but I’m back this weekend as an entrant in the 2013 Hayti Heritage Film Festival at Durham’s Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville Street in the St. Joseph’s Historic Performance Hall.
The festival starts today, Feb. 14th, and ends Sunday, Feb. 17th.
This fine event, for almost 20 years, has featured some of the most informative and inspiring independent black filmmaking in the nation, and this year, I’m honored not to just have one, or two, but THREE of my films shown.
And the best part about that is all three are being shown back-to-back-to-back, starting at 1 p.m., on Sunday, Feb. 17th.
At 1 p.m. the first of my films shown will be the documentary about the NCNAACP’s “Truth and Hope Poverty Tour,” which takes us across the state to hear from people living in extraordinary conditions of poverty. It is powerful, factual and relevant, and deserves to be seen by every North Carolinian.
Indeed, every American.
The next is a mini-documentary titled, “Pogo Joe: Fighting the Game,” about “Pogo Joe” Caldwell, a former NBA and ABA basketball All-Star, and the only player who could stop “Dr. J” Julius Erving. Joe, who is now in his 80’s, once played for the old Carolina Cougars basketball team in the 1970s, and was permanently kicked out of professional basketball because he stood up to the powers that be who wanted to cheat him, and treat him like a slave. There was even a CBS “60 Minutes” story about it.
This is also a powerful piece that teaches an important part of black sports history that can’t be ignored. Even if you’re not into sports, the story alone is worth seeing.
And finally, my last mini-doc, “Carolyn Coleman: Portrait of a Leader.” This was a tribute film I did in honor of Ms. Coleman, who currently serves as a Guilford County commissioner, and also a member of the national NAACP Board of Directors. Ms. Coleman has a long and distinguished history in the civil rights movement, particularly here in North Carolina.
This short film is both dramatic and inspirational. After you do see it, there will be no question that Ms. Coleman is a woman of history.
I am immensely proud of all of these films, produced by my company, CashWorks HD Productions, and I’m very pleased that they are all being shown during the 1 p.m. hour this Sunday at the Hayti Heritage Festival. And yes, I’ll be there to talk about them with anyone who wants to hear about them.
I don’t know if any of them will win anything, but that’s not the reason why I made them. I made them to indeed, inform and inspire. Capturing the essence of our collective humanity is what I believe a good filmmaker does. That’s what I try to do.
So attend the Hayti Heritage Film Festival in Durham, starting tonight at 6 p.m. with the opening reception. But make sure that you attend everyday you can, and especially this Sunday.
For more information and the daily schedule, go to http://www.hayti.org/hayti-heritage-film-festival.html, or call 919-683-1709, ext 21.
SAD FOOLISHNESS – As you know by now, last Saturday’s Historic Thousands on Jones Street – the People’s Assembly march and rally at the NC Legislative Building was a smashing success. Organizers estimate at least 15,000 demonstrators of all walks of life took part, and heard progressive messages against turning the clock back here in North Carolina.
I was there to see it for myself, and it was a great day of pride and activism.
But not everybody in our community sees it that way, or appreciates what the NCNAACP is doing, or the tremendous courage that its diligent leader, Rev. Dr. William Barber, has to get it done.
Indeed there are some who look to tear him and the NCNAACP down BECAUSE they are so visible and outspoken.
Earlier this week, I had someone whose talent I greatly admire write to me, challenging what the NCNAACP does, and why. This person, who I shall not name because that would be grossly unfair, has written me in the past with negative, and clearly unfounded accusations against Rev. Barber specifically, which I diligently and forcefully refuted because I know Rev. Barber very well.
Few people on this planet have my complete trust. Indeed few have earned it. William Barber is certainly one that has. I’ve seen his work up close. Indeed I’ve worked with him, and he with me when I’ve called for assistance on an issue, like the successful Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project.
I’ve seen this leader care, and cry, and sacrifice for the least of us. I’ve seen him bare the burden of cruel, racist threats…even as recent as last week.
And I’ve seen him to be true to his word, and then some, which is all that any of us could ask of one another.
William Barber is all of this, and a man of GOD as well.
So outside of his own family or the people who’ve worked closest with him, no one can tell me about NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber.
But whether it’s jealously, callousness, or just pure hate, this person who wrote me again this week, believes Barber and company to be at the least, misguided, and at the most, corrupt. So we had a running debate for a day or two.
Because this column is running long already, I’ll spare you the highlights of that debate now, and save it for next week. But needless to say, there are those around us who don’t get, and I’m sorry say, probably never will.
But we MUST keep pushin’ on for what we KNOW is that brighter day for ALL of our citizens, and I have every intention of doing so.
No matter who doesn’t like it!
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.