Frederick Douglass’ July 4th Speech Still Resonates Today

Fireworks will rise into the sky on July 4th as millions of Americans celebrate the birth of our nation and its values of freedom and independence.

But Ted Shaw, professor of law and director of the Center for Civil Rights at UNC-Chapel Hill, says it’s important to remember that July 4th, 1776 did not mark the birth of freedom for African Americans. They and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would remain enslaved for almost a hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

That distinction is the subject of Frederick Douglass’ fiery 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro.” Shaw and others will be reading the speech at noon on July 4th at the Carrboro Century Center.

“He [Douglass] talked about the fact that white americans—they celebrated freedom, they celebrated independence, they celebrated their country. But for the slave—for African Americans—that was hypocrisy,” Shaw says.

Shaw says Douglass’ speech still resonates with Americans today, even 150 years after the abolition of slavery.

“We still carry this stuff with us,” Shaw says. He points out that since African Americans arrived in what is now the U.S., they have lived 90 percent of the time under either slavery or Jim Crow.

“And yet,” Shaw says, “we have that dishonest discourse that says ‘that’s history, that happened too long ago’—even though we embrace all kinds of things that happened a long time ago, including our Founding Fathers, and the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.”

Shaw points to disproportionate rates of poverty and incarceration, and educational inequalities as part of the continuing legacy that began with slavery. He says Douglass’ message resonates today because people of color are still fighting against the same forces of structural racism and discrimination Douglass spoke out against.

Shaw quotes Douglass: “Frederick Douglass said ‘if there is no struggle, there is no progress.’ He said ‘there is no negro problem,’ in the language of the time. He said the problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough and patriotism enough to live up to their own constitution,” Shaw says. “That’s what I think about on the Fourth of July. I think that’s what all Americans, not only African Americans, ought to think about on the Fourth of July.”

‘Bike-Fairies’ On the Lookout in Carrboro

You’ve heard of the tooth-fairy and the sugar-plum fairy, but have you ever heard of a bike-fairy? If you opt for two wheels instead of four, you may have one watching over you on the streets of Carrboro.


Sitting on a bench in downtown Carrboro, bike-fairy Eric Allman has begun his watch over the morning commute.

“We’re sitting on the corner of Roberson and Weaver Street and looking for some folks who might be doing some good behaviors on their bikes,” Allman says.

His partner is Heidi Perry, who arrives helmet-clad and wearing a bike-shaped pin on her shirt.

Perry and Allman are both founding members of the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition. They started the bike-fairy program this summer with a grant from Carolina Tarwheels, a bicycle-advocacy group. The bike-fairies stay on the lookout for cyclists following the rules of the road: stopping at stoplights and stop-signs, not passing on the right, and signaling before a turn. They find and reward safe cyclists like Katelyn Murphy, who Allman waves down after she’s safely turned right onto Roberson Street.

“Excuse me! Would you like a free gift certificate for stopping at that light?” Allman calls after her.

“Sure!” says Murphy, and Allman offers her a selection of $5 gift certificates to “bike-friendly” businesses in town.

Perry says they started the bike-fairy program to show that most cyclists are following most traffic laws, even if they have a bad reputation with drivers.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, ‘you cyclists.’ And I’m like do you know how many cyclists there are? I am one,” Perry says.

For Perry, reinforcing a positive image of cyclists isn’t just about easing tensions with motorists, it’s also about increasing public support for bike-friendly legislation.

“There’s House Bill 44, which is a law that has to do with infrastructure,” she explains.

The bill would put new restrictions on municipalities’ ability to create bike lanes on existing roads. Perry worries this kind of legislation comes from people who have had a few negative encounters with cyclists.

“There a lot of people who would be very happy, who are very anti-cyclist,” she says. “Because of these few people [unsafe cyclists], they would like to see a lot of our rights taken away. So I think it’s very important to show that it’s not all of us.”

But more important than showing cyclists’ good sides, the bike-fairies say their program is about making the streets safer in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Between 2013 and 2014 the two towns had at least 60 accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians. Three of those accidents resulted in the death of a cyclist.

Perry and Allman stop and reward their second safe biker of the morning commute, Daniel Matute, who unlike a few other cyclists that morning, waited through an entire red light. Matute seems surprised to receive acknowledgement for following the law, but grateful nonetheless.

Matute rides off down Roberson, and Allman smiles as Matute signals before his left turn onto the bike-path.

“I feel like maybe he wouldn’t have signaled that time. Not only did he see us by now it’s in his brain,” Allman says. “If you reinforce it, it makes that person who did it 50 percent of the time, now do it 70 percent of the time, or maybe 100 percent of the time.”

After an hour on the street, Perry and Allman pack up for the morning, hop on their bikes and head to their day-jobs, all the while on the lookout for more safe, deserving cyclists.

Diversity Across the Boards

By Barbara Foushee:

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Orange County area has a very diverse population. There are many different cultures and races.

Our local governing boards make decisions that affect all of us and these boards should be a direct reflection of the populations that they serve.

This is not the case.

There is approximately one minority member per local board in this area, which is a good indication that the needs and the concerns of some are not being met. To summarize that statement, there is not adequate representation at the table for everyone when important laws, ordinances, appointments, etc., are being discussed and subsequently voted on.

This troubles me because I know that there have been some qualified applicants in the past and recently that have been looked over in favor of the “status quo.”

I am here to encourage all of you to be a part of your local governing bodies. The decisions that they make will ultimately affect you and your neighbors. Get involved and be the change that you would like to see.

I would also like to challenge the local government entities to take a good hard look at your membership make-up, the efficiency of the board, and whether the board is actually serving the general population or a specific group.

In my opinion, it is definitely worth looking into.

Damon Seils Running for Re-election

Damon Seils has announced that he intends to file for re-election to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen next week when the filing period opens.

Siels was elected to the board two years ago to fill a vacant seat after Dan Coleman moved to Australia.

In a release, Seils says that “renewed nationwide focus on policing, civil liberties, and racial equity has presented us with an imperative to engage with our neighbors in understanding and improving local law enforcement.”

Damon Seils spoke Monday with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Seils lists his priorities if he is re-elected as land use and transportation planning, economic development with a focus on aiding local businesses, and policy making that encourages broad participation.

Filing for office in Orange County begins at eight o’clock in the morning next Monday, July 6, and runs through noon on July 17.

Early voting runs from Thursday, October 22, through Saturday, October 31.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In a 5-4 ruling the United States Supreme Court has struck down same-sex marriage bans that remained in place across the country.

Amendment One, passed by North Carolina voters in 2012 banning same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel state, was struck down by the fourth circuit court of appeals in 2014. As federal courts continued to strike down marriage bans, the sixth circuit court of appeals chose to uphold bans in its district. That decision brought the case before the Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court heard arguments over same-sex marriage bans in late April and Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the ruling on Friday.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt issued the following statement:

It’s a great day for all Americans and for the promise of our democracy. Today the Supreme Court affirmed what a bipartisan supermajority—60%—of Americans have come to understand: the freedom to marry is a precious, fundamental right that belongs to all. This decision is a momentous win for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love. State officials should now move swiftly to implement the Court’s decision in the remaining 13 states with marriage discrimination. Same-sex couples and their families have waited long enough for this moment.

As we celebrate this victory, we know we have a lot of work left to do. It is more critical than ever that we harness the momentum borne from the marriage conversation to secure true full equality for LGBTQ people. No one should have to choose between getting married and being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or being denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are. Hate, violence and deep barriers to healthcare access continue to harm LGBTQ people, especially trans people of color; and LGBTQ immigrants face widespread abuses in ICE detention centers.

The decades-long freedom to marry movement made history, fundamentally transforming the way Americans understand gay people. We stand together as a Proud community today, ready to continue working until the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is fulfilling, good, inclusive, and equal throughout the land.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued this statement:

Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges is life altering for thousands of Americans. From this day forward, under the laws of our country, same-sex couples now have the absolute legal right to be married. I am so proud to be the mayor of a town that let the charge to this day – thank you, Carrboro.

So many of us were ready to receive the benefits and accept the responsibilities that marriage entailed, but never dreamed that we would be able to marry our partners in our lifetimes. Now we can.

Some may say that this victory came with surprising speed. It is difficult to think of another social sea change that had such a sprint to the finish line. But such a focus is too narrow, as it does not acknowledge or honor the people that suffered and the people that worked tirelessly to get us to this day. Nor does it recognize the people who will never know the benefits of marriage equality. Some were silent in the closet, some battled in the headlines. Many died without knowing that their efforts bore fruit, or without being able to publicly declare their love for another. But we know. We remember. We carry on for you. And we are grateful.

So today we celebrate and give thanks, and tomorrow we get back to work. One only needs look at other civil rights movements to realize that despite this accomplishment, there are more challenges to come. But that is okay – loving won today.

4th District Congressman David Price issued the following statement:

I join many of my constituents, some of whom have been waiting for this moment for a long time, in celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision, which continues the remarkable progress we have made as a country toward equal rights for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I am reminded this morning of the landmark cases of the Civil Rights era, when justice finally won out over long-standing prejudice.

“But we should also remember that we still have a long way to go – in many parts of the country, including North Carolina, LGBT Americans still don’t enjoy equal protection against discrimination in the workplace, in schools, by medical providers, or in public facilities. We must redouble our efforts to ensure that all of our neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family members are treated fairly under the law.

Community Mourns Charleston Shooting Victims

Faith communities gathered at St. Paul AME Church in Carrboro Friday to mourn Wednesday’s shooting deaths of nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The bell at St. Paul AME chimed nine times as church member Janie Alston lit nine tapers before rows of crowded pews—one candle for each person killed in Wednesday’s shooting at Emanuel AME. Carlotta Armstrong-Young read the names and ages of those lost.

The crowd filled every seat in the worship hall and even spilled over to an adjacent room where they watched the service from a television screen. People of many faiths and backgrounds came to show support and seek healing after Wednesday’s horrific events.

Diane Robertson is not a member of St. Paul AME, but she came to the vigil just the same, she said, “to honor our martyrs, our newest martyrs in this fight for freedom. And I wonder how it could happen that it would be Juneteenth that we would be sitting here to do that, but God has plans that I don’t understand.”

St. Paul AME member Wanda Weaver said she was stunned when she heard the news about Emanuel; but she wasn’t surprised.

“Unfortunately, it’s sad to say, no,” Weaver said. “It’s very sad to say at this day and time that I’m not surprised.”

Seated in a pew near the back of the church, Frank Alston, who attends First Baptist in Chapel Hill, says he’s had enough of gun violence.

“The kids that got killed, and the people that got killed in the movies, and then this happened, and then two police got killed in New York. It’s just a tragedy. There’s got to be something done about guns in the United States of America,”  he said.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt attended the vigil as well.

“I wouldn’t be any place but here today,” Folt said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to be with people to find solace in that community. But it was very inspiring […] to listen to the words people were saying, I found just really helped me.”

Faith leaders from six churches and one synagogue took turns leading the crowd in prayer and worship. Their remarks were occasionally sorrowful, but the reigning tone from St. Paul AME’s reverend Thomas Nixon was defiant.

“Today we are coming rejoicing, yes, angry, yes, mad as hell, yes. But at the same time we come giving God praise, knowing that God has not brought us this far to leave us now. We too will rise again!” Nixon preached.

Nixon says he knows the shooter took advantage of Emanuel’s openness to visitors, but that despite the risk, St. Paul AME will not be locking its doors.

Carrboro Mayor Lavelle Running for Re-Election

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle has announced that she will be seeking re-election this November.

Lavelle served as a member of the Carrboro Board of Alderman for six years before being elected mayor in 2013.

Lavelle released a statement announcing her re-election bid on Tuesday night, which states in part:

“We are experiencing a period of growth and change downtown. Our Hampton Inn & Suites was recognized by Hilton Worldwide as the top new Hampton hotel in the Americas. Two of our nationally known local businesses, Fleet Feet and Kalisher, chose to remain in Carrboro and are in new locations along Main Street. Carrboro also has its second brewery and several new shops and restaurants. These changes must be managed carefully to ensure that we do not lose sight of what we love about our community – our small town feel – while recognizing that we are increasing our cache as a destination for others.”

Lavelle is an assistant professor at the North Carolina Central School of Law in Durham.

Carrboro Approves ‘Summer Streets’ Road Closures

Carrboro leaders approved a plan to open Weaver Street to pedestrians throughout the summer, but some business owners are worried about how it will impact their bottom line.

The “Summer Streets” pilot program won unanimous approval from Carrboro Aldermen on Tuesday.

“I think it’s overdue. We’ve been thirsty for this for a long time,” said Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell.

The east block of Weaver Street from North Greensboro to Main will be closed to car traffic from 8 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. on one Sunday morning each month from June through August. The program is an extension of the town’s annual Open Streets day.

Proponents, including the Carrboro Bicycle Coalition’s John Rees, says the once-a-year event has garnered great feedback from the community. He’s excited about the chance to expand the program.

“People are asking, ‘why can’t we do this all the time?’ and so basically I just urge the town to embrace the idea and do it as much as possible,” Rees told the board.

However, Carrboro’s Economic Development Director Annette Stone says she’s heard from some local business owners inside Carr Mill Mall who don’t love the idea. They worry the street closures will keep shoppers away from the mall.

She suggested possible solutions might involve hosting events inside the mall or bringing vendor tables out into the street.

“I think it’s really important for us to monitor what happens with the first event, and then think about the whole question some have asked about bringing a table out,” said Stone. “So that brings a whole other level to it. We have to consider how many get to come out and where you put them and who is going to manage that kind of thing.”

The Board of Aldermen agreed they want to monitor the impact on businesses during the first event.

“I would also love to hear a concrete plan for touching base with business owners before the event so that we have real data about sales,” said Alderwoman Bethany Chaney. “My hunch is restaurants benefit more from something like this than retail businesses. So it would be interesting to see if there’s a disproportionate impact, and if there is, how can we address that in a positive way and be helpful.”

The first Summer Streets event is scheduled for Sunday, June 21.

Golfing for a Good Cause

Chris Blue is known by many in the Chapel Hill community through his position as the Chief of Police. But he has also long served as a board member for a Carrboro-based non-profit.

“I got on the Board of Directors for Volunteers For Youth maybe 15 years ago,” Blue says. “[I] served as Board Treasurer and Board President for a while. And now I’m just an old board member.”

Blue says Volunteers For Youth will hold the 2015 Larry Fedora Charity Golf Tournament on Monday.

He says the golf tournament has been the main fundraiser for the non-profit for more than a decade and this will be the second year that Fedora is associated.

If you would like to participate in the fundraiser and hit the links on Monday, you need to get your registration information in to Volunteers For Youth. Blue adds if you don’t have a full foursome not to worry, they’ll have a spot for you.

“If you want to play, we’ll get you paired up with somebody,” he says. “It’s in the spirit of fun and in the spirit of supporting a really worthwhile local organization. All skill levels are welcome.”

You can find registration information here. Registration must be submitted by the end of the day Friday. Registration is $150 and includes the round of golf, breakfast, lunch, and gifts.

You can contact Volunteers For Youth at (919) 967-4511.

Carrboro’s Miraclefeet Celebrates 10,000 Kids Helped Worldwide

A Carrboro-based non-profit group is celebrating a milestone this month, in its effort to fight a common birth defect around the world.

“Our partners have enrolled over 10,00 new children in treatment since we started operating,” said Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld, “which means that the lives of 10,000 children around the world are going to be dramatically transformed, and have been dramatically transformed by the fact that they’re able to get treatment for clubfoot.”

Colloredo-Mansfeld is the director of miraclefeet, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating clubfoot in the developing world.

About five years ago, the organization began its first international partnership in São Paulo, Brazil. Today, miraclefeet helps families in 13 countries.

Clubfoot is a common defect that occurs in around one out of every 1,000 births, and affects twice as many males as females. Like cleft palate, its cause is unknown, although there is likely a genetic component.

“If you’re born with clubfoot, your feet point inwards and upwards,” said Colloredo-Mansfeld, “which means that, left untreated, you can’t walk properly. And in most places, if you can’t walk properly, you can’t get to school.”

In some cultures, where birth defects are superstitiously considered a curse the devastating effects for kids with clubfoot go way beyond physical disability and pain.

“They tend to be stigmatized,” said Colloredo-Mansfeld. “As a result, a lot of these kids get hidden away and pushed to the back of the hut. They don’t get fed properly because they don’t matter as much.”

Many kids with clubfoot around the world end up on the street, begging for food and money.

Miraclefeet seeks to prevent such tragedies. The treatment used by miraclefeet is known as the Ponseti method, named for its creator, Dr. Ignacio Ponseti.

“It’s a non –surgical treatment,” said Colloredo-Mansfeld. “The tendons and ligaments are gently manipulated by the doctor, and then the child is put into a Plaster-of-Paris cast. This cast stays on for one week, and usually the foot moves about 10-to-15 degrees in that one week.”

That process is repeated about three-to-five times until the condition is corrected. In most cases, there is one surgery involved. The Achilles tendon is lengthened in an outpatient procedure.

The children must also wear a foot brace at night while sleeping, until around age 5, to ensure their feet remain straight. In some cases, children have been treated up to the age of 12, and Colloredo-Mansfeld reports that even some adults with clubfoot have received help.

Colloredo-Mansfeld said the cost is about $250 to treat each child, and the funding comes from donations. If you’d like to help, you can donate on the organization’s website,