A YEAR SINCE BLACK
By Cash Michaels
August 29th, 2014 in the Bladen County town of Bladenboro, the body of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy, a black youth, was found hanging from an outdoor swing-set in the middle of a mobile home trailer park.
Local authorities ruled it a suicide, as did the State Bureau of Investigation, but Lacy’s family, and subsequently the NC NAACP, didn’t buy it. They believed that young Lennon was murdered, lynched, probably because he had reportedly been involved in an interracial affair in a small, rural community down east where such a thing was still frowned upon.
The family and the NCNAACP later convinced the US Attorney’s Office to formally open a federal probe into Lennon’s mysterious death. Since that time the FBI probe remains open, but thus far, there has been no word of its progress, or of any evidence or arrests resulting from it.
This Saturday will mark one year since Lennon Lacy’s death, but his family and the NC NAACP still hold out hope for a definite resolution, and justice.
This Friday, August 28th, 7 p.m. at First Missionary Baptist Church, 521 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Bladenboro, a memorial service is scheduled to be held marking that first anniversary, and paying tribute to the memory of a productive young man everyone says had a bright, promising future.
“He made me proud to be his mom, “ Claudia Lacy, his mother says.
Lennon Lee Lacy, 17, was one of the youngest of four sons to Claudia Lacy and Larry Walton, according to public records. The family lives in Bladenboro, population 2000. Lennon, a junior, attended West Bladenboro High School, and played on the football team there as a linebacker.
He would have graduated in 2016.
By all accounts, Lennon was well liked and respected, both as a student and as a member of the close-knit team, for his hard-work ethic.
So close-knit, in fact, that on the day Lennon was found dead, the team met and decided to still play the scheduled football game that evening, but play it in his honor.
“What hurts me [most] is not knowing,” Mrs. Lacy told The Carolinian during a telephone interview in September 2014, indicating that she was not pleased with how the case was being handled by the Bladenboro police or the State Bureau of Investigation then.
“I just want to get to the bottom of it.”
It was soon after that an independent pathologist, hired by the NCNAACP, examined the autopsy records, and determined that the initial procedure was mishandled by local authorities.
“’[The Lacy family is]… being asked to accept the fact that their son, brother, and cousin might have walked out of his home the night before his first big home football game that he had been preparing for all summer,” Rev. Barber said at a November 2014 press conference with the family present. “That he would have hidden his brand new shoes that he had been wearing, so no one could find them. That he would have found a pair of older low-top sneakers, taken the strings out of them, and jammed them on his feet, although they were two sizes too small. That he would have walked alone to a trailer park owned by a white man who is in prison for dealing drugs. That he would have picked up two leashes/belts along the way and fashioned a noose out of them all by himself. That when he got there, he would have picked a swing set with no swings hanging from it, and taken the leash/belt, tied it to the beam and through the eyehook, and then put the leash around his neck, and swung himself out to his self-inflicted death.”
“And he did all this with no one around, and he remained there until 7 a.m. or so in the morning, after people were leaving for work at the Smithfield Plant or to school,” Barber added.
“And they are being asked to accept this without knowing that all of the other factors and leads have been exhausted.”
Last March, a special report on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” raised startling new questions surrounding the death of Lennon Lacy.
One of those questions involved Michelle Brimhall, the 32-year-old white mother who Lennon had been dating, to the chagrin of his family, and apparently other people in the small town.
Brimhall had a giant picture of Lennon Lacy headlining her Facebook page, which lists her as being from Bement, Illinois, currently attending Bladen Community College, living in Bladenboro and having one daughter who apparently still lives in Bement.
“Outside the Lines” asked Brimhall if Lennon’s death had anything to do with the fact that they were dating.
“I don’t believe so,” she replied. Brimhall acknowledged that Lennon’s family “didn’t approve”, but they didn’t try to stop the relationship.
Months earlier, Brimhall was forced to move from the white couple’s house she had been staying at since she had moved to Bladenboro because they didn’t approve of her dating the black teenager, the ESPN program alleged. She got her own apartment in the same complex where Lennon’s family lived.
A neighbor in that complex named Whitney Michael told OTL that she saw “a steady stream of traffic pull up to Michelle Brimhall’s door. “You know, in and out, different guys, different vehicles, back and forth at her house,” the woman said, adding that she “put two and two together.”
When asked if Lennon Lacy “had put two and two together” about what was going on at Michelle Brimhall’s apartment, Whitney Michael told OTL he did “…in a way…but he was in denial.”
It would be later, Michael continued, that Lennon became upset when told that Brimhall had been allegedly …”sleeping around with other guys that he did not know about…multiple guys, like different partners. He was hurt by it. That was his girlfriend.”
OTL reported that shortly after midnight, the night before Lennon Lacy died, Whitney Michael said she and Lennon saw a car pull up to Brimhall’s apartment, with her and a black getting out and walking inside.
“He was like, “Oh wow, really?” she recalled.
Michelle Brimhall told OTL that she was seeing Lacy “exclusively” at that point, so she was not romantically involved with the black man she was with. She did confirm that Lennon was “in some ways” jealous. But Brimhall dismissed that he had reason to be because, she said, she got along better with men than with women…and Lennon knew this.”
Brimhall denied that Lacy came to her home after midnight to confront her about the black man she had brought with her.
When asked, Brimhall said she did not think that Lennon Lacy committed suicide. “Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe he came across someone doing something,” she added when asked what did she think happened to him.
Whitney Michael believes, as does Claudia Lacy, that Lennon was killed.
But if it was a murder, then who did it?
“I have no idea,” Ms. Lacy told OTL, I have no idea.”
The ESPN report also raised another troubling question - did a white male that Lacy was in a fight with months earlier for allegedly stealing Lennon’s phone follow through with his alleged threat to “kill and hang” Lacy?
That person reportedly was released from jail three weeks before Lacy’s death.
The memorial service for Lennon Lee Lacy is scheduled for this Friday, August 28th, 7 p.m. at First Missionary Baptist Church, 521 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Bladenboro.
BLACK STUDENT SUSPENSIONS
HIGH IN NC, STUDY FINDS
By Cash Michaels
A University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education study released this week finds that black students attending public school in North Carolina and other southern states are subject to being suspended or expelled more than any other group.
The report titled, “Disproportionate Impact of K-12 School Suspension and expulsion on Black Students in Southern States,” authored by researchers Edward J. Smith and Shaun R. Harper, notes that, according to US Dept. of Education data, of the 1.2 million black students who, “…were suspended from K-12 public schools in a single academic year (2011-2012) – 55 percent of those suspensions occurred in 13 Southern states.”
The report went to state, “Districts in the South also were responsible for 50 percent of black student expulsions from public schools in the United States.”
The study adds that black students were 24 percent of the 3,022 school districts analyzed, but their suspension and expulsion rates were disproportionately higher at “…rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population.”
And it gets worse. In at least 84 Southern public school districts, black students comprised one hundred percent of school suspensions. Mississippi had the highest black student suspension rate proportionally at 74 percent, while Florida had the highest number at 121,468.
Here in North Carolina, the data is no less sobering.
According to the report, “65,897 black students were suspended from North Carolina K-12 public schools in a single academic year (2011-2012). Blacks were 26 percent of students in school districts across the state, but comprised 51 percent of suspensions and 38 percent of expulsions.”
The study then states that “Crosscreek Charter School, Elkin City Schools, Roxboro Community School, and Sterling Montessori Academy and Charter School are among the districts in which suspensions most disproportionately affect black students.”
But there were others.
During the 2011-2012 school year in North Carolina, blacks are 42 percent of enrollment, but comprise 70.7 percent of suspensions. In Cumberland County Schools, blacks are 44.8 percent of enrolled students, but are suspended 63.4 percent of the time. Durham Public Schools have a 51 percent black student enrollment, with a 72.8 percent black suspension rate.
Black students made up just 22.2 percent of black student enrollment in New Hanover County Public Schools in 2011-2012, but more than doubled that number with suspensions at 53.1 percent. The rate of suspension in Wake County was virtually similar at 53.3 black student suspension, but only 24.7 percent black student enrollment.
According to a foreword to the report by Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, “…these punishments are not applied equally. From the data available, we know that Black students are disproportionately suspended, expelled, and referred to the criminal justice system by schools. The overuse of these punishments and their disproportionate use on students of color are serious problems that we have to address right now. “
Cong. Richmond continued, “We need to place greater importance on getting data from schools on the use of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests in schools. Getting complete data on who suffers these punishments, why they receive them, and what the outcomes of the punishment are can help us fully understand what is happening in our nation’s schools. We need to provide better training to teachers and administrators so that they have the tools to deescalate and mitigate situations.”
“We also need to provide better guidance to schools on best practices so that student discipline is handled fairly instead of through arbitrary and heavy-handed ‘zero tolerance’ policies. Encouraging administrators, police, and judges to prioritize rehabilitation and school attendance over severe punishments would also lead to better outcomes. “
The authors of the report say they want teachers and administrators, “…to use this report to raise consciousness about implicit bias and other forces that cyclically reproduce racial inequities in school discipline. We hope this report is not misused to reinforce deficit, criminalized narratives about Black children. The alarming data presented herein go beyond student misbehavior and bad parenting – they also are attributable to racist practices and policies.”
“Our aim is to equip anyone concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline
and the educational mistreatment of Black youth with numbers they can use to demand justice from school boards, educational leaders, and elected officials.”
and the educational mistreatment of Black youth with numbers they can use to demand justice from school boards, educational leaders, and elected officials.”
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 8-27-15
SPEAKOUT FOR YOUTH TONIGHT AT CHAVIS HEIGHTS CENTER
“Young African-American Adult Speak-Out Session” from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight, Aug. 27 at John Chavis Memorial Park Community Center, 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Former NBA players raised in Southeast Raleigh will also be in attendance. The goal of the session is to provide young African-American males and females between the ages of 15-25 an opportunity to speak to the community and its leaders relating to their concerns, needs and any recommendations they may have to improve their community. All Raleigh residents are invited to the session.
NEW GRADING SCALE FOR WAKE STUDENTS
As traditional school got underway this week, students in Wake County returned to a new grading system. They are now graded on a 10-point scale, instead of the previous seven-point system. A grade of “A” now ranges from 90 to 100. Critics argue that a student who gets a 99 should be graded differently than one who gets a 90, but administrators say the new grading system rewards students who put in maximum effort to study and learn.
WAKE JUDGE TO DECIDE IF VOTER ID CASE SHOULD GO FORWARD
When the governor and Republican leaders in the Legislature decided to soften requirements for showing photo voter ID last June, did that undercut the argument that requiring voter ID at all was a violation of constitutional rights? That’s a decision Wake Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan has to make in the coming weeks. Lawyers for the state maintain that there is no case now because the state statute has been changed and is less restrictive, though they really don’t say why it was changed. But attorneys for the NC NAACP, the League of Women Voters and others contend that their lawsuit seeks the repeal of the statute regardless. Judge Morgan is expected to give his ruling soon.
STATE NEWS BRIEFS for 8-27-15
NCDP CHAIRWOMAN REASSERTS THAT FLEMING IS STATE AAC-NCDP CHAIR
[RALEIGH] In the wake of published reports here last week, North Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Keever attended both the Wake County African-American Caucus meeting in Raleigh last Thursday evening, and the NCDP State Executive Committee meeting in Durham on Saturday, and made it clear that the party recognized Willie Fleming of Charlotte, who has served as state chair of the African-American Caucus since 2011, as the legitimate chairman of that body.
Allegations had been made to The Carolinian that Fleming did not qualify to run on 2011 because in 2009, state Rep. Rodney Moore [D-Mecklenburg] disbanded the Charlotte-Mecklenburg AAC chapter. After The Carolinian went to press with its story last week, Rep. Moore’s office confirmed that he had, in fact, disbanded that chapter in 2009 when he served as its chairman, but that Fleming properly reconstituted that branch the following year in 2010, and in 2011, as its branch chairman, officially qualified to run for state chairman, which he won.
Fleming has since won re-election, and had the state auxiliary group to the NCDP recertified earlier this year in Pittsboro but the SEC. A State Board of Elections investigation requested by opponents of Willie Fleming’s tenure earlier this year failed to confirm their allegations, and records show there was never a two-thirds vote by the AAC-NCDP state membership to remove Fleming, as required by AAC-NCDP bylaws. Fleming remains in office until this November.
JURY DEADLOCKS IN CHARLOTTE POLICE SHOOTING CASE
[CHARLOTTE] After four-days of deliberations, a jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of acquittal in the excessive force trial of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick, who was charged with the Sept. 2013 fatal shooting of black motorist Jonathan Ferrell. The lone black juror told reporters that he voted to convict, but the majority of jurors felt that Kerrick, a white officer, shot Ferrell repeatedly ten times because he “feared for his life.” There were demonstrations after the verdict, with two people arrested. State prosecutors now must decide whether to retry the case against Kerrick.
CASH IN THE APPLE FOR 8-27-15
By Cash Michaels
HOSTILITIES – I have to keep reminding myself that none of this really new. If you check our history, there has been a plethora of backstabbing and backbiting, all in the name of “advancing the race,” though one must really ask if that was the primary purpose of some of the unnecessary hostilities.
I use that word because normally, when someone sees the need to be viciously hostile towards you, it’s because you apparently threaten their very well-being, let alone their very existence. No longer are minor or simple disagreements handled as low-level issues. Now, folks actually try to destroy you just because you see things differently, or hold firm to your point of view.
Now normally I expect this from folks from different political persuasions. The name of the game in politics is to win, so while it is unfortunate, it is really quite routine for folks of different political points of views to disagree so strongly that they even come to blows (have you seen video of debates in the British Parliament? Those folks do get their fake wigs in an uproar).
But then you have folks who simply can’t accept that there are other points of view than theirs, so they instantly adopt a “scorched earth” policy to actually try and inflict harm on the other person, feeling justified in doing so because…well because…because it just makes them feel justified. There’s no other reason they can come up with, if any at all.
What’s amazing is the level of what would normally be considered to be “bad” behavior in most social circles, that these proponents feel is properly justified. The rest of us would consider such stuff as childish, if not downright evil. But the perpetrators don’t see it that way, and that’s what makes it so dangerous. Not knowing, or at least appreciating the limits of your actions, or if your actions or words should even have limits.
Recently I’ve had interesting online debates about what are we doing in our community to address the high, disturbing level of so-called “black-on-black” murders and violence in our community. Now a lot of folks have a problem with that term, and feel that it’s really just a contrivance of the media to further label African-Americans.
To the extent that it is a convenient media contrivance, I agree. Rarely do we hear of “white-on-white” violence. But here’s my problem. When those same people then say, “crime is crime” to describe young black teenagers killing other young black children wantonly, I’m sorry but that’s where I step off. In my opinion, we are going well beyond “crime is crime” by definition. We have now come to accept, as “normal,” the fact that our children, acting out of self-hatred (it darn sure ain’t love), are slaughtering each other, even to the point where just sleeping in your own bed in your own home, or doing your homework in your own room, can a young innocent child killed by an errant bullet.
And GOD help you if your daddy got someone angry and they come gunning for him while he’s holding you in his arms. That has happened in Chicago.
These are special acts of self-hatred, and yes, we can chalk them up to generations of racism and societal abuse, but that doesn‘t mean we can, or should excuse them. Until there are more jobs and a better quality of life, we can’t just accept the high level of violence that is gripping our community from coast-to-coast.
And yet, there are those who conveniently wrap the idea of turning our backs on the problem as “being black.” What’s even more startling is because they see this discussion as possibly taking away from their #BlackLivesMatter argument, they try to dismiss it, or link police killings to black-on-black violence, saying that when we solve police killings of blacks, we’ll instantly solve the other.
And then when you press the issue of the black community coming together to solve the problem, some of these same apologists try to claim that unless you directly live in the “’hood,” you can’t possibly help solve the problems of the ‘hood.
Take that nonsense one step further, and they might as will tell you to mind your own darn business if you don’t live in the tough neighborhoods where the killings are happening. That violence is the business ONLY of those who live there, according to these “Einsteins,” so those who don’t live there just need to keep on walking.
Gee, I guess that means if you and your family use to live there but moved, then you shouldn’t care about what happens to the friends, neighbors and family that are still there.
If you left the ‘hood to attend college someplace, I guess this means unless to move back after you graduate, you are no longer “black.”
I guess if you and your family still attend church in the old neighborhood, that just doesn’t qualify.
And if you get a new job and have to move with it, then make sure you cut ALL ties because you just don’t qualify anymore.
The silly reasoning is endless. And if you point this out, you’re instantly attacked for being “not black,” or not “caring” about your community because you don’t live there anymore.
Yes this is stupid and vicious, because unless someone has actually said or done things to prove they have turned their backs on their community, that is dastardly thing to say.
There are many black professionals, for any number of reasons, who no longer live or work in the ‘hood, but make sure that they give back in some fashion to help make life better for future generations. They contribute money, they volunteer, they donate professional services, they teach and train…and the list goes on.
We need our total community effort to solve the problems that plague us. What we don’t need are dumb, ignorant loudmouths seeking to cripple those they disagree with, when they, themselves, show little to back up their bluster.
As a people and community, we have too much going on that we have to deal with to stomach attacking each other. It is so, so sad when we see some in our community doing the work of those who would destroy us.
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.waug-network.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).
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.