GROUP ALLEGES RACISM
AT NC AZALEA FESTIVAL
By Cash Michaels
A black performer and his support staff allege that they were treated unfairly by security at the recent NC Azalea Festival concert on Front Street, and ended up leaving before they could take to the stage.
They allege that they were the targets of racial discrimination by white security personnel backstage while they were preparing for a performance.
The executive director of the annual festival says her staff is looking into the allegations, but made clear that organizers wanted tight security, especially in the backstage area.
The NC Azalea Festival is a “nationally recognized” annual event that”…showcases [Wilmington’s] rich array of artwork, gardens, history, and culture through recreational, educational and family-oriented events,” according to the festival’s website.
This year, rapper/film star Ludacris was a featured April 14thperformer, along with a handful of other black performers, on the main stage at Front Street in the Cape Fear Community College parking lot.
Louis Nixon and his group were among the opening acts.
Nixon told The Journalthat he was invited to perform at the festival by “host,” Brian Walker during a disc jockey “battle” competition between performances by Childish Major and Ludacris.
Nixon’s group – which included a stylist, a security to monitor their equipment, a videographer, an a road manager, among others - consisted of seven people, including himself. They arrived at 3 p.m., and began prepping to perform for between 6:30 and 8 p.m.
Nixon says neither he nor his group were being paid for their appearance. Instead, they were hoping for greater exposure before a large audience that came to see national recording artist Ludacris.
Nixon says “everything was fine” in the beginning after they setup and began rehearsing. After they finished, Nixon says he and his group – which were the only blacks backstage at the time, he says - went to a “little area around 4:45 p.m. to relax before the gates opened to begin letting concertgoers in.
That’s when two white security guards from two private firms began “hovering around” Nixon and his crew “…pointing fingers…as if we’re not supposed to be there.”
Nixon says one of the security guards then goes to a tent, and comes back with “ten DJ passes,” telling Nixon and his crew, “If you don’t have a DJ pass, you’re going to be escorted out of here.”
That’s when the white guard started giving several passes to other white people backstage, leaving “one or two” passes for Nixon and his crew of seven.
Nixon gets a pass, but no one else on his crew gets one, and he didn’t want them forced to wait out in the parking lot, he said.
“It can’t go down like that,” he said. “So the fact that [my crew] couldn’t get passes, we felt that we were being racially discriminated against.”
Nixon maintains that “…nobody explained anything.” If a person didn’t have a pass, they had to leave the backstage area, or they would be escorted out, security warned.
Not wanting to cause a scene that would warrant nearby police officers to get involved, Nixon decided, “We’re going to get up out of here.”
He and his crew left, without performing.
The Journalcontacted several of Louis Nixon’s crew from that day, including Cory Nitres Holland, Dijon Wilder and Jumell Armstrong, and each of them confirmed that their group was treated unfairly, disrespectfully and arbitrarily by backstage security, and they, too, it was because of race.
Ms. Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP, told The Journalthat as of press time Monday, her group had not gotten a written complaint from Mr. Nixon yet.
Still, she indicated, “We are concerned, and will contact and review.”
Alison English, executive director of the NC Azalea Festival, told The JournalTuesday that she first found out about the alleged incident by reading a blog that Mr. Nixon had created.
“Since that time we have contacted our concerts committee, that was in charge of that whole venue, and we’re investigating .[per] and internal investigation to see if there’s any validity at all to his statement,” Ms. English told The Journal Tuesday.
“I don’t know exactly, at this point, all that had happened,” she continued. “I do know that we keep that backstage area of the concert …of course we have to keep that really, really tight…one, for security purposes; and two, for the national artists.”
English went on to state that “multiple” security agencies – ranging from private security to local police officers, were on-duty April 14thto make sure that everything was safe ans secure.
“So we can’t have two hundred people back there while Ludacris is trying to relax and get ready to take the stage. I don’t know if that was an issue, but we are launching and investigation with all of the parties involved, just to see if there is any validity to what he was stating.”
Ms. English added that the festival has had the Front Street concert venue for five years, and until now, had not had any allegations of racial discrimination arise.
“This is the first of anything like this happening,” she assured.
POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN
KICK-OFF ON MOTHER’S DAY
By Cash Michaels
On Sunday, May 13th, Mother’s Day, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, and former president of the NCNAACP; and Rev. Dr. Liz Theohsris, co-director of the Kairos Center, will officially kick-off the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.”
“Some things are not about left and right, Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, but about right and wrong,” said Rev. Barber. “We need a moral movement to challenge the nation’s elected leaders, to critique unjust policies and lift the cries of the impacted and cause the nation to change and do better.”
The new movement – inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s original Poor People’s Campaign fifty years that was cut short because of his assassination – seeks, according to campaign organizers, to accomplish three goals:
1 – “Nonviolently and morally confront the immoral policies of systematic racism, systematic poverty, the war economy/militarism, ecological devastation, and the distorted moral narrative of so-called “Christian/religious nationalism.”
2 – “Engage in massive voter registration/mobilization among the poor and working poor of every race, creed, color, sexuality, gender, age and demographic.”
3 – “Build power and fusion unity among the poor and those most impacted alongside clergy, moral leaders and people of conscience.”
The Mother’s Day kick-off from Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, DC, is actually the opening day salvo of a forty-day campaign that spans the following six weeks with weekly themes.
Week One (May13-19) – SOMEBODY’S HURTING OUR PEOPLE.
Week Two (May 20-26) – LINKING SYSTEMIC RACISM AND POVERTY
Week Three (May 27 – June 2) – THE WAR ECONOMY
Week Four (June 3-9) THE RIGHT TO HEALTH AND A HEALTHY PLANET
Week Five (June 10 -16) EVERYBODY’S GOT THE RIGHT TO LIVE
Week Six (June 17 – 22) A NEW AND UNSETTLING FORCE
On the following day, June 23rd, there will be a Global Day of Solidarity and Sending Forth Call to Action Mass Rally in Washington, D.C..
After the Mother’s Day kick-off, on Monday, May 14th, the North Carolina leg of the national Poor People’s Campaign will hold a “Take Action” mass rally in Raleigh’s Bicentennial Plaza, 1 East Edenton Street. This rally will simultaneously occur at 2 p.m., along with similar “Take Action” rallies in 31 other state capitals across the country.
“We’re calling the poor, and the working poor, of all different races, colors and creeds to come together, along with clergy, along with advocates, to be fully engaged,” Rev. Barber says.
Go to www.breachrepairers.org, and click on “the Poor People’s Campaign,” to join, and learn more.
REPORT: NORTH CAROLINIANS IN
“CONCENTRATED POVERTY” SUFFER
by Cash Michaels
North Carolinians living in communities of “concentrated poverty” across the state – communities with poverty rates of 40 percent or higher - are facing a “double burden,” states a new report by The N.C. Budget and Tax Center, a division of the progressive N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh.
Titled, “ Going Backwards: A Growth in Concentrated Poverty Signals Increasing Levels of Economic and Racial Segregation,” the report, written by NCBTC researcher Brian Kennedy II, continues that, “This “double burden” limits economic mobility and prosperity, not just for those experiencing poverty, but for every community member, and ultimately, for the entire state.”
Kennedy goes on to state that concentrated poverty is the result of bad state policy choices, like “state-supported discriminatory housing markets, poorly executed public housing projects, interstate and highway projects made possible through eminent domain laws, and a lack of investment in public services – that have reinforced barriers.”
The result for citizens living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty? Isolation from vital needed resources like jobs, access to wealth, and a quality education,’ the report continues. There are also environmental and geographical challenges those in poverty are forced to contend with.
And because of that social and resource isolation, the communities of people subject to concentrated poverty are not only stigmatized, but socially and governmentally neglected.
The NCBTC report goes on to state that since 2000, the number of neighborhoods with people living in concentrated poverty across the state, has tripled.
In 2016, “…more that 348,000 North Carolinians living in 109 concentrated poverty neighborhoods, far outpaced the 84,493 people in 37 concentrated poverty communities in 2000, according to the report.
Between 2012 and 2016, African-American North Carolinians were 71 percent likely than Latinos, and 434 percent more likely than whites to be living in concentrated poverty, the report continues.
And concentrated poverty is no longer an exclusive urban problem. There is growing evidence that rural communities are now subject to the “double burden” of concentrated poverty. In 2000, only 13 neighborhoods of concentrated poverty were found in rural communities. In 2016, that number more than tripled to 45.
Part of the reason, states the NCBTC report, is the increasing gentrification of North Carolina cities, which is driving housing prices through the roof, thus forcing the poor and working poor to flee to rural North Carolina for survival.
Finally, the report recommends that state policymakers counter the “double burden” of concentrated poverty by “boosting the income of those earning poverty level wages; erase the physical barriers to accessing opportunity;” and that they also “…recognize the historic and continuous role of policy in driving inequalities.”
STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 05-03-18
MORAL MONDAYS COMMEMORATE’S FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
[RALEIGH] It’s been five years since 17 activists were the first to be arrested by police during a massive demonstration at the state legislature by the NCNAACP and coalition groups. The protest was against what demonstrators called the “repressive” policies of the Republican-led NC General Assembly. In all, over 1,000 people were eventually arrested the demonstrations became a weekly ritual every Monday that state lawmakers were in session. It wasn’t long before “Moral Mondays,” coined by then NCNAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. William Barber, became a national phenomenon. Earlier this week, the NCNAACP and coalition members gathered again behind the legislature, and new President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, one of the original 17 who were first arrested, vowed that the movement will “…continue to resist.”
REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS CUTTING APPROPRIATION TO LEGAL AID
[RALEIGH] Published reports indicate that Republican legislative leaders will be cutting appropriations to Legal Aid, which provides legal services to poor and indigent clients. According to NC Policywatch, Legal Aid will suffer a $1.7 million cut from the proposed budget that GOP legislative leaders will unveil when the Short Session commences May 18th. Typical Legal Aid cases involve eviction, foreclosure, domestic violence, predatory lending, VA benefits, unemployment and food assistance.
SOME STATE EMPLOYEES TO GET A RAISE SATRTING THIS MONTH
[GREENSBORO] Several state employees deemed to be underpaid for the work they do for state government, are scheduled to see fatter paychecks, starting this month. Reportedly, at least $7.8 million has been set aside to give raises to approximately 3,000 workers. They’re average pay will be raised by $217.00 a month/$2,600 per year. These raises will be retroactive to February, making the May paycheck much larger than usual.