***THIS STORY FOR Wilmington Journal ONLY
WILMINGTON JOURNAL BREAKFAST CLUB
AND R.S & T.C. JERVAY FOUNDATION
SPONSOR 1898 SYMPOSIUM/STUDENT
By Cash Michaels
The Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club (WJBC), a community service group in association with the Wilmington Journal newspaper, announced during a press conference at Gregory Congregational Church UCC on Thursday, Sept. 7th, that in association with the R.S and T.C. Jervay Foundation, is sponsoring a symposium commemorating the 125th anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre.
And, as part of the symposium, the WJBC is sponsoring the first Mary Alice Jervay Thatch Memorial 1898 Student Essay Competition, where New Hanover County students, grades 8 - 12, are challenged to write a 500-word essay about the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, and why learning about it is important to the community today.
The competition is named after the late publisher/editor of The Wilmington Journal newspaper, Ms. Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, who died in December 2021.
Student participants can go to the website “1898symposium.org” to click the link for the entry rules, guidelines and application. There is no entry fee. Parental permission is required.
Students who compete will have the extra incentive of winning a $500.00 grand prize for the best 1898 essay. The prizes also include $300.00 for the second place essay, and $200.00 for the third place essay about 1898.
The student competition will officially begin on Saturday. Sept. 9th, and end on Saturday, Oct. 21st, 2023. The student winners will be determined by a panel of educators who will judge submitted essays based on an established scoring rubric for how comprehensive their submissions are.
The three student winners will be awarded on Nov. 11th during the symposium.
The 1898 symposium, the second in a series, will feature both nationally known and local panelists discussing how the community goes forward from the legacy of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre today.
Those panelists include Bishop William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-convener of the national Poor People’s Campaign; Dr. Bertha B. Todd, retired educator and author of the book, Reflections on a Massacre and a Coup; atty. Irving L. Joyner, vice chairman of the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre Commission; Ms. Inez Campbell-Eason, descendant of an 1898 Black family; Dr. Timothy Tyson, Duke University History professor and author of the book, The Blood of Emmitt Till; and Rev. Robert Parrish, pastor of Gregory Congregational Church UCC.
The symposium will be held Saturday, November 11th, 1 to 4 p.m. at Williston Middle School, 401 South 10th Street. This community event is free and open to the public.
The 1898 symposium is also being sponsored to support the restoration and rebuilding of Gregory Congregational Church UCC on Nun Street and the Wilmington Journal offices on Seventh Street, turning the area into an historic district.
To assist in this effort, please send your tax deductible check or money order to the RS and TC Jervay Foundation, P.O. Box 1020 Wilmington, NC 28402. It's YOUR contribution to a new direction in community development.
SUPPORT SWELLS FOR
EMBATTLED HIGH COURT
JUSTICE ANITA EARLS
By Cash Michaels
No sooner did North Carolina Associate Justice Anita Earls charge that she was being targeted for challenging the lack of diversity at the Republican-majority state Supreme Court, and thus was taking the NC Judicial Standards Commission to federal court to stop its investigation of her, than supporters from the legislative, legal, and civil rights communities stepped forward to speak out on her behalf.
“[Justice Earls] is only being investigated because she has the audacity to speak about racism and sexism in North Carolina’s criminal justice system,” state Rep. Renee Price (D-Orange County) told reporters during a press conference at the state legislature August 30th.
Dawn Blagrove of Emancipate NC said that the alleged targeting of Justice Earls was not only an attempt to remove her from office, but a “broad, Republican-backed effort to silence Black people.”
“We are currently under a regime that is dead set on taking us back to Jim Crow,” Blagrove said.
Marcus Bass, who leads the group, Advance North Carolina, echoed that charge, saying, “What we are seeing right now take place is the literal pulling back of North Carolina, to a hundred year-old attempt to remove Black individuals from elected office.”
When she filed her federal complaint last week, Justice Earls said in a statement, “The First Amendment provides me and every American the right to free speech and to bring to light imperfections and unfairness in our political and judicial systems. I believe that public confidence in the judiciary is best promoted by honestly looking at the facts, not by sweeping the truth under the rug or silencing dissenters.”
If one wanted evidence of just how Justice Earls is viewed by at least one of her Republican colleagues on the High Court, The Carolina Journal reported how in a recent split decision by the Republican-led state Supreme Court, while Earls (along with outgoing Democratic Justice Mike Morgan) noted that the decision by the five Republicans on the court “hurt the integrity of our justice system and our citizens’ faith in it,” Republican Justice Richard Dietz immediately personally attacked Earls, writing “Once again, this Court enters a routine order that draws an exaggerated, hyperbolic dissent from one of my colleagues.”
“My colleague accuses the majority of seeking ‘power’ over reason, of engaging in a ‘radically destabilizing shift,’ of attempting to ‘brazenly warp the law,’ and on and on…Like so many of my colleague’s dissents, this one has portions that read more like pulp fiction than a legal opinion.”
Justice Dietz then added, “One can reasonably disagree with our approach, but to claim that our decision comes ‘at the cost of the integrity of our justice system and our citizens’ faith in it’ is a bit unhinged.”
A spokesperson for GOP Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, whose son, Phil Berger Jr., serves on the state Supreme Court with Earls, dismissed the charges of racism leveled at the Judicial Standards Commission.
Justice Earls has served on the state Supreme Court since she was elected to it in 2018 by 1.8 million votes statewide. When she took her seat, Republican colleague/now Chief Justice Paul Newby greeted her with a public statement that her election kept him up at night.
The reason for that was Earls’ outstanding record as a progressive civil rights attorney, successfully challenging unconstitutional voter ID laws and redistricting voting maps from the GOP-led legislature.
Earls began speaking out recently about the lack of diversity among court clerks who serve the justices, and the lack of both racial and gender diversity of the attorneys who argue before the court.
She also revealed how her Republican colleagues would disrespect female attorneys who come before the court, and even cut her off during remarks.
Earls criticized Chief Justice Newby for ending implicit bias training at the court, telling her that it was not needed.
The Judicial Standards Commission has the power to either slap Justice Earls on the wrist for speaking out, or removing her from her elected seat altogether for allegedly violating judicial ethics rules.
The commission keeps who filed the complaint about Earls a secret. This is the second time this year that it has investigated her for an alleged infraction. The first time was dismissed.
If the commission confirms the latest complaint against Justice Earls, it would be up to her Republican colleagues on the court whether to punish her or not, and how.
Judicial Standards Commission Executive Director Brittany Pinkham has said in a statement that it cannot comment on pending investigations, but maintained that it is nonpartisan.
The NC Black Alliance issued a statement defending Justice Earls, saying, “There is an agenda, and Black and brown voices are not on it. Their stories are stifled with Critical Race Theory legislation and fear-based tactics to remove them from our history. The NC Black Alliance stands in solidarity with Justice Anita Earls to publicly speak on her experiences of racism and sexism without retribution from her white colleagues.”
NEW HANOVER COUNTY SCHOOL
BOARD REMOVES BLACK HISTORY
BOOK FROM CURRICULUM FOR NOW
By Cash Michaels
By a 4-3 vote before a packed public hearing room, the New Hanover County Board of Education on Sept. 1st removed the book, Stamped; Racism, Antiracism and You by authors Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi “temporarily,” from the district’s high school curriculum until the board updates its policy to allow a “balanced” book on Black history to be added to an AP course where it was used.
The book will still be available in high school libraries.
According to the academic website Gradesaver, “Stamped is a sweeping overview of racism in the United States throughout the nation's 500+ years of existence. The book is organized chronologically into five main sections.”
The book is a middle school version of the original New York Times bestseller and National Book Review award winner by Kendi.
New Hanover County is the first in North Carolina to remove Stamped at the demand of one white parent, who said during a four-hour hearing Sept. 1st that she felt the book had no place in the NHC Public Schools curriculum because it did not offer “both sides” of viewing the racial history of America.
That parent, Katie Gates, challenged the book last year after it was included her daughter’s AP Language and Composition syllabus at Ashley High School.
When Gates initially challenged Stamped, she claimed that the book was “unfit” for the classroom, adding that it was “rooted in untruths about our nation and from a twisted and biased perspective on American History.”
Gates accused the book of “brainwashing students” with propaganda to make white students feel bad about America’s racial history. She even so far as charged that Stamped was Marxist, anti-American and extremist critical race theory.
She insisted, however, that she was not against teaching about America’s racial history.
Last year, Ashley High’s media review committee considered her concerns, and then dismissed her complaint. Gates appealed that decision all the way up to the NHC School Board. The board held the Sept. 1st hearing, ultimately agreeing with Ms. Gates.
Legally the board could not remove Stamped for political reasons, or content, but Republican members of the NHC School Board justified removing the book “temporarily” because they felt it did not fit the syllabus the AP class was designed for.
The school board’s decision came, even after various administration officials stood up for the book, saying that it represents a well-researched particular point of view on America’s racial history.
After the vote, Republican school board member Stephanie Kraybill told WWAY-TV that the vote was “political.”
“It shows that the local GOP is running our school board and not the school board running our school board,” Kraybill told WWAY-TV. “I am an elected Republican. I have been a Republican since I was 18 years old and the Republican Party has significantly changed. But they don’t even include me in when they talk about Republican votes. They don’t even include me in. Which is fine with me because I don’t align with our local GOP values.”
New Hanover Black Leadership Caucus was also not pleased with the Board’s decision.
“Sixty years after the March On Washington, banning antiracism books is a national political agenda to oppress Black/Brown children in the school system,” the Black Leadership Caucus said in a press release.
“It was challenging for the African Americans to sit through the hearing and listen to Katie Gates (the parent who filed the complaint) and the four members who supported the ban. Gates expressed that there is no systemic racism in America. She argued further that there should be another perspective in the book. This statement is implicitly biased when the American history books have only one view, which virtually has very little or no Black History.”
The NH Black Leadership Caucus statement continued, “The hearing had an impact on the mental health of African Americans that were present. The decision of the New Hanover County Board of Education has divided the community, religiously and socially.”
“We are confused about how a national nonfiction antiracism best-seller can become educationally unsuitable for the New Hanover County school system.”
“The decision on September 1st has established a new chapter of racism in New Hanover County for the history books.”
Stamped has been the subject of controversy in Texas and South Carolina.