REV. DR. BEMJAMIN CHAVIS
THE WILMINGTON TEN
FOR BEN CHAVIS, CENTRAL PARK FIVE
FILM INVOKES MEMORIES OF
WILMINGTON TEN CASE
By Cash Michaels
Racist law enforcement, framing innocent young black males for a crime they didn’t commit, falsely convicting them and branding them as “animals,” sentencing them to prison where they suffered, only to have their innocence proven many years later not by law, but by chance.
The case of the Central Park Five? Yes, but also, says Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the case of the Wilmington Ten.
He should know.
“As I watched with profound interest Ava DuVernay's genius Netflix series "When They See Us" on the infamous New York Central Park Five case of false and unjust imprisonment in the 1980s and 1990s, I was vividly reminded about the infamous North Carolina Wilmington Ten case of false and unjust imprisonment in the 1970s,” Dr. Chavis, now the president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, recalled recently in an exclusive interview.
The “Ten,” - nine black activists and one white woman led by Rev. Chavis, were falsely tried and convicted of the firebombing of a white-owned grocery store in Wilmington, NC in February, 1971.
The young activists were also falsely charged with firing shots at firefighters and police officers dealing with the blaze.
A racist white prosecutor made an example of Chavis and the group, falsely trying and convicting them of the charges, based on no physical evidence, and bribed state’s witnesses’ testimonies.
Wilmington’s white press branded them as “dangerous” black militants.
The Wilmington Ten were collectively sentenced to 282 years in prison.
“White supremacist institutionalized command and control over the nation’s criminal justice system was exposed in both of these tragic true stories,” Chavis says now.
As dramatized in “When They See Us,” the Five struggled to survive when they were imprisoned from six to thirteen years.
Many of the Wilmington Ten were also marked men when they were sent away.
Chavis once tearfully told how he “refused to leave my cell” for the first eight months to shower, because he was warned that there was “a conspiracy to take us out, while we were in…” behind bars.
“I don’t want you to see my case in isolation,” Chavis told the National Press Club in March 2011.”What they put us through, is what hundreds of thousands of our people go through in these correctional institutions.
“That’s really the story you need to know!”
Other members of the Ten also faced the everyday prospect of rapes and beatings by fellow inmates, just like the Central Park Five .
And in both cases, their respective families suffered mightily.
However, in both cases, not one of the incarcerated ever copped to a plea to end their imprisonment, choosing not to lie to escape punishment.
“The Central Park 5 and the Wilmington 10 cases, however, should not be seen as some exceptional aberration of what should be a just criminal justice system in America when it comes to Black America,” Dr. Chavis says now. “These two cases epitomize the deep seated racism and racially motivated prosecutorial and law enforcement racist bias against Black Americans and other people of color across the nation that continues to this very day unabated.”
The Central Park Five were exonerated in 2002 when another man admitted to the 1989 rape in prison, exonerating the Five with DNA evidence. They collectively settled their wrongful conviction lawsuit with a reluctant New York City for $41 million in 2014.
The Wilmington Ten were granted pardons of innocence by Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2012 when evidence was uncovered by The Black Press that the racist white prosecutor rigged a “KKK” jury to convict them.
Gov. Perdue later said that she was urged by many in North Carolina’s criminal justice system not to grant the pardons, but she refused, calling the false prosecution of the Ten, “naked racism.”
In both the Wilmington Ten and Central Park Five cases, exonerating evidence was found beyond the scope of the law enforcement.
“Hopefully the enduring public impact of “When They See Us” will lead to a fundamental reform of the criminal justice system in the United States,” Rev. Dr. Chavis says.
EXPECTED U.S. SUPREME COURT RULING
COULD HELP NC A&T STUDENTS
By Cash Michaels
A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional is expected sometime this summer, and when it comes, students at NC A&T University in Greensboro will be paying very close attention.
Since February 2016, 10,000 students at the world’s largest historically black university have had to figure out which congressional district they reside in – the Sixth, represented by Republican Congressman Mark Walker, or the Thirteenth, represented by Republican Rep. Ted Budd.
Prior to the Republican-led NC General Assembly redrawing of 13 congressional districts in 2016 by court order, all 188 acres of NC A&T’s campus was located in the 12thCongressional District represented by Congresswoman Alma Adams, a Democrat. But after 2016, the 12thwas shifted to Mecklenburg County, forcing Adams, who had lived and worked in Greensboro, to move to Charlotte.
Cutting the campus in half congressionally was a way to maximize Republican congressional representation, admitted Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), co-chair of the Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee. “I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander, which is not against the law,” he told committee members then.
That’s the question, however, that the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide sometime this summer, if not as soon as this month. The High Court has been hearing arguments – not just from North Carolina, but Maryland, Michigan and Ohio, about whether of not partisan redistricting is unconstitutional, under the premise that lawmakers of either party being able to codify their extreme political advantage in drawing voting maps, they leave little chance for voters of the opposite political party to ever be able to choose a representative that appeals to their interests.
In North Carolina, for example, 10 of the state’s 13 congressional districts are drawn to elect Republicans primarily, even though Republicans only carried 51 percent of the total vote. Court testimony has proven that the districts could have drawn to reflect the state’s even split of Democrats to Republicans, but deliberately wasn’t.
In fact, Rep. Lewis once bragged that the only reason why there were ten Republican-leaning congressional districts is because they couldn’t figure out how to come up with eleven.
The zeal to maximize Republican political advantage is the reason why students at NC A&T University have to wrestle with not only confusion when it comes to which polling place they are properly registered to vote at near campus or on campus, but also apathy and distrust about the political process in general, Bradley Hunt, chair of the NCNAACP’s Political Action Committee, and NC A&T alum.
In the last election (November 2018 midterms), the students were still committed to voting, and the (overall general) turnout was decent, but I’m not sure there was a significant turnout of students at the campus….,” Hunt said, noting that NC A&T students were well aware the power and voting strength they once had as a campus had been diluted.
“If we can restore common sense districts, not only for NC A&T, but across the state, I think we can see a better representation…representatives who are better reflective of the electorate,” Hunt added. “[Now], the needs of the communities are not being addressed.”
CONGRESSWOMAN KAREN BASS (D-CA), IS INTRODUCED TO STUDENTS OF NC HBCUs, AS HER COLLEAGUE, U.S. REP. ALMA ADAMS (D-NC-12) LOOK ON (Cash Michaels photo)
CBC CHAIR BASS TELLS NC:
“THE URGENCY IS NOW”
by Cash Michaels
Borrowing from this year’s NCLBC Foundation theme, “The Urgency is Now: Investing in Our Future Today, Tomorrow and Beyond, California Congresswoman Karen Bass, a Democrat and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), warned African-Americans have to fight the same civil rights battles they thought they had won many years ago, and now, have to win again.
“We have to fight, once again, for the right to vote, for civil rights protection in our justice, health and education systems, just to name a few.”
Rep. Bass made her remarks during the 37thAnnual North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation William L. Wainwright Scholarship Banquet at the Sheraton Imperial RTP in Durham Friday, June 7th.
Governor Roy Cooper also spoke at the event.
Bass charged that the wealth of America is based on “200-years of free labor from our ancestors.” She went on to note how after blacks were freed from slavery, and worked hard building businesses and communities, only to have them destroyed by white supremacists, “….the African American experience is characterized by horrific oppression, but amazing resilience.”
“At each juncture of our history, we resisted (oppression) and fought back. We didn’t just accept racial discrimination and segregation,” Rep. Bass continued. “We fought until we ended it.”
Bass went on to say by studying the African American struggles of the past, we can learn how to survive “…the extraordinary moment that we are living in right now.”
Though obviously referring to Pres. Donald Trump without calling his name, CBC Chair Bass said the nation has seen “mean-spirited leaders before, but his “…instability is on full display for the world to see.” She noted how the president pushes policies that indeed undermine the progress of African-Americans.
But she also recalled, with pride, Pres. Obama, noting how “…we believed that he was so amazing, that he would single-handedly change our world, [and] correct all that was wrong. We wished him well, and went back to our lives” That was a mistake, however, Bass maintained.
“We did not take much responsibility to help by participating in our government. We thought he was going to solve all of our problems.”
Rep. Bass charged that African-Americans are “…paying a heavy price for the complacency that set in “…after we had achieve so much, “ especially after the election of Pres. Obama.
“I truly hope that we learn from this difficult period that no one person is going to save us,” she went on. “Voting [for] and electing the right people into office is only the bare minimum of our responsibility.”
Blacks must vote in strong numbers “every single election,” not just every four years during presidential contests, she said. “Be involved and stay involved, at every level.” Elected officials must be directed to what are the important issues that need to be addressed.
Rep. Bass, who said that the “Number one priority has to be that everyone is registered to vote in every election…,” also noted that elected officials must work with the African American press to keep the community fully informed as to their progress made on key issues of interest.
“[The CBC] is setting out to organize a communications campaign so Black America will learn about the hidden figures of the CBC, Chairwoman Bass told the audience. “So many times throughout our history, the accomplishments of our folks are not recognized, not known, or otherwise receive the credit.”
STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 06-13-19
REV. BARBER APPEALS TREPASSING CONVICTION
[RALEIGH] The former past president of the NCNAACP has appealed his conviction in Wake District Court last week on a misdemeanor charge of second-degree trespassing for refusing to leave the NC General Assembly building during a protest in 2017. Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, and co-convener of the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Revival. “Our lawyers were not allowed fully to argue constitutional rights,” Barber said in a text after the jury decision. The civil rights leader had tried to argue that the state Constitution allows for citizens to go to the legislature, because it is a publicly-owned building, and “instruct” lawmakers on the issues they should be addressing. Republican legislative leaders refused to meet with Barber, which is why he refused to leave when ordered. However, the judge cut off any discussion of Rev. Barber’s motive for, which he feels limited his defense.
SEN. BISHOP DEMANDS BLACK SHERIFF RESIGN OVER ICE CONTROVERSY
[CHARLOTTE] The Republican candidate in the new Ninth Congressional District race the sheriff of Mecklenburg County to resign because of his “reckless policies” concerning the release of an Honduran man charged with domestic violence. But Sheriff Garry McFadden say state Sen. Dan Bishop, the GOP candidate, has never worked in law enforcement, and doesn’t understand that detaining alleged illegal immigrants for ICE is not his job, and corrodes the trust between county residents and his agency, which is why he refuses to hold alleged detainees. The state legislature is currently debating a law that, if passed, would compel NC sheriffs to hold illegal immigrants for federal ICE agents.
TABOR CORRECTIONAL INMATE SUES FOR BET CABLE CHANNEL
[COLUMBUS COUNTY] A man serving a 12-year prison sentence at Tabor Correctional has filed a federal lawsuit against officials at the facility, claiming that his constitutional rights are being violated because Black Entertainment Television has been banned from the cable television lineup that is offered to inmates, thus denying black inmates, like himself, the same right to enjoy programming like white inmates do when they watch TNT, Discovery and AMC. Maurice Alexander Williamson claims in the suit that black inmates had signed a petition for BET to prison officials, but were denied. The Tabor Correctional administration says BET was turned down because of “graphic content and violence.” Ironically, the cable channels allowed have their share of graphic content and violence, Williamson notes.