Monday, May 25, 2020



                                              ATTORNEY JAMES W. LEA

By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

For Wilmington attorney James W. Lea, the Monica and Dameon Shepard case is a chilling example how precious the right to be safe and secure, especially in your own home, should be for every American citizen. 
But what’s even more clear now, after the events of May 3rd, 2020, is that when a young African-American male can’t escape the probable peril of being black in America, even in his house, then strong, swift action must be taken.
Atty. Lea represents the Shepards in the case that is still sending shockwaves across the state and nation - the “angry” all-white mob assault on their Avendale home late that May 3rd night, allegedly in search of a missing 15-year-old mixed race adopted sister of the NHC deputy sheriff leading the armed group, and the black male teen she was falsely reported to have been with.
Atty James Rutherford is representing Jordan Kita, and in a published interview and letter, is steadfast that race was not an issue in the incident, even though a careful analysis by The Journal (this edition) clearly indicates that it could have been. 
The Journal spoke with Atty. Lea by phone exclusively Friday, May 22nd, to get the latest on the case from his perspective. His answers have been abbreviated for this story.
How are Monica and her 18-year-old son, Dameon, doing? Have they recovered from this ordeal?
LEA - There is never going to be a recovery from something like that. That’s something that stays with you the rest of your life.
But the Shepards have had so much support. They’ve gotten support obviously from the black community, but the white community as well. They are very close with their neighbors, and have been living in that [predominately-white] neighborhood for quite a while. That’s the group that came out that night, [called the sheriff’s dept.] and demanded that somebody do something to protect [the Shepards].
[In subsequent interviews, Monica Shepard has also lauded her white neighbors, saying that her family and they are “tight-knit.”]
James Rutherford, the attorney for now former NHC Deputy Sheriff Jordan Kita, claims in a written statement that all of this is just one “colossal misunderstanding,” that race was never a factor in the incident, and directly charges that you “…recklessly put out that defamatory narrative” and that “statements made by Mr. Lea are wrong, slanderous, and disgusting.” The attorney says on video, ‘Make no mistake, this case is not about race; it’s about a missing child.”
How do you respond?
LEA - What are you to think? Imagine what would have happened if you had 15 black people - three of them armed on the front door step of a white family’s house, and the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept showed up? What do you think would have happened in the kind of situation?
So, [the attorney] can claim anything he wants to about me…I called it like I saw it, and I’m not yet backing off of that, and probably won’t. 
Wrong is wrong, whether you’re black, white, whatever color you are.The case will unfold as time goes on. We’re investigating it, and looking at lawsuits against both [Pender and New Hanover ] counties’ sheriff’s departments.
If in fact, what Kita says is true, which is he’s contending in that article [and video] that the Pender County Sheriff’s Department was involved [in the search] and gave him a green light to do what he did, is the way I read it, if that is in fact true, then Pender County Sheriff’s Department is in a lot of trouble. 
Kita’s attorney claims that “there was no criminal intent in any of Jordan’s actions,” yet Kita knew he was wearing a law enforcement uniform, complete with his service revolver, in another county on a personal errand, used his foot to prevent a resident of his legal address from closing the door of his own home, and demanded entry to that home repeatedly after being told by both Dameon and his mother to leave.
LEA - There’s no way there can be [no criminal intent]. The minute you step foot on somebody’s property, and you’ve not been invited to be there, you’re committing trespass. That’s a crime. As a police officer you’re bound to know that…everybody knows that. If you come up to the door, and you open the door, and they tell you to go away, and you don’t leave, you’re continuing that crime.
If you’re armed on their property, there’s another crime - that’s assault. If you re putting your foot in their door, you are breaking and entering, and they can’t close their door. So, I don’t know how you get around the criminal intent part of it, when you’re purposely walking on somebody’s property armed, refusing to leave the door when they tell you to leave, sticking your foot in the door. That’s just impossible to …those two things are completely inconsistent.
Is there any truth to the claim that the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. was working with Jordan Kita in the search for his little sister at the time?
LEA - We haven’t gotten to the final conclusion on that. We’ve not been able to prove that any of (Kita’s contention) is correct. But what is interesting about this is after [the mob] left, the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. was called, two deputies came out, and their captain,  on that Sunday evening, and following them was the same [mob] apparently…followed them back to the scene of the crime, and [the Pender deputies] got the full story, right on the spot, from the Shepards and the neighbors, and yet, no names were taken from the so-called [mob], no arrests were made, no statements were taken down.
        So it does make it a little suspicious ….more than a little suspicious, that [ Pender deputies] came out there that night, took no action, and this crowd followed them back to the scene of the Shepard’s house.
        Mr. Kita, sort of threw [Pender County Sheriff’s Dept.] under the bus in that article, if you really read it. I don’t know whether they sanctioned somebody going to somebody’s house with a gun…but, they may have. They sure as heck let them drive away that night. We’ll see. That’s unfolding as we speak.
Does it stretch credulity to believe that Jordan Kita gets a group of people together, some of them armed, to go to a specific address looking for someone named “Josiah” on a tip, yet not have even a broad idea of what Josiah looked like? Kita’s attorney said they had “zero description of Josiah.” On video, the attorney says, “time was of the essence.” But how is that possible if they don’t even know who or what the missing girl is supposedly with? 
LEA - I don’t believe that, to be honest with you, because Dameon is darker-skinned, but sort of looks similar to Josiah…I’ve seen pictures of both of them. 
To me, when they got to that house, and saw that it was a black young man, they had to clearly be looking….I mean if they were looking for a white man, they would have turned around and said, “we have the wrong house.” 
They clearly knew they were looking for a black individual, I think, because they went to that house, but could not leave because they thought Dameon was Josiah. So, they had to have some information from somebody else. 
Again, Jordan Kita’s attorney claims that this is just a big misunderstanding, but you see real damages here. What are they?
LEA - Being a young black man in America, this is something you never really get over. You don’t get over that. When somebody intrudes on your space, that’s not something you get over anytime soon. That’s just a gross violation of every right as a citizen, your civil rights, everything else.
When do you expect to file your lawsuit on behalf of the Shepards?
         [Atty. Lea replied that his firm is very careful with research, noting the lawsuits they’ve recently filed in the NHC School System sex scandal case which they’re handling. So it may take one, maybe two months for them to complete their investigation in the Shepard’s case, and file. By that time, the court system may be back up and running from it’s COVID-19 pandemic pause]
LEA - We’re going to make sure our “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed so that we file what we know is a strong lawsuit.

Atty James Lea says he’s an admirer of Monica Shepard, and the strong mother that she is, and very impressed with Dameon, who is graduating from Laney High this year. Lea, the former chair of the New Hanover Democratic Party,  admits he’s not black, but thanks to his parents, he has respect for all people regardless of color, and has had it during his over forty years practicing law.
It was one of Monica Shepard’s close white neighbors who was so outraged after witnessing the Jordan Kita incident, that, having been a client of Atty. Lea before, highly recommended him to the Shepards. They met with him, and the rest is history.
Lea says its apparent the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. and the New Hanover/Pender D.A.’s office were going to slow drag the case before he got involved. Once he saw that, Atty James Lea made getting justice for Monica and Dameon Shepard his top priority.
Two days later, D.A. Ben David and Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler held a press conference, announcing charges in the case, and that Jordan Kita had been fired from the NHC Sheriff’s Dept.
[Editor’s Note - be sure to read The Journal’s analysis of the case in this edition]

                                                    DAMEON SHEPARD
                                                    MONICA SHEPARD
                             D.A. BEN DAVID/ PENDER SHERIFF ALAN CUTLER
                                         MONICA AND DAMEON SHEPARD

By Cash Michaels
An analysis

On the night of May 3rd, 2020, there was a loud bang on the door of  the home where Monica Shepard, and her son, Dameon, 18, reside in the Avendale community of Rocky Point in Pender County.
Dameon, who was playing video games, opened the door, not realizing that what would happen next would forever change his life.
There are at least two sides to what happened next. Ultimately, it will be courts of law - both criminal and civil - which will determine what the truth is. But for now, based on all available published reports, video interviews, and statements from participants, and both attorneys in the case, The Journal has been able to put together this analysis to determine where the sides collide.
Here, in the court of public opinion, we’re doing our job, before the criminal justice system finally does their’s.

On the night of May 3rd, published records show, the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. issued a missing persons alert that it was looking for “Lekayda Nicole Kempisty, 15-year-old B/F (black female) from Hampstead. Kempisty was last seen in Eagles Watch Neighborhood in Hampstead on foot around 10 p.m. on May 3rd. If anyone knows her whereabouts, please call the Pender County Sheriff’s Office at 910-259-1212.”
According to a video interview conducted by Port City News with Timothy Kita, his wife; Mary, and their son Jordan’s attorney, James Rutherford ( Jordan himself was not allowed to speak on advice of his attorney) - all white, Lekayda is a mixed race child who has been living with the Kita family for ten years. They consider her their “daughter” and Jordan’s “sister.”
As noted, Lekayda went missing on the evening of Sunday May 3rd. Mary Kita called her son Jordan around 8:30, she says, at his job as a NHC Sheriff’s Dept. Detention Center officer, telling him that his sister was missing, and they were looking for her. He left work immediately without changing out of his NHC deputy’s uniform to join the search.
On video, Timothy Kita called the search a “frantic situation’ with neighbors helping to look through the woods, a Pender County sheriff’s Dept helicopter involved, and drones from the Pender County Fire Dept. in the air. They searched through multiple empty houses, knocked on several doors in theirs and other neighborhoods.
The whole time, the Kitas were getting tips by phone and texts as to where the teen was last seen. Both Timothy and Mary Kita say the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept. “were with us every step of the way” and were exchanging phone calls and texts with them “the entire night.”
At one point after it had gotten dark, they got a tip that Lekayda was seen in the predominately-white community of Avendale. They say they were also “given the name Josiah,” someone they believed attended the same high school she did.
The Kitas, on video, claim that they “…asked if it was OK if we knocked on doors (in Avendale) and ask if anyone had seen her, and we had pictures of her, and we were told “Yes” by the Pender Sheriff’s Dept. officers working with them.
They went to the Avendale address they were told belonged to Josiah, hoping to find Lekayda there, unharmed.
About three vehicles pulled up to the street where the home of the Shepards resides. They were one of just two black families that had lived in the neighborhood over the years, and a “Josiah” did once live next door with his mother, but had moved a month earlier, published reports say.
Out of those three vehicles exited approximately 15 white men, women, and possibly at least one child. They gathered in front of the Shepard’s home, and on their front porch.
One of the men is confirmed to have brought an AR-15 assault weapon (he’s been charged, though his attorney claims his client broke no laws). Dameon Shepard said after he opened the door, he saw the AR-15, the revolver Jordan Kita, in uniform, had holstered, and a man with a rifle among the group with Kita.
Both Dameon and Monica describe the group as “angry,” and recall vividly how Jordan Kita tried repeatedly to force and cajole his way past the front door, even using his foot to keep it from closing. 
Dameon recalls “the officer” saying, “We’re looking for a missing girl. We were given this address, and we were given your name, and we were told that she’s here, so we’re going to enter.”
Monica recalls another man with Kita pointing at Dameon and saying, “They gave us this address and they gave us your name.” She then remembers another man lunging towards them, but being held back.
Monica, who had been sleeping until she heard the commotion and  came to the living room, had ordered Dameon back from the door for his safety, and repeatedly told Kita, as did Dameon, that there was no girl there, and Josiah did not live there. A “Ring”surveillance video bell across the street recorded Monica yelling for Kita and his group to “Leave!”
But yet, Timothy Kita, who says he was there, maintains that there were “no arguments” at the Shepard’s house, and “no attempt to gain access to the house.” If true, if there was no disturbance, then why did the Shepards’ concerned white neighbors - witnesses -  call the Pender County Sheriff’s Dept?
He refuses to confirm whether his son put his foot in the door to keep it from closing.
Soon realizing that they had the wrong house, Kita’s crowd left, but reportedly came back when two Pender County deputies finally arrived.
The deputies spoke to Monica and Dameon, and some of the neighbors, and some of Kita’s group, but otherwise took no statements, no names, and made no arrests.
On the video, and in a letter to the press, attorney Rutherford seems to overemphasize that race was not a factor in what happened that night.
He, and even Timothy Kita, go on to assure that Kita’s group had no idea that Josiah was black… “zero description,” he says.
Even Monica Shepard, who says that she wants to see justice be done, has said that she doesn’t believe race a motive in the frightening incident.
And yet, both Dameon and Monica recall Kita and another man with him, trying to get Dameon to admit that he was Josiah, telling him that they were “given his name.”
Couple that with the fact that two of the group had guns with them close to the door, in addition to Jordan Kita (who had his service weapon holstered), and it seems not only that they knew Josiah was black from the tip (he is, though lighter and skinnier than Dameon), but they were allegedly expecting trouble when they went to the house, as a result.
Besides, how do you search for someone without knowing something about what they broadly look like?
One more thing…about the guns. Timothy Kita insists that there was no rifle there (Dameon says he saw a man carrying one who was standing away from the door), and that when they realized that one of their crowd brought an assault weapon, they told him to put it away, and he took it back to his vehicle.
If he did, it wasn’t before he had the weapon with him at the door when Jordan Kita allegedly tried to gain entry, and Dameon could clearly see it. That means the man with the AR-15 was on the Shepard’s property without their permission. As indicated earlier, he has been charged “terrorizing the public.”
At his May 8th press conference, District Attorney Ben David vowed that the case “will continue to be a high priority.” He further called it a “case this serious,” and warned the public against judging what the case is and is not about, before it went to court.
Jordan Kita had been fired from his job as a NHC Sheriff's Dept. jailer, and charged with several misdemeanors, including breaking and entry. Observers note that he dodged what easily could have been serious felonies.
Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler praised his deputies for not making any arrests, choosing to “diffuse” the situation first, then investigate later.
He also admitted that there may have been enough evidence to make arrest that night, but his deputies were prudent not.
15 year-old Lekayda Nicole Kempisty was found unharmed at 9 a.m. May 4th, in New Hanover County.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Last weekend, by order of Gov. Roy Cooper, state government building flags flew at half-staff in honor of an inspiring leader who was best known for standing strong for black economic development and advancement. She mentored many to become public servants and leaders in black and women-owned businesses.
And she rarely said “no” if she knew she could help anyone in need in the community.
The death of activist and black economic development leader Andrea Lynette Harris, 72, last week, co-founder of the nonprofit NC Institute of Minority Economic Development (aka “The Institute”) came as a shock to those who knew, loved and respected her. The sincere and overflowing outpouring of sorrow and condolences were testament to the impressive legacy of service Ms. Harris gave the state of North Carolina.
“It is not enough to just be in the room,” Ms. Harris is famous for saying, “you must be at the table.”
She is credited with generating over $1 billion to black and women-owned businesses, which, in turn, has led to home ownership across the state.
"Andrea Harris was a trailblazer who never stopped fighting for social and racial equity in our state,’ said Gov. Cooper in a statement May 20th.  “When doors were intentionally shut, she broke through for women and minority-owned businesses to succeed, modeled excellence in advocacy and mentored scores of freedom fighters. She left an indelible impact on North Carolina's business and African American communities, and she will be missed.”
“Kristin and I send our prayers and deepest condolences to her friends and loved ones.”
It was Ms. Harris’ vision that created The Institute in 1986, and she led it for the next two decades, helping marginalized and disenfranchised African-Americans and women navigate the perilous waters of business creation and wealth building.
During her career, Harris and her work has been heralded with many honors, including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest honor.
Ms. Harris was a counselor, friend, mother, sister and leader to many, well-beyond her birth family,” said Kevin J. Price, current president/CEO of The Institute. “We stand on her shoulders and will honor her legacy by tirelessly continuing her work, serving those who are marginalized and/or face unnecessary challenges and barriers limiting the ability of living their best life. She will truly be missed.”
Andrea Harris grew up in Henderson, NC, and graduated from Bennett College for Women in Greensboro in 1970. It was there here she developed her keen social consciousness. Harris later became executive director of a community action agency fighting poverty in Henderson.
It was 1986 when Harris went to Durham, and cofounded The Institute on “Black Wall Street” there.
  Upon word of her passing, condolences from across the state flooded in, like from her alma mater, Bennett College, where she served as a trustee, Yvonne Lewis Holley, Democratic candidate for lt. Governor, Rep. David Price (D-NC-4), Former Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), the NC Black Alliance, and so many others.
“Thank you, Andrea for lighting the way for so many others including myself,’ said U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12).
It was Sept. 10, 2018, when Andrea Harris wrote Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, then the president of the North Carolina Council of Churches, petitioning him to oppose gentrification in a certain section in Durham, where black families were losing their homes to whites who were doing little to be considerate of the families they had just displaced.
In that letter, Harris told Rev. Spearman, “We all must be treated with dignity,” a sentence that Spearman says is a good summation of who Andrea Harris was.
A mighty builder of some sturdy bridges has exchanged life for life eternal,” Rev. Spearman said in tribute. “Andrea Harris has been a friend, confidante, counselor, consoler, woman of conviction and encourager.”
In lieu of flowers, the Harris family asks a donation to Bennett College be made in memory of Andrea Harris.:
Bennett College
        Attn: Institutional Advancement
900 E. Washington Street
        Greensboro, NC. 27401


by Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

The NC NAACP, President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, and former president Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, have issued a petition demanding “a thorough investigation” by the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee into allegations that senior Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) profiteered from the COVID-19 pandemic when he sold 32 sets of stocks on February 13th, 2020, just prior to the stock market crashing, and the nation being warned about severe threat the pandemic posed.
Sen. Burr allegedly sold the stocks, netting $1.6 million, based on classified information not available to the public, otherwise known as ‘insider trading.”
Once reported, Burr relinquished his chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the matter.
On May 14th,  it was reported that FBI agents served a search warrant and6seized Sen. Burr’s cellphone in order to track his alleged communications, and build a case against him.
Burr has insisted that he’s done nothing wrong, and that ny information he employed to sell his stocks was public information.
The NCNAACP petition quotes former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, an expert in insider stock trading cases, as calling the Burr case “a very, very big deal.”
“This is something the FBI or DOJ does lightly. It requires layers of review, the blessing of a judge, and consideration of severe reputational harm to a sitting U.S. senator.”
“We believe a thorough SEC (Senate Ethics Committee) investigation shall lead to the Senate’s expulsion of Sen. Burr...” according to the US Constitution, the petition states.
Reverends Spearman and Barber say they are working on a digital copy of the petition for people to sign, but for now interested petitioners should be able to access one at, or they can call the NCNAACP office to request that their name be included among the signatories, or send to PO Box 7186, Greensboro, NC 27407.

Monday, May 18, 2020



[WINSTON-SALEM] Best known for championing the cause of victims of North Carolina’s 40-year sterilization program, former Rep. Larry Womble died at his home last week of natural causes. He was 78. A former local alderman, Womble went onto serve in the NC House of Representatives in 1995 fo nine terms. He left the House in 2012 after almost losing his life in a car accident. It was through his efforts that in 2013, sterilization victims received compensation from the state.

[RALEIGH] Churches across North Carolina reopened for service last Sunday after a federal judge temporarily struck down part of Gov. Cooper’s restriction on indoor churches because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The churches said the indoor prohibition violated their constitutional rights. The governor countered that have church congregations in close quarters only contributed to the spread to the virus. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 29th.

[RALEIGH] Lawmakers came back to Raleigh the week, facing staggering challenges because of what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to the state. With most businesses closed and many North Carolinians out of work, retail and income tax collections are low, forcing lawmakers to decide what services will have to be cut. In addition, many citizens have not gotten their unemployment checks, primarily because when the pandemic hit, it overwhelmed the system, thus causing long delays. Plus, Republican lawmakers will try to pass bills countering Gov. Cooper COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and bars.

By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

The attorney for the former NHC sheriff’s deputy who allegedly led an “angry white mob” erroneously to the home of a Pender County black family looking for his younger sister May 3rd, says there was no racism involved, and that it is all just some “colossal misunderstanding.”
Meanwhile a Pender County community leader says regardless of the reason, that black family was “terrorized,” and he wants District attorney Ben David to hand the case over to the FBI so that the truth can come out, and justice be done.
Justice seems to be moving slowly in the Jordan Kita case, where the former NHC deputy, in uniform, allegedly led an “angry white mob,” some with guns,  of at least 15 people to the home of Monica and Dameon Shepard in the Avendale community of Rocky Point in Pender County, angrily demanding the whereabouts of his younger sister (who was found unharmed the next morning), and someone named “Josiah.”
Both Dameon, 18, and his mother, Monica vehemently denied knowing anything about the missing girl, or anything about Josiah, especially when Kita allegedly tried to force his way into their home. Soon Pender deputies came to the scene, but took no names and arrested no one. Five days later, New Hanover/Pender County D.A. Ben David announced that Kita had been fired as a NHC deputy, and was charged with forcible, breaking and entering, and willful failure to discharge duties. Another man allegedly with Kita May 3rd who was carrying a weapon was charged with terrorizing the public.
According to WECT-TV,  former NHC Deputy Kita was in uniform that night because he left his shift at the detention center early and didn’t change clothes. And his little sister is mixed race. In fact, even though Jordan Kita is white, his family is mixed race. The Kita family also claims they were working with the Pender County Sheriff’s Department in the search.
James Rutherford, attorney for the Kita family, told the TV station the race had nothing to do with the events of May 3rd, and blames that “defamatory narrative’ on the Shepard’s attorney, James W. Lea.
In a statement to the media, atty. Rutherford reiterated that the events of May 3rd were not bout race, but instead about “…a family searching for a troubled teenager…and time was against them….the teen the family has had guardianship over for more than 10 years, is biracial. It is even more difficult to reconcile when considering the fact that this is not the only biracial child in the home.
Jordan considers the teen to be his sister, atty. Rutherford continued, “ she has lived with his family for more than ten years. He loves her very much, just as he loves all his siblings, biological or otherwise. When his mother called him frantically on the night of May 3rd, Jordan was working at the New Hanover County Detention Facility. His shift did not end for several more hours. Understanding the emergent circumstances, he left work and rushed to help find the sister he loves so much. 
He did not lead any mob as has been reported. He was not a leader of anything this evening. The search party, consisting of children, teenagers and adults, was a disorganized hodgepodge of people receiving rapidly changing information through social media, text and phone calls. Many doors were knocked upon that evening on multiple streets. Upon hearing the plight, several people joined to help search for the missing teen.
Hours into the search a tip was received from a youngster that this missing teen was seen with Josiah. Eventually another youngster gave an address. This address was broadcasted via phone calls and text. At this point the hodgepodge of individuals and small groups that were independently searching for this missing teen came to what later is known as the Shepard’s address. It is true the name given is Josiah. However, at no time did anyone mistake Dameon for Josiah. There was zero description of Josiah. 
This case is nothing more than a colossal misunderstanding, atty. Rutherford insisted, who added there was also no criminal intent.
It is not lost on Jordan and his family how the Shepard’s must feel. Instead of fighting in the court of public opinion this family wishes to do what they have always done, and that is to put race aside and do what is right. They would love nothing more than to sit down with the Shepard family and express how sorry they are that they were a part of leaving them feeling as they felt.
But Rev. Dante A. Murphy of Southern Coalition of Equal Protection Under the Law isn’t buying it.
The Journal sent the Pender County-based activist  copy of atty Rutherford’s statement on behalf of the Kita family.
Attorneys have very creative ways at attempting to explain away the reality of facts,” Rev. Murphy replied, referring to the fact that Kita did try to muscle his way into the Shepard’s home, that there were at least three people with guns present as part of an angry white mob, and the Shepards were left fearing for their lives in their home.
“One family being in “crisis mode” does not justify another family be terrorized,” Rev. Murphy continued.  “It is my hope that District Attorney Ben David will refer this matter to the FBI for investigation.  The public deserves to know the details of what happened that night.”  
“The offer to meet with the family is a blatant disregard for the seriousness of the situation.  It is usually victims who request to meet with perpetrators in order to bring closure to a traumatic event—not the other way around.  The Kita family may be sincerely sorry for their actions, but their illegal actions left a mother and child wounded—perhaps for life.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Should state lawmakers be compelled to reveal their legislative emails related to Senate Bill 824 - the legislature’s latest voter ID case?
That was the argument before a Wake Superior Court three-judge panel last week as Jeff Loperfido, senior counsel with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice argued to have the emails released in Holmes v. Moore.
Gov. Cooper vetoed SB824 after the Republican-led legislature passed it in December 2018 after voters ratified a constitutional amendment making voter ID law a month earlier. Cooper’s veto was overridden, but a lawsuit ensued, and the state Appellate Court has prevented the law from being enacted with a preliminary injunction until the court case is heard. 
Thus, the hearing last week, where Loperfido went before the three-judge panel requesting that it order Republican lawmakers to turn over their emails and other documents related to passage of SB824.                      
“Time after time, this General Assembly has been found of employing improper racial considerations when passing laws. It’s against this backdrop of persistent malfeasance and with the fundamental right to vote at stake that plaintiffs move this court for certain discovery that will shine much needed light on the motivations of a General Assembly that has repeatedly abused the qualified legislative privilege - a privilege meant to safeguard legitimate legislative activity done in the public’s interest and not to provide cover for the personal or partisan interests of legislators in private,” said atty. Loperfido.
Plaintiff’s attorney was asking the court to rule that state lawmakers only have qualified legislative privilege, meaning that some of the business they conduct is not protected from public scrutiny.
Loperfido made clear that given the Republican-led legislature’s past history with passing voter ID laws, that  “…significant circumstantial evidence already exists suggest that legislators have targeted African-Americans with discriminatory laws for the purpose of excluding them from the political process, we believe privilege must yield.”
Republican state lawmakers disagreed, and their attorney countered that they are entitled to absolute privilege, meaning that all of their documents, communications and emails related to passage of legislation should always be held in secret. If not, they would be unable to carry out their duties.
But atty. Loperfido wasn’t buying it.
He noted that “…a substantially similar [voter ID] law as struck down as racially discriminatory, that the large majority of the same bad actors set out to do it again, the they rushed to put a law in place before they lost their super-majority power, that they did limited debate, limited public input, no new analysis, no new data on ID possession and then again, withheld the same type of IDs that they knew were disproportionately held by African-Americans.”
At the end of arguments, the judicial panel indicated that it would render  decision by the end of May.

                                                           SEN. ERICA SMITH
                                                          SEN. NATALIE MURDOCK

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

With the NC General Assembly back in session this week, one of the more notable bills filed of particular interest to the African-American community is Senate Bill 775, “Funds/Est. Black Women & Girls Task Force.”
“An act to establish the North Carolina Black Women and Girls Task Force and to appropriate funds for the task force,” the heading says.
Filed on Thursday, May 14th by senators Erica D. Smith [Bertie] and Natalie Murdock [Durham], the Task Force shall to serve as an advisory committee to study disaggregated findings concerning the well-being of cisgender and transgender black women and girls in the State. In conducting this examination, the Task Force shall examine the following issues: 
- Study the health and wealth disparities of black women and their impact. - Review educational justice principals for black girls and the impact of trauma to learning.
- Research all forms of violence to and on black women and girls.
- Consider the impact of the criminal and juvenile justice system on black women and girls, including incarceration of black women and girls.
- Examine the effect of political advocacy and engagement, employment, and healthcare, especially in the context of disparate impacts of COVID-19, cancer, stress disorders, high blood pressure, maternal morbidity and infant mortality, reproduction, and other disparate health factors. 
If established, the NC Black Women and Girls Task Force would be in the NC Dept. of Administration “for budgetary purposes only.”
There would be 13 members, consisting of:
- Nine grassroots-led selected North Carolina advocacy nonprofit organization leaders that serve black women and/or girls who have an established mission of saving black women and/or girls within the state for a minimum of two years and appointed by the Secretary of Administration or his or her designee. Two persons who are members of the senate at the time of appointment, at least one of whom represents the minority party, appointed by the President Pro temper of the Senate.
- And two members of the state House.
All members would be appointed for two years.
The act would become effective July 1, 2020.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020



[RALEIGH] The NC Democratic Party will hold a virtual state convention on June 6th, featuring all of the statewide candidates for office. However, because it will be a virtual convention, it will abide by all of the current social distancing restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the tasks of the virtual convention will be to choose the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, who would be expected to nominate Joe Biden for president. NC Republicans wee originally scheduled to hold their state convention in Greenville this weekend, but have now pushed their’s back to July. Their Republican National convention is still scheduled for Charlotte in August for now.

[WASH., D.C.]  Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (NC-12), Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MN-05) and 28 additional members of Congress sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy today calling for the universal, one-time, student loan debt cancellation of at least $30,000 per borrower in the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation. “With today’s jobs report showing the greatest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, it has never been a more important time to eliminate student loan debt,” said Congresswoman Adams. The letter also calls for long-term payment relief for all federal student loan borrowers, as well as expanded protections for millions of private student loan borrowers as well as long-term relief through cancellation and refinancing.

[RALEIGH] For the fifth week, hundreds of demonstrators from across the state went to downtownRaleigh Tuesday to protest Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which closed restaurants and bars, and many small businesses across the state. These demonstrators want those restrictions dropped, saying they don’t believe that the coronavirus is dangerous. A counterprotestor flew a plane with a banner over the demonstration Tuesday saying, “Fewer graves if we reopen in waves.”


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Almost two weeks after the fact, local and state black leaders are still livid about the shocking, all-white, 1898-like vigilante raid on a Pender County African-American mother and her teenage son May 3rd by a then off-duty armed New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy, and a large angry “mob,” two of whom who were also armed with an assault rifle and a shotgun.
The inexplicable event has made headlines around the world, including CNN Tuesday night, and caused many to shudder as to the tragedy that could have happened, and the danger that black family faced.
As president of the Pender County NAACP, Rev. Dante A. Murphy told The Journal that the chapter was “deeply disturbed by the incident,” and would “…continue to work with our NAACP district and state representatives to assure that this matter is resolved to fullest extent of the law.”
However, as president of SCEF - the Southern Coalition for Equal Protections Under the Law, Rev. Murphy employed much stronger language, calling the May 3rd incident a “…near lynching of an African-American family being terrorized by an all-white vigilante militia group who is now being protected by an all-white District Attorney's office.  These statistics alone present a difficulty in avoiding the issue of race.”
At press time, New Hanover/Pender County District Attorney Ben David still had the matter under criminal investigation, but thus far, this much has been alleged from official and published reports:
At around 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 3rd, off-duty New Hanover County Detention Officer Jordan Kita, while in uniform, helped lead an angry group of whites, some armed, to the home of Monica Shepard, and her son, Dameon, in the predominately-white Avendale community of Rocky Point, southern Pender County, reportedly under the auspices of searching for a missing 15-year-old girl Kita reportedly knew through his family.  
She was later found safe.  
“The fact that an officer appeared off-duty at an individual's residence in uniform was wrong…,”opined Deborah Dicks Maxwell, District 16 director of the NC NAACP,and president of the NHC NAACP. 
Dameon, 18, a graduating senior at Laney High School in Wilmington in New Hanover County, answered the door, estimating that about “15 people” were outside.
Kita mistakenly thought that the black teen was someone else named “Josiah” who used to live next door who knew the girl. Kita reportedly refused to believe Dameon’s repeated denials, in addition to his assertions that the mob had the wrong house.
Kita reportedly put his foot in the door preventing closure. A frightened Dameon angrily repeated his denials and the fact that he was not the other black teen Kita was looking for. He even noted a high school graduation sign with his name on it on his front lawn.
That’s when Dameon’s mother, Monica, awoke, came to the door, and confronted Kita, insisting that he had the wrong house, and needed to leave. Kita still refused to believe her.
By this time, neighbors apparently called Pender Sheriff’s Dept., which sent two deputies to the address. Reportedly, they made no arrests, took no names, and did no investigation at the time.
Monica Shepard feels blessed that the worst didn’t happen.
“Coming to the door like that with a mob of people with guns what do we expect? What were their intentions? What if he was the person they were looking for or what if I was not home? What would’ve happened? I don’t want to have that conversation,” she told  a local TV station. "I don’t want [Dameon] to be a statistic. It’s scary.”
Pender County Sheriff Alan Cutler later applauded his officers for not making any arrests, saying it was more important to diffuse the mob situation. D.A. David said because a law enforcement officer (Kita) was involved, it was protocol to do a criminal investigation first.
It has been confirmed that Jordan Kita was fired from his job with the New Hanover Sheriff’s Dept. Friday May 8th after an internal investigation ordered by NHC Sheriff Jim McMahon.
Kita was also charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering, forcible trespassing and willful failure to discharge duties. Kita is accused of going to the Shepard’s “…while armed and in uniform in a county where he was not dully sworn in and in furtherance of personal - not law enforcement - purposes.” D.A. David said during a May 8 press conference.
Another allegedly armed man with Kita, Robert Austin Wood, was charged with “going armed to the terror of the public.”
More may be charged, D.A. David told reporters last Friday.
Wilmington Attorney James W. Lea of the Lea Schultz Law Firm in Wilmington, who is representing the family, said a civil suit is coming after he completes his probe. 
The deplorable and unnecessary act of terrorism on the Shepard family cannot go ignored and our indignation will not be concealed,” says Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NCNAACP. “Until protection of the law reaches to all, none of us will ever be safe.”
“We are certain by Sheriff Alan Cutler's statements during the press conference that more could have been done on the night of May 3, 2020, said SCEF Pres. Rev. Murphy. “Under the consultation of District Attorney Ben David the cover up is now becoming as worst as the crime.  We are pleading with the Pender County Sheriff's Department to do its best identify every person involved in the vigilante group and, apart from District Attorney Ben David, apply the proper charges and insist that those charges be [pursued] by the District Attorney's Office.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Almost $13 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be awarded to 39 HRSA-funded health centers in North Carolina, including centers in Wilmington, Charlotte, Greensboro, Asheville and Gastonia.
“As North Carolinians and communities nationwide face this unprecedented health and economic crisis, it is imperative that we prioritize people’s health and safety,” said Congressman Butterfield. “A prosperous economy starts with a healthy community. For our communities to be healthy, COVID-19 testing must be available to anyone who needs it and right now far too many Americans are in desperate need of increased access to COVID-19 testing. Community health centers are our frontline defense amid this pandemic and are positioned to reach people where they are within the community.”
The following is a list of some of the centers funded:
New Hanover Community Health Center, Inc in Wilmington - $211,999
Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine, Inc. in Greensboro - $332,089
Charlotte Community Health Clinic, Inc. in Charlotte - $187,9999
C.W. Community Health Center, Inc. in Charlotte - $287,854
Western NC Community Health Services, Inc. in Asheville - $321,424
Appalachian District Health Dept. in Asheville - $271,219
Here in North Carolina, over 15,000 cases have been confirmed, with over 600 dead. Of that number, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, 35%, or approximately 4,000 are African-American, and 34% of those have died.