APPLAUDS “PARDONS” FILM
Special to The Carolinian Newspaper
[WILMINGTON, NC] Over 500 people stood to their feet Saturday at UNC – Wilmington’s Kenan Auditorium to applaud a new documentary about the Black Press’ struggle to gain justice for the Wilmington Ten.
With members of the Wilmington Ten and their families, Wilmington Ten leader Dr. Benjamin Chavis, and NCNAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. William Barber in attendance, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten,” a documentary produced by the National Newspaper Publishers Association and CashWorks HD Productions, was warmly received by those of the Wilmington community in attendance.
Many remembered the tense times in the port city over 40 years ago portrayed in the film when black students, angered by the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the closing of the beloved all-black Williston Senior High School, and the racist treatment they endured in predominately-white high schools, staged a boycott of the school system in February 1971.
The Rev. Ben Chavis assisted the students, angering the white power structure, igniting a week of citywide violence neither Chavis nor the students had anything to do with. In the end, two people were fatally shot, and a white-owned grocery store was firebombed.
The film depicts how Chavis and nine others who took part in the student boycott were eventually false charged with the firebombing, convicted and sent to prison. Over forty years later, through the work of The Wilmington Journal, the NNPA, the NCNAACP, attorneys Irv Joyner and James Ferguson, and others, Gov. Beverly Perdue granted pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten, based on newly uncovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
During the world premiere screening, which was sponsored by the NNPA, the audience repeatedly applauded throughout. During the question and answer period after the film ended, many said the documentary brought tears to their eyes. Many said it filled them with pride, and that others must see it.
One young black female student, with tears in her eyes, asked sincerely that the film be made available so that other young people witness history they never knew, and get a better understanding of the civil rights struggle.
NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber praised the film, saying that a bill should be introduced in the NC General Assembly to authorize that “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten” be shown throughout North Carolina’s classrooms.
Dr. Chavis called the film “powerful,” and agreed that all efforts must be made to ensure that young people see it, and learn from it.
Cloves Campbell, Jr., the chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, promised that NNPA would do all it can to promote the film nationwide, and even sponsor a college tour with it.
Later that evening at the Hilton – Riverside Hotel in Wilmington, both former Gov. Beverly Perdue and NC NAACP Pres. William Barber were honored for their work in the Wilmington Ten case.
NC Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley stood in for the governor, who was away in Cuba.
CASH IN THE APPLE FOR APRIL 10, 2014
By Cash Michaels
GLORIOUS PREMIERE DAY – All of us involved and who worked hard to make the world premiere weekend of the NNPA – CashWorks HD Productions documentary, “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten”, and then the black tie gala later that day, can only thank Almighty GOD for all of the blessings we experienced.
First, at least 600 people woke up on the morning of April 5th to come to Kenan Auditorium on the campus of UNC – Wilmington to be part of history with the documentary’s premiere.
But that wasn’t the first miracle. We had to working quickly, and closely with the projection room technician to solve a screening problem that had it not been dealt with, threatened to disrupt the premiere, and we couldn’t let that happen. By the grace of GOD (and my having the film on the hard drive of my computer which I had with me luckily). everything went off without a hitch.
The second miracle of the day was our audience, many of whom were lifelong Wilmingtonians who grew up during the 1960’s and 70’s. They knew the history being portrayed on the screen well, and applauded repeatedly when they saw something they knew was the truth.
Of that group, those who either attended or remembered the beloved all-black Williston Senior High School. The film pays special tribute to what believe to this day was the best high school there ever was. Williston was closed suddenly by the New Hanover Board of Education in June 1968, and to many in Wilmington’s black community, it was a direct slap in the face to them. Having one of Williston’s finest alums, Joseph McNeil of the Greensboro Four, do the honors of talking about the high standards that made Williston so unique, helped to rekindle that pride.
And then, of course, the film’s depiction of the struggles of black students who had been transferred to two predominately-white high schools in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and how they were mistreated, and forced to boycott New Hanover County Public Schools in order to demand justice. How a fiery young leader named Rev. Benjamin Chavis was called to help the students, and how the white power structure reacted angrily, all of this resulting in violence Chavis and the students had nothing to do with, and destruction.
Our marvelous audience studiously followed the frame-up of what would become the Wilmington Ten, as the film laid out their legal and personal struggles over a forty-year period. And they also followed how the Black Press, gallantly led by Thomas C. Jervay, Sr., founder/publisher of the Wilmington Journal, stayed with the boycotting students and the Wilmington Ten, advocating for them when no one else would.
At the end of the film, when, through the hard work of the Wilmington Journal, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project and the NC NAACP among others, Gov. Beverly Perdue issued the long awaited pardons of innocence under tremendous pressure not to, the audience exploded in applause and joy.
That reaction (among the many separate applauses during the film), plus the spoken reaction during the question and answer period afterwards, told us that we had an important film that our community needed to see.
That point was never made more relevant than when a young woman, wearing a “Brooklyn” blue and white shirt, came to the microphone, and with tears in her eyes, almost begged us to make sure that other young people like herself see this film.
We got her message.
At the black tie gala that evening at the Hilton – Riverside, we were all moved by a fiery keynote from Rev. Benjamin Chavis, followed by honors to former Gov. Beverly Perdue, and NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. William Barber for their extraordinary work during the pardon process.
And thank you NC Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley for standing in to accept Gov. Perdue’s award.
Mary Alice Thatch, publisher of the Wilmington Journal, called it a “celebration,” and not a commemoration. When folks hit the dance floor, they certainly took that direction to heart.
It will be a few months before DVDs of “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten” will be released. In the meantime, we will be doing more to promote the film, to make sure that all of North Carolina, and all of America, see this awesome film.
Personally, I want to thank Journal publisher Mary Alice Thatch for her leadership and trust during the entire Pardons of Innocence Project. I know it wasn’t easy. I also want to thank the National Newspaper Publishers Association for its trust in investing in the production of the film, and leadership during the Pardon Project.
Certainly I also thank GOD for the strength and vision He afforded me throughout; my family for being extraordinarily supportive and patient with me during that past two years of this project; and finally, all of the people who helped this cause in any way possible along the way.
More to come
PROF. CHUCK STONE – One day after our triumphant world premiere day came news that a great man and journalist of history, Chuck Stone, has died in Chapel Hill at the age of 89.
Stone was one of the cofounders of the National Association of Black Journalists. He was a Tuskegee Airman, and a legislative assistant to Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem. He once reported for the New York Age in Harlem, and the Chicago Defender. Stone was one of the first black members of the White House Press Corps, and made history when Pres. John F. Kennedy called on him to ask a question in the early 1960s.
Stone went on to become a longtime columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, using his perch to blast police brutality and other injustices against black people.
Stone left the Daily News in 1991 and joined the faculty at UNC – Chapel Hill, where he taught journalism for many years before retirement. Stone was known fro riding to work on his bicycle (don’t blame him – parking in Chapel Hill is horrible).
He died in his sleep at an assisted living facility on Sunday.
All of us who respect great journalism mourn the loss of such a great man and professional.
Goodbye, Chuck Stone.
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.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS 4-10-14
RWCA CANDIDATES FORUM APRIL 15TH
Candidates in the May primaries will take part in Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association Candidates Forum Tuesday, April 15th, starting at 6 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh. The Forum will provide the community an opportunity to receive valued information from persons seeking elective offices. This event is free and open to the public.
WAKE SCHOOL BOARD APPROVES TEACHER SIGNING BONUSES
If you’re a highly qualified math, science or health occupation teacher, the Wake County Public School System has good news for you. Sign up to teach in Wake County schools, and you could get a $1500 bonus just for your signature alone. The Wake School Board approved the bonus incentive at its last meeting, saying that in order to attract and retain the best teachers anywhere, the system has to be competitive in terms of salary and benefits. The bonuses are being reinstated after being originally cut from the budget.
MAGIC JOHNSON VISITS DURHAM SCHOOL
Students at Durham’s Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy got to meet their school’s namesake in person this week, when former NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson dropped by to say hello, and talk with them about doing their best in school, and in life. Bridgescape Academy is a free alternative school for students who have dropped out of high school.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS 4-10-14
SEN. CLODFELTER CHOSEN AS NEW CHARLOTTE MAYOR
[CHARLOTTE] State Sen. Dan Clodfelter has been chosen as the new mayor of Charlotte by the Charlotte City Council. Clodfelter, a former City Council member, will finish out the two-year term of former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, who resigned two weeks ago after the FBI arrested him on federal charges of corruption. Cannon had just been elected last November. Saying that “We will move on from this,” Clodfelter told reporters he didn’t have “long-term plans” beyond finishing out Cannon’s term.
GAS PRICES UP 15 CENTS IN PAST MONTH
[GREENSBORO] When it comes to gasoline prices in North Carolina, it’s been like a roller coaster these past few months. But according to AAA of the Carolinas, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas has risen just 15 cents in the past month alone, to an average of $3.52 a gallon. The good news is at this time last year, the price per gallon was $3.80, and analysts don’t see it going that high now that spring is here, and the summer driving season should mean greater consumption, and lower prices.
CAMPBELL LAW SCHOOL SPEAKER DEFENDS TRAYVON MARTIN SHOOTING
[RALEIGH] A controversial Massachusetts attorney who specializes in guns and self-defense told Campbell Law School students Tuesday that George Zimmerman had every right to fatally shoot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager going home from the store two years ago in Florida, when Zimmerman stalked, and then killed him in a violent struggle. Zimmerman was later acquitted of the act by a Florida jury. Attorney Andrew Branca, who spoke to Campbell Law School students this week, has been blasted by critics who point to his Twitter feed for “evidence” of his insensitivity to the Trayvon Martin case. “Only person responsible for the death of Trayvon, is Trayvon. Oh, and maybe his father,” is just one of Branca’s infamous tweets. “To handle Trayvon, a KelTec and one 9mm round would be fine," is another. Officials at Campbell Law say they want to expose their students to all legal opinions, no matter how controversial.
ST. AUG MOVES ON
WITHOUT DR. SUBER
By Cash Michaels
Last Friday, in the midst of withering headlines about budget shortfalls, a dramatic drop in student enrollment and escalating administration unrest, Dr. Dianne Boardley Suber, the president of St. Augustine’s University, issued a letter announcing her retirement after 14 years.
“I trust that my legacy will affirm that I “left it better than I found it,” wrote Dr. Suber. “The Class of 2014 will be the last class to hear my lectures as they exit the University to move forward towards the next step of their journey.”
“I trust that the next president of this 147 year old institution of historical value with a strong present and promising future will bring the wisdom, experience and tenacity to enable Saint Augustine’s University to stay the course in spite of troubled waters,” Suber added.
But on Monday, St. Aug’s Board of Trustees made it known that it had no intention of waiting until May for it’s embattled president to leave. Board Chairman Rodney Gaddy told reporters, staff and students that contrary to Suber’s May retirement announcement Friday, she had been informed on Saturday that she was being terminated immediately.
The chairman said given the challenges that St. Aug was facing, the board felt the process of turning the institution around had to start immediately, amid low student and staff morale, and growing confusion.
And those challenges are many.
Per published reports, the university has had to swallow a 200-student drop in enrollment, resulting in a $3 million budget shortfall. The contractor who built the school’s new football stadium placed a lien for over $675,000 on the facility, which is still unfinished. The financial woes have now caught the attention of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is responsible for St. Aug’s accreditation.
As has happened with other small, financially strapped historically black colleges and universities, a loss of academic accreditation would severely cripple St. Aug’s ability to attract good students, faculty or funding, effectively closing the school if that happened.
But the problem that may have broken the camel’s back for Dr. Suber was a published report last week alleging that the school committed fraud by submitting false information on a federal grant proposal. That has reportedly spurred a federal investigation now underway.
Wrapped around those headaches was an administrative civil war that saw Dr. Suber fire Angela Haynes, St. Aug’s vice president of business and finance; and place school Provost Connie Allen on leave last month.
Both were brought back literally hours after Gaddy’s announcement about Suber’s termination.
There are also claims of some St. Aug employees still waiting to get paid this semester. Weeks ago, a weeklong furlough of all nonessential employees on campus was supposed to have been imposed in order to address the severe budget shortfall, but those furloughs were cancelled by Dr. Suber. At least a dozen positions on campus, however, were eliminated.
An interim president is expected to be announced within days, and the board will commence a national search for the next permanent president of St. Augustine’s University. Meanwhile, Ronald Brown, St. Aug’s vice president of strategic initiatives, has been tapped to serve as the school’s acting executive director until an interim president takes over.
Chairman Gaddy maintained that St. Augustine’s University remains “strong” in its mission to provide a quality education.
NCNAACP JOINS NCLBC TO
PROTEST PROPOSED VRA CHANGE
Special to The Carolinian
The North Carolina NAACP's president, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, state conference vice presidents and coalition partners joined the NC Legislative Black Caucus Wednesday in Washington, D.C. to voice concerns to North Carolina’s congressional delegation about the ability of some provisions in the Voting Rights Act Amendment Bill of 2014 to protect all voters from discrimination at the polls, specifically in NC.
The NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement - in conjunction with the National NAACP – and the NCLBC, called upon the North Carolina congressional delegation to act swiftly and decisively to strengthen and amend S. 1945/H.R. 3899, the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, to better protect voting rights in North Carolina.
“While the NC NAACP is glad to see the bipartisan effort from lawmakers who have introduced a bill to restore Section IV of the Act, their measure leaves out a devastating number of Southern states from the automatic preclearance requirement - including Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and perhaps South Carolina,” Rev. Barber said. “The proposed bill only partially counts discriminatory photo ID requirements as markers of whether or not a state is to be added to preclearance coverage for pushing discriminatory voting practices.”
“We appreciate all the work that has gone into the voting rights legislation and making it a legislative priority,” said Rep. Garland Pierce, NCLBC Chairman. “We are [in] Washington to urge Congress to strengthen the Amended Voting Rights Act of 2014.”
It was June of 2013 when the US Supreme Court, in a decision that jolted the civil rights community, struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which, according to the Washington Post, “ …creates a formula that determines what states should be subject to Section 5, which requires states to submit any changes to election or voting laws, or alterations of state legislative or congressional district lines, to the Justice Department for approval. (That process is commonly known as pre-clearance.) That formula was -- until [last year] based on states that had used some sort of ballot test (literacy being the main one) to determine whether people can vote and secondly, whether less than 50 percent of eligible voters were registered to vote by November 1964. In essence, states and counties with a history of racial discrimination were required to seek pre-clearance.”
The High Court directed Congress to adopt a new formula so that Section 5 preclearance could continue, but per that new formula currently being discussed, North Carolina would not qualify, and groups like the NC NAACP and NC Legislative Black Caucus are concerned.
The proposed Voting Rights Act Amendment relies on a “rolling trigger” formula that would apply Section 5 preclearance requirements to an entire state, including all of its subdivisions, only if there were at least five “voting rights violations” in the state within the previous 15 years and at least one of those violations was committed by the state itself. The period of time for coverage is 10 years. The bill’s definition of “voting rights violations” that count towards the trigger is limited to Section 2 and Section 5 court decisions (excluding even consent decrees), as well as U.S. Attorney General objections under Section 5 but Attorney General objections based on voter ID are excluded. Also, violations must be a “final judgment (which has not been reversed on appeal).
"The recent changes made by the Republican majority in the NC Legislature are proof that now is the time that we need to strengthen and enforce the Voting Rights Act, not weaken it,” said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, House District 32. “Although I am encouraged by the dialogue and the effort in Washington, we understand back home here in North Carolina, that we still have a long road to travel to protect all North Carolinians' voting rights," said Baskerville.
"If Section IV was in place as it was before Shelby, the current voter suppression bill would have to be cleared by the Department of Justice before it could be implemented," Rev. Barber said. "Democrats and Republicans should all be concerned about legislation that removes North Carolina from preclearance because it means whoever is in power can pass voting changes and tactics that would not have to be precleared, thereby shifting the burden onto litigants to prove discrimination."
Rev. Barber, who serves as the Political Action and Legislative Chair for the National NAACP, affirmed the resolution adopted by the National NAACP Board on the proposed bill to repair the Voting Rights Act. The resolution welcomes the bipartisan work that launched S. 1945/H.R. 3899, but it stresses that more voter protections will need to be added to the bill before the organization and its members can feel confident that every American's voting rights will be secure.