Tuesday, September 12, 2017


                                                     REV. DR. PORTIA ROCHELLE

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Editor’s note: During the upcoming 74th Annual NC NAACP Convention in Raleigh, current president, Bishop Dr. William Barber will be stepping down after 12 years, and a new president will be elected between Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP Chapter, and Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Third Vice President of the NCNAACP.
            During separate interviews, both candidates were asked the same six questions about their respective visions for the state conference if either is elected to lead. For a final question, they were asked to determine what they want rank-and-file NCNAACP members to further know about them that they feel is relevant.
            When necessary, both candidates’ answers have been truncated for conciseness.
            Today we begin with Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle. Next week, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman.

She celebrated her 65th birthday on Sept. 5th, but as far as Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP is concerned, she has plenty of fire and commitment in her to lead the over one hundred branches of the NC NAACP as it’s next president, if elected. And she’s working hard to make that happen. Having served as branch president for the past nine years, and having worked for North Carolina state government for the previous 30, Rev. Rochelle says she’s fully prepared to lead North Carolina’s most prominent civil rights organization.
A widow since 1993, Rev. Rochelle has two children.

Why should you be elected as the next president to lead the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP?
“Because of the firsthand experience that I have had in working with the [Raleigh-Apex] branch here in Wake County. We’ve had to tackle numerous issues, and we are at the forefront of most issues that occur here in North Carolina, whether we desire to be or not. The general public calls on us, and that has given me a vast amount of experience as far as working through civil rights issues with the community, and the people injustices are being done to. I’ve had nine years of experience, and I feel that I can do it on the state level.”

What do you think of Bishop Dr. William Barber’s leadership of the NCNAACP over the past 12 years, and, if elected, how do you intend to build on it?
“He’s set a great example. Bishop Barber is a teacher. He is one that has a vision, makes sure that you understand that vision, makes sure that you understand that vision and your place, your role and your value in making the vision come forth. So I believe that whoever succeeds …follows that role model, will do great.”
“Some people are kind of shy as far a doing what they should be doing at the branch level, and I think that if we keep that model that he has set, to teach others, to let them know that they’re valuable in the movement, that they’re necessary in the movement…we need key players in the movement. Everyone needs to be able to a justice movement. Bishop Barber has set a good example of that, and I plan to build on that, build on the infrastructure. There are some branches that need more training, they don’t always have the opportunity to come to the state convention or attend the national. But I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to all of the training at all of the levels.
Plus, quality time with Dr. Barber, with him teaching me, and him answering all sorts of questions that I had when I first started. So the next successor has to be patient, and be willing to teach those that are prepared to lead this organization.

As NCNAACP president, how will you continue the fight for voting rights?
“We should never stop. It’s been a continuous fight and does get frustrating for the citizens we are working with, but in the movement we cannot get tire, we cannot get frustrated. We must continue to encourage our people to not keep silent and to not stay home and get mad because they don’t like the way elections are finished.”
“If you’re mad, fight back. How do you fight back? Become informed voters. Teach your family, your neighbors, how to become informed voters. Know what you’re voting on, know the issues, know the people that we’re voting for, know what they stand for. Don’t just wait and show up on voting days for someone to give you a list, and you go in and mark those names. Know who’s running. Know what they have to say about issues that are affecting your life.”
“So voter education is what I’ll be concentrating on. Teaching our people to learn …you know, it’s more than just marking a ballot.”

How will you work to get more young people involved in the NC NAACP?
“That’s a good question, because I’m dealing with that now. Many of the young people are raising families, many of them are feeling that the NAACP is irrelevant. So we have to constantly teach them the history, and how the NAACP is relevant to them.”
“Some say we’re outdated, we’re not functioning, but they don’t know what we’re doing. They need to take time to get to know us. Let us introduce ourselves to you, so you’ll know what we’re about, how we got started, and what we’re doing. We’re doing more than marching and protesting because we don’t like a particular law. That’s very important to do, but you have to fight back by showing up at meetings, and know what’s going in your community.”
“I plan to do a social justice school to teach people how to be involved in the social justices issues in your community. I plan to do the same thing with churches. We need to have people in place where community meetings are going on – the school board, Board of Elections, county commissioners. All of these things affect our lives, and if we’re not there to give our input, then we’re going to be left out. And it’s going to be too late, so we have to get involved. That’s what I want to teach the millennials – you have to get involved! You can’t just sit back and pass judgment, and say that our rules are too stringent, or we take too long to do something. You’ve got to understand whey we don’t just run and jump and do something. You’ve got to learn not to just jump out there and be ignorant. You have to investigate, then see if you need to make a stand, see if you need to make a statement. And you’ve got to learn how to be patient. Learn the importance of strategy, and why that strategy is there to protect you and the community.”

Next week – interview with NCNAACP presidential candidate Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            When the Republican-led NC General Assembly reconvenes for it’s second Special Session of the year on Wednesday, October 4th at 12 noon, expect judicial redistricting to be front in center. That point was made clear this week when the House Select Committee of Judicial Redistricting gaveled in Tuesday to begin the process of determining how North Carolina’s District and Superior Court maps will be changed.
            Because Republicans are pushing for this, Democrats are naturally concerned as to why, and why now.
            “I am extremely concerned about the HB 717 judicial maps that force District Court judges of the same political [party] to compete in a primary,” state Rep. Evelyn Terry (D-Forsyth) recently said. “That equates to worse. It’s called double bunking.”
            Also on the redistricting chopping block, prosecutorial districts, from where local district attorneys are elected, and serve.
            All of this is the result of a surprise bill, HB 717, introduced in June right before the end of the regular long session by Rep. Justin Barr (R-Stanly). Because there wasn’t much time to properly hold hearings or debate the measure, it was put on hold until either the planned August or October Special Sessions. Given that the August session was mostly taken up with redrawing the legislative districts maps because of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, the upcoming October Special Session is the chosen time for judicial redistricting to come front and center.
            According to the proposed judicial/prosecutorial redistricting maps released Tuesday, among the Superior Court district splits are Forsyth, Guilford, Wake, Durham, New Hanover, Mecklenburg, and Pender, among others. Some observers say they look very similar to the racially gerrymandered legislative maps that were ultimately thrown out but the federal courts.
            Burr readily admits that the maps were done in secret, as to protect them, ironically enough, from judicial scrutiny.
            “They would have fought me,” Burr told WRAL-TV in July. He added that the reason for redistricting the judicial districts is because of a “longstanding imbalance” of Democrat judges to Republicans historically. “This is about making good policy, he said.
            Democrats in the legislature counter that this is about redrawing the district lines in order to elect more Republican judges to the bench, increasing the likelihood of winning more court decisions for GOP policies, especially with Democrats now holding the majority on the state Supreme Court.
            Rep. Burr has called it “correcting gerrymandered districts.”
No one from the judiciary or state conference of District attorneys in North Carolina was consulted in the drawing of the maps, Burr confirms. However, under constant pressure, Rep. Burr did travel throughout the state, speaking with judges and district attorneys about the need for the redistricting.
            Burr has said that race was not considered among the criteria used to redraw the judicial maps. Only geography, caseload, population, and resources.
The last time judicial districts were changed was 62 years ago, and most experts agree that the time to refresh them is long overdue. But they caution that the process should be handled by an established nonpartisan body to ensure that all North Carolinians have equal access to the state’s court system, regardless of where they live in the state, not for partisan advantage.
Unlike congressional and legislative redistricting maps, there is no ten-year mandate to redraw judicial districts. congressional and legislative redistricting is predicated on the change in US Census population figures, which are taken every ten years.
            Constitutionally, those districts are also governed by the “one-man-one vote” principal which seeks to make every congressional and legislative district equal in population, + or minus five percent.
            But with judicial districts, there is a question as to whether any constitutional mandate exists. And there is also question as to whether the 1965 Voting Rights Act applies to judicial redistricting as well.
         According to Judge Marion Warren, director of the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), said during Tuesday’s select committee hearing that he’s had some Superior Court judges who were “incredibly upset” complaining to him about the proposed judicial “gerrymandering.” Judge Warren did maintain that the AOC did not draw the proposed maps.
            Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), a former Durham District Court judge for 18 years, said during the hearing that she talked to 20 District Court judges, and “…not one agreed with the maps.”
            And some Superior Court judges have generally said they are willing to allow the redistricting process to “play out,” but others are “very upset” with what they see the maps do, like double-bunking sitting judges.
The House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting is expected  to meet again on Thursday, Sept. 21st. There is no word as to when the state Senate will address this matter.


By Cash Michaels

            GOOD HEALTH! – Let’s cut right to the chase. Am I in good health?
            Well, the question is relative. I’m certainly in better health. A little about my health history, and no, I’m not ashamed that I probably should have died before now because of the careless and reckless way I’ve been treating my body all of these years.
            First the good part – I’ve never smoked ANYTHING (I have absolutely no idea what it feels like to deliberately inhale smoke through my nose or mouth). I still remember being a child in the crib, and seeing my mother’s fancy 1950s cigarette box with built-in lighter on her dresser (never saw her smoke in person, however), and how, once she realized that the cigarette box caught my attention, she put it out of sight, and made sure that she never smoked in front of me in life.
            And I also remember years later hanging in Ditmas Park in Brooklyn, NY with my friends, and all they did was smoke and drink, and I never did. In fact, when we would all be sitting on the park bench watching the girls in hot pants walk by, and my boys would pass the reefer joint down the bench so that everybody on the crew could get a “blow” (it was more like a suck though), I would always say “no thanks,” and let the “brotha” on my left pass it straight to the “brotha” on my right.
            And when I would get a dirty look about it, I learned to immediately say, “Nah, man, …more for you, more for you!”
            Both “brothas” always like hearing that.
            Hard liquor? Never! Now when we went out to the clubs on Friday and Saturday nights, we always stopped by liquor store and got some sweet MD20/20 or Fuki Japanese plum wine! I never drank “Mad Dog” (is what we called it), but I’ll never forget being at a club in Queens, having met this nice girl named Martha (I called her “Marti”), an making the mistake that night of drinking too much Fuki, and saying some dangerous things to her that would have gotten any other guy shot!
            But Marti could tell that I wasn’t a drinker, and that I was kinda cute, and decided she wanted to meet the “real” Cash, and so we dated for a couple of years after that. And no, I NEVER drank Fuki or anything else around Marti, or anybody, ever again. That whole bit ended my drinking career. But at least it got me Marti…for a while.
            So to this day, never drank hard liquor, never smoked a cigarette or weed, and have never, EVER taken illegal drugs! I’ll never forget when I moved from Brooklyn to Durham, NC in August 1981, folks were so amazed that I was from New York and didn’t have any of those vices, they weren’t sure what to make of me.
            But I did have other health vices for sure. I loved sugar, loved cakes with all the icing I could muster, loved fried foods… jut loved food PERIOD, and didn’t care how much of it I ate. I was an emotional eater. That caused my weight to yo-yo like crazy. One day I was Denzel Washington; the next I was worse than Mo’nique (before she lost all of that weight, but kept all of her mouth).
            I’ll never forget after Hurricane Fran in 1996 after the power went out, I was drinking so many sweet fruit drinks, my girlfriend at the time forced me to go to Duke Health Clinic in Durham to get tested because I was sick to my stomach, but didn’t want to see a doctor. That’s when I found out that my blood sugar was 830! Doctor told me to my face I should be dead, and told me straight that I will be by the weekend because my high sugar was breaking down the organs in my body. She sent me immediately to Duke Hospital to have them bring my sugar down through IV. I cried and cried, and cried, but I thanked my girlfriend for loving me enough to fuss me to the doctor’s office.
            Since then my health has been up and down, highlighted recently by the stroke in my left leg in November 2014 (still rehabbing from that), and of course the acute leukemia diagnosis in March 2016 (I’m in remission now, and hope to stay that way).
            In the past few months, I prayed and prayed, realized that I was killing myself, and decided, with GOD’s blessing and grace, to change my attitude about life, my future, and me. Thus far, I’ve lost over thirty pounds; I no longer eat breads, sweets (except fruits): eat a romaine salad a day with a protein (fish or chicken), and plenty of water.
            I exercise at the gym Monday through Saturday to build muscle in my legs, and improve my walking. I attend church every Sunday and Wednesday now without fail. And I work hard to be happy, ridding myself of all of the dark things that made me succumb to the negative.
            So yes, I’m healthier now in more ways than one, but6 am I in good health. No. I’m still morbidly obese, but I working on it. I am under 290 pounds for the first time in years, and I’m headed towards 270. Once I get there, I’ll see how I feel, and then go to 250. Ideally, I’ll stop at 220 pounds.
            The bottom line is at age 61, I owe this physical, spiritual and emotional transformation to myself, and two my children. I want to see my youngest daughter graduate from the high school she just started. I want to see my oldest daughter make it big in television production as she’s striving to do.
            I need to be alive and well and SEE IT ALL, and with GOD’s blessing, I will!
            COUNT ON IT!


            [WILMINGTON] The State Attorney General’s Office and Chemours, the plant that has been discharging the chemical GenX into the Cape Fear River for years, apparently polluting the drinking supply for the New Hanover county region, entered into a consent order agreement in Bladen county Superior Court last week. The deal compels Chemours to officially cease the discharge of GenX and byproducts of another chemical, Nafion, into the Cape Fear. Chemours also agreed to provide the state with confidential documents about its chemicals. The company moved quickly to comply because there was evidence that it misled the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality per its discharge permits as to what it was releasing into the Cape Fear. Local officials consider the consent order a “positive development.”

            [CHARLOTTE] In a primary election surprise Mayor pro tem Vi Lyles defeated incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. With only an eight-percent citywide turnout, Lyles, a former city budget director and assistant city manager, won in every section of the Queen City. She will now face Republican Kenny Smith in November.

            [RALEIGH] Based on information released this week by the US Census Bureau, the rate of North Carolinians without health insurance dropped to an historic low of just 10.4 percent in 2016. Ironically, that rate would have been even lower had the Republican-led NC General Assembly had extended Medicaid coverage to over 500,000 of the more than one million North Carolinians who don’t have health coverage. The Affordable Care Act, which went into effect in 2014, has dropped the number of uninsured in North Carolina from a high of 15.6 percent.



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