Tuesday, May 9, 2017


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Though he insists that he’s “really not leaving,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the State Conference of the North Carolina NAACP, says he will be “transitioning” from the state presidency next month to join a national “poor people’s” campaign to address issues of poverty and social inequality.
            “I’m not going to run for another term [as president ] of the North Carolina NAACP, and I will step down in June,” the civil rights leader said Wednesday during a teleconference.
            Maintaining that the NCNAACP is “…strong in our legal victories; strong in our organizational structure; strong financially and strong in the clarity of agenda…,” the civil rights leader expressed confidence that the next state president, coming from among the organization’s four vice presidents, will be up to the task.
 Barber has been president of the North Carolina chapter, the largest in the South, since 2005. He led the once troubled conference into national prominence with weekly Moral Monday demonstrations at the North Carolina state legislature since 2013, and challenging the state on controversial cases of alleged racial injustice.
The key to Barber’s success was his ability to lead diverse racial and religious coalitions to demand change on issues ranging from equal education to affordable health care. Subsequently the Christian leader was invited to twenty-three states last year to do “moral revival” training, sparking Moral Monday demonstrations as far away as Chicago.
In recent years, Rev. Barber has been recognized as a key voice in the progressive movement nationally, garnering him numerous appearances on MSNBC and CNN, and stories in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal; an address during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia; and the keynote sermon at Riverside Church in Harlem last month commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s April 4, 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” address.
His numerous appearances across the country gradually fueled speculation that Rev. Barber was steadily ascending to national leadership. Last Wednesday, he confirmed that he will be “following a deep calling” and  “transitioning to an expansion of the work around the country.”
“We found that there is a deep hunger for a shift in our moral narrative in the nation, and I’ve been asked by a number of moral leaders and impacted persons and advocates to join with them in helping to bring some leadership, energy and unity to helping to build the Poor People’s campaign, and a national call for a moral revival. “
Rev. Barber said the campaign will focus on 25 states and the District of Columbia, with at least half of them in South, including North Carolina, culminating with the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.
“In the times in which we live, our country still needs to address the issues of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and militarism, and our national morality,” Rev. Barber said. “We need a moral narrative.”
Though Barber is leaving the North Carolina NAACP presidency, he is not leaving the civil rights organization. He says he’ll still be a member of the state conference, and still sit on the national NAACP board.
The Christian pastor will not be leaving his Goldsboro church either, Greenleaf Christian Church, saying that doing so keeps him in close touch with the needs of the people.
He will join the national effort under the banner of his own social justice group known as “Repairers of the Breach,” which, in partnership with the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and other social justice and theologian activists, will sponsor “The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 years after the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Militarism, Poverty and Our National Morality” leading up to the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign.”
“In 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others knew the nation needed a Poor People’s Campaign to challenge extremism,” said Rev. Barber. “Today, we recognize that in order to challenge the extremist policies that are being proposed at the highest levels of government, which hurt the most vulnerable, we need a Moral Revival Poor People’s Campaign. We must advance a moral movement in America, that can move beyond the limited language of left versus right politics.” 


By Cash Michaels

            WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN – Forgive me, but I’m 61 years old, I love watching old movies and TV shows.
            Why? Because it is so much fun (at least to me), to try to see details of stories I know only too well, in a different light and perspective from when I first saw the movie/TV show.
            As a kid (mostly teenager), I watched purely to enjoy, and as well I should. After all, that’s what entertainment is supposed to be about when you’re young, just laughing and carrying on with your crew.
            So now, when certain show or films come on cable for me to watch again, I remember how much fun I had as a kid seeing it the first time, and part of me wants to relive those feelings again.
            Another part of me wants to confirm that what I saw many years ago was really that good in the first place. And finally, yet another part of me (that would be the 61-year-old part) wants to pick it apart and see why it was so good in the first place.
            Now this isn’t just limited to show and movie I liked. There were lots of shows and movies I didn’t like many moons ago, that I’ll now take a peek at and see if I still feel that way, and why, or why not.
            The result of all of this belated re-exploration is, what I think, a valuable lesson that things aren’t always what they first seem to be. Sometimes they’re much better, sometime they’re much worst. But time has a way of changing your perspective on things. That’s the result of maturity, experience, and even a change in attitude.
            Sometimes, you also learn to re-look at something through another person’s eyes and perspective, deliberately trying to understand what and why they are seeing something different. Watching old TV shows with young people is a perfect example of this. My youngest is quick to point out how flimsy the special effects are, while I’m trying to convince her that the story is what she be paying attention.
            But I guess what I really find fascinating is just how much better storytelling was then. You see, since special effects weren’t all that great back in the day, filmmakers had to come up with compelling stories to tell – real stories with depth and meaning, with actors who actually knew how to act!
            That means taking another look at “The Godfather” to really examine how two acting masters – Marlon Brando and Al Pacino worked their craft.
            Or watching Sidney Poitier in any of his movies from the 1960s.
            Or maybe actresses like Bette Davis or Joan Crawford – performers who took pride in their work, and knew how to bring audiences to their feet.
            And paying close attention to how master filmmakers like Hitchcock or Spielberg used light and shadows to paint a picture with textures and hues.
            And of course the music, always a major character in any film or TV show.
            The way they used to do it all, with skill and class, is a lost art in a world today of loud noise and constant explosions with very few characters you really enjoy.
            I don’t know about ten years from now, but it won’t be as much fun as looking back today.
            We old folks know real art when we see it.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Is President Donald Trump standing by his stated earlier commitment to support historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), or is he backing off, using some oblique constitutional reason not to do so?
            Last Friday afternoon, the Trump White House issued a statement upon signing H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017, which was recently passed by Congress to fund the federal government by $1.1 trillion through September 2017.
            What was notable about the law was that even Democrats, like Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12), were pleased with it.
            “This is a clean bipartisan budget that’s good for the 12th District,” she said in a  May 3rd statement. “Students across the 12th District will now have access to year-around Pell Grants, increasing access to higher education and opportunity.”
            Rep. Adams concluded, “This budget is a reflection of what Congress can accomplish when we work together.”
But in Trump’s May 5th signing statement on the law, the Republican president delineated which provisions of the bill “…would, in certain circumstances, unconstitutionally limit my ability….” as commander-in-chief.
            Towards the end of Trump’s statement, he continued, “My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender (e.g., Division B… "Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account) in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution's Fifth Amendment.
            According to The Hill, a Washington, DC online newspaper, the 25-year-old “…financing program lets the Education Department allot federally-backed loans to historically black colleges and universities to help them fund construction on their campuses,” in this case, $20 million in federal loan subsidies in fiscal year 2017.
            In North Carolina, Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, know the value of that program first-hand.
            "Bennett College has benefitted greatly from the HBCU Capital Financing Program," said LeRoy Summers, Jr., interim Vice President for administration and finance. "In 2009, the College borrowed program funds to construct a new Honors Residence Hall, a Global Learning Center and an Intergenerational Children's Center. Funds were also borrowed to refinance an existing loan from the Department of Education. The interest rates on these loans were lower than rates offered by financial institutions, thus saving the College money.
But POLITICO, another online DC-based newspaper, reported, “…where the bill conflicts with the White House’s interpretation of the president’s powers under the Constitution, he will go with the Constitution.”
In other words, because the program was exclusive to HBCUs, Trump was hinting that he might not approve of funding it.
It didn’t take long for Trump’s critics to interpret his statement as a betrayal of his February 28th executive order that HBCUs will be “…an absolute priority for this White House.”
            Trump made that declaration during a meeting with over 80 HBCU presidents and chancellors then in the Oval Office for a photo op. He promised no increased funding at the time, but Republicans in Congress ensured that HBCUs would see considerable support. Democrats, on the other hand, were weary.
            After Trump’s May 5th contradictory signing statement, his critics pounced.
            News stories suggested that the president was “hinting that financing for HBCUs may be unconstitutional.”
            Rep. Adams, co-chair of the Bi-partisan HBCU Caucus in Congress, was one of several black congresspeople to express outrage. “I am surprised and troubled by President Trump’s signing statement on the FY17 omnibus, which specifically singled out our Historically Black Colleges and Universities,”
            Adams continued, “Any action taken to weaken the HBCU Capital Financing Program would undermine their financial stability, harming both students and alumni alike. The president needs to keep his word and prioritize supporting these important institutions. The economic prospects of hundreds of thousands of Americans depends on it."
            At Bennett College in Greensboro, the concern was real.
            "It is imperative that the Trump administration recognizes the program's value to our institutions and the community at large and leaves it intact,” Vice President for Administration and Finance Leroy Summers said. “Aside from the financial benefits to HBCUs, doing so is also important for maintaining good relations between HBCUs and the Trump administration. In late February, Bennett College Interim President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins and other HBCU presidents and chancellors met in good faith with Trump and his administrators. If funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program is cut, that would detract from the progress that was made during those meetings."
Other HBCU leaders, like Chancellor Elwood Robinson of Winston-Salem State University, held their fire, choosing instead to remind The White House of what HBCU’s bring to the table.
            “While Winston-Salem State University does not currently have a project funded through the program President Trump was addressing, we believe that historically black colleges and universities play a critical role in the nation’s higher education landscape,” Robinson said in a statement. “Our 25,000-plus alumni demonstrate the incredible outcomes and the enormous economic impact we have on the region and the nation. We continue to strive to ensure that policymakers are aware of the value of HBCUs — and the historic underfunding of our institutions — and support us at both the state and federal level.”
            Still others in the HBCU community, like Cheryl Smith, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs for the United Negro College Fund, said she was “puzzled by this provision and [was] seeking clarification from the White House as to its meaning.”
Even the spokesman for Republican Congressman Mark Walker of Greensboro (R-NC-6) was confused, especially since Walker was a GOP leader pushing for more funding for HBCUs in Congress.
            We saw this over the weekend and have some questions,” said Jack Minor, Rep. Walker’s communications director. “We are seeking clarification from the Administration on the signing statement.”
            The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which also advocates for more HBCU funding, also weighed in.
            We have shared with the White House our assertion that the HBCU program is not at all a race-based government effort and therefore doesn't raise any equal protection or due process concerns because participation in the program is limited to HBCUs,” the TMCF said in a weekend statement. “HBCUs serve some of the most diverse populations in this nation and three TMCF member-schools enroll more white students than black students:”
            With criticism mounting, the Trump Administration finally decided Sunday that a clarification was in order.
            The statement that accompanied my signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, sets forth my intention to spend the funds it appropriates, including the funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), consistently with my responsibilities under the Constitution,” Pres. Trump said. “It does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical educational missions.”
            “In a few days, my Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will give the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, a school founded by the great Mary McCleod Bethune and committed to leadership and service.  Secretary DeVos chose an HBCU as the venue for her first commencement address to demonstrate my Administration's dedication to these great institutions of higher learning.”
            The president continued, “I look forward to selecting an Executive Director and Board for my HBCU initiative and continuing this important work with HBCUs throughout the nation.”
            But even with that clarification, Democrats were not convinced that when it comes to HBCUs, that Pres. Trump can be trusted,
            "Sadly and shamefully, HBCUs, including the schools that President Trump met with, are left to wonder whether he wants to help or hurt them," said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi.) in a statement.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            The president of the NC NAACP is critical of a UNC Board of Governors subcommittee proposal that wants the UNC Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill to cease filing complaints motions, lawsuits or other legal claims, usually on behalf of poor people or communities, against any private person, company or government, or acting as or employing legal counsel.
            “This is another attempt by the extremist Republican-led General Assembly and its allies to roll back civil rights and undermine any group or policy that fights for civil rights, voting rights and the principle of equal protection under the law embedded in our constitution,” says NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber. “It reveals how afraid they are and how deeply they realize that the policies they are promoting, when exposed, are found to be driven by racism and are an affront to justice.”
 “They can’t handle the truth, so they try to stop the truth tellers,” Rev. Barber continued. “The UNC Center for Civil Rights is under attack because of the work they do, and have done, challenges the [repression] the General Assembly is doing, and wants to do more of.”
The full UNC board is expected to vote on the matter this month. Public opinion was solicited in Chapel Hill on May 11th.
            Conservative members of the UNC Board of Governors Education Planning, Policies and Programs Subcommittee say legal centers on UNC campuses should not be involved in litigation, only learning about it.
            “We need to confine ourselves to our mission, which is academic,” Raleigh attorney Joe Knott, a committee member says. “The university is not a public interest law firm and doesn’t need to be.”
But supporters of the work at the UNC Center – which was started in 2001 by civil rights attorney Julius Chambers, say it provides an invaluable service to low wealth communities in the areas of school desegregation, “... fair housing, environmental justice, community inclusion and political participation….,” according to Theodore Shaw, a Julius L. Chambers distinguished professor of law,  and director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
            “The center works to dismantle structural and racialized barriers to equality – the legacy of hundreds of years of slavery and racial discrimination that have impacted our state,” wrote Shaw.
            Indeed, according to UNC law Professor Gene Nichol, Chambers at first hesitated to establish the Center there, accurately predicting  “They won’t let you open a center to represent poor black people,” referring to conservatives. “And if they do, and if we do our work, they’ll close us down.”
So it was no surprise when, in a February 14th memo, Raleigh attorney Steve Long, another UNC Board of Governors member, wrote, “Filing legal actions against the state or city and county governments is far outside the primarily academic purpose of UNC centers. “
And yet, it was the UNC Center that sued years ago to ensure that all North Carolina public school students were guaranteed the constitutional right to “a sound, basic education, ” and sued to stop a toxic waste dump in Brunswick County that threatened the black community there.
At North Carolina Central University’s School of Law in Durham, there is also concern that two institutions – the Dispute Resolution Institute and the Intellectual Property Law Institute, in addition to eleven legal clinics for students there, would also be in jeopardy.
Irving Joyner, professor of law at NCCU’s School of Law, and chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, agrees that the UNC Board of Governors proposal is partisan, and pointed.
“[This] is an attempt to send the message to others who are in the University system that efforts to advance, protect and support the rights of minorities and poor people will be resisted by the UNC Board of Governors,” Prof. Joyner said. “These efforts are shameful and will have the effect of subverting the University's stated mission of providing education, services and resources to citizens in this state, and to improve its quality of life.”
 “Board members who support this effort, ignore the fact and reality that citizens provide the authority and funds which have been used by the university system to gain national recognition and those citizens, particularly those who are often the targets of governmental over-reaching, deserve an effective return of their investments to this system.  By the same acts, students are being denied the opportunity to benefit from the many excellent learning labs which our universities have been able to utilize in the past,” Joyner added.


            [RALEIGH] North Carolina has moved up from 41st in teacher pay nationally, to 35th, according to the National Education Association. Average teacher’s salary in the state was $49,837 in 2016-17, $9,000 less than the national average. Out of the 12 states that make up the Southeast, North Carolina now ranks 5th, moving up from 9th.

            [RALEIGH] The fine details weren’t available at press time Wednesday, but state Senate leaders unveiled their $22.9 billion budget proposal Tuesday afternoon, touting that it gives teachers, principals  and state employees pay raises, and cuts taxes by $1 billion. The proposal spends $600 million less than Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan. The Senate plan, however, provides no cost-of-living increases for retired state employees. Hearings on the budget were scheduled to begin on Wednesday, with a senate vote by Friday. The House is expected to present it’s budget plan shortly.

            [WASH. DC] The chairman of the US Senate Committee on Intelligence says he is troubled by the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and its timing. NC Sen. Richard Burr also said he was troubled by the reasoning of Pres. Trump’s dismissal of  Comey, giving that the FBI director was heading up a probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. Burr, a Republican, had high praise for Comey, calling him “a public servant of the highest order.


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