Tuesday, February 25, 2014





                                         STATE AAC PRESIDENT WILLIE FLEMING

By Cash Michaels

            The president of the state African-American Caucus of the NC Democratic Party says if all factions of the state party can’t find a way to even temporarily bury their deep differences, and unite to win this fall’s crucial 2014 midterm elections, not only will the party lose this year, but possibly cripple any thought of winning back the state Legislature during the presidential elections in 2016.
            In an exclusive interview, Willie Fleming, president of the African-American Caucus of the NC Democratic Party, said he is supportive of NCDP Chairman Randy Voller, and was outraged by the way the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. was treated when Voller nominated him to become interim executive director.
            The views of Fleming, who lives in Charlotte, are important because with African-Americans comprising a solid, loyal base at least 24 percent of the state Democratic Party, it’s clear that the party get far without successfully turning out that vote.
            “We are the most loyal voters in the Democratic Party,” Fleming says. “We turn out 93-94 percent of our vote.”
            However, with no plan of voter registration, education or mobilization on the table; and nothing to excite the base of the party to even show up at the polls in the fall, Fleming, among others, is concerned that with progressive and moderate-to-conservative factions of the party currently at odds with each other (in addition to some traditional donors cutting off their contributions because of the schism), the party will go limping into the fall in a losing effort.
            A losing effort that could cost incumbent US Sen. Kay Hagan, who filed for re-election this week, her seat.
            The African-American Caucus (ACC) is a chartered auxiliary of the NC Democratic Party, authorized by the party’s State Executive Council. It has approximately 30 county chapters across the state. It’s purpose is to promote political education and participation in the black community on behalf of the state Democratic Party and its candidates, and also representing the concerns and issues of the black community back to the party.
            “African-Americans have the highest unemployment, the lowest net worth, highest incarceration, highest foreclosure rate, and we vote candidates into office to make sure that they focus those concerns,” Fleming says, making clear the AAC holds Democratic candidates accountable.
            “It’s like supply-and-demand. [Black Democrats] supply the vote, but we do have some demands we want you to address,” Fleming says.
            In the western counties of the state where the black population is comparatively sparse to the east, the black vote is not a factor, Fleming notes. But overall, there’s little question that without the party’s most loyal base, the Democrats have a difficult time winning.
            Regarding the current leadership of the NC Democratic Party, Fleming says he’s supportive of its controversial Chairman Randy Voller, though he admits that “Randy has made some mistakes.”
            “Randy’s intention is to move [the NC Democratic Party] forward, so I support Randy. All in all, when you vote somebody into office, you support that person, and work out the things that are wrong, not sit there and dwell on them,” said Fleming, adding that sometimes the Democratic Party spends more time “focusing on the problem than the solution.”
            Elected a year ago, Voller, a progressive, has run smack into a buzzsaw of political opposition from what is known as the “Hunt faction” of the NC Democratic Party, the moderate-to-conservative veteran Democrats who are most associated with former Gov. Jim Hunt. Because North Carolina has always been moderate state politically when Democrats were in charge, that faction feels it should be in power now, even though many of the party’s most recent scandals involving campaign finance corruption and sexual harassment happened on their watch.
            That faction was also in power in 2010 when Democrats virtually gave the Republicans lasting control of the state General Assembly and redistricting, and again in 2012 when the GOP gained a complete lock on state government by winning the Governor’s Mansion and strengthening their hold on Congressional seats.
            The only significant pushback against the resulting policies of voter restrictions, Medicaid and unemployment benefit cuts, has come from the nonpartisan NCNAACP and its powerful “Moral Monday” movement. 
            Without that movement, which has no connection to the NC Democratic Party at all, state Democrats wouldn’t even have a pulse, which means the party has to devise its own means and strategies to excite its base, and harness the energy generated from the NCNAACP movement.
            “The old South, sometimes the old party... be it Hunt or whomever, has to realize that there is a change from the way you did things ten years ago. As the political climate changes, you have to adapt to that change,” Fleming notes.
            But unity between the factions must happen first in order to effectively map a way forward, Fleming maintains.
            “There are almost a million more Democrats in North Carolina than there are Republicans? How do we lose races? Even with redrawing the districts,” Fleming asks, suggesting that NC Democrats need strategies to not only deliver the lion share of their rank-and-file voters, but also cultivate new voters among blacks, Latinos and young people similar to the strategies employed by the Obama campaign in 2008.
            “They energized people,” Fleming recalls. Six years ago, based on the excitement of possibly elected the first African-American president in history, the party and the Obama campaign built momentum leading up to election day that resulting in banking enough votes for the president, Gov. Beverly Perdue and Sen. Kay Hagen, to eek out slim victories over their opponents (Hagan actually attracted more total votes than Obama in North Carolina).
            State Democrats need that kind of operation again. But with moderate donors withholding contributions, and obstructing Chairman Voller at almost every turn, Fleming says North Carolina Democrats will have to decide – do they want to win or not?
            “Let’s put the Democratic Party ahead of our own personal issues,” Fleming says. “That’s the only way we can win.”
            Problem – thus far, no one has been identified as being agreeable to all as to having the skillset, experience and capabilities to lead the charge towards getting Democrats back in the winner’s circle.
            Fleming says absent that, coalitions within the party among Democrats of color like Latinos and Asian-Americans must be established to work together to cultivate their respective communities to register to vote, and then vote.
            Per the recent failed nomination of Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. to become executive director (ED) of the NCDP, Fleming says Chavis was “very much qualified,” and the AAC supported that goal, as it does support the ascension of all African-Americans to important posts within the party. Indeed, that was allegedly the problem with Robert Dempsey, the previous ED whom Chairman Voller abruptly fired on Feb. 9th.
            Fleming confirms reports that Dempsey, who only had been with the NCDP since last spring, allegedly had a deaf ear to the concerns of Democrats of color, and that was also reflected in his hiring. Moderate and conservative Democrats were apparently pleased with Dempsey, but black Democrats, in particular, found him difficult to deal with.
            Chavis’ name was withdraw from consideration after a firestorm of media controversy about his past poisoned the opinions of Democrats statewide, even though he was never given a platform within the party to answer his critics, and correct some of the false allegations made about him. Fleming said the way Dr. Chavis was treated angered him.
            As to whether or not Chavis could still be chosen as ED, Fleming says that up to the chairman and the State Executive Council to decide. He has little doubt that if given the job, Dr. Chavis could handle it.
            In the end for Willie Fleming and the black Democrats he leads, the solution is elementary – if the party wants to win, its membership has to stop fighting each other harder than it fights the Republicans.
            “It’s going to take us uniting to fight the GOP. We have to understand that we have to stand up for each other, and I think the Democratic has to understand the situation if we don’t make that happen,” Fleming said.



            [RALEIGH] Black voters will be negatively and disproportionately affected when North Carolina’s voter ID and other voter restriction laws go into effect, finds a new study by researchers at Dartmouth and the University of Florida. The new law shortens the early voting period to seven days, eliminates straight ticket voting and same-day voter registration, and does away with 16 and 17-year-old pre-registration – all popular election features that African-Americans participated in prior to the new Republican restrictions. The study also found that blacks were less likely to have one of two forms of common photo identification.

            [RALEIGH] A suspect with alleged white supremacist ties, who police say threatened the life of Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, reportedly hid a laptop computer that he asked his mother by letter to find and destroy. Jailers at the Wake County Detention Center intercepted the letter and informed Raleigh Police, who then executed a search warrant at the home of suspect Alec Dane Redner’s mother, and found the computer in a crawl space under the house. Redner, 27, had worked out a code with his mother to confirm when the device was destroyed. Redner is charged with threatening Mayor McFarlane via her website in January’s life. The suspect “had a documented association with white supremacist ideologies, “ according to one of Redner’s police warrants.

            [GREENSBORO] The H1N1 flu virus has killed as many as 74 people across the state since November, officials with the state Dept. of Heath and Human Services say, with eight alone in the past month. Fifty-four of the victims were between the ages of 24 and 65.  Young people are vulnerable during this flu season because fewer of them are being vaccinated compared to older citizens, state officials say.



            In a 45-page report, the Durham Police Dept. this week refuted charges by citizens and even the local NAACP that officers engage in racial bias during traffic stops. In that report, Durham PD says looking over several years, on a tiny fraction of traffic stops show perhaps a disproportionate number of blacks, compared to whites, being stopped by officers, and even then, the department says its not because of any racial bias. Many citizens weren’t buying it, though. "When we look at the raw numbers, we see hundreds and hundreds - in some years, over a thousand - innocent black motorists subjected to this practice and we don't see anything like that compared to white motorists," says Ian Mance of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

            In the face of a $3 million deficit and a pending lawsuit, St. Augustine’s University has announced that it will furlough its employees without pay during spring break from March 9th – 15th, with workers returning on March 17th. The school’s board of trustees is facing. Enrollment has dropped drastically since 2012, forcing the layoff of 15 employees. An audit revealed poor accounting practices, and the contractor for the football stadium is suing the school for over $600,000 he says the school owes him. “It has been a very tough time for our university family as we work very hard to meet the needs of our students while maintaining the academic qualities that we have come to know and appreciate,” Dr. Suber, who is at the CIAA Tournament in Charlotte this week, told employees in a memo. “We have engaged many of you in meetings over the last few months as we try to make the best decisions and review the financial matters affecting the University. We have shared with the Board where we are and our plan for recovery.”
            Two bail bondsmen and two former county clerks were indicted this week by a Wake County grand jury in an alleged scheme that allowed the bondsmen to not pay forfeiture for suspects who didn’t appear for their court dates. Because, by law, Wake County Public School System is supposed to get the forfeited money, an estimated $1 million never got to school system coiffeurs. The indictments are a result of an SBI probe since last August into allegations that workers in the Clerk of Courts office were not registering forfeited bonds into the computer system for certain bondsmen who allegedly bribed them. The school system is working to recover the money, plus interest and penalties.

Special to The Carolinian

The NC NAACP, its legal team and litigation partners on Tuesday challenged two of what they call, “the extremist initiatives pushed by Gov. Pat McCrory, Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate Leader Phil Berger, Budget Director Art Pope and other Tea Party legislators who claim their proposals are not targeting racial minorities and the poor.”

"These two issues are connected," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. "The people that are trying to keep minorities and the poor from voting are the same people that want to prevent our children from receiving a quality public education and the economic opportunities that such an education makes possible. We must be conscious of the racialized legacy of voter suppression and vouchers in North Carolina."

Rev. Barber, the NC NAACP legal team and its litigation allies said the voucher program, on its surface, purports to help minority and low-income children. But it has a racialized past just as ugly as the more widely-publicized attacks on voting rights, they alleged.

"When you look at the voucher program that was stopped by a temporary injunction last week, you have to recognize there is a history here," Rev. Barber said. "That's why the NC NAACP filed a friend of the court brief in this case. We want to reveal the racialized history of school vouchers in North Carolina. After the NAACP's great victory in the 1954 Brown case, extremists in the state legislature used vouchers to fund white families setting up all-white academies with taxpayer money. They too used the rhetoric of school choice. This is old wine wrapped in a new wineskin."

So too is the “extremists' voter suppression law,” Rev. Barber added. The disparate impact that these voting provisions have on people of color, low-income North Carolinians and other marginalized groups hearkens back to Jim Crow when “extremists” attempted to keep African Americans from the ballot box, he said.

"The extremists passed the strictest voter ID and worst suppression law we have seen since Jim Crow," Rev Barber said. "They did it directly after the Shelby decision when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. That was not a coincidence."

"Extremists in the General Assembly in 2013 pushed through discriminatory, unjust laws like school vouchers and voter suppression over the strong protests of tens of thousands of North Carolinians," he continued. "Now these ideological laws must face the strict scrutiny of the courts."
Members of the legal team then spoke about the recent updates in the NC NAACP's litigation efforts to hold our lawmakers accountable.

Attorneys Elizabeth Haddix, who is representing the NC NAACP with the UNC Center of Civil Rights, and Jessica Holmes from the North Carolina Association of Educators, a co-plaintiff in the suit, spoke about the temporary injunction issued on Feb. 21 to halt any further implementation of the voucher program. 

Also on Feb. 21, a federal magistrate judge held a hearing on the state legislators' attempts to claim immunity for themselves and any documents they created around the voter suppression bill. Adam Stein, a long-term civil rights attorney and a member of the Advancement Project-led legal team in the voter ID challenge, explained the importance of these emails, documents and other communications relating to how much the legislators knew about the harmful impact this bill would have on African Americans, the poor and women.

"The extremists in the General Assembly made the rounds of all the TV shows last summer to talk about how the voter suppression law was designed to fight fraud-even though there is no evidence of voter fraud," Rev. Barber said. "Yet now that we are challenging them with this lawsuit, these same lawmakers are attempting to claim immunity and to hide their documents from the careful and microscopic scrutiny of the courts."

According to Stein, Magistrate Joi Peake assured the NC NAACP and its legal team that she would oversee the discovery process to make sure the state government turned over documents before this summer's hearing on our motion to block the law from going into effect for the 2014 elections.

"These judges are bound to uphold the 1868 North Carolina constitution, and these challenges to the vouchers and to the voter suppression law are already beginning to prove that the constitution is on our side," Rev. Barber said. "We refuse to let Tea Party legislators claim they act out of a deep concern for the poor and for minorities when they in fact are passing laws that will only serve to rob low-income and minority North Carolinians of their constitutional rights to vote and to receive a sound, basic public education."

In explaining the historical context for the voucher and the voter suppression litigation efforts, Rev. Barber highlighted the following points:
   In 1956, North Carolinians opposed to desegregation created the Pearsall Plan to provide vouchers to white students in schools that were attempting to integrate-thereby keeping the state's schools largely segregated for another 20 years. As our amicus brief notes, "this is the direct and notorious ancestry of school vouchers in North Carolina, and the corrupt foundation upon which the current voucher legislation is built."
   Today, the pro-voucher forces are hiding behind their school-choice rhetoric and their alleged concern for the poor and for minorities. But the intellectual architects of their movement have written candidly about the need to recruit minority spokespeople to legitimize themselves. 
   "The leadership must visibly include racial minorities of both sexes and prominent Democrats," John Coons and Stephan Sugarman wrote in their 1999 article. "The conservative commitment to the project is necessary, but should remain mute until the coalition has secured leadership whose party affiliation, social class or race--preferably all three--displays what the media will interpret as concern for the disadvantaged." See our amicus brief for the full excerpt.
   Many poor children will not be able to take advantage of these vouchers because the average tuition for a NC private school is $2,000 more than the voucher stipend. But even if children of color could take advantage of the stipend, empirical evidence shows low-income and minority children perform better in public schools than in voucher programs. 
   According to a new study from the Children's Law Clinic at Duke Law, only 30 percent of NC private schools are accredited by an independent agency. Among those schools with tuition rates fully covered by the voucher stipend, that percentage drops to less than five percent.
   Dick Komer, who travelled to North Carolina to help the state's attorneys fight our voucher challenge, is an attorney with the libertarian law firm, Institute for Justice, which got its seed money from the Koch brothers and still operates with support from ultra-conservative donors like Art Pope and the Walton family.
   If lawmakers want to truly help poor children succeed, they would fully fund our public schools as the state constitution requires rather than give taxpayer money to send a handful of children to unaccredited private schools.
   A study from Democracy NC demonstrates that the new provisions included in the voter suppression bill will have a disproportionate impact on African Americans. For instance, more than 70 percent of African Americans used early voting in 2012 to cast their ballots, yet the extremists cut a week of early voting, including the popular Sunday voting before election day.
   A court cannot fully restore the right to vote after it has been stripped from you. You may get the chance to vote again, but the people who were elected under unjust voting laws are still in office legislating policy.
   Gov. Pat McCrory only turned over three documents to our legal team since we filed the lawsuit against the voter suppression law back in August. They are trying to ensure that we won't have the documents we need to prove our case in court and to win a temporary injunction to block these voter suppression tactics from going into effect during the 2014 elections. 
"These laws are an affront to who we are as North Carolinians," Rev. Barber said. "We will fight the attacks on voting rights and on public education. We say, let the people vote and let the children enjoy their constitutional right to a sound, basic, public education."

By Cash Michaels

            APRIL 5TH – Now that the rough weather is presumably gone (TRANSLATION – no more big snow storms HOPEFULLY), it can now be announced that the World Premiere of the NNPA – CashWorks HD Productions documentary “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten,” originally scheduled for Feb. 15th, has now been moved to the morning of Saturday, April 5th, at UNC – Wilmington, 9:30 a.m..
            It will be free and open to the public, but seating will be limited.
            Following the film, there will be a panel discussion on the current state of civil rights, and the continuing need for the Black Press.
            Later that evening, there will be a gala banquet the Hilton Riverside. Tickets and tables are available.
            For more information about tickets, call Shawn Thatch at the Wilmington Journal at 910-762-5502.
            GOD willing and the creek don’t rise, you’ll finally get a chance to see what I believe will be an important historical film. More details to come.
            ROBIN AND PAULA – Well, well, well…looks like the eight-year marriage of  “singer” (if that’s what you want to call him) Robin “Blurred Lines” Thicke and actress Paula Patton has hit the rocks this week. In a joint statement the couple announced that while they still love each other will be the best of friends, they have decided to separate.
            Given the rumors (and pictures) of how Thicke was allegedly cashing in on his newfound fame with women not his wife, and Paula denying there was anything wrong, it was only a matter of time before life caught up with the both of them.
            Of course I’m no fan of Thicke’s, given that the lawsuit by the family of singing legend Marvin Gaye against Thicke for allegedly stealing Gaye’s 1978 classic “Got to Give it Up” to use for his 2013 summer hit “Blurred Lines” is still pending (the Gaye family has settled with Thicke’s record label separately). Normally when a marriage breaks up…any marriage…I’m saddened. But in this case, seeing how Thicke was conducting himself, you knew deep that an end was near.
            I just hope that Paula Patton, and her young son, can go on with their lives.
            And as for Thicke... see you in court.
            SO LONG, PIERS – Second piece of good news this week…British talker Piers Morgan will be shutting his mouth soon on CNN.  Indeed, CNN is shutting it for him, the announcement this week that the cable news channel has canceled his 9 p.m. weeknight talk show.
            You’ll recall it was three years ago when the Einsteins at CNN inexplicably dumped talk legend Larry King. True King was getting long in the tooth, but he still had decent numbers, and could get the guests others would only dream of.
            But the CNN execs saw no growth in keeping King on, and they wanted to make a move to strengthen their decrepit prime lineup against Fox News and MSNBC. So they got rid of King, and hired the British guy from “America’s Got Talent” and NBC’s “The Apprentice” (their first hint this wasn’t going to go well should have been that Donald Trump and Piers Morgan were friends).
            Why oh why would you replace an American legend with British wannabe, I don’t have the faintest idea. That was dumb out the box.
            Then Morgan has a questionable background. In Britain, he was the editor of two newspapers – The News of the World and the Daily Mirror – both of which have been found to engage in phone hacking of government officials, celebrities, and members of the royal family.
            Morgan maintains that during his decade at both newspapers, he had nothing to do with phone hacking by his reporters, which most observers find to be impossible to believe. British police, who are still investigating, recently questioned Morgan at length.
            The fact of the matter is despite his many interviews, Piers Morgan didn’t make many friends during his three-year stint at CNN. He got into a lot trouble for his gun control advocacy on the air. Folks apparently didn’t like being told by a foreigner what their guns laws should be.
            I didn’t like the man because compared to Larry King, he was nobody. He didn’t have the pedigree, or the skills of a Larry King. Piers Morgan was arrogant enough to believe that he was important, and that we should think him to be important too.
            Apparently not enough of us fell for that act, and that’s why our TV screens will have one less British accent to listen hard to very shortly.
            Goodbye, Piers Morgan. Too bad we couldn’t love you.
            You wouldn’t let us!
            IMPORTANT LESSON – Well over a decade ago, CBS’  “60 Minutes” covered a story about two young black sisters called the Williams who were heating up the tennis world with their explosive playing style. They were trained by their proud father, and there was no question that in future years, they would make their mark in sports.
            But one of the things I never forgot when I watched that story was the interview. They were asked, among other questions, if they knew who Althea Gibson was, the first black female champion who played Wimbledon.
            The Williams sisters said not only didn’t know who Ms. Gibson was, but they didn’t care either.
            As great the Williams sisters have proven themselves to since then, I’ve never quite looked at them the same. There has always been a modicum of respect lacking.
            This week, the story hit the wires that Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter was not amused when one of his young team prospects, 19-year-old Josh Hart, didn’t know who the legendary baseball Hall of Famer and Orioles great Frank Robinson was when he visited the team’s practice.
            Apparently young Hart didn’t care either.
            Manager Showalter was having none of it.
            He immediately assigned Hart to research and write a one-page paper on Robinson, the first black baseball manager in history and 14-time All-Star with 586 career home runs.
            To say the least, this kind of story is refreshing.
            Buck Showalter is white, but he has a deep respect for baseball history, and a similar respect for Robinson, of not others who have pioneered the game. So it is fitting that he wants to work with up-and-coming young stars who have a similar respect for the game.
            I hope other managers and coaches follow suit, and require their young stars to know the pioneers of their respective games. Recently LeBron James, star of the NBA three-time champion Miami Heat (remember, the Heat won a trophy before LeBron got there), when asked what basketball legends would make his personal Mt. Rushmore, said Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.
             Problem was he left off Bill Russell, and when Russell celebrated his 80th birthday recently, he let LeBron have it for leaving him off.
            No, I’m not saying LeBron didn’t know or care about the pioneers of his game, because clearly he does.
            But LeBron didn’t realize that without Bill Russell, there would be no Magic, or Bird or MJ.
            He won’t make that mistake again. Indeed, if he’s smart, he just won’t answer the question.
            Let’s start teaching our children their history, not just in February, but very week, if not every day.
            It is so, so very important that they know who they are.
            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.
And coming in April 5, 2014, the NNPA-CashWorks HD Productions documentary presentation of, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten.”
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.


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