Saturday, December 30, 2023



                                 BISHOP BARBER CHAMPIONS PLIGHT OF THE DISABLED AT DEC.                                                29TH GREENVILLE PRESS CONFERENCE



By Cash Michaels

An analysis

It was the day after Christmas - Tuesday, Dec. 26th - and all Bishop William Barber was doing was spending quality time with his 90-year-old mother. Indeed the whole week had been planned out so that mother and son could spend precious quality time together that they normally could not, because of Barber’s normal responsibilities as a civil rights leader and professor at Yale Divinity School in Connecticut.

The special week was scheduled to end with Barber’s mother being presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest citizen honor, for her many years of public service.

It was a trip to the movies, the new adaptation of Toni Morrison’s “The Color Purple,” that was a special Christmas gift for his mother. Bishop Barber deliberately chose the matinee’ show at the AMC Fire Tower 12 theater in Greenville so that they would  not have to contend with crowding.

But it didn’t matter.

Once Bishop Barber, a large man who walks with two canes, established himself with his requisite high seating chair in the handicapped area to watch the film with his mother, AMC Theater management determined that either the handicapped minister use the regular seating provided by the theater, or leave. 

    But the Christian minister can't use a "regular" seat, he told them.. It's too low for the medical condition he suffers from. His special chair has accompanied him from the White House in Washington D.C. to the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Certainly anyone who has seen Bishop Barber over the past 20 years has seen him use his special chair without argument.

    When Barber protested, informing management that his special seat is medically needed to help relieve a painful arthritic condition he’s had in his hips for 30 years, AMC theater management decided to call the police to have him forcibly removed if necessary.

AMC managers told the police Barber was refusing to cooperate with them, and thus, was trespassing.

Wisely, a cellphone camera captured the entire exchange once Greenville police supervisors arrived, and peaceably escorted Barber, his mother, and his aide who regularly carries the chair, out of the movie theater. On camera, Bishop Barber made sure he was clearly seen cooperating with the officers, and was heard declaring that he was nonviolent.

He even shook an officer's hand.

"They called an officer of the law, the AMC theater in Greenville, North Carolina," Barber said on camera. "They would not make amends to simply do the right thing. But we'll deal with it."

Barber indeed voluntarily, but reluctantly, left the theater with his understandably disturbed mother and aide, and from that moment, began an unexpected campaign to educate all about the rights of the physically and mentally disabled in this nation.

For many people, Bishop Barber's AMC theater incident would be the first time they would hear about the ADA - the Americans with Disabilities Act - “…a federal civil rights law (passed in 1990) that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities.”

In Bishop Barber’s case, he was specifically protected because, under federal law, “…to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities….that they encounter in everyday life….businesses that are open to the public …have to follow (certain) requirements of the ADA.”

The ADA is broken up into five different sections called "titles.”

Under ADA Title III, businesses serving the public, like restaurants, hotels, retail stores and movie theaters “…must provide people with disabilities an equal opportunity to access the goods and services that they offer."

In Bishop Barber’s case, because he required the special high chair that he brought with him, AMC theater management could have helped him decide where it would have been best placed to not only ensure his safety and comfort while viewing the film with his mother, but the safety and comfort of audience members sitting around him.

Instead, they decided to violate the ADA, not even try to accommodate Barber, and called the police alleging that he was trespassing, even though he paid good money for his tickets. The police were never needed if AMC management knew the law.

Effectively, the AMC theater in Greenville violated Bishop Barber’s civil rights as a disabled American. The ADA did not require Barber to call ahead to notify the theater that he was coming, or what his needs might be. They were required serve him sight unseen as they would any other paying patron.

“As legally problematic as it is for the theater to refuse reasonable accommodation to a patron admitted to its grounds, it is amplified by the unnecessary indignity which Reverend Barber and his 90-year-old mother had to endure,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Morgan, a former state associate justice of the NC Supreme Court,  in a statement.

During his press conference in Greenville last Friday, Bishop Barber confirmed that the corporate head of the national AMC Theater chain, Chairman and CEO Adam Aron, did call him to apologize for the incident, assured him that the company had policies in place to accommodate the disabled, and hoped to meet with Barber to discuss that and other issues. That meeting reportedly took place January 2nd.

Barber told reporters Friday that his responsibility now was to advocate for the rights of other disabled people. His hope was that his efforts  would “…lead to just and good things for those with disabilities.”

“Think about all the people in your family, your jobs, your churches, your community who are different … but just like you were created in the image of God,” Bishop Barber said. "This is about plain ol' simple humanity."





By Cash Michaels

Contributing writer

Plaintiffs challenging two new legislative Senate districts drawn in the latest redistricting voting maps by the Republican-led NC General Assembly, have asked the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an emergency motion filed  December 29th to block those districts from being used during the 2024 elections, which technically begin with the March 5th primaries.

If the federal appellate court agrees to issue an order blocking the two state senate districts, primaries in those districts could be delayed from March until May 14th, 2024.

The two African-American plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging the legislative voting map containing Senate District 1 and 2 in northeastern North Carolina, maintain that as drawn, the map is a  racial gerrymander, and thus violates the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act.

“Because the VRA violation here is so extreme and obvious..... according to plaintiffs’ original motion seeking a preliminary injunction, “ voters in the Black Belt counties should not be forced to vote in another election that denies them the opportunity to elected [sic] their preferred Senate candidates."

Republican state lawmakers deny the charge, saying that race was never used in the composition of the Senate voting map.

“[E]vidence and findings in recent state-court litigation have consistently confirmed that no majority-minority district is necessary or justified under present electoral conditions,” GOP legislative leaders replied in court. “Plaintiffs make a familiar error in presenting evidence of ‘statistically significant’ bloc voting, not legally significant bloc voting, and their demand to dismantle the State’s formulaic county groupings for predominantly racial reasons has no basis in law or fact.”

Plaintiffs originally petitioned U.S. Court Judge James Dever to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the senate voting map, but he refused, saying that they filed their motion late, and not in consideration of his caseload.

Now, in the aftermath of plaintiffs’ emergency motion to the Fourth U.S. Circuit of Appeals, Judge Devers seems to have had a change of heart, and has scheduled a hearing on the case on January 10th, assuming that the appellate court doesn’t issue an order blocking the two senate districts on January 9th.

Defendants in the case - the State Board of Elections and Republican legislative leaders - have been ordered to respond to plaintiffs’ emergency motion by Jan. 3rd, while plaintiffs are expected to submit their final written arguments by January 5th. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2023



                                                 DR. CHRISTINE JOHNSON MCPHAIL




By Cash Michaels

Contributing writer

Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail, the terminated president of St. Augustine’s University, has alleged in her Dec.19th race and gender charge of discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that the men on the school’s Board of Trustees "berated [her] and her Black female peers and devalued their opinions,” and also "dismissed her concerns, claiming she needed to be "less sensitive.”

It wasn’t long after when Dr. McPhail, who was appointed the 13th president of the private African-American Episcopalian University in Raleigh in February 2021, was informed that she was terminated when separation papers arrived at her home Dec. 3rd.

She says she was fired after informing the Board of Trustees that she would filing a race and gender bias discrimination lawsuit against the school for alleged hostile treatment against her by members of the board at an October 5th board meeting.

Per McPhail’s EEOC charge, it was at that Oct. 5th St. Aug’s Board of Trustees meeting where a male board member yelled at her, "Woman, did you hear me speak?! I demand you answer my question!” 

That same male board member later verbally assaulted McPhail by saying, ‘“Who do you think you are?! You’re just an employee. Get out of my face, employee!”

Another trustee told Dr. McPhail the following day, “You just need to hurry up and get over that . . . You’ve got to separate yourself from that woman stuff.”

It was Oct. 9th when Dr. McPhail filed an internal hostile environment complaint.

According to the noted NY civil rights law firm of Sanford, Heisler, Sharp LLP, which is representing Dr. McPhail, per the EEOC charge, “…in the ensuing weeks, several trustees threatened Dr. McPhail with termination, and the Board’s Executive Committee recommended termination of Dr. McPhail’s employment. Moreover, the Charge alleges that a male trustee sent Dr. McPhail a “cease and desist” letter, claiming among other things that she had made “defamatory” statements in her October 9 internal complaint.

“On November 6, 2023, Dr. McPhail’s counsel informed the University that he had been retained to represent Dr. McPhail in her claims of discrimination and retaliation. The next day, the Charge explains, two trustees called Dr. McPhail, chastised her for hiring counsel, and threatened her job. Despite two more correspondences from Dr. McPhail’s counsel on November 8 and November 9, 2023, the Board voted to terminate Dr. McPhail’s employment on November 13, 2023,” the law firm continued.

“Dr McPhail poured her heart and soul into the University,” said Atty. David Tracey of Sanford Heisler Sharp, who represents Dr. McPhail. “It is extremely disturbing that the University terminated Dr. McPhail’s employment so shortly after she raised claims of discrimination and retaliation.”

McPhail’s EEOC charge alleges that she  “…has suffered substantial economic damages, emotional distress, and reputational harm. She further alleges that the University’s actions are part of a pattern or practice of discrimination against Black female leaders. “Dr. McPhail brings these claims not only for herself,” said attorney Tracey, “but she also brings these claims to help prevent others from suffering similar harms.”

In response to Dr. McPhail’s allegations, the board issued a statement: 

"The Board denies the unfounded allegations Dr. McPhail has made against the University, and the Board is prepared to defend itself and the institution," the statement reads in part. "The University will have no further comment on these issues given that this is a personnel matter.

St. Augustine’s University has appointed Dr. Marcus H. Burgess, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Claflin University in South University, as the interim president of the institution.





By Cash Michaels

Contributing writer

Is it genuine support for an African-American lawsuit, or pre-primary posturing for the black vote?

State Attorney General Josh Stein, who filed to run for NC governor last week and faces three Democratic opponents in former State Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan, and former U.S. Senate candidates Marcus Williams and Chrelle Booker in the March 5th Democratic primary, was joined by Gov. Roy Cooper in filing a friend of the court brief in federal court Dec. 12th in support of a lawsuit by two African-American citizens challenging the new Senate redistricting plan.

The Nov. 20th  lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the new GOP Senate voting map from being enacted before the 2024 elections. Stein and Cooper support that effort.

        This is the second of three lawsuits filed since the legislature passed its new redistricting maps in October. The third lawsuit claiming racial gerrymandering was filed Dec. 19th in federal court, and seeks to stop the state Senate, House and congressional maps.

Cooper and Stein’s legal brief pertains only to the state Senate voting map plans.

“Plaintiffs Rodney D. Pierce and Moses Matthews are two Black voters who live in Halifax and Martin counties in northeastern North Carolina,”wrote state Solicitor General Ryan Park on behalf of Cooper and Stein to the court. “In this lawsuit, they seek a preliminary injunction preventing the North Carolina Senate district into which their homes have been drawn from being used in future elections. They seek this relief because the enacted Senate districts illegally divide them from neighboring Black voters, preventing them from joining together to elect their preferred candidates. This division violates the Voting Rights Act.” 

“The Voting Rights Act is one of the most successful and important laws in our nation’s History,” Park added. “Since its enactment in 1965, it has been essential in helping Black Americans secure a meaningful role in our nation’s civic life, especially in the South after decades of discrimination under Jim Crow. But the Act’s work is far from done. In North Carolina, the Act’s protections remain urgently needed. In recent years, Black North Carolinians have been repeatedly targeted by discriminatory laws making it harder for them to vote and exercise their political rights.”

Park’s brief continued, “Fortunately, the Supreme Court reaffirmed just a few months ago that the Voting Rights Act provides robust protections to voters like Mr. Pierce and Mr. Matthews, granting them the right to join together with other Black voters to elect candidates of their choice. When the General Assembly drew new Senate districts this year, however, it failed to follow the law. It drew Plaintiffs into a serpentine district that winds its way from deep inland at the Virginia border far away to the distant Outer Banks.”

Park continued, “By separating Plaintiffs from other Black voters who live nearby, the new Senate districts will have the effect of preventing Black voters in northeastern North Carolina from electing candidates of their choice.” 

“Because these districts clearly violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, the Governor and the Attorney General respectfully request that this Court grant Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. They also respectfully request that this Court do so promptly (by Dec. 29th), so that no elections are held under the illegal districts enacted by the legislature.”

However, the federal judge in this case, US District Court Judge James Dever, has already criticized the plaintiffs for asking for an immediate injunction, saying that they wanted to “set the schedule” for his court. 

The bill ratifying the map was passed by the legislature on Oct. 25, but plaintiffs filed their lawsuit 26 days after, and their motion for an injunction 28 days after. Judge Dever questioned why they waited so long after the bill was passed to seek relief, if it was so important to stop the Senate voting map from being enacted. He then denied their motion, calling it “merit”

The Park brief from Cooper and Stein in support of plaintiffs stressed the urgency of Judge Dever to ignore the tardiness to emphasize the importance of compressing the litigation timeline. 

"North Carolina’s history is replete with examples of discrimination against Black North Carolinians, stretching back to the State’s founding and continuing to the present," Park wrote. "... In recent years, Black North Carolinians have been repeatedly targeted by discriminatory laws making it harder for them to vote and exercise their political rights."

Despite the obvious need for the federal court to consider the motion for injunction, why would outgoing Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and Atty. Gen Josh Stein team up to legally assist the two black plaintiffs in the case?

Observers say with just over two months before the March 5th Democratic primaries, Stein is looking for opportunities to show that he has a record of advocating for the African-American community, and Gov.Cooper wants to help him since Stein is his choice to replace him when he leaves office.

Stein is reportedly leading his closest rival in the Democratic primary, former state Justice Morgan, three to one in the polls, but Morgan has proven to be very popular with Black voters across the state, and Stein may not want to take any chances.

And then there is the likely Black Republican opponent.

In a head-to-head contest with black Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson, Stein in shown either slightly in the lead, or very close to Robinson in polling. Having Black voter support in the general election could help Stein win in November, observers say.


Sunday, December 17, 2023





By Cash Michaels

Contributing writer 

A third lawsuit seeking to stop the redistricting voting maps passed by the Republican-led legislature in October has now been filed in federal court, but this one comes with a twist.

Even though, like the previous two complaints, this third suit claims the voting maps are drawn as illegal racial gerrymanders that violate the rights of black voters and weakens their influence, it also targets all three maps drawn for the state house, state senate, and congressional districts.

In the first suit, 18 black and Latino plaintiffs challenged the 1st, 6th, 12th and 14th Congressional Districts.

In the second lawsuit, two black plaintiffs challenged the state senate maps as undermining the voting interests of African-Americans by preventing them from voting for their preferred candidates.

NAACP NC, Common Cause NC , and eight African-American North Carolinians are the plaintiffs pressing the case in the third complaint. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and the global law firm of Hogan Lovelis are representing.

According to a press release by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, this third lawsuit alleges:

  Unconstitutional intentional discrimination against Black voters in the Senate, House, and Congressional maps;

  • Vote dilution in violation of the Voting Rights Act in North Carolina’s Black Belt in both the Senate and House maps; 
  • Intentional vote dilution of Black electoral power in Congressional Districts 1, 5, 6, and 10;
  • Racial gerrymandering in Senate Districts 7 and 8;
  • Violation of one-person, one-vote in the Senate and House maps

“The General Assembly targeted predominantly Black voting precincts with surgical precision throughout the state in drawing and enacting the 2023 Plans, at the expense of traditional redistricting criteria, to achieve preferred district lines that diminish Black voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choice at all levels of government,” the lawsuit claims.

Legislators imposed these discriminatory districts in an intentionally rushed and deficient process that denied the opportunity for meaningful engagement to minority representatives and citizens, and showed clear disregard for the interests, needs, and desires of North Carolina’s Black voters. This process was calibrated to frustrate judicial review of the maps before the 2024 election.

The plaintiffs want the all three voting district maps thrown out, saying that the new districts violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

“We are honored and privileged to represent the North Carolina NAACP, Common Cause, and impacted voters to demand lawful voting plans in North Carolina,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Voting Rights Counsel at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The law clearly protects North Carolina’s Black voters. And yet, instead of responding to their needs, legislators are again targeting these communities for their own partisan gain."

“Ahead of the 2024 Elections, NAACP is working tirelessly to ensure that every American has the opportunity to cast an effective ballot. These discriminatory maps are a clear attack on those efforts,” said Dominik Whitehead, Vice President of Campaigns at NAACP. “We are proud to stand alongside our North Carolina State Conference and fellow advocates as we fight back against any attempt to silence Black voices. This is just the beginning.”

"Lawmakers know what they are doing. They are eroding the power of Black voters – power that was fought for over decades of violent discrimination and suffering,” said Deborah Maxwell, President of the NAACP North Carolina Conference. “Today, the NAACP stands defiant and proud with its partners, knowing that the will of the people cannot be defeated by the racist tactics of a few politicians."

“North Carolina legislators have imposed discriminatory voting maps that outrageously attack the rights of Black North Carolinians. Sadly, racist gerrymandering once again plagues our state and harms voters. We must defeat it,” said Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause North Carolina. “Our voting districts don’t belong to politicians; our districts belong to the people. We must have voting maps that are free from racist gerrymandering and that respect the freedom of all voters.”



                                                      FORMER PRES. DONALD TRUMP



by Cash Michaels

Contributing writer

As expected, and a day before the filing deadline, Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson filed as a candidate for NC governor in the 2024 elections.

He joined other gubernatorial candidates Republicans Bill Graham and Dale Folwell, and Democratic frontrunner Josh Stein and Mike Morgan.

And, as always, Robinson could not escape controversy.

Earlier in the week, during a fundraiser at former Pres. Donald Trump’s  Mar-a-lago resort in Florida, Robinson formally got Trump’s endorsement, along with an apparently unwanted compliment from the criminally accused ex-president.

I swear I think you're better than Dr. Martin Luther King,” Trump told Robinson onstage before an audience. “And I wasn't sure if he was happy about that. Dr. Martin Luther King was great. And I think he didn't like that comparison but he accepted it. But [Robinson] gives some speeches that were so incredible.”

But Trump wasn’t finished.

“He's going to go down as one of the great leaders in our country — one of the greatest leaders. He's outstanding in presentation, but he's probably even more outstanding in heart and the understanding of people and what you need and getting things done.”

Even though Robinson later dismissed Trump’s compliment before reporters, there were some who believed given the black Republican’s documented negative remarks about the 60’s civil rights movement , the last thing anyone should do is compare him favorably to an icon of the struggle.

         “Former President Donald Trump made a mockery of the life, sacrifices and achievements of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in his misdirected statement about North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson,” opined a stinging Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial.

“There is little reflective of King in Robinson, other than some shared outward appearance, the editorial continued. King spoke of love and respect for all people. Robinson spews hate and divisiveness.”

“King was a disciple of nonviolence and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

“Robinson is a bully who promotes weapons of violence and death.”

        “King dreamed of better lives for ALL.”

        “Robinson” selfish rhetoric merely seeks to uplift himself and punish those who might see otherwise.”

“It’s bad enough Donald Trump endorsed and campaigned alongside Mark Robinson, a notorious extremist who disparaged the Black community and trashed the Civil Rights Movement,” wrote DNC National Press Secretary Sarafina Chitika, “but now he’s bringing him back out on the campaign trail. 

          "When Trump said that Robinson – a man who claims the Civil Rights Movement was a shadowy subplot to ‘subvert capitalism’ that made Black Americans worse off – is ‘better than Dr. Martin Luther King,’ he insulted and disrespected generations of Black Americans who have fought tirelessly for their rights.”

In a column for the online magazine The, writer Jessica Washington wrote. “During a podcast interview in 2018, Robinson said the Civil Rights Movement was a “communist plot to subvert capitalism.” He added, “so many freedoms were lost during the Civil Rights Movement that shouldn’t have been lost.” So he’s not exactly a fan of Dr. King’s work.”

Washington then added, “Facebook posts from an account that appears to belong to North Carolina Lt. Gov. also suggest that Robinson just might have a problem with his own people.”

“Someone asked me if I considered myself part of the ‘African-American’ community. I told them NO!” reads the Facebook post. “They asked me why and I said, ‘Why would I want to be part of a “community” that devalues it’s fathers, overburdens it’s mothers, and murders its children by the millions? Why would I want to be part of a “community” that sucks from the putrid tit of the government and then complains about getting sour milk?”

Washington reported that the post and Robinson’s comments on the podcast were first reported by WUNC North Carolina Public Radio.

The Advocate, an online newspaper, reported that “Donald Trump Calls Republican Antigay Bigot Mr. Robinson ‘Better’ that MLK.”

Given his tremendous lead in the polls, Robinson’s decided why risk it, so he’s refused to debate his Republican primary opponents, Graham and Folwell. Critics like Republican Sen. Thom Tillis say Robinson knows little about government or business, thus the reason why he’s playing safe with a 34% polling lead.

The March 5th GOP primary commences in just over two months.