Tuesday, May 8, 2018



By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            If the May 8thprimary election is any indication, North Carolina African-American candidates will be front and center for the Nov. 6thmid-term elections later this year.
            In Greensboro, Avery Crump, 45, became not only the first woman ever to lead the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office, but certainly the first African-American female ever to do so. Crump won the Democratic primary by 53.5 percent. There is no Republican opponent for November, so unless a write-in candidate emerges, Crump, an alumna of NC Central University School of Law and former district court judge, will indeed become the next Guilford County D.A.
            In Durham, two shocking victories for the political establishment there.
            Another black woman has taken the reins of power in the county prosecutor’ office. Satana Deberry, executive director of the N.C. Housing Coalition, unseated incumbent Roger Echols, with 48.8 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
            Nichols, also an African-American, had been Durham district attorney since 2014. He garnered just 40.6 percent of the vote. Defense attorney Daniel Meier trailed with just over 10 percent.
            Deberry, also an attorney, vowed to change the culture of the Durham District Attorney’s Office if elected. Since there was no Republican primary, Deberry is effectively the new D.A. once the primary results are certified, and Echols finishes his term.
            But the primary election drama in Durham isn’t finished, as voters went to the polls and decided they needed a new sheriff.
            If the numbers hold, they voted decisively.
            Former Duke University campus police chief, Clarence Birkhead, unseated one-term incumbent Durham Sheriff Mike Andrews, 69 to 31 percent. With no Republican primary, that makes Birkhead, an African-American, the next sheriff once Andrews steps down.
            Andrews, who had a lot of traditional law enforcement support, drew heat because he was willing to work with federal ICE agents on detaining illegal immigrants for deportation. Birkhead opposed that, plus vowed to improve law enforcement’s relationship with communities of color.
            In congressional primary races involving African-Americans, Rep. G.K Butterfield had no opposition in the First, but will face a Republican opponent in the fall.
            Former state legislator Linda Coleman pulled off a Democratic primary victory in the Second Congressional District, defeating two other opponents. She will try to unseat Republican incumbent George Holding, a Trump loyalist, in November.
            And 12thDistrict Congresswoman Alma Adams not only promised to beat her three Democratic primary opponents, but make sure that they knew they were beat. She did, and will also face Republican opposition in the fall.
            Headed east to Robeson County, John Campbell, a minister and long-time local school board member, advanced in his Democratic primary race to become a state senator representing District 13 in the NC Senate. Campbell won his primary against Bobby Jacobs-Ghaffar, who had dropped out of the race in March, but whose name was still on the ballot.
            Campbell will now seek to defeat Republican state Sen. Danny Britt in November.
            In Mecklenburg County, African-American candidates also did well, with long time prosecutor Spencer Merriweather winning the Democratic primary for district attorney. He current serves as interim, and will take office in 2019.
            And former police detective Garry McFadden, who also campaigned against cooperating with ICE agents if elected, will now get his chance as the new Mecklenburg County sheriff, unseating incumbent Irwin Carmichael.
            Carmichael had been accused by local clergy of putting youthful offenders in solitary confinement in the detention center.
            With no Republicans running, McFadden will also take office in 2019.
            There were some black candidates who did fall short in the May 8thprimary across the state.
Wilmington native Rep. Rodney Moore only garnered 17 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in Mecklenburg County, losing to Nasif Majeed. Also in Mecklenburg,  state Sen. Joel Ford lost his primary election to Mujtaba Mohammed. Mohammed will face Republican Richard Rivette in the fall.
Finally, one black victorious candidate may have celebrated a little bit too early after his dramatic victory.
Robert Williams of the Nash County town of Sharpsburg unseated incumbent Mayor Randy Weaver by just seven votes primary night. But reportedly, Williams allegedly almost caused a vehicular crash near city hall, resulting in his being charged with DWI.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            With many proud, happy African-American families coming together to celebrate graduations from several of North Carolina’s finest historically black college and universities this month like NC A&T University in Greensboro and North Carolina Central University in Durham, the last thing anyone will be thinking about is how much debt they owe after four years of higher education.
            But according to a just released report, they probably should.
            The report, “Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt and the Reproduction of The Fragile Black Middle Class” by Jason n. Houle and Fenaba Addo at the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, paints in startling terms a disturbing fact – there is a huge gap in the disparity between black and white student debt, and it is growing. 
            Indeed the report states, “…the burden of rising debt is racialized, and is disproportionately shouldered by students of color, and particularly black youth.”
            And, “These disparities are large and then they grow over time.”
            Several studies in recent years confirmed that the overall wealth divide between African-Americans and whites had widened in recent years, particularly per a Pew Research Center study in June 2016.
            “In 2014, the median household income foe whites was $71,300, compared to $43,000 for blacks. But for college-educated whites, the median household was $106,600, significantly higher than the $82,300 for households headed by college-educated blacks,” the Pew report found.
            Now add on the new study on the racial disparity in student loan debt.
            According to the University of Wisconsin – Madison study:
-      Black students rely on private loans more than white students, so they’re paying higher interest rates and higher loan fees, meaning that they’re carrying higher default risks.
-      Black students are most likely to be directed towards high-risk, predatory, high-interest loans that are normally designed to be difficult to pay back
-      Black students are more likely to attend “predatory for-profit” schools or under-funded institutions, many of which have “high levels of debt accumulation…and high drop-out rates.”

The report leaves little doubt that whatever economic gains African-Americans
 garnered prior to the last Great Recession were lost when many black families their homes and overall wealth. And despite the recent slow, but steady economic recovery in the nation, African-Americans have not been able to keep pace in that recovery with their white counterparts, and are not likely to anytime in the near future.
            The report shows that the racial disparity in student debt grows by 6.8 percent each year. Thus, young African-Americans “…hold 10.4 percent less wealth average that their white counterparts due to differences in student-loan debt,” according to MarketWatch.

CUTLINE  - Rev. Corine Mack (front),m president of the Charlotte – Mecklenburg NAACP, is flanked by other area clergy, and former inmates, during last week’s press conference in front of the Mecklenburg County Detention Center, demanding an end to solitary confinement in jails (Photo by Cash Michaels)

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            The NC American Civil Liberties Union said it amounted to “torture” two years ago.
            Before he left office, Pres. Obama outlawed the practice when it came to youth offenders being held in federal custody.
            Even the state of North Carolina has indicated that it would limit the practice in its prisons, after it was determined that some targeted inmates had spent upwards of a decade in detained isolation.
            And yet, law enforcement officials maintain that placing prisoners in solitary confinement in local county jails, is an invaluable tool to maintain safety, and order in unpredictable inmate populations.
            “Charlotte faith leaders have received multiple firsthand reports of mistreatment by jail staff,’ charged Rev. Amantha Barbee, representing the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, opening a press conference of clergy and former inmates May 3rdin front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg detention center.
            “There have been eyewitness reports of abuse of power, including one man being held in solitary confinement for 60 days.”
            “This is unjust, Rev. Barbee maintained. “This is inhumane.”
            Sebastian Goodson, a former inmate who spent over 13 years in state and federal prisons, says he personally knows just how “inhuman” solitary confinement is.
            “I know the mental pain that it causes,” Goodson told those gathered. “You don’t know the feeling, until you’ve been in there. It’s like the belly of the beast.”
            Recent studies have shown that many prisoners held in solitary confinement over long period of time, do develop later psychological problems that stay with them once they’re released back into the community.
            But law enforcement officials tell a different story in defending what they say is the need for isolating prisoners – young or old – in certain circumstances.
            “I think all jails and prisons are going to have some form of that,” said Major C. J. Williams, Court Services commander for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Dept. 
            “There’s a broad category for when you say segregation, or isolation. Let’s say a person comes in and has a communicable disease? We have medical isolation. Obviously that person cannot be around other inmates.”
            “We have disciplinary segregation,” Major Williams continued. “After a person ha had a hearing, and violated some infraction, they can be placed on disciplinary segregation for 14 days, and then they have another review.”
            Williams added the Guilford County does not do “…long-term segregation,” but they do implement protective custody procedures if it becomes apparent that an inmate’s life is at risk.
            “So you have to be careful,” the major continued. “There’s a broad spectrum of segregations, local jails being different from prisons.”
            The sheriff departments for Durham, Wake, New Hanover were also contacted for this story, but did not respond by press time Tuesday.
            And after the press conference last Thursday, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael “adamantly denied” that inmates in his jails were being mistreated.
            But earlier in the week, the sheriff did confirm that “…youthful offenders are kept in a Disciplinary Detention Unit…” if they have threatened a guard or caused any trouble.
Rev. Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, said she and other clergy were seeking justice, and an end to solitary confinement, especially for youthful inmates, because they have not developed all of their cognitive skills, and can be the most damaged.
            “Imagine the effect on that child?” she rhetorically asked during the Thursday presser.
            “This is not about punishing. This is not about harming,” Rev. Mack continued. “This should be about how do we find ways to help those children to begin to rollback into society, and be good and viable citizens.”



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