Monday, February 27, 2017


By Cash Michaels

            “WE STAND ON BLACK HISTORY’S SHOULDERS” –On Feb. 24th, I was invited to deliver the keynote at the Black History celebration of HCL America in Cary. Needless to say, I didn’t want to deliver remarks that were a waste of anybody’s time. So here is an excerpt of what I said. The name of the speech was , “We Stand on Black History’s Shoulders” :
            I am supposed to be talking about Black history with you folks today, but what about the future? What do we have going for us now that ensures a good, productive future for all of us?
You see, if you study the Black History of the past close enough, you realize that all of the gains African-Americans have made today, and will make tomorrow, and the next tomorrow, and the next, are all rooted in the courage and vision of those who stood up for the very principles all Americans claim to aspire to today – the right to freedom, liberty and justice.
            You know, one of the things that truly puzzles me today is this popular meme of some young African-Americans that they don’t want to hear, see or learn anything about slavery because what it tells them is that their people were once the property of others, and if they are parents, they refuse to allow their children to see those brutal images of black people being chained, being whipped, being beaten to death in many cases, just because of the color of their skin.
            Some of these young people today simply refuse to accept that once upon a time, their ancestors had no freedom. They don’t want to see it. Don’t want to watch “Roots,” nothing. And I feel for them, because out of the horrendous history of what slavery was in this country, come courageous stories of struggle, and faith, and family, and industriousness. From the pain of the past, came civil and social rights movements, not just for African-Americans, but for women, for members of the LGBT community, for those seeking to actually become American citizens, and are threatened with mass deportation.
            And those whose constitutionally-protected right of freedom of religion now makes them automatic suspects in what parades around these days as national security.
            As a teenager watching the news, I always found it fascinating to see people yearning to be free, locking arms and singing in their foreign language “We Shall Overcome,” knowing that Dr. King would be smiling in his grave that his message of freedom still resounded around the world. 
            That is why, by the way, I’m always interested when I her mostly African-Americans complain that the sculptor of the King Monument in Washington, DC was Chinese, as if to ay that because Dr. King was black, then so should everything about him be. But the Dr. King I know was a global social justice hero who reached out to the world, who, as a man of GOD, prayed that all of mankind would one day find peace through brotherhood. King was a champion for the global struggle for justice. How can any of us deny an artist of any ethnic or racial background their skilled expression of what Dr. King’s “Dream” meant to them.
            Right now I’m co-producing a documentary titled “Origin of the Dream,” based on a tremendous book by NC State University Professor W. Jason Miller, and directed by Rebecca Cerese, a skilled documentarian. The film is about the new discoveries we’re finding of an intellectual partnership between Dr. King and poet Langston Hughes, and how Hughes inspired many of Dr. King’s speeches.
            Now Prof. Jason Miller is white, yet he knows more about Langston Hughes than almost anybody. Rebecca Cerese is white, yet she directed the award winning documentary, “February One” about the 1960 Greensboro sit-in movement. The three of us working together on this project is the epitome of Dr. King’s stated dream.
            The Black History of the past, providing the shoulders that we ALL stand on today!
            Barack Hussein Obama….ever heard that name before?
            There are so, so many African-Americans, including myself, that were dead wrong – we did see a black man elected to become president of the United States – twice, twice in our lifetimes. Before the 2008 election, none of us ever thought that we would see it. And yet, as we stand here today, Pres. Obama’s election is now American history. And he has made us proud.
Proud because whether you agreed with many of his policies or not, Obama blazed a very difficult trail. It can be argued that he tried to do too much, that attempting to bring a bitterly divided nation together, fix the economy, fight terrorism, and do so all in spite of a Republican-led Congress that was very cler in its declaration that they were determined that he fail, was a bit much for any president of the United States to tackle.
Let alone the first black one.
            But Pres. Obama gave it his best, and did so with pride and honor, and will go down in history as one of our best commander-in-chiefs ever. Say what you want about Pres. Obama, but you never had to worry about his mental capabilities.
            He, perhaps, is the best example of Black History providing us the shoulders on which all of us – all Americans – stand on to do great things for our future. There are lessons of courage, like the Tuskegee Airmen. Lessons of great imagination like scientist George Washington Carver and the many, many ways to make useful products from peanuts. Lessons of great artistry like the music of Stevie Wonder, or the stage (and screen) award winning performances of actress Viola Davis.
            And, of course, leadership like Pres. Barack Obama…and I could go on, that teach us that, given the trying times that we’re in, given the trying times that we’re always in, there will be a black history tomorrow, because we’re striving and learning, and growing, and building black history today!
            Thank You!

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            It’s not as if it wasn’t expected once conservative former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions took over as US attorney general, but still, there has been an abundance of concern since Monday when the US Justice Dept. announced  that it was reversing its “longstanding position,” according to the Washington Post, “…that Texas intended to discriminate when it passed a strict voter ID law.”
            Under the Obama Administration, the US Justice Dept. has always been on the side of those challenging voting rights violations, including here in North Carolina. Even though the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law was unconstitutional because it suppressed the black vote “with surgical precision,” there is concern because state Republican legislative leaders want the US Supreme Court, which will soon have a conservative majority again once Pres. Trump’s nominee is confirmed, to review lower court rulings striking down voter ID and redistricting, in hopes of a reversal.
            To NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber and NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee Chair atty . Irv Joyner, two people who have been on the front lines of battling North Carolina’s voter suppression, the latest news from the Trump administration does not bode well for North Carolina’s voting rights.
            It's bad,” Rev. Barber said Tuesday. “For the United States Dept. of Justice to become adversarial to voting rights and the power of the office to be used in the defense of voter suppression is dangerous to our democracy. This is systemic racism, and if US Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions seeks to go backwards in a time of the worst attacks on voting rights since Jim Crow,  then he is the racist we knew he was. “
Rev. Barber continued, “Jeff Sessions has done nothing to restore the VRA (Voting Rights Act) which is just one reason he should have never been confirmed. We can still win cases in the courts because of the Constitution, but to have the Dept of Justice as a adversary in our fight against voter suppression, is un-American and immoral.”
Attorney Joyner has led many of the key court cases to overturn North Carolina’s voter ID law.  Many times, the Obama Justice Dept. was a willing partner.
But now….
“It is not a surprise that the U.S. Justice Department, which is now under the control of an ultra-conservative Trump administration, has changed its position in the Texas Case which is also pending before the Supreme Court,” atty. Joyner says.
 “We expect the Justice Department will do the same as it relates to their support of our cases here in North Carolina. Our cases, however, are not dependent upon the support or agreement of the U.S. Justice Department, but are based upon established United States constitutional precedents and laws.”
“We realize that the Trump Administration and the Berger (state Senate Leader) and Miller (state House Leader) are doing everything in their powers to stack the deck against the commands of the law,” Joyner continued.  “Despite this, we are eagerly moving forward in our fight to save the voting rights of African Americans and other people of color. This is a fight that we must have and is the fight that we must win for the people.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Amid controversial remarks about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) being “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice” from the new US education secretary, Congresswoman Alma Adams (D- NC-12) is urging Republicans to join with the 49-member Congressional Black Caucus , and the 55-member Congressional Bi-partisan HBCU Caucus – which she founded and co-chairs - to strengthen HBCUs, and partner with black schools to ensure the future for promising students.
            Meanwhile, presidents and chancellors from at least eighty HBCUs, including Interim Pres. Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins of Bennett College, Chancellor Harold Martin of NC A&T University, and Chancellor Elwood Robinson of Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, among others, met with Pres. Donald Trump Monday in the Oval Office, on the eve of his signing a new executive order vowing that HBCUs will be “an absolute priority for this White House,” and that the HBCU Initiative normally handled in the US Dept. of Education, is being moved back to the White House for presidential attention.
            The HBCU fly-in was arranged by US Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC-6) of Greensboro, in hopes of impressing on Congressional leaders the need to increase the federal budget for traditionally underfunded black schools.
However, according to published reports, there is no specification for how much funding in the Trump administration budget for HBCUs so far, and according to The Associated Press, “GOP  lawmakers said there were currently no concrete plans for increased funding.”
            During remarks made at the Tuesday luncheon in Washington, DC for the HBCU Fly-in Conference, Rep. Adams reminded all that she, once “a poor black girl…from the ghetto of Newark, NJ…” is the product of NC A&T University in Greensboro, who also earned her PhD from Ohio State University.
            “So I stand here today as a living testament of what HBCUS do and have always done for students who simply need an opportunity, like I did,” she told the HBCU luncheon audience.
            Rep. Adams also reminded all that she also taught for forty years at Bennett College. “Those of us who have invested our life’s work on these campuses know first-hand what I’m talking about,” Rep. Adams said. Then, in an apparent dig at US Education Secretary Betsy Devos, and her much-criticized statement that HBCUs were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice ” for black students, which is historically inaccurate, Rep. Adams said, “Founded out of necessity and exclusion from other institutions of higher education, HBCUs--OUR SCHOOLS-have been providing pathways to education and upward mobility for more than a century.”
            After then noting that HBCUs account for half of all black teachers, and forty-percent of degreed black health professionals,  Adams noted that Rep. Walker, the fly-in conference convener, is a member of the Congressional Bi-partisan HBCU Caucus .
            “It is my sincere belief that the Congressional Bi-partisan HBCU Caucus planted the seed that created the opportunity we are experiencing today,” she said, later adding in an interview that while she doesn’t doubt her colleague’s sincerity about HBCUs, she wonders why he’s carrying the HBCU support torch now, many years after his wife graduated from Winston-Salem State University with a nursing degree.  NC A&T University is now part of Walker’s 6th District.
            “I invite and encourage my Republican colleagues to work with Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus, that has historically championed HBCUs in Congress, and whose members have already introduced legislation that would advance the work at these institutions,” Rep. Adams continued.
            “Further, I challenge you to join me and the Congressional Black Caucus in encouraging Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act; support the return of The White House Initiative on HBCUs to the White House; restore year round Pell [Grants] and increase the purchasing power of these grants; protect and strengthen public education; co-sponsor and help push through such legislation as: the HBCU Capital Financing Act which Congressman Byrne and I just introduced; the Historic Preservation Act sponsored by Congressman Clyburn, the HBCU Innovation Fund Act, along with other significant bills.”
            “It’s time to move the conversation away from “why do we need HBCUs” to “what would we do without HBCUs and how do we work together to ensure that HBCUs not only survive but thrive,” Congresswoman Adams concluded.
            In an interview after her luncheon appearance, Adams said that she and Rep. Cedric Richmond [D-LA-2], chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, were the only Congressional Democrats invited to speak at the fly-in luncheon because of their caucus leadership positions. In fact, her name wasn’t even on the program.
            “They wanted it to be a Republican thing,” she said, suggesting that this may be part of an effort to ultimately appeal to black voters.
            The North Carolina congresswoman criticized the choice of Education Secretary Betty DeVos as luncheon keynote speaker, especially after her erroneous earlier statement about HBCUs.
            “In terms of really knowing about our schools, I can’t imagine she was the best speaker [available], “ said Rep. Adams, adding that the Education secretary, who made millions in Michigan being a strong school choice advocate, will probably have to get “ a lot of OJT (On the Job Training).”
            Adams said she supports moving the HBCU Initiative from DeVos’ agency to the White House because “it might get the attention that it needs there…,” though there is some concern that it might get “politicized.”
            Congresswoman Adams admitted that she was “skeptical” about Pres. Trump’s true intentions regarding his overtures to HBCUs and promises made. “We’re going to have to hold him to what he says. He certainly wasn’t supportive (during the campaign) of people who look like me. So I don’t know.”
            Of Pres. Trump’s Monday meeting with the various HBCU presidents and chancellors in the Oval Office, Rep. Adams added, ‘Hopefully it wasn’t just a photo op.”
            During the interview, Adams reiterated that the idea for the HBCU fly-in conference originated from remarks she made to her HBCU Caucus last December as something she felt the bi-partisan group should do.  Apparently the idea was taken to Republican House leadership and approved.
            “But we planted the seed,” she insisted. “We could have done [the fly-in] as a bi-partisan effort…but this was an opportunity for Republicans to shine, and show-up Democrats.”
            Rep. Adam’s Maryland colleague, Congressman Elijah Cummings [D-MD), a Howard University alum and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued a statement Tuesday, saying in part, “If President Trump is serious about helping HBCUs, he must also be serious about removing the structural barriers African Americans still face, and he should put his money where his pen is by urging his colleagues in Congress to increase federal funding to HBCUs.”


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Controversy abounds in the aftermath of a dramatic announcement last week that the national and state NAACP are calling for an “international” economic boycott of North Carolina because, they say, of “repressive” policies marshaled by the Republican-led state legislature.
            “True democracy remains a distant ideal that the racist actions of members of the NC state legislature continue to disgracefully push further and further out of the reach of the African-American community,” said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.
            “The NAACP refuses to accept this attack on democracy or the commoditization of bias against people due to racial or gender identity here in North Carolina or anywhere else around the nation. This we will fight against with all of our resources until we win.”
But despite important questions about how the boycott would work, at least one local NAACP leader says leveraging dollars spent in the state is the most effective way to force meaningful change.
            It was last December that NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber announced that the state conference would formally ask the national NAACP Board of Directors for permission to call for an economic boycott, in response to various policies and actions emanating from the GOP-led NC General Assembly.
            Three weeks ago, right before the eleventh Annual  HK on J March and People’s Assembly, the national NAACP Board “announced a resolution calling for an international economic boycott of the state of North Carolina in response to actions of an all-white legislative caucus, which unconstitutionally designed racially-discriminatory gerrymandered districts, enacted a monster voter suppression law, passed Senate Bill 4 stripping the incoming Governor of power and passed House Bill 2.”
            The NAACP Board described “HB2” as a “…anti-transgender, anti-worker and anti-access to the state court for employment discrimination.”
Last Friday during a press conference in front of the NC Legislative Building on Jones Street, with national NAACP Pres/CEO  Brooks looking on, state NAACP Pres. Barber stood firm on why an economic boycott was necessary.
“The actions of the all white caucus of extremists in our legislature and the former governor are out of control. They have consistently passed legislation that is a violation of our deepest moral values, voting rights, civil rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.”
Rev. Barber continued, “The federal court ruled against their voter suppression and racially gerrymandered districts. We believe their attacks on the transgender community and attempt to strip the governor of power will also be found unconstitutional. Their decision to block local municipalities ability to raise wages and their limitation of access to state courts are wrong and we must stand strong against any and all attempts to deprive citizens their rights ordained by God and guaranteed by the constitution.”
            Barber and Brooks called on all sporting and entertainment events, conferences and other business interests to avoid North Carolina until Republican lawmakers reversed course. No national NAACP meetings will take place in the state as well, and the civil rights organization might even consider divestiture of investments in the state.
            The national NAACP famously boycotted South Carolina for 15 years until it removed the Confederate Flag from the state Capitol grounds.
            Republican Senate President Pro tem Phil Berger [R-Rockingham] immediately blamed Democratic Gov., Roy Cooper for the NAACP declaration, saying the governor should "condemn William Barber's attempt to inflict economic harm on our citizens, and work toward a reasonable compromise that keeps men out of women's bathrooms.,” referring to HB2, which has already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in cancelled events and businesses refusing to move to North Carolina.
            Ford Porter, Gov. Cooper spokesperson, fired back. "While Governor Cooper continues to urge business to come to North Carolina in spite of HB2, Republican legislative leaders need to stop holding our economy hostage to this disastrous law.”
            Rev. Barber maintains that if victory is to be won over Republican repression, it must all start in North Carolina.
            “What has happened in North Carolina makes this state a battleground over the soul of America and whether our nation is sincere about making democracy real for all people, not just those with the right bank account, right sexuality or right skin,” Rev. Barber said at the press conference.

      STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 03-02-17

            [DURHAM] Bill Bell, the mayor of Durham for the past 16 years, gave his final State of the City address this week, saying that while much still has to be done to combat crime and poverty in the Bull City, he’s proud of all of the accomplishments on his watch, especially rebuilding downtown. “What I hope is, if we’re successful in this area, then we can transfer what we’ve learned into other communities and make those things work also,” Bell said in his remarks. Before the end, the mayor received the first William B. Bell Civic Award for his work and dedication to Durham.

            [RALEIGH] Gov. Roy Cooper is making good on his promise to invest in North Carolina, especially in public education, in his first two-year budget as governor to go to a hostile Republican-led General Assembly still steaming at him for the ongoing HB2 controversy. Lawmakers literally don’t even have to read the Democrat governor’s budget request, and Cooper legally cannot veto it.  In his budget, Cooper seeks to to improve high school graduation rates, pre-kindergarten enrollment, and more adults statewide with college degrees.

            [HILLSBOROUGH] Despite pressure from the local NAACP branch and outraged parents, the Orange County Board of Education Monday refused to ban all symbols of the Confederate flag from school campuses. Instead, the board is establish an “equity committee” to advise the board on “symbolic speech.” Like tee-shirts, book covers, license plates, etc.  Black students complained that some white students use the symbol to express “superiority” over them in school.

            [RALEIGH]  A new, bi-partisan effort is underway in the NC House to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw voting districts in what many say is a fairer and more equitable way. House Bill 200 calls for the majority and minority legislative leaders to appoint staff to develop congressional and legislative maps . Normally, the controlling party every ten years is in charge of drawing the voting districts, usually for political advantage. GOP lawmakers were hit by a federal appellate court for “stacking and packing” black voters in a handful of “minority-majority” districts, which is unconstitutional.