Monday, February 10, 2014



By Cash Michaels
An analysis

            The fallout from the badly mishandled nomination of the Rev. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. to the post of executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party this week, is still unknown.
             But the behind-the-scenes movement among Democratic rank-and-file members to ensure that Dr. Chavis, a veteran civil rights leader and member of the Wilmington Ten, was stopped, is something that may give African-American voters pause come the critical 2014 mid-term elections.
As in 2010, when the Republicans dominated the congressional and state legislative races to claim a solid hold on both the US House and the NC General Assembly, NC Democrats have their work cut out for them this fall convincing black voters that they deserve to return to power. With a lack of fundraising and little energy on their side, state Democrats are almost wholly dependent on outside nonpartisan movements like the NCNAACP’s “Moral Monday” and “Historic Thousands on Jones Street” demonstrations.
The Chavis episode, as it played out this week, will not help those efforts.
It all started when NCDP Executive Director Robert Dempsey, who had joined the state party last spring, was summarily fired last weekend by NCDP Chairman Randolph Voller. Sources say Voller had become disappointed in Dempsey, and felt it was time for a change.
An offer to Dr. Chavis to take the position, given that the civil rights leader had been planning to return to his home state after years away, was tendered by Voller, and after much thought, accepted by Chavis. Voller, the former mayor of Pittsboro, became acquainted with Chavis during the 2012 Black Press-led campaign to gain pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten.
Over the weekend Chavis tweeted that he was coming back to North Carolina to help the Democrats in 2014, without saying how, or in what capacity. It was not the first time Dr. Chavis has mentioned intentions of being involved in North Carolina politics, having contemplated, just a few years ago, a run for a state House seat from his native Granville County.
Voller retweeted Chavis’ message, and once word of Dempsey’s dismissal went public, the frenzy among local media and NC rank-and-file Democrats began. It didn’t take long for adversaries of Chairman Voller in the party, of which there are many since the liberal leader edged out moderate competition in 2013, to begin drumbeats of discontent about Dr. Chavis.
Local media began reporting negative stories about Chavis’ past membership in the Nation of Islam in 1995 – fueling immediate allegations of anti-Semitism; and rehashing old stories of sexual harassment allegations against Chavis in 1994 when he helmed the NAACP as executive director.
In virtually every false local media report on Monday and Tuesday, there was no mention that in court papers, Chavis has never admitted any guilt in the NAACP sexual harassment case, even though he tried to settle it quietly for fear that it would hurt the civil rights organization.
Nor was there any reporting that Chavis left the Nation of Islam in the late 1990’s, and has been an ordained Christian minister, and member of Oak Level United Church of Christ in Manson, NC for many years.
And there was certainly no reporting about what Dr. Chavis’ productive activities since 1994-95 have been, namely:
-                    serving as president of the Education Online Services Corporation, an online provider of higher education materials for HBCUs.
-                    President/CEO and cofounder of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Summit
-                    Cofounder of the Diamond Empowerment Fund which supports scholarships in Africa.
-                    Syndicated columnist for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, read by 20 million readers

Nothing was reported about his ministerial doctorates or other degrees from
 schools like Duke, UNC- Charlotte and Howard University, and the question was never even raised if Dr. Chavis had the requisite experience to even function well in the position of NCDP executive director.
Instead, as Republican officials watched in glee, as the media focused primarily on any negative allegations they could dig up, Democrats took to social media to quickly stir up opposition among the moderate base.
Gary Pearce, who served as press secretary to Gov. Jim Hunt in 1978 when Hunt denied pardons to Chavis and the rest of the Wilmington Ten, took to his “Talking About Politics” online blog and, strongly referring to Dr. Chavis without ever using his name, chided Chairman Voller for wanting to appoint “…the most divisive, controversial figure he can find.”
Pearce, who is a loyalist of the so-called moderate “Hunt faction” of the Democratic Party which has reportedly vehemently opposed Voller’s administration, later did make direct reference to Chavis by name, writing, “And maybe Republicans will get so fixated on making Chavis and William Barber the faces of the Democratic Party that they’ll forget about education.”
By email, Democratic moderates were sending out patently negative narratives about Chavis.
What are your gut feelings re: Dempsey's dismissal w/o just cause and about Voller's plan to announce tomorrow that he's hiring Ben (formerly Chavis) Muhammad as Ex. Dir. despite Ben's NAACP termination/lawsuit?” later asking, “WTH is going on in Raleigh.”
When the person who confirmed sending the email was asked why was Chavis’ former Muslim surname used since he hasn’t gone by it in many years, the person replied that they meant no disrespect. When pressed further, the person claimed to feel “threatened” being questioned about needless reason to refer to Dr. Chavis in the email by a name he no longer uses.
Emails were sent out by members of the Democratic Women of NC, too.
They were not supportive.
“If you have not seen any of the articles, I suggest you Google Ben Chavis,” one DWNC member, who admittedly got her information from biased local media reports, wrote Tuesday evening prior to the NCDP Executive Council voting on Chavis’ nomination.
“I will be honest with you,” she continued,  “ I am not inclined to support Ben Chavis for ED for two reasons:  (a) lack of ED experience and (b) his history of sexual (sic) harassment.  That said, if a majority of you feel otherwise, that is the way I will vote.”  
On the liberal “Blue NC” blogsite, reader comments after a story where Chairman Voller denied media reports that he and Chavis were old friends, and dismissed charges that past allegations and associations were primarily material to Chavis’ qualifications for the post, were negative.
What really got under my skin were Chavis' attitudes toward my fellow Jews,” posted Mike Radionchecnko under the title, “An Anti-Semite Running the NCDP.”  “When he was fired by the NAACP, he claimed that a Jewish conspiracy brought him down [1]. Chavis' speech at the University of Oklahoma was laced with anti-Semitic dog-whistles and innuendo [2]. He served as the right-hand-man to the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, who has a prolific record of anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric, but Chavis' words speak for themselves.”
Two posts down, under the title “This Would Be Wrong for the Party,” someone identified as “chambers1” wrote, “If Chavis is no longer a member of NOI, this would be the first time that has ever been stated in the media. Frankly, I want to hear him say it. The NOI has done a lot of good work for the black community but nothing can excuse the fact that the NOI is a virulently anti-Semitic organization whose rhetoric about Jews is almost indecipherable from hate groups like the KKK and the Aryan Nation, etc. Having an Executive Director of the NCDP that was still a member of the NOI would be hugely problematic.”
On Facebook, other self-described Jewish Democrats actively compounded the anti-Semitic charges against Chavis, ignoring documented stories by the New York Times and Baltimore Sun from the mid-1990s of then NAACP Executive Director Ben Chavis denouncing fiery anti-Semitic remarks by Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Muhammad.
And when Chavis was forced to leave the NAACP in 1994, it is documented that it was under pressure from several Jewish donors to the civil rights organization who were concerned about charges of alleged financial mismanagement amid the sexual harassment scandal.
And even in a 1997 edition of The Jewish Week, the then Min. Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, under the leadership of NOI leader Min. Louis Farrakhan, told the paper that one of his missions was to improve relations with the Jewish community, given previous tensions between them and Farrakhan because of fiery remarks made by the Muslim leader.
For his part, Dr. Chavis, who arrived in Raleigh Tuesday in preparation for an announced press conference Wednesday, was certainly aware of internal opposition to his nomination, which had to be accepted by the NCDP Executive Council.
Facing difficult, challenging odds was part of Chavis' trademark, and he had prayed about Voller’s offer, and accepted it, deciding to leave its fate in God’s hands.
But the level to which the opposition had risen, accompanied by a seemingly united front between the media and a committed Democratic opposition to Chairman Voller, soon became concerning to even Chavis, sources say.
Among the major local media in Raleigh, only one, WNCN-TV, conducted an interview with Dr. Chavis, giving him something no one else would even offer – a chance to answer his critics.
In that interview he denied guilt per the sexual harassment allegations, and made clear that he had left the Nation of Islam years earlier. He said he was eager to come back home to North Carolina to use his skills as a charismatic civil rights leader to help Democrats win in the fall of 2014.
But before that singular interview ever aired, it was too late.
Tuesday evening, during a reportedly raucous, contentious NCDP Executive Council teleconference to decide on Dr. Chavis’ hiring, the nomination was pulled by Chairman Voller because of the growing firestorm among moderates, and an interim E.D. was designated for the next 30 days.
Whether it will ever be reintroduced is doubtful, given the high level of vitriol that remains in the party for its chairman.
The next day, triumphant members of a state party which had its own alleged sexual harassment scandal two years ago; handed the Republican Party control of state government for at least the next six years, and until recently, annually gathered for a dinner named after two white supremacist governors, slapped themselves on the back.
They admitted, as much, that Ben Chavis deserved at least due process to defend himself against allegations. But they vehemently opposed him, they said, to protect themselves from further Republican attacks.
They called what they did to Dr. Chavis, “political street smarts.”



HUGE "MORAL MARCH" - An estimated 80,000 participants from around the state and the nation marched in Raleigh Saturday as part of the HK on J/Moral March on Raleigh, sponsored by the NC NAACP and its over 150 coalition partners. Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP (second photo, center) called on North Carolinians to come together as "brothers and sisters" to oppose the "regressive" policies of the Republicans who are controlling state government [pictures courtesy of The Carolina Peacemaker)

By Cash Michaels

            The NC Republican Party has tried every trick in the book, including employing the conservative Fox News to weigh-in, but thus far, none of its efforts to stop or deflate the NCNAACP’s momentum towards building strong social justice coalitions has worked.
            The civil rights organization’s latest effort – last Saturday’s successful Moral March on Raleigh/Eighth Annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly – is solid evidence of the NCGOP’s failed efforts to stop it. An estimated 80,000 people from across the state and nation marched and rallied in downtown Raleigh, maintaining the energy and vision of last summer’s weekly Moral Monday demonstrations at the NC Legislature.
            The night before, NC Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope, refusing to refer to the Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP and convener of the march, as “reverend,” blasted the media for giving the civil rights leader so much coverage, and suggested that Barber was the de facto head of the NC Democratic Party.
            Indeed Chairman Pope seemed to want to provoke a verbal fight with Rev. Barber publicly in hopes of casting a shadow on the eve of the event.
            When that wouldn’t work, a stringer for the conservative Fox News reportedly tried to corner Rev. Barber the day of the march, in an attempt to conduct an embarrassing television interview.
            But with diverse groups representing education, medicine, social services, youth, those in poverty, and other issues in attendance, Rev. Barber and other spokespeople delivered speech after speech about how those negatively impacted by the policies of Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led NC General Assembly must be heard during the 2014 fall elections.
            Joined by spokespeople representing Latinos, Jews, Muslims and LGBT communities, the message was loud and clear that when state government refuses to extend Medicaid coverage to over 500,000 poor North Carolinians; or provide unemployment benefits to over 170,000 out-of-work citizens who are still trying to find work; or slashes to the public education budget drastically, that that’s when the people should rise up, declare they’ve had enough, and prepare to go to the polls this November.
            "We are black, white, Latino, Native American," Rev. Barber told the thousands gathered in front of the State Capitol. "We are Democrat, Republican, independent. We are people of all faiths, and people not of faith but who believe in a moral universe. We are natives and immigrants, business leaders and workers and unemployed, doctors and the uninsured, gay and straight, students and parents and retirees. We stand here--a quilt of many colors, faiths, and creeds."
            The NC NAACP has designed a "5-M" grassroots mobilization plan to motivate every citizen to fight against these extremist policies; meet every challenge to suppress the right to vote; mobilize all North Carolinians to the polls regardless of party affiliation; make every effort to fight in the courts against voter suppression and for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act; and move every obstacle that could keep people from voting.
            Rev. Barber also called for the first North Carolina Moral Freedom Summer in 2014. In honor of the historic Mississippi Freedom Summer 50 years ago, and in recognition of the General Assembly's efforts to block access to the ballot, the NC NAACP, its Youth & College Division and a coalition of groups from the Forward Together Moral Movement will place young organizers in counties across the state to engage in voter mobilization and education.



By Cash Michaels

            HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KALA – Happy eleventh birthday to my youngest daughter, KaLa, who turns the magic one-one on Friday, Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day.
            Happy Birthday, young lady. I’m very, very proud of you, and love you very much!
            POSTPONEMENT – Due to unforeseen factors, once again we must announce that the Saturday, Feb. 15th activities this weekend surrounding the world premiere of the NNPA – CashWorks HD Productions documentary, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten” have been postponed. A tentative date for April is being identified, but we’re awaiting confirmation from various participants before officially announcing, which we hope will be soon.
            We apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused with the postponement, thank our many supporters across the state who intended to be in Wilmington next week with us, and invite them to stay tuned for when we announce the confirmed date for sometime in April.
            We promise you the delay will be worth it.
            And no, I’m not happy about having to delay the premiere of this film we’ve worked so hard for all of you to see, but I promise, when you finally do see it, the wait will have been worth it!
            EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BEN CHAVIS – At press time on Monday evening, the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis confirmed to me that he would be announced Wednesday morning, as NC Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller’s choice to become the new Executive Director of the NCDP.
            The previous ED, Robert Dempsey, has been fired over the weekend by Voller. Needless to say, there were many moderate Dems who weren’t pleased with either development.
            For the record, by the time I got direct confirmation from Dr. Chavis, the news had already leaked out to the local media. So my denials to the many who emailed me were indeed genuine – I did not know until Ben himself confirmed later that day.
            Needless to say, this is another extraordinary chapter in the life of Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. The Oxford, NC native has worn many hats – from community organizer for the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice, to the executive director of the NAACP, to a convener of the historic Million Man March, to now a business man and veteran civil rights leader.
            Certainly here in North Carolina, Ben is best known as the leader of what would become the Wilmington Ten.
            So what do I think of the choice? Certainly a good one in that the party needs a charismatic leader to add some excitement to the mix this election year. The executive director also has to raise money, and bring the various factions of the NC Democratic Party together in a manner that builds a strong foundation for winning in the fall during the crucial midterm elections.
            This is a moment of truth for the NC Democratic Party. Can it go where Executive Director Ben Chavis wants to take them? Indeed, is it willing?
            We will certainly see.
            Ben Chavis and Clay Aiken. No question that this is going to be a very interesting election season in North Carolina this year.
            CLAY AIKEN – I has a chance to interview entertainer Clay Aiken last week, and found him to be a great young man who has a passion for making sure that the voiceless have a shot in life. Aiken, whose singing voice is legend from his days as the first runnerup on “American Idol” (remember that Rubin Studdard defeated Aiken in what was a tossup during the 2003 competition), had announced the day before that he was running for the Second Congressional District seat currently held by Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for the past two years.
            The 2nd District is drawn to lean conservative, but if Aiken can win the Democratic primary, he seems to have a knowledgeable team behind him to make a good race of it, if not eek out a victory in November.
            The nation will be watching that race, and it will have particular interest since Aiken, as a gay man, will be going up against a stone cold conservative in Ellmers, whose camp is already trying to frame Aikens has having “San Francisco values,” code word for “he’s gay.”
            I say Aikens’ sexual preference is his business. The question is does he know the issues, and can he serve his district in Congress? Those are the questions voters in the Second Congressional District want to hear.
            Let’s see what answers they get from both Aikens and Ellmers.
            THE MORAL MARCH – Congratulations to our friend and brother, the Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, and convener of last Saturday’s HK on J/Moral March on Raleigh. According to USA Today, upwards of 80,000 people from all over the state and nation attended.
            I did as well, and it was an impressive display of diversity and humanity. And it definitely sent a message to Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led NC General Assembly that people want change, and intend to stand up and be counted to get it.
            What’s become very clear is that Rev. Barber, because of his successful Moral Mondays movement, is now a solid target for Fox News, which is trying awfully hard to portray as an enemy of America, or something. In fact, they can’t even get his title right.
            Fox keeps calling Rev. Barber the North Carolina “director.” 
            He’s the president of the NCNAACP, geniuses, not to mention the chair of the national NAACP’s Political Action Committee.
            If you’re going to label someone a public enemy, at least get their name and title right.
            So congratulations to Rev. Barber, and all of his staff and coalition partners, in making last Saturday’s “Moral March in Raleigh” an historic event, indeed.
            PAT’S SHAKEUPS – People have been leaving Gov. McCrory’s administration like rats off a sinking ship lately. At least five or six in recent weeks have decided, “this gig is NOT for me,” and have gone for greener pastures.
            One of the more significant ones is Kim Gernado, the governor’s communications director. Kim used to be a fine newswoman and weekend anchor with WNCN-TV news in Raleigh, until she joined McCrory in 2013 at the start of his administration. But after a year in the hot seat having to defend the governor’s ignorance about the way state government works, and having to cover for the complete mess at the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, apparently Kim has had enough, and has transferred the state Dept. of Commerce to be their spokes person, while their spokesperson, Josh Ellis, a former radio reporter for WPTF-AM, is now fronting for McCrory.
            Apparently Kim has her limits. Good for you, girl. I knew you still had some conscience left in you.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH – Take your child to a library this month (it should be every month), and discover the riches of your history together. It’s fun, and rewarding!
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.
And coming in April, 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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