Monday, October 9, 2017


By Cash Michaels

            A MIGHTY CHAMPION – Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week I spent covering the 74th Annual Convention of the NCNAACP at the Raleigh Convention Center (and just to make sure this doesn’t get missed, the very NEXT NCNAACP Convention will be IN WILMINGTON IN 2018, dates to be announced, so circle your calendar, Port City).
            The one takeaway from the confab I can claim is that we need our NAACP more than ever before. It is, in North Carolina, as it was when the world’s oldest and boldest civil rights organization was founded during the early 1900’s – diverse. Blacks and whites working together for a better, fairer, an more just America.
            The commitment and courage of NAACP members, particularly during this “age of Trump,” is without equal. That they continue to fight for freedom, justice and equality after so long in the trenches, is inspiring. And that fact that many of the brave “warriors of justice” that I saw and met are Life members is equally impressive.
            I feel I must warn the NAACP, though…even though there were a large number of young people present at the convention per the Youth Division, we still need to see more young people out front taking leadership roles. Yes, there are some, but you don’t get that impression on first look. That needs to be addressed.
            Fortunately, for the NCNAACP, and for us, Bishop Dr. William J. Barber II, now president emeritus for life of the state conference, has been moving firming in that direction since he took office as president back in 2005. Saturday night, as the rank-and-file membership voted in a dynamic new president, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Third Vice President of the NCNAACP, Dr. Barber closed out his tenure during the annual Freedom Fund Banquet (keynoted by radio/television commentator Roland Martin) reminding everyone of what a true leader should be.
            I’ve known Dr. Barber actually even before he became NCNAACP president, and he’s always had huge presence, both literally and figuratively.
            Barber has never displayed fear about speaking truth to power, and being led by him indomitable faith in GOD. A young man in his mid-fifties, born just a few days after the historic 1963 March on Washington, Dr. Barber has faced his personal health challenges with amazing courage and dignity.
            In the beginning of his tenure, he had trouble walking because of a debilitating disease. Today, while he’s still managing aspects of his affliction, this bold leader is leading marches and rallies literally all over the country in the name of justice.
            Dr. Barber has been hailed as recently as this past weekend by none other than the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Cory Booker (who, in my estimation, SHOULD run for the White House in 2020 – he’s got all of the boxes checked, in my opinion, to qualify for top national leadership) as one of our generation’s most outstanding national leaders on the scene today. And the beauty of it all is that we all have worked with him here in North Carolina, grow, and flourish against tough, tough odds.
            The list of Dr. Barber’s accomplishments as president of the NCNAACP are long and auspicious, if not extraordinarily impressive. But clearly, his leadership and advocacy in the mid-2000’s for One Stop/early voting and same day voter registration (which ultimately helped a young black man named Barack Hussein Obama make history as the first African-American ever to be elected as president of the United States), and then Barber fierce, nonstop battle against the Republican-led legislature passed restrictive voter suppression laws, along with illegal, unconstitutional legislative voting districts that stacked-and-packed African-Americans into a handful of minority-majority districts in order to limit their overall influence in races, have to stand out as among Barber’s greatest achievements.
            In closing, having known Dr. William Barber for many years, the one thing I’ve always appreciated about him is that as mighty and principled as he was and is, there is a big part of the man that is humble, and loving, and obedient to the cause. Dr. Barber prides himself on being a “servant-leader,” and most people don’t realize that sometimes it would be at the risk of hi own life. The many threats he’s faced, and the vile nature of them, would astound you.
            So we say “Thank You” Bishop Dr. William J. Barber II, now president-emeritus of the NCNAACP, and permanent member of the NCNAACP Executive Committee. Your legacy will inform historians, and inspire freedom fighters, for generations to come.
            And on a personal note, GOD bless you and your family, my Brother. Job well done!


                              NEW NCNAACP PRES. REV. DR. T. ANTHONY SPEARMAN

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            [RALEIGH] The NCNAACP elected a new president last weekend to touts, “I’m woke, and I ain’t skerd,” letting advocates and adversaries alike know that just because Bishop Dr. William J. Barber II has finished his 12-year tenure as leader, doesn’t mean the state’s oldest civil rights organization will cease it’s aggressive battle for freedom, justice and equality.
            “If we’re going to be a justice organization, we’re going to be a justice organization,” the new president Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, said to applause.
            “We’ve got work to do, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do the work fighting the real adversaries and enemy.”
            Rev. Spearman, who is also senior pastor of St. Phillip’s A.M.E. Zion Church in Greensboro, and president of the NC Council of Churches, thanked Dr. Barber for his leadership, calling the president emeritus, “ My predecessor, my friend and my mentor.”
            “And thank you to the NCNAACP for your vote, [and] your overwhelming support of me to serve as your state conference of branches president.”
Rev. Spearman, the NCNAACP’s Third Vice President for the past six years, hailed his opponent, Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle, longtime president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP.
            When he gave his acceptance remarks at the Freedom Fund Banquet, Rev. Spearman embraced Rev. Rochelle onstage, and remarked with pride how they both ran clean campaigns to win. However, Spearman also took time to publicly chastise, though not by name, several NCNAACP members who apparently worked behind the scenes to undermine the two candidates.
            “There are some of us who are in here tonight, who did their best to divide us, and cause a whole lot of hatred to permeate the NCNAACP,” Rev. Spearman admonished. “And I’m here to tell you all that I will not stand for that on my watch! You know who you are, and I want you to know that I know who you are too!
            The hundreds in attendance at the banquet wildly applauded.
            Prior to the election, Dr. Spearman vowed that he will continue down the path Bishop Barber set in terms of challenging  the state legislature over what he sees are repressive policies hurting the poor and communities of color.
            Also honored Saturday evening was the Greensboro NAACP Chapter, led by Branch Pres. Rev. Dr. Cardes Brown.
            Other 74th Annual NCNAACP Convention highlights includes an appearance by veteran civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, keynote remarks by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), whose parents hail from Hendersonville, NC, Freedom Fund Banquet remarks from national radio /television personality Roland Martin, and a poignant final “State of the State of Civil Rights address by outgoing president Bishop Dr. William J. Barber II.
            Next year’s NCNAACP Convention will be held in Wilmington in October 2018.

KEEP HOPE ALIVE - As outgoing NCNAACP Pres. Bishop Dr. William Barber listens, veteran civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson exults the audiences last weekend at the 74th Annual NCNAACP Convention in Raleigh. {Cash Michaels Photo]

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            At last week’s 74th Annual NCNAACP Convention in Raleigh, legal activists fighting against illegal North Carolina voting laws and redistricting, warned that Republican-led legislative leaders are moving steadily, especially after they commenced their second Special Session last week, to establish judicial redistricting, and also merit selection.
            The warnings came as the NC House last week passed a law eliminating the 2018 primaries for all judicial seats across the state. Gov. Cooper vetoed the law Monday, but Republicans plan to override the Democratic governor’s veto.
            “It’s not just about Trump,” outgoing Pres. Dr. William Barber warned those gathered for the Voter Mobilization and Registration Session Friday. “The worst stuff happening is happening in our state Capital.”
            Over the strong objections of judges, attorneys and citizens statewide, the NC House passed House Bill 717 last Thursday night to redistrict all judicial officials in the state, including prosecutors.
            The state Senate prefers appointing judges as opposed to judicial elections through merit selection.
            Isela Gutierrez, Associate Research Director with the non-partisan, nonprofit  Democracy North Carolina, charged that judicial redistricting isn’t just about getting more Republican district and superior court judges elected to the bench, but, just as with legislative and Congressional redistricting, lessen the influence of black voters in overall elections.
            With the passage of HB 717, was also a new judicial redistricting map that Gutierrez alleged takes resources away from large black communities in Durham, Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Guilford, Northhampton, Granville and Robeson counties. Judges are taken from these areas, and they’re being moved to white communities.
            According to Gutierrez, judges of color are being targeted.
            Plus, 32 percent of all District Court judges are double-bunked, meaning that when elections are held, two judges – mostly Democrats – will have to run against each other. Fifty-three percent of black judges are District Court judges.
            And in addition, the 2018 judicial primary elections were canceled, giving both legislative houses a chance to fine-tune their respective plans in time for January 2018.
            But schemes to change the way judges are either elected of appointed to the bench are just the beginning,” legal activists warned. On the horizon from the Republican-led legislature, they say, is a “voter ID constitutional amendment.”
            Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and lead attorney in the Covington lawsuit which overturned the 2011 unconstitutional legislative redistricting maps (she has since argued that the redrawn maps  still harbor racially gerrymandered districts and should be thrown out again), warned at the NCNAACP Convention that the GOP is relentlessly pursuing more measures to gain tactical voting advantage while they still hold legislative majorities, with the voter ID constitutional amendment, “…possibly on the ballot in 2018.”
            “That’s going to take some rigorous fighting because we think they are going to combine it with a bunch of other constitutional amendments…”
            However, Earls warns that the voter ID amendment will be packaged with other, more popular amendments on the ballot, making it difficult for people to vote against it.
            “They might have a constitutional amendment that says, “Let’s get rid of the literacy clause in our state constitution. We all like that idea. They’re going to have a “Vote yes on all” campaign, and in addition to voter ID, they’re going to take away your right to vote for judges,” attorney Earls charged.
            “They want to have merit selection on the Constitution as a constitutional amendment in May, so that by 2018…November 2018, you will not be able to vote on which judge should sit in [NC Supreme Court Justice] Barbara Jackson’s seat.
            Justice Jackson, who is a registered Republican elected in 2010, is up for reelection in 2018. Her term ends December 2018. If merit selection is approved, voters would only get to vote “yes” or “no” on her reelection, no other choice allowed.
            Again, this method was thrown out in 2016 as being unconstitutional, by state Senate GOP leaders are hoping to figure a way around it.
             Attorney Earls reminded all that it wasn’t too long ago that GOP legislative leaders plotted to gain some advantage of the stare Supreme Court.
            “Originally they passed a law that had appointment and retention elections, but that was declared unconstitutional, but the legislature can’t change the Constitution. So Judge Michael Morgan (a Democrat) was elected to the state Supreme Court.”
“Then they tried the court-packing plan,” Earls continued. “That was pushed back against. And now they’re trying to take away our rights by having a constitutional amendment.”
“So with stealth, and step-by-step quietly, [Republican state lawmakers] are maneuvering to take away your right to vote."



            [RALEIGH] Voters in Raleigh and Durham are likely to be heading back to the polls on Nov. 7th to decide who will serve as their next mayor as candidates in Tuesday night’s mayoral election failed to garner the 51 percent threshold needed to win outright. In Raleigh, at press time, incumbent three-term Mayor Nancy McFarlane was waiting for challenger Charles Francis to call for a runoff. McFarlane garnered over 48% of the vote versus 36 percent for Francis. Francis told supporters Tuesday night that he wanted to wait until all of the votes were counted before calling for a runoff, but most observers believe that he will by the end of the week. A third candidate, a conservative Republican, finished third with just 14 percent of Tuesday’s vote.
            In Durham, the Nov. 7th runoff is automatic, as the top two vote-getters for mayor, Councilman Steve Schewel, with over 12,000 votes, and former City Councilman Farad Ali, with over 7,000 votes, will faceoff next month. Musician Pierce Freelon came in third with just over 4,000 votes. The ultimate winner will succeed outgoing Mayor Bill Bell, who has served since 2001.

            [RALEIGH] He hasn’t announced yet, but after a stirring keynote address during the 74th Annual NCNAACP Convention Political Action Committee Luncheon last Friday, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) impressed many to the point that there was little doubt he may be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, if not later. Sen. Booker has North Carolina roots – his father was a native of Hendersonville, NC, and graduated from North Carolina Central University. Booker urged luncheon attendees not to be dismayed by the political turmoil in Washington, DC with the Trump Administration. “If this country has not broken your heart you don’t love her enough,” Booker said. He urged the audience to stay determined to make America what it should be – just to all, regardless of race, creed, gender or national origin.


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