Tuesday, August 16, 2016


By Cash Michaels

            The family of a 20-year-old black man who was fatally shot while walking by the home of a white Raleigh homeowner is demanding justice, saying that the gunman had no right to pull the trigger because neither nor his family were ever at risk.
            Published reports confirm that Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas was just attending a party in the Northeast Neuse Crossing neighborhood on the evening of August 7 when he and some friends decided to leave. They carried no weapons, and walked on no one else’s property as they left.
            However, to neighbor Chad Cameron Copley, 39, Thomas and his friends were “frigging black males outside my frigging house with firearms” and also abunch of hoodlums.” He told the police dispatcher he needed to scare them off with his shotgun from in front of his Singleleaf Lane address. Copley allegedly fired once through his garage window, fatally hitting Thomas.
            Copley contended that the group in front of his home was rowdy, cursing and threatening, thus the warning shot. None of the witnesses to the shooting or the events leading up to it confirmed Copley’s version.
            Copley as charged with first-degree murder and remanded without bond.
            Days later, at a press conference by the Thomas family and their attorney,  Justin Bamberg, Copley was called “George Zimmerman 2.0” after the infamous killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida several years ago when the black youth was innocently walking home one night.
            The Thomas family said there was “nothing ‘hood’ about him, and there was  no evidence that he was doing anything other than walking home from the party that night peacefully, not disturbing anyone.
            Attorney Bamberg vowed that the family will seek justice in the courts.  
            Kouren’s distraught mother cried, “ I don’t have him no more, and there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing I can do.”


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Once again the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly has illegally employed race to ensure partisan, yet unconstitutional outcomes. This time, it was nine state senate districts and 19 NC House districts of the state’s 170 legislative districts that the three-judge panel ruled were racially-gerrymandered in absence of any compelling state interests.
It’s called “stacking and packing,” where Democratic black voters were drawn into majority-minority districts for the sole purpose removing them from swing districts so that white Republicans could easily defeat white Democrats.
Those legislative maps have already been used in two prior elections, and will be used again for the upcoming November 8th general election because there isn’t time to redraw them, the federal appellate court said. But when the NC General Assembly goes back into session next January, the court has ordered it to redraw the voting districts so that the maps comply constitutionally for the 2018 elections.
Democrats statewide weren’t surprised, but they were outraged.
“This Republican legislature has broken a record enacting the highest number of unconstitutional laws ever, and all of them are raced-based,” Eric Ellison, chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party  said in blunt terms. “They’re a bunch of racists, and our courts agree with us. These guys are underhanded, they don’t believe in the Constitution,  they don’t believe in fairness, they don’t believe in democracy. They’re a bunch of crooks, and it’s time to get them out of office, and get new leadership in there, and the time to do it is now!”
Thirty-one North Carolina voters sued the NC legislature in May, 2015 in federal court, claiming that the 2011 district maps unnecessarily increased the number of black voters in 28 districts under the guise of complying with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Blacks and whites were already in coalition electing black candidates of their choice in those districts.
State Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. was one of those black lawmakers who previously enjoyed strong support from a racial coalition of support which included 42 percent  of black voters from Durham and Granville County. But his district lines were suddenly changed in 2011 to where he had over 50 percent black voters in his district.
Indeed, prior to 2011, not one state Senate district represented by an African-American had a majority of black voters, because it wasn’t necessary.      The 2015 federal lawsuit charged that the 2011 Republican redistricting was just a ruse to feign compliance with the 1965 VRA in order to gain political advantage.
“They were just packing African-Americans into those districts, and making it more likely that Republicans would win the other ones,” Sen. McKissick said.
When state lawmakers return in January, their first order of business will be to redraw the 28 legislative districts so that they are in constitutional compliance, McKissick says.  The legislature can still draw majority-minority districts, just as long as it can legally demonstrate candidates are more likely to be elected because of race, observers say.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            A just released “confidential memo” seems to confirm what many advocates for diversity in NHC public schools have always suspected – that the Republican-led Board of Education deliberately instituted  racially-imbalanced neighborhood schools, not caring what forced segregation would do to black students.
            The result – a plethora of black students doing poorly in low-performing and failing NHC schools, and only a handful of African-American pupils doing well in racially diverse schools.
            The July 21st leaked confidential memo from NHC Supt. Dr. Tim Markley to the Board of Education was forwarded to former NHC School Board member Elizabeth Redenbaugh, who then forwarded it to the Wilmington Journal.ww
            In  a telephone interview Monday, Redenbaugh was satisfied that the memo was authentic..
            Titled “Student Assignment and Achievement,” Dr. Markley determined for board members that there are very few black students in the system’s high-performing schools; the district’s high –poverty schools are the worst performers; Alderman is underperforming with black students; Myrtle Grove is also underperforming with black students at certain grade levels; Murrayville and Castle Hayne consistently outperform other schools in the district; and overall, blacvk student performance in the district needs to improve.
            In the memo, Markley lays the blame squarely at the feet on the board’s student assignment plan, which effectively sent the lion’s share of black students to low-performing, segregated, high-poverty failing schools that offered those pupils no chance to succeed.
            Dr. Markley continued that the assignment plan “places a huge burden” on high –poverty schools like Freeman, Snipes and Virgo, but even with adequate resources to those schools, it’s not enough to change the culture of those schools.
            “The long-term solution,” Dr. Markley continued, “ is to redraw the [district] lines to help balance the schools bases on socio-economic levels.” He suggests using the opportunity to redistrict for the new Porter’s Neck Elementary School “…to make significant changes in the demographics of all of the schools.”
Markley  continues that needed diversity can be achieved while still maintaining neighborhood schools.
            “When we begin the redistricting process this fall I am requesting that balancing schools become one of the guiding principles,” Dr. Markley concluded, saying that doing so would help “ALL” students in the district.
            In her cover email to The Journal, Ms. Redenbaugh who served on the NHC School Board until 2012, wrote, “ [This email] …is the smoking gun that proves our school board knows “neighborhood schools” are detrimental to poor and minority students. [Former school board members] Dorothy Deshields, Nick Rhodes and I fought hard against neighborhood schools when we were on the school board   because we knew this would happen. I’m sorry to say we were right.”
            During her telephone interview with The Journal, Redenbaugh said none of th hard data accompanying Dr. Markley’s memo “was new to the board” in terms of how stringent racial segregation was in the district. During her time on the board, she was able to track the  direction of housing patterns in the county and match those to how the chool board was redistricting the lines.
            In each case, more and more black students were being sent to high-poverty, low-performing schools.
In her “Letter to the Editor,” school board candidate Sandra Leigh while saying that NHC had many good schools, “…we have not been able to provide a quality education for ALL children. Too many poor and minority children are not sharing in the opportunity for a great education and are not attending these “good” schools. In fact, almost half of ALL the highest performing elementary schools in NHC have so few African Americans they aren’t even included in the proficiency statistics,” she adds.
“When you look at the struggling and “failing” schools in NHC, what you find is that they have very high concentrations of poor students, who lack the “social capital” of students from middle class homes’’ Ms. Leigh continued. ‘By concentrating poor students, these schools are set up to fail. We created these low performing schools in NHC by rejecting balanced schools in the last round of redistricting. “
“One way to begin to fix our educational system and provide real educational opportunity for ALL students is to provide for diversity in every school based on students’ social and economic background. We can do this in NHC by redistricting our schools to create more balanced attendance boundaries.”

“If the will of NHC is to have excellent schools for ALL students in every neighborhood of the city,” Leigh concluded,  “and to build the growth and expansion of our city on this premise, then we all need to rally around our “failing schools” and ensure that NOT ONE SINGLE SCHOOL remains on that list. We need to start with balancing every school to benefit ALL our students.”

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