FIGHT FOR STUDENT VOTING
RIGHTS JUST BEGINNING, SAYS NAACP
By Cash Michaels
The hard fought victory this week of Montravias King, the Elizabeth City State University student who won the right to run for public office this fall, is only the beginning of the fight to restore the voting rights of college and high school students in North Carolina, says the NCNAACP.
In a statement Tuesday, the civil rights group and its College and Youth Division said it has asked to meet with US Attorney General Eric Holder to ask him to sue North Carolina for its new voting restrictions, just as it has done to Texas. And there will be a Sept. 16th march on the Governor’s Mansion to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the white supremacist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four little black girls who took part in the freedom demonstrations.
King, an ECSU senior who had been both living and voting in Elizabeth City since 2009, was denied his right to run for local office after the Republican-led Pasquotank County Board of Elections, at the urging of the local Republican Party county chairman, disqualified the student, saying that his dormitory address was not his permanent domicile because he only lived there nine months out of the year.
The story made national headlines thanks, in part, because weeks earlier, the Republican-led NC General Assembly passed sweeping new voter laws which required voter photo identification that did not include college IDs, thus requiring students without a North Carolina driver’s license or passport to show more than one verifying document in order to secure their right to vote.
Add to that the Republican effort in Elizabeth City to disqualify the votes of students attending historically black ECSU, claiming that because they were not year-round residents of the coastal city, they should not be allowed to vote.
State and national observers saw the King challenge as key in that controversy, because if he could be disqualified as a candidate for local office, based on his status as a student, then that automatically called into question the residency of all college students who lived in dormitories not just in Elizabeth City, but across the state as well.
"There is no compelling government justification to treat (students) any differently than any other group of voters," said Clare Barnett, one of King’s attorneys. "The dormitory is Mr. King's chosen abode according to state law."
Critics maintain that North Carolina’s voting restrictions, seen as the worst in the nation, were partly designed to discourage young voters, the majority of whom vote Democratic in local, state and national elections.
On Tuesday, before a throng of state and national media, the state Board of Elections, with Republicans in the majority appointed by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, listened to testimony from King and the Pasquotank County Elections Board officials, and then ruled that state statutes were clear that as long as Montravias King proved that he lived in the Fourth Ward of Elizabeth City as he claimed, then he was eligible to run for public office there.
The state Elections Board’s decision was unanimous.
A jubilant King thanked his attorneys with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and hugged NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, who was in the hearing room monitoring the proceedings.
State Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller hailed the decision.
“The only surprise with this decision is how far the extremists in the Republican Party were willing to go to suppress youth participation in our electoral process. While Democrats are encouraged by the decision to reinstate Montravias King’s candidacy for Elizabeth City’s 4th Ward on the city council, we were confident that the law and rationale was on Mr. King’s side from the beginning.”
Chairman Voller continued, “This is a victory for youth participation in our democracy and a sound rejection of the politics of fear and division that continues to grip our state’s capital under Republican leadership. The North Carolina Democratic Party firmly stands behind the right of every Tar Heel to participate in our democratic process, whether it’s by volunteering, voting, or seeking elected office. We encourage everyone, especially our state’s youth, to continue in this spirit of service and move our great state forward.”
Prior to the hearing, the NCNAACP College and Youth Division issued a statement decrying the new voting restrictions placed on young people, calling them “vicious attacks,” and “a direct violation of the United States and North Carolina constitutions.”
The NCNAACP CYD also vowed that attorneys with the Advancement Project in Washington, DC and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice would continue to research all legal avenues to overturn North Carolina’s new voting restrictions. They also announced a statewide college tour to rally student to “…protect and exercise the right to vote.”
“We in the Youth & College understand the time we are in,” The CYD added. “This is a time for our generation to stand up, and take our place beside our fore-parents in the struggle for freedom and justice. We are here to state explicitly that we stand in full support of the legal actions taken against these regressive attempts to shrink the electorate. We state explicitly our college chapters -- you do not stand alone. We fully back you. We will be fighting with you to protect our precious rights.”
“Know that today is not the end,” the CYD added. “Today is the beginning of a movement.”
STATE NEWS BRIEFS 9-5-13
FORMER REP. THOMAS WRIGHT ON TRACK TO LEAVE PRISON
[WILMINGTON] Former NC Representative Thomas Wright is on track to finish his six-year prison sentence and be released by May 2014, published reports say. Wright, a Democrat, was convicted in 2008 of fraudulently obtaining a loan and obstruction of justice. He as the first state lawmaker to be expelled from the NC General Assembly in 128 years. Wright has reportedly been a model prisoner, and currently serves as a chaplain’s clerk at the New Hanover Correctional Center.
BLACK CHURCH PASTOR APOLOGIZES FOR “ONLY WHITE PEOPLE” DIRECTIVE
[CHARLOTTE] The executive pastor of church operations at Freedom House in North Charlotte has apologized for sending out an email last weekend directing that “only white people…the best of the best” should be greeting worshippers in order to leave a good “first impression” on new visitors. When angry members of the congregation leaked the email to the press, a storm of controversy erupted, and Executive Pastor Makeda Pennycooke, who is black, had to immediately issue an apology, along with the senior pastor and his wife. Freedom House reportedly has a diverse congregation, but was apparently trying to increase its white membership.
STATE HOUSE AND SENATE OVERRIDE GOV. MCCRORY’S TWO VETOES
[RALEIGH] Despite strong lobbying efforts to protect the first two vetoes of his administration, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory suffered defeat at the hands of the GOP-led NC General Assembly when lawmakers returned to Raleigh Tuesday and Wednesday this week to override the governor’s objections to two bills – one that required mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients, the other an immigration bill that McCrory felt would take jobs away from North Carolinians. Both chambers went beyond the three-fifths of those lawmakers present to override the governor’s veto.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS 9-5-13
FIRED NCCU FOOTBALL COACH APPEALS TERMINATION
Apparently North Carolina Central University hasn’t heard the last of its former head football coach. Henry Frazier III, who was terminated by the school a week ago, has filed an appeal, claiming that his civil rights were violated when he allegedly wasn’t given due process prior to his termination. Frazier was fired after being charged with violating a domestic protective order per his ex-wife. A spokesperson for NCCU had no comment.
RALEIGH CITY COUNCIL LIFTS BAN ON FEEDING HOMELESS
In the wake of a firestorm of criticism after Raleigh police officers threatened to arrest volunteers who were feeding the homeless in Moore Square downtown, the Raleigh City Council Tuesday agreed with its Law and Public Safety committee and suspended the ordinance which banned the practice, but had never been enforced until now. The suspension is in place until the council can study the matter further, and then decide on a permanent fix sometime in November.
CITY, FEDS PROBING BIAS CHARGES AGAINST DURHAM POLICE CHIEF
Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez is finding himself being investigated at home, and by federal authorities at the same time. Durham officials are looking into allegations that Chief Lopez said that a Durham defense attorney who had been shot “deserved it.” Meanwhile a racial bias complaint has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by a black assistant Durham police chief, claiming that Lopez overlooked him for promotion because of the color of his skin. The complaint adds that Lopez gave a position to a relative of his wife. Mayor Bill Bell says until more is proven, these are just allegations.
CASH IN THE APPLE 9-5-13
By Cash Michaels
THERE HE GOES AGAIN: Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, certainly claimed another chapter in history last week when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – the very place where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on August 28th, 1963 to deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech – and rendered his vision of the nation and the world during the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Needless to say, Pres. Obama thoughtfully recalled the triumphant civil rights movement, and how it changed the nation forever. And it came as no surprise that given the current state of the union, with high unemployment, voter suppression, and a weak economy, that the president noted though we’ve come far since the ’63 march, we still have a long way to go to achieve the “dream” of MLK.
But then, as he’s done several times before, Pres. Obama decided to use the opportunity in front of a mostly black audience, to touch on black pathology:
And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support -- as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.
Here’s the problem – wrong audience, Mr. President.
The people at the 50th march commemoration were there because they want to see better and get better and are ready, willing and able to do better to take their country back. So they, and millions of others listening and watching, deserved solid words of encouragement, and assurances that they were not alone.
For those in our community who, indeed, have lost their way, a word of two about helping them do better so that all of us can enjoy a better nation would have done the trick. But instead, the president chose to paint with a broad brush.
Not good. Wrong audience.
That paragraph was Obama’s way of covering his behind with his Fox News constituency. You know, the folks who take stock of every time the president dare to violate the unspoken rule that he should NEVER acknowledge being black. These people were tearing their hair out a year ago when the president came out to the Rose Garden, and told the world that if he had a son, he’d look just like Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida teen who was shot to death by neighborhood watch guy George Zimmerman.
And when Zimmerman was acquitted recently, Obama, again, sent the blood pressure in some folks rising when he came out in the White House press briefing room and said that once upon a time, he too was racially profiled juts like Trayvon Martin.
Black America cheered the statement, while right-wing zealots like Fox’s Bill O’Reilly immediately tried to shift the focus to black-on-black crime (as if significant white-on-white crime, or Hispanic-on-Hispanic crime etc. did not exist).
So last week, it was bad enough that no Republicans accepted invitations to join the 50th anniversary program to speak. The president had to throw his Fox conservative critics a bone so that they wouldn’t accuse him of turning a blind eye to his community’s problems as they see them (oh yes we have problems, but they aren’t as bad as the conservatives make them out to be).
For many of us, it’s “There he goes again,” especially after the president rankled feathers last May during commencement remarks at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He used some of the same language in speaking to the graduating class, forcing some to ask why he was talking down to young men who are considered some of the very best of their generation.
If the president were talking to a group of former gangbangers, the message would certainly be more appropriate. And if he posited that message in terms of helping those who have trouble making it, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing either.
But to use that language during occasions of pride, accomplishment and celebration is a bad move. If the president is insisting that that stuff be put in his blanket speeches to the black community, then he’s wrong. If his political advisors push for it to cover his six with the Fox News conservatives, then they’re wrong.
The fact of the matter is Pres. Obama doesn’t go before any other group to say such things. He does not lecture any other community, and Lord knows every group has its problems.
So at some point in time, the president of the United States has to understand that his most loyal constituency has now gotten past tired of being talked down to. He still needs us to be there for him. Not with votes, but with prayer and public support.
Maybe someday, Pres. Obama will remember that
BACKBITERS – Ever since Pres. Obama was elected several years ago, there has been a disturbing phenomenon occurring among some among black leadership. I don’t know if it’s jealously or what, but it has gotten ugly at times.
Actually, some of this started before the election of Barack Obama, when television pundit Tavis Smiley got ticked because then candidate Obama refused to make time to appear on TV with him, offering to send Michelle Obama instead.
Then Dr. Cornel West, one of our most gifted thinkers and spokesmen (and close friends with Tavis) blasted the president after his election for not doing enough for black people and the poor. But when you dug down a little further, you found that Dr. West was really ticked because he and his mother were not allowed special seats at the inauguration as had been expected after he worked for the Obama campaign.
Then West and the Rev. Al Sharpton got into it on MSNBC a few years back, and man did that get ugly. Word was that they had buried the hatchet, but there’s clear evidence that if there was ever true, it didn’t last long.
Tavis got upset later on, saying out loud that Obama was the first president not to invite him to the White House for an interview. Then Dr. West jumped on Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry after she got her own show on MSNBC, alleging that she was some kind of sellout.
Are you still with me so far?
And now, per last week’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, comes word, courtesy of Medialite, that Dr. Cornel West, noting how close Pres. Obama and Rev. Sharpton are, has called the good reverend, “ the bonafide house negro of the Obama Administration” because he apparently didn’t like any of the speeches at the event.
West also went after Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, who also appears on MSNBC frequently, as having “sold-out” by not using their high-profile perches to address the issues of racism, militarism and poverty.
Lord have mercy!
Look, a lot of this is personal for sure, and my wasting time and ink here saying that it shouldn’t be happening isn’t going to stop it. There will always be those who won’t like one leader or another because they don’t fit their vision of true black leadership. As much as I admire and respect Dr. West and Tavis Smiley, I have serious problems with some of the petty stuff they been saying about the president (West allegedly said something particularly ugly about Obama’s white mother which I did not appreciate).
So all I can say is that I respect everyone involved for their individual work, but if they want to continue to quibble like little children, that’s on them. I don’t have any more time for that.
Get back to work, and stop the BS!
THE SHAME – It is beyond a shame that not one Republican or conservative leader would find the time, or make the time, to accept the invitation to speak during last week’s 50th anniversary on the March on Washington. That fact sure threw Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who went on the air last Wednesday blasting the event organizers for not inviting any right-wingers, only to come back on the air the next night with his tail between his legs admitting that he was wrong, and Republicans were invited a long time ago, but all declined.
O’Reilly promised that in the future, he would check his facts first. Yeah, right. That would be a new tradition at Fox News.
Fact of the matter is the GOP have now sent a clear message to go along with everything else they’re doing to turn the civil rights clock back. They don’t even want to be seen on the same stage with civil rights leaders, or even Pres. Obama.
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.