Monday, December 9, 2013



By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            Local black leaders say they’ve seen enough alleged misconduct on the part of Wilmington police officers to now call for the head of Police Chief Ralph Evangelous.
            Sonya Patrick, chair of the New Hanover Chapter of the NC Black Leadership Caucus, and Charles Warren, former Brunswick County commissioner, and head of the New Brunswick NCBLC, say they hold Chief Evangelous responsible for “out of control” police officers who, in recent months, have been involved with numerous acts of excessive force with suspects that have resulted in at least three deaths, and several injuries.
            Most of those officers have been cleared, and a grand jury did not criminally indict a white WPD K9 Officer Stafford Brister, who is seen on a Nov. 1st police dashboard video at the corner of 23rd Street and Castle Hayne Road, pushing a police dog through a driver’s side window into a suspect Johnnie Williams’ car to attack and bite him after he clearly has his hands up in surrender after a police chase.
            Putting a dog in a car when a person has surrendered is inexcusable,” says a joint statement from both Patrick and Warren. “The time it took to place a dog in the
car, could have being used to official detained  the suspect who again had
 surrendered and car was surrounded by armed officers.”
The pair continued, “In response to the SBI Report; we speak truth to power. The truth is the Wilmington Police Department has used excessive force in the line
of duty. The internal investigation is a waste of time because the official SBI investigation has taken place and found no wrong doing in the officers.”
            Patrick and Warren continued, “The officers are in place to protect and serve.
The evidence of this video is disturbing and inhuman. We call out to the leadership of the Wilmington Police Chief Evangelous calling out for his resignation. We have had too many incidents in the last 90 days that have required an investigation.” 
“The local chapters of the NCBLC believes that new leadership in the Police Department will be a solution,” the joint statement ended.
New Hanover County NAACP President Deborah Maxwell watched the tape, and called what she saw “extreme,” but Police Chief Evangelous says other authorities don’t think so.
            “When I first learned about this case I contacted the District Attorney’s Office and requested his assistance along with the SBI to conduct a full investigation,” Chief Evangelous said in a statement Monday. “They did what they were asked to do.”         “The Grand Jury, made up of citizens from our community, has rendered their decision. Our District Attorney has supported this decision and found that the actions of our officer were not criminal.”
            Chief Evangelous continued, “The officer will remain on Administrative Leave with pay pending the outcome of our internal investigation.”
            On Wednesday, in response for calls for his resignation, Evangelous said as chief, his job was to, “…ensure that the actions of our officers are monitored and that our ethics and standards are not compromised.”
            “I will continue to take full advantage of the resources afforded me to examine these incidents fully. While that may draw criticism form some, it is a matter of maintaining public and employee trust in me and the department.”
But Sonya Patrick says this latest incident is just the most recent example of how the police chief fails to hold his officers accountable for their actions, and thus Evangelous must go.
            Wilmington City Councilwoman Deborah Padgett does not agree that Chief Evangelous should step down, but she, too, was troubled by what she saw per the K-9 video, and has said that Officer Brister should have, “…used better judgment.”


By Cash Michaels

            In 2011, in an effort to unseat then District 8 Wake School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta, Southeast Raleigh board member Keith Sutton took Democratic challenger Susan Evans with him to various black churches in Apex prior to the October elections to introduce her to those congregations, and assure them that if elected, she would represent their concerns.
            Voters in those black churches helped to show Margiotta, the Republican who led the 2009 GOP takeover of the Wake School Board which made national news in how it racially divided the community, the door.
            Evans then gladly supported Sutton’s bid to succeed embattled Board Chairman Kevin Hill in 2012, but exactly one year later, the District 8 representative told The News & Observer a week after voting, along with the rest of the “Kushner Seven” to oust Chairman Sutton, “It’s unfortunate that there’s been such a over-reaction to the decision.”
            Christine Kushner, the board vice chair who weeks ago was secretly tapped to replace Sutton by her colleagues prior to the Dec. 3rd 7-2 vote, told the paper that, “…she didn’t want to disrespect [Sutton] by saying why a leadership change was needed,” as if last week’s stunning all-white vote to oust him was “disrespect” enough.
            Former Board Chairman Kevin Hill, whose contentious 2011 campaign and subsequent election runoff was supported by Sutton not only on the ground, but with money donated from Sutton’s own District 4 election campaign, told the N&O that Sutton’s ouster was a “board issue,” and he was apparently dismayed that, “…an outside group or individuals has tried to influence the selection.”
            The paper also reported that another board colleague, NCSU Prof. Jim Martin, “Has compared the [Kusher] vote to a personnel decision that would normally be treated as a confidential matter.”
            By state law, elected members of public bodies are not considered hired personnel, and thus, their deliberations – with the exception of personnel and real estate issues – and decisions, including the choosing of board leadership, are not concealed from public view or scrutiny.
            That in a nutshell, a week after seven white board members summarily dismissed the board’s black chairman without any substantial accountability to the public, is the justification of the Kushner 7 controversial action – “We did it, now let’s move on.
            Various Democratic black-elected officials like District C City Councilman Eugene Weeks, and Wake County Commissioner James West have expressed surprise and concern as to the school board’s action.
            No doubt when Chairwoman Kushner and board member Martin met with the Wake Black Leadership Caucus Wednesday evening at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh, they received an earful as well (The Carolinian will have a full report on that meeting next week).
            But the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association – the veteran nonpartisan grassroots community group which traditionally vets local candidates for public office – has also expressed its displeasure, and the ramifications for the Wake School Board which come with it.
            “There needs to be a better explanation, or an explanation period,” said Rev. Dr. Earl C. Johnson, president of the RWCA. “That what people in Southeast Raleigh, and people all over Wake county deserve a better response than what they have given.”
            Rev. Johnson continued that he didn’t understand why the Kushner 7 maintain that they needed different leadership, when Sutton clearly showed that he was able to effectively take on virtually every issue that confronted the board – from passage of the $810 million school construction bond, to the hiring of new schools Supt. Dr. James Merrill, to the halting of a Wake Commissioner legislative plan to take over both control and ownership of Wake school system properties .
            “Without his leadership, reality, I don’t think the school [construction] bond would have passed, and I don’t think that the public’s impression of the school board would be as lucid as it is now,” Rev. Johnson said, adding that he thinks Sutton has “brought back some respectability” to a board that just one year ago was in desperate and tattered shape after the firing of Supt. Tony Tata.
            As he did in his written statement to The Carolinian, Rev. Johnson promised that sooner or later, the Kushner 7 will have to come before the community and account for their actions, especially now that, per the GOP state Legislature, the school board voting maps have changed, and there will be two at-large districts now, instead of nine single districts.
            “…[W]e wish to express to the remaining board members that this is a new day,” Rev. Johnson wrote last week. “It is not lost on us that many, if not all of you, have visited our meetings and attended our public forums during election seasons. You have sought our endorsements and seek our assistance with your campaign canvassing and fundraising efforts. The upcoming elections of 2016 may seem far off, but our memories are even longer. This slight of one of our brightest leaders is not something that we take lightly. Keith Sutton represented a beacon of hope to the thousands of young African-American students who are educated under his watch. In an era in which our President is besieged by hostile forces within the GOP, we, the membership of the Raleigh Wake Citizens, feel as though WCSB Member Keith Sutton has been similarly maligned.”
“Our minds are not settled with this matter.”



There will be a Triangle Wide Memorial Service for the late President Nelson Mandela in Raleigh on Saturday, December 14th, 2 P.M. AT First Baptist Church, 101 south Wilmington Street, Downtown Raleigh. Invited dignitaries to speak include Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Gov. Pat McCrory and Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP. This event is free and open to the public. Call 919-834-6264 for more information.

REP. WATT CONFIRMED - It took a change in US Senate rules to finally confirm North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt Tuesday evening as the new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac housing loan agencies. Watt, a longtime Democratic congressman representing the 12th District's Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, won the Senate vote by a majority 57-41. "I remain humbled by President Obama's nomination and am honored that the United States Senate has voted to confirm me as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency," Watt said in a statement.  "I look forward to serving in this position of trust and to working to insure that the statutory responsibilities of this agency are faithfully executed."


            The jobless rate in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area in October was virtually flat at 6.4 percent, even though the region gained 6,000 jobs – the biggest job gain for the area since January 2012 - according to the NC Dept. of Commerce. The rate drop is least it’s been in five years. Observers say it is a sure sign that the region’s economic fortunes are improving.

            Even the State Bureau of Investigation is probing the death of a Latino teenager who was shot to death in the back of a Durham Police vehicle, the family of the victim, Jesus Huerta, 17, say they now want the US Dept. of Justice to come in and uncover the truth. On the night of Nov. 19th, Huerta was in the back of a Durham patrol car that had just arrived in the parking lot of Durham Police headquarters, after just having been arrested for trespassing after his mother called police looking for him. Reportedly a shot rang out, but authorities maintain it was not a police weapon. Police officials refuse to give further details while the SBI probe continues.

            How can Durham Public Schools stem the tide of higher suspension rates among black male students and students with special needs? That was the purpose of a public forum Monday evening with concerned parents, administrators and members of the public. With approximately 6,000 students – 80 percent of whom were black – suspended by the Durham school system last year, new solutions were being sought. Many of those discussed included lowering class sizes, training teachers in student diversity, dealing with truancy and fighting, among other issues. A report is expected to be forwarded to the Durham Board of Education for review, and possible policy action.



            [GREENSBORO] More teachers left North Carolina classrooms last year than within the past five years, according to an annual report by the NC Dept. of Public Instruction. Approximately 13,616, or over 14 percent of public school educators left school districts for other jobs in education or the private sector in 2012-13.  That was up from slightly over 12 percent in 2011-12.  Almost 900 left last year because they could no longer tolerate bad conditions, like the state’s failure to raise teacher’s pay. North Carolina ranks near the bottom of the nation’s 50-states in teachers’ pay.

            [WINSTON-SALEM] Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit to stop North Carolina’s new voting reform laws want a trial before the 2014 elections, and are in court today to argue that point.  Attorneys for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the state Legislature are expected to argue for the trial to challenge voter photo ID and restrictions due to kick in by the 2016 elections to take place after the 2014 elections, most likely in 2015. Indeed, they’re suggesting the summer of 2015. Observers say the trial most likely will take at least three weeks. The NC NAACP, the NC League of Women Voters, the NC ACLU and other groups say they want the trial prior to the Nov. 4, 2014 elections. A judge could decide as soon as today, if not in several weeks. Meanwhile in Wake County, the elections board there has decided to allow Sunday early voting for the November 2014 elections (new state law voting restrictions eliminate Sunday voting after 2014), but the Chavis Community Center in Southeast Raleigh will not be used for early voting in the May 2014 primaries.

            [RALEIGH] The North Carolina Association of Educators and the NC Justice Center reportedly filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state alleging,” …that the unconstitutional school legislation passed by the General Assembly during the last legislative session will undermine student success by undercutting public schools.” New laws by the Republican legislature eliminated teacher tenure in lieu of performance pay. GOP lawmakers say the changes put more accountability into North Carolina’s education system.

By Cash Michaels

            MANDELA – It has been quite surprising, but also heartwarming to see our American media, indeed the world’s collective media, pay tribute to the life and legacy of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
            Mandela passed last week at his home, with his family at his side, after a long illness. He was 95.
            From freedom fighter to peacemaker, Mandela, since his release from prison over a quarter – century ago, has been the very symbol of peace and reconciliation. His story is legendary, his life incredible. To share just a picture with him was something many of the world’s greatest celebrities and powerful leaders craved.
            Indeed, Nelson Mandela shares the same plateau with legendary American civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a man of great vision, great purpose, but humble spirit.
            In 1990, when President Mandela visited the United States at the request of Mrs. Coretta Scott King (no slouch herself in the civil rights department), he went to Atlanta for a public gathering at Georgia Tech Stadium.
            That’s where I saw him, along with a busload of people from Raleigh. I was working with WLLE-AM, and we had promoted the trip with the Martin Luther King Celebration Committee.
            The place was jammed, as tens of thousands from all over the South, and the nation, came to the home of the Yellow Jackets to salute a hero, and a legend.
            Though I never got the chance to personally meet “Madiba” as he was called in his native South Africa, I can definitely say that I was in his presence, and saw and heard him speak.
            It was great history.
            So apt it was to have our first black president pay tribute to South Africa’s upon the sad news of Mandela’s death.       
            “He is no longer ours,” said President Barack Obama. “ He now belongs to the ages.”
            So true, so true.
            Thank you Madiba, for all that you’ve done in the interest of peace, and freedom.
            RIGHT-WING TAKE ON MANDELA – Boy, has it been disturbing to hear the neo-cons rattle about how Nelson Mandela was an anti-American Commie-pinko who hated white people and was a terrorist. No less that former Vice President Dick Cheney still maintains that he, and other Republicans, were right to vote against sanctions on the white-controlled South African government during the 1980’s. As for as Cheney, President Ronald Reagan (who vetoed those sanctions) and our own Sen. Jesse Helms were concerned, South Africa was a trusted friend, they have precious minerals (like diamonds, etc.) we want access to (if the black South Africans take over, they’ll never give us access), and we can do business with them.
            Thus, we have to demonize someone like Nelson Mandela.
            And that demonization per the right-wing continues today, though I have to give folks like Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz credit (for now) for properly eulogizing Mandela against a torrent of criticism from his own crazy base.
            The more they run their mouths, the more the right-wing of this nation further exposes their venom and hatred for things most normal people consider worthy of praise and note.
            They feel that their white supremacist world (that’s their view, unfortunately) is ordained by GOD, and they, and they alone should lead. And there can be no doubt that many of them are in leadership, and have effectively thrown this nation on its collective back.
            So allowing the legacy of Nelson Mandela to go without challenge is something these folks are simply not in business for. And that’s a shame. That means there’s very little, or next to nothing all of us can ever come together on. And that’s sad, because that means we can never expect better from the right-wingers.
            BEVERLY HILLS COP 4 – Word is that comedian Eddie Murphy, whose movie career is about as low as Sara Palin’s IQ score, is reportedly going back to basis with yet the fourth installment of his popular Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Detroit Det. Axel Foley will ride again, and Murphy wants his buddy, director Brett Ratner, famous for his “Rush Hour” movies, to helm the project.
            Let’s be blunt…Eddie Murphy needs a hit even more than the Republicans. His movie career is so bad (with the exception of his voiceovers as the Donkey in the Shrek animated movies) that film companies are actually releasing unfunny comedies of his that were made years ago, but were held back. Murphy’s “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” was one of the most expensive failures in cinema history. So it makes sense that he would go back to the well of Beverly Hills Cop, even though the last one was released in 1994 and didn’t do that well.
            Also keep in mind the CBS turned thumbs down on what was supposed to be a Beverly Hills Cop TV series last year, which Murphy was supposed to make occasional visits to.
            So let’s all hope that Eddie gets it together with “BHC 4.” He’s kept himself in great physical shape, and he’s certainly overdue for something big beyond Shrek.
            We wish him well.
            BLACK PRESS AT WORK – For Carolinian readers, if you’ve been following our exclusive coverage of the ouster of Wake School Board Chairman Keith Sutton by seven of his colleagues on the nine-member board, then you know that we were on that story weeks before it happened, and sounded the alarm until it did.
            We did so because, once again, we saw one of our very finest leaders be completely disrespected, despite his hard work on behalf of the entire overall community.
            We sounded the alarm, not only because what we predicted would happen wasn’t right, but because those who aspire to be leaders, especially our young people, need to know that when you do right, and give you life to service, that your community will stand with you no matter what.
            That is our continued commitment as the oldest, and most respected African-American newspaper in Raleigh, and it will continue to be so.
            So please continue to support us, and our advertisers, so that we can continue to fight for you.
            Yet another reason why we still need a strong, vibrant and courageous Black Press.
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 And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my blog, ‘The Cash Roc” ( 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.

DR. LUCAS HONORED - Former Shaw University President, Dr. John H. Lucas, was recently presented the North Carolina Award by Gov. Pat McCrory.   Dr. Lucas, who is 93 years old, was honored for his many years of public service.    Based on General Assembly statutes, the North Carolina Award is the highest honor that any governor may bestow upon a person who was born or who resides in the state of North Carolina. [photo courtesy of Eddie Davis]

MEETING MANDELA - Dr. Benjamin Chavis of the Wilmington Ten (left) and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons (right), visited with former South African President Nelson Mandela several years before his death last week. Mandela was 95 [photo courtesy of Ben Chavis]

by Dr. Benjamin L. Chavis
Special to the NNPA

            As millions of people throughout world mourn and celebrate the life and living legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, it is important to focus on some of the most enduring and meaningful leadership attributes of Madiba’s long and valiant struggle for freedom, justice, equality, peace and empowerment.  Mandela’s leadership not only transformed South Africa into an inclusive nonracial democracy and a vibrant emerging economy, but also Mandela became the unquestionable moral leader of the global movement for freedom.  
We well remember that historic moment and magnificent sight on May 10, 1994 when heads of state from across Africa and from around the world gathered to attend the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in South Africa.  It was a celebration of the triumph of the election of Mandela, as well as a solemn salute to the victory of the liberation and freedom movement in South Africa and all over the region of southern Africa.  Through the hard work, tremendous sacrifices, blood, and organizational discipline of the African National Congress (ANC), the first democratic election in the history of South Africa was achieved with one of the highest voter turnouts that the world has ever witnessed. 
   As Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP at that time, I traveled with Vice President Al Gore and First Lady Hillary Clinton along with a delegation of elected officials together with national civic and labor leaders on Air Force One to South Africa.  I was honored to sit beside Mrs. Coretta Scott King and The Reverend Bernice King at Mandela’s inauguration.  I knew then as I know now that Nelson Mandela and The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr were more than kindred spirits.  Mandela and King were both relentless visionaries and fearless freedom fighters.
 Sitting directly in front of me was President Fidel Castro of Cuba. It was significant for Fidel Castro to be in attendance because of the pivotal and game-changing role that Cuba had played in defeating the spread of apartheid in southern Africa in the 1980s, in particular in the Republic of Angola. Another crucial attribute of Madiba was his unflinching international solidarity with other freedom fighters and revolutionaries who were successful in confronting human oppression, colonialism, imperialism and poverty.
There we all were together amidst tens of thousands of dignitaries, leaders and the masses of people of Africa to observe the irreversible transformation of South Africa.  After taking the oath of office, President Mandela spoke eloquently and forcefully.  At the conclusion of his address, Mandela emphasized:  “Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another…. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.  Let freedom reign.”  From that moment until today, it has been the bountiful and fertile seeds of Madiba’s visionary leadership that have helped to guide and shape the progress of South Africa.
Mandela believed in the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness in the context of  
insuring equal justice and freedom for all, yet he was not at all some sort of soft or milk-toast leader.  Madiba was strong and maintained a firm disciplined humility even after doing 27 years as a political prisoner of the evil of apartheid.  It is noteworthy to caution those who now want to attempt to reduce the multiple aspects of the genius of Mandela’s character and leadership to only the comforting singularity of being designated solely as a “forgiver” or “reconciler.”  Yes it is without question that Mandela’s courage and leadership to avoid a revengeful transition bloodbath in South Africa was the critical testimony to his towering strength and commitment to liberate all the people of South Africa toward equality, peace, economic justice and empowerment.  My point here, however, is to simply remind everyone that freedom is not free and not without sacrifice and struggle.  Mandela and the ANC willingly paid a very heavy price to enable the progress that is celebrated today.
            Madiba’s leadership personified the collective dignity, integrity, wisdom, ideology, self-determination, tenacity and stamina of the African National Congress. Mandela first joined the ANC in 1942.  For over 70 years Mandela and the ANC were inseparable in the struggle to free and build a better South Africa for all and to be in solidarity with freedom-loving people everywhere.  From President Nelson Mandela to President Thabo Mbeki to President Jacob Zuma today, the ANC continues to provide the necessary leadership to move South Africa forward.  In the wake of the passing of Madiba, the following was the official statement of the ANC: “Our nation has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions, here and abroad.  His life gives us the courage to push forward for development and progress towards ending hunger and poverty. We have you, Madiba (Mandela), as our nearest and brightest star to guide us on our way. We will not get lost.”
            Long live the spirit of Nelson Mandela. May Madiba rest in eternal peace. Long live the spirit of the ANC. Long live the spirit of the freedom movement throughout the world.
            Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is leader of the Wilmington Ten, president of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. See his story next February 2014 in the NNPA-CashWorks HD Productions documentary, "Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten



By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            After two days of renewed testimony, a Wake District Court judge last week found NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber, and eleven members of the statewide Moral Monday movement, guilty of second-degree trespassing at the NC Legislative Building, and violating of the building restrictions.
            They were all fined $100.00, but were not barred from going back to the General Assembly building.
            None of the defendants ever testified at trial, the first day of which actually started in October before concluding in Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.
            The “Moral Monday 12” were among the first 17 arrested and charged when the movement’s first demonstrations began on April 29th of this year.
            Durham Attorney Irving Joyner, chairman of the NC NAACP Legal Redress Committee, and co-counsel Scott Holmes immediately informed the court that they will appeal.
            Judge Joy Hamilton did dismiss a charge of failure to disperse after defense attorneys argued that the Moral Monday protesters’ right to assemble and free speech were constitutional, and they posed no threat of violence.
            Joyner and Holmes also argued that the Legislative Building’s rules were so vague that that they couldn’t be enforced, but Judge Hamilton, who did admit that the restrictions were “vague, overbroad and confusing,” still determined that the Moral Monday 12 “acted in concert’ to violate them, ultimately causing a disruption that disturbed lawmakers.
            Over 900 protestors were arrested and charged in Raleigh since the massive weekly protests at Republican-led NC General Assembly began last April.
            Led by Rev. Barber’s NCNAACP, a diverse coalition of activists came together to demonstrate against what they considered to be oppressive and abusive laws and policies pushed by legislative Republicans, and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
            Because Wake District Attorney C. Colon Willoughby was concerned about tying up the county courts with what essentially were hundreds of misdemeanor trespassing charges, he offered deals to some of those to drop their charges, if they committed to several hours of community service. Some complied, but the overwhelming number, thus far, have opted to stand trial to prove that they did nothing wrong, and were well within their constitutional rights to protest.
            This far, their record of trial before Judge Hamilton is mixed.
            Most observers say that essentially, all of the Moral Monday protesters who peacefully demonstrated, and then voluntarily allowed themselves to be arrested by Capital Police officers, and taken to jail, were generally charged with the same charges.
            And yet, Judge Hamilton has convicted a black male protester, and then found a white Chapel Hill couple not guilty. And now, Hamilton has convicted Rev. Barber and eleven more protesters.
            After the verdict, Rev. Barber told reporters that despite he convictions, the Moral Monday movement would continue.
            "We may be convicted for our convictions, but our convictions stand," the NCNAACP leader said.  "So, what are we going to do? We're going to go back and continue to mobilize."


Church restores former Rosenwald School

Special to The Carolinian from Juniper Level Missionary Baptist Church

RALEIGH – An old school building stands on Sauls Road in rural Raleigh,
modest yet monumental - especially to the students who attended over 70 years ago. The historic Panther Branch Rosenwald School is being restored after years of fundraising efforts.
Built in 1926, it was part of an initiative to provide quality education to African-American students. The building is one of four remaining Panther Branch schools in Wake County and is now owned by Juniper Level Missionary Baptist Church across the street.
Alumni recently came together to reminisce about their time as young students. Many were the children of local sharecroppers and walked miles to school every day.
"The first (student) that arrived had to make the fire to keep us warm," said Ella W. Perry, 84, president of the Juniper Level alumni.
Alumni Vice President William Johnson, 74, said he was often the one to make the fire because he was the first to arrive with his aunt who was also the principal and a teacher.
Helen Stephens Sneed, 77, remembers Johnson's aunt, Florence Adams, putting on a one-person play with Sneed as the leading role. Sneed's mother and other family members attended the school before her.
The school is being restored into a community center for activities and programs.
"We hope to raise the consciousness of the community through public education, art, music, culture and crafts," in a statement from the Juniper Level Baptist Church Community Alliance.
"Our lives were built around the community," Jarvis Morgan, 89, said. "I met a lot of friends."
Added his longtime pal John Penix, 91: "I think it's a wonderful idea, it brings back memories."
For these alumni, the school wasn't just a place where they learned basic academic skills, it was also where they came together as friends and enjoyed life.
Perry said her fondest, earliest memory of being a 6-year-old student was being put in charge of her class when her teacher was away. She eventually became a teacher herself.
Peggy Harrington, 82, remembers the ribbons around the maypole they put up every spring.
Rosenwald provided many other services to the community aside from an elementary education. Every summer it gave shots, like hepatitis, to students. A book mobile arrived every two weeks. It was a traveling library, and students could rent and return books bi-weekly.
Lovie M. Myatt, 90, remembers the home demonstrations in the summer, where she learned to can vegetables in preparation for the winter.
Though Rosenwald’s days as an educational institution are memories of yesteryear, alumni hope to reinvent it as an asset to the community. On the registry of National Historic Places, and an official Wake County Landmark, the school is now in phase I of its construction with an estimated completion cost of $200,000.
"I look forward to this being a wonderful part of this community," Morgan said.
For more information, call (919) 779-6401. Contributions are tax deductible.

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