TENSIONS GROWS IN NCDP
By Cash Michaels
Controversy has once again enveloped the African-American Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party at a time that it can least afford it, namely in the strategic leadup to the all-important 2016 elections.
On the table are two key issues – first, given that African-Americans comprise over 50 percent of North Carolina registered Democrats, why doesn’t the state Democratic Party give more respect to arguably its most loyal base of supporters. The argument that white Democrats take the black Democratic vote for granted because few resources are invested in the black community to galvanize and deliver the vote, continues to have currency.
“There is a move to disenfranchise our vote and dilute our power, but they cannot win without our community,” charges Jannet Barnes, member of the NCDP’s State Executive Committee, adding that black Democrats deserve “fair representation” in the party hierarchy and decisionmaking.
On that issue there is a unanimous “Amen” from both black and white Democrats The Carolinian spoke with, with many surmising that had Kay Hagan listened to black leaders in 2014 when the first-term North Carolina senator fell just a few thousand votes short of holding back Republican challenger Thom Tillis, she would still be in Congress now.
But then there’s the second, more prickly issue – is Willie Fleming of Charlotte, the recognized president of the African-American Caucus of the NC Democratic Party (AAC-NCDP) for the past two years, legitimately that body’s president.
In an interview this week, Fleming tells The Carolinian “yes,” and says with just two months remaining in his tenure, he will finish the job until new elections are held this coming November.
But Jannet Barnes, the president of the Wake County chapter of the AAC-NCDP, strongly disagrees, alleging in word and documents that in fact, Fleming was “removed” from office on January 31st of this year “for cause,” and that she and a new slate of officers were just elected to lead the statewide auxiliary organization of the state Democratic Party in early August during a state convention of membership.
Both sides have dug in their heels, and when, and where the contentious dispute will ultimately be decided is anybody’s guess.
Founded in February, 2003, the AAC-NCDP is a chartered auxiliary of the party’s State Executive Committee. Its “mission,” according to its bylaws, “…is to promote political participation and education within the African-American community, encourage African-Americans to seek public office, represent issues and concerns of its membership to the Democratic Party Leadership and to work towards strengthening the Democratic Party.”
The AAC-NCDP’s elected officers consist of a president, first vice president, second vice president, third vice president, secretary, treasurer and parliamentarian. It’s membership is made up of registered black Democrats across the state in at least 22 counties.
In its bylaws, the AAC-NCDP maintains that, “By voting, the General Body (membership) is the sole arbiter of all issues, concerns, rules, regulations, policies and etc. for the AAC-NCDP.”
According to Mr. Fleming, he had been president of the AAC-NCDP since being elected in 2011, and re-elected in 2013.
But according to documents and a timeline provided by Ms. Barnes, NC House Rep. Rodney Moore [D- Mecklenburg] “disbanded” the Mecklenburg AAC chapter in 2009, and that’s the way it allegedly remained in 2011 when Fleming, who hailed from that chapter, ran and was elected AAC state president.
Barnes contends that because the bylaws maintain that all state officers come from “organized” chapters, Fleming should have been ineligible to run. She states that Fleming “retroactively” formed a new chapter in order to retain his state seat, but that is not allowed and any actions he took as chair were “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
There are additional allegations of a bank account and missing money, in addition to a failing to file reports with the State Board of Elections for two years.
“The AAC-NCDP By-Laws has an internal resolution of disputes provision, as required by the NCDP, and the Elected Executive Officers did render a decision to remove Mr. Fleming on Saturday, January 31st, 2015 at a called meeting which Fleming refused to attend,” stated an April 28, 2015 memo from Paul Brandon Johnson, listed a “President” to “County Caucus Presidents, Members and Friends.”
That Fleming was indeed “removed for cause” was later maintained in subsequent missives on AAC-NCDP letterhead from Johnson in a complaint and followups to the State Board of Elections (SBOE), and to Democratic Party Chairwoman Patsy Keever.
Barnes maintains that the SBOE “is investigating” and “has issued subpoenas,” and if that doesn’t pan out, she promises her group will “file a complaint with the [US] Dept. of Justice.”
So what does Willie Fleming, who is still touted as the president of AAC-NCDP on websites and listed among NCDP auxiliary presidents, say in response?
“It bothers me that Jannet and her group do not believe in democracy,” he told The Carolinian this week during a phone interview from Charlotte.
He says unless, as prescribed by the AAC-NCDP’s bylaws, “two-thirds” of the General Body present votes to remove any officer, he cannot be removed any other way. Fleming adds that the Elected Executive Officers can only recommend removal, but not do it themselves without the General Body.
Fleming maintains that there has been nothing improper about his election to office, or the two terms he has thus far served. He says when NCDP Chairwoman Patsy Keever was confronted with deciding whether Fleming had indeed been removed as AAC-NCDP president, she put in writing that the party still recognized him as president, and he “gives her credit” for that.
Fleming charges that Barnes and her supporters are “troublemakers” who have been removed from party organizations. He also promised that any allegations about his having anything to do with missing money, “…my attorney will take them to court and make them prove it.”
He says he spoke to the SBOE, and if it had determined something was wrong, something would have been done by now.
A spokesman for SBOE did not return The Carolinian’s call for comment by press time Wednesday.
Chairwoman Keever confirmed that Fleming’s version of events to The Carolinian during a telephone interview Tuesday.
Confirming a notarized letter from her recognizing Fleming as AAC state chair, Keever made it clear that it wasn’t a “personal” choice, but rather something she had party officials look into to determine who should rightfully sit on the State Executive Committee, as all auxiliary chairmen are allowed to.
By the party’s own “Plan of Organization,” NCDP officials, including the chairman, have no say in the inner workings of its auxiliary groups.
Chairwoman Keever said on Feb. 7, 2015, the SEC accepted the AAC bylaws during its gathering in Pittsboro, and Fleming was recognized as AAC chair at that time. Keever also said at the first SEC meeting after that, Fleming was recognized by the “vast majority of that body” as the president. At the May 2nd general body meeting, he was recognized again “by the vast majority” as chair. She maintains that the issue comes down to one group not recognizing the other.
“The party had to come down on one side or the other because we had to recognize who will sit on the SEC,” she said. “But the party is neutral, and working to ensure that the AAC is alive and well.”
“I’m sorry that these complications have come up,” Keever told The Carolinian. “The state party is neutral on President Barnes or President Fleming. This is an internal issue of the African-American Caucus, and I hope and pray that they’ll get it fixed so that we can get on with having a very strong and united AAC. And that’s what we all need.”
Keever also said that “It’s totally untrue” that the AAC and other caucuses of color have been left out, and have no place at the table of the NCDP. She says no other caucuses have had the “internal conflict” that the AAC has had.
So what the next step is in all of this is up Barnes and her supporters. With no further word from the SBOE, there is no doubt that Fleming will remain in office until new elections in November. If a complaint is filed with the US Dept. of Justice, it could be years before a final resolution is reached, assuming any alleged criminality is proven.
Meanwhile blacks in the state’s Democratic Party remain untrusting of its leadership, and apparently of each other.
CASH IN THE APPLE FOR 8-20-15
“PARDONS OF INNOCENCE” IN WILMINGTON MONDAY – For all of our friends in Wilmington, remember, the return screening of “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten” Monday, August 24, 6 p.m. at Jengo’s Playhouse, 815 Princess Street in downtown. This will be only the third time that the film has screened in the port city since its premiere at UNC-Wilmington in April 2014, so if you’re available to come out, by all means. We’ll also have DVDs of the film, plus a special book highlighting all of the memorable Wilmington Journal stories from 2012 that led up to the dramatic pardons of innocence for purchase. And there’ll be a special panel discussion directly afterwards for the audience to participate in.
So we’ll see you Monday, August 24th, 6 p.m. at the Jengo’s Playhouse, 815 Princess Street in downtown Wilmington for the next screening of “Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten.” Tell your friends and family.
THANK YOU – Thank you to all who took the time to come out to the Richard B. Harrison Library in SE Raleigh and share the afternoon with us as we once again shared our documentary, “WLLE REMEMBERED” about our now defunct, but always beloved 570WLLE “WiLLiE” radio station. Special thanks to cosponsors Marian Fragola of the NCSU Libraries and Prof. Sheila Smith McKoy of NCSU Africana Studied Program for making it happen, Wink and Cheryl Moody, along with daughter Ella, who all came out for support, and the many of you who filled the room to share old times and memories. Hopefully we can do it again in a few months.
JULIAN BOND – It was a Saturday, October 11, 2014. Former NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond was flying in for the annual NCNAACP Convention, where he was the keynoter, and had to land in Charlotte first, to board a connecting flight to Fayetteville. Except that there was no connecting flight.
As part of the documentary production crew for “Origin of the Dream,” it was my responsibility to make sure that this man of history arrived in a timely fashion at the NCNAACP Headquarters hotel in Fayetteville because we were scheduled to interview him on camera prior to his going to the banquet and delivering his remarks.
“On arriving in Charlotte, we are told our flight to Fayetteville is cancelled,” Bond emailed me. “We will see what the alternatives are and get back to you.”
A little later on, Chairman Bond emailed me again.
“We are going to rent a car and drive as soon as we get our bags - that maybe an hour’s time. As soon as we are on our way we will be back in touch.”
So now Bond and his lovely wife would be driving all the way from Charlotte to Fayetteville. Fat chance he would be in any shape to do an on-camera interview with us when he arrived. A long trip like that for someone even experienced like the great civil rights icon Julian Bond required some rest for him to properly prepare for his keynote speech, let alone our scheduled sitdown interview.
“Can you inform Rev. Barber?” Bond asked me by email, referring, of course to NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber. Of course I did. It was by the graciousness of Rev. Barber and his terrific staff at the NCNAACP that we were able to setup a place at the hotel in preparation for the interview. We’d have to change the timing now, shooting for directly after Bond’s banquet remarks.
I made the chairman that we thought it best that we aim for after the banquet.
“Let's do it after work. However you'll have to allow for the many people who want to say hello, shake hands and so on,” he replied. In other words, be patient because folks aren’t going to want to let me go that easily.
After confirming the after dinner interview, the chairman replied, “ That’s fine with me.”
Later that evening, Julian Bond arrived to applause after resting in his room. And after his remarks, he took time to take pictures, talk with people, and gladhand. Thanks to his wife, we were able to get him back to the hotel, and to the room where the camera crew was setup an diligently waiting. After the interview at 10:30 that night, we all took a picture together, and thank a clearly tired Julian Bond for his grace and cooperation.
I had met this champion for human rights who had marched with Dr. King, and helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Shaw University in 1960, when he and other veterans of the 60’s civil rights struggle came back to Raleigh and Shaw’s campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of SNCC in April 2010. I served as media coordinator for the conference which hosted luminaries like singer Harry Belafonte, Congressman John Lewis, and then US Atty. Gen. Eric Holder.
Bond took part in many of the activities and lectures, taking time to speak with students on campus about what the ‘60s struggle was really all about.
I still have many of our email correspondence with each other, my trying to get as much availability as possible for the press with Bond and others.
I have one in particular when someone had asked the chairman if he’d be able to speak with a certain news organization, and he simply replied back, “ Cash Michaels can set it up.”
No, Julian Bond and I were professional acquaintances, not personal friends, but he was straightforward, yet easy to work with. Bond had a quiet nature about him, yet that fire for justice is something that he couldn’t hide when the time was right. All of the battles he’d been through, and all of the gallant soldiers for justice he worked closely with…to be able to just hake the man’s hand, let alone trade a few emails with him, was something to be proud of.
That’s why, when I heard last weekend that he had passed after a brief illness, I was in shock. In his seventies, Bond gave no sign that he had been suffering any constant illness when we were in his presence last October.
But I was glad that before he went, Julian Bond did share his thoughts about Dr. King with us for our documentary, “Origin of the Dream.”
Rest well Chairman Julian Bond, and job well done.
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.-30-
NCNAACP PREPARES FOR
AUG. 29TH “JOURNEY” LEG
By Cash Michaels
The NC NAACP is urging all to take part in the North Carolina leg of “America’s Journey for Justice,” scheduled to come through the state starting August 29th.
A national coalition led by the national NAACP and its President/CEO Cornell William Brooks, “America’s Journey for Justice” is a 40-day, 860-mile protest march which began in Selma, Ala. on August 1st – the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act - from the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights marches were beaten and attacked by Alabama state troopers as they marched for voting rights in March 1965.
The modern-day Journey for Justice is routed from Alabama, through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, finally arriving in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15th. The North Carolina leg of the march is scheduled to reach the state August 29th through Sept. 7th, before it moves on to Virginia.
Marchers from nationwide will say to the nation and world family, “Our lives, our votes, our jobs, and our schools matter,” the NAACP, a major coalition in the march, says. With each state stopped in, a designated issue of concern to African-Americans – like fairness in the criminal justice system, jobs with sustainable wages, improved public education, and protection of voting rights - is addressed.
In North Carolina, according to NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, the issue is voting rights because the state has become “the national battleground for voting rights.”
In an effort to challenge a regressive southern legislature and Congress’ failure to act on strengthening the Voting Rights Act, the NC NAACP, the Forward Together Moral Movement, and other justice-loving North Carolinians from across the state will join the march and continue on across the Virginia state line, “Rev. Barber said in a statement.
Thus, a major “Rally for Voting Rights” featuring Rev. Barber and President Brooks, among others, will be held at the State Capitol in Raleigh on Thursday, Sept. 3rd, with activities beginning at 5 p.m.
Leading up to that, Pres. Brooks will take part in a Monday, August 24th Moral Monday Livestream online to promote the Sept. 3rd rally. On August 29th, marchers are expected to enter North Carolina from South Carolina at U.S. Highway 1 near Rockingham County at the state line.
Later that evening there will be a Journey for Justice Youth and Cultural Artist Teach-in, 7:30 p.m. at Southern Middle School, 717 Johnson Street in Aberdeen. On Monday, August 31st at 7 p.m., the Journey for Justice Voting Rights Teach-in at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, and on Sept. 1st at 10 a.m. at various congressional offices across the state, simultaneous press conferences on voting rights action.
Supporters from across the state seeking to join the Journey for Justice March while its in North Carolina may sign up by logging onto www.naacpnc.org, and click onto the American Journey for Justice tab, or call 919-682-4700
RACIAL ATTITUDES OF BLACKS IN MULTI-RACIAL CONGREGATIONS MIRROR THOSE OF WHITES, STUDY FINDSby Terry Goodrich
Baylor University News Service
, the researchers found that congregation size also impacts attitudes about racial inequality. Individuals attending very large congregations do not tend to attribute social divisions and economic gaps between blacks and whites to discrimination or lack of quality education but to some other factors. Further research is needed to determine the “why” of those differing perceptions, researchers said.