Since the discovery of 361 unmarked graves in a section of The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, the town has struggled to find the best way to honor them. A marker was installed in early February, but was quickly removed after community members expressed concerns about its wording and design.
Since then, the town has formed a committee to design a new marker based on community input. Parks and Recreation director Jim Orr presented the committee’s suggestions during the public meeting Monday night.
“Tonight we’re here to ask you to approve resolution R3 that recommends the wording from the naming committee to honor those buried in sections A and B at the Chapel Hill Cemetery, and to authorize the manager to use the cemetery funds for the project.”
The Council Naming Committee received input from Reverend Robert Campbell, president of the Chapel Hill – Carrboro NAACP, as well as from other community members, the Cemeteries Advisory Board and UNC organizations.
Orr’s presentation of the committee’s decisions included a sketch of the proposed marker with its dimensions and quote.
“This particular slide on the left hand side is the actual wording and quote from George Moses Horton and on the right hand side is an actual concept linear picture.”
George Moses Horton was the first African-American man to publish a book in the South—and one of the first to publicly protest his slavery through poetry. An excerpt from his piece titled, “The Rising Sun,” was chosen for the marker’s inscription. It reads, “Thus we, like birds, retreat to groves and hide from ev’ry eye, our slumb’ring dust will rise and meet its morning in the sky.”
Mayor Pam Hemminger said that many people were involved with the selection process.
“It was a large community meeting. Parts of UNC were well represented at the meeting as well, and I contacted them today to make sure they understood what was being presented. I talked to Minister Campbell who I think is going to be speaking with us a little bit later.”
In addition to the poem, the Cemeteries Advisory Board recommended an additional inscription on the marker.
‘”In honor of these buried here in unmarked graves’ with the date of September 18, 2016. That will be at the cemetery to unveil the marker,” Orr said.
The September 18 ceremony will take place in the cemetery with a reception at the UNC School of Government.
One of the main concerns about the previous marker was its size. Councilwoman Donna Bell raised this concern again during Monday’s meeting.
“Part of the conversation that was had about the size of the marker was to make sure that that it was easily seen when someone came by, and especially if they were coming by at some distance. And so I have a concern that if that inscription is at the very bottom of the marker that it might get lost.”
Orr addressed this concern and offered the construction of a prototype marker.
“I do remember the conversation about the concern from Reverend Campbell and the group about looking down at the previous marker – that’s why this one is much larger. When you’re standing there you basically will be looking eye level and the top line of the quote.”
Orr estimates the marker will cost $4,100 which will be taken from the Cemetery Beautification Fund.
A unanimous vote approved the marker’s revisions and will allow the group to move forward with the marker’s construction and installation.
The Memorial Cemetery was also discussed during Monday’s meeting when Orr recommended the implementation of a columbarium project – which is the installation of vaults designed to hold urns. The council approved his recommendation and will review the designs and fees in the fall.http://chapelboro.com/featured/chapel-hill-moves-forward-with-new-cemetery-marker
Ben & Jerry’s announced a new flavor of ice cream called Empower Mint on Tuesday at North Carolina Central University. The ice cream makers have partnered with the North Carolina NAACP.
North Carolina NAACP President William Barber was joined by Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.
The goal of Empower Mint ice cream is to raise “awareness about the divide between two connected issues: the movement to expand voter rights and the movement to get money out of the political process.” According to a release, North Carolina was chosen “because of the regressive voting laws that have endangered access to democracy for all.”
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that requires voters to present an approved identification card. The law also includes provisions that eliminated same-day registration on Election Day and pre-registration for teenagers.
From Ben & Jerry’s:
“Democracy is in your hands! This fudge-filled flavor reflects our belief that voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment, & that an election should be more ‘by the people’ and less ‘buy the people.’ We all deserve an equal serving of democracy.”
Rev. Barber told the crowd gathered at the event, “They may have the money, but we have the movement.”
Empower Mint ice cream features peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirls. A portion of the proceeds will go to the North Carolina NAACP.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) May 17, 2016
Chapel Hill is getting a second chance at honoring the memory of 361 slaves and free people of color that are known to be buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.
In a meeting held Tuesday night, members of the town council and local community members discussed early plans for a September ceremony that could feature community leaders, speeches and music.
“It’s the mission of the NAACP to actually pass the traditions of African Americans in this community to the younger generations,” said local NAACP member Jesse Gibson. “One of the ways of doing that is to make sure they understand the history.”
A commemorative marker was installed in February, but was taken down after community members criticized the wording of the marker, which read “Here Rest in Honored Glory 361 American Persons of Color Known But to God.”
Allen Buansi explained why he thought they should change the wording of the marker.
“The people that were buried there, we don’t know they were all African American,” he said. “There were Native Americans around and other people of color.”
Community members were also upset because there was no ceremony celebrating the marker.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP president Robert Campbell said he thinks the ceremony the town is planning will be a learning experience, especially for local students.
“When there were some games here at UNC, people actually parked on the graveyard,” he said. “The crew went out to clean up, and they saw these odd shaped rocks and they decided they would take all the rocks away, but they were actually markers of graves.”
The committee will meet again May 15 to try to narrow down the options for the wording on the new marker.
Campbell said he was happy with the way the meeting turned out Tuesday and hopes for more community input moving forward.
“We’ll try to get more people to voice their opinion, at least about the service,” Campbell said. “I think we’ve got enough information to shape some wording on the marker itself, so I think we’re in a good place.”
Mayor Pam Hemminger said the tentative timeline has the town council formally hearing about the project plans in June.http://chapelboro.com/featured/chapel-hill-planning-ceremony-for-new-cemetery-marker
The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement announced a sit-in at the State Capitol planned for Monday.
The organizations held a press conference Friday condemning House Bill 2, as they held signs calling it “Hate Bill 2.”
House Bill 2 reversed a Charlotte ordinance that allowed people to use the bathroom based on their gender identity and extended protections to transgender individuals.
NAACP President Rev. William Barber said the bathroom provision of the bill was only a small part of the bill. It also prohibits local municipalities from making anti-discrimination policies and from establishing a local living wage.
“Do not be surprised that they would lie here and say that this is about bathrooms when really it is about manipulating the vote. It is bringing together homophobia, racism and classicism in a way that’s been used as long as we had to fight against racism,” said Barber.
Barber accused those who passed the bill as playing a political game.
“They got bad numbers in the polls, so what do they do?” said Barber, “they take this old playbook, this old poisonous brew, they shake it and mix it all up and put it in one bill.”
Last Sunday, Governor Pat McCrory appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and defended the bill as pushing back against government overreach and upholding our common expectations of privacy.
NAACP Attorney Al McSurely was confident that the legal battle challenging the bill would be successful.
“We are going to win this, we going to win it legally,” said McSurely. “The question is how much money do we spend, how many young people do we injure, how many suicides do we create, while they’re playing their games.”
Last week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that prevented a Virginia transgender teenager from using the boy’s restroom at his school. That ruling could have an effect on House Bill 2, especially in regards to Title IX funding.
Barber noted that now, all eyes are on North Carolina.
“A movement is not national because it has a Washington DC address; it’s national because of its impact. Over and Over again I heard people saying North Carolina is the epicenter, and the fight that we are waging in the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, is the center of the universe of fighting back,” said Barber.
On Monday, the groups plan to hold a mass sit-in in Raleigh as well as deliver a petition to Governor McCrory’s office.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/moral-march-against-hb-2-planned-for-monday
NAACP leaders called for a “speedy” and “transparent” investigation after a Raleigh Police Officer shot and killed a man on Monday.
According to Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown, 29 year-old Officer D.C. Twiddy was pursuing a man when the officer shot and killed him near the intersection of Bragg and East Streets in Raleigh.
Deck-Brown said that the State Bureau of Investigation was leading the investigation. Dr. William Barber, leader of the NC NAACP said that any conclusion of the investigation should be accepted.
“That has to be the attitude of anyone who is leading a police force. We are going to do a through, impartial investigative with transparency and wherever the truth leads,” said Barber.
The mother of the deceased cried as she stood next to Barber. She said she has not yet been able to formally identify the body.
“She is entitled to know why her son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s nephew was killed and this investigation should be resolved in a speed manner,” said Barber.
Police have not released the name of the man who was killed but several media reports and the NAACP press conference identified him as 24-year-old Akiel Denkins.
In her statement on Monday, Police Chief Deck-Brown said that a firearm was found near the scene. “Initially, it is known that a firearm was located in close proximity to the deceased suspect,” Deck-Brown said, “that weapon, along with all other elements available at the scene, will be processed.”
Deck-Brown also told reporters that the man was a suspect wanted on a felony drug charge but Barber cautioned against letting that control the narrative surround the shooting.
“A warrant for arrest is not a license to kill,” said Barber.
Authorities say Officer Twiddy has been with the Raleigh Police Department since 2009. Twiddy has been placed on administrative leave until the completion of the investigation.
On Monday evening hundreds gathered near the site of the shooting. Barber said that historical tensions between African-American and police are present in Raleigh.
“This tension is present in most cities and Raleigh is no exception to that history, all of us in America dealt with it,” said Barber. “The NAACP’s very existence grew out of some of this kind of tension.”
A preliminary report of the shooting is expected to be released within five days.http://chapelboro.com/featured/naacp-calls-for-transparent-investigation-into-raleigh-shooting
A group delivered a public records request to the UNC System General Administration offices on Tuesday regarding the firing of Tom Ross as System President and the subsequent hiring of Margaret Spellings.
Members of the North Carolina NAACP Youth and College Division along with members of Faculty Forward gathered at the C.D. Spangler Building on Tuesday morning asking for information about the hiring of Spellings to lead the 17-campus UNC System.
Longtime Chapel Hill civil rights attorney Al McSurely said that the group felt the board violated the state’s open meetings laws when hiring Spellings, the former U.S. Secretary of Education under George W. Bush.
“We believe this caucus secretly met in person, electronically and by phone to make decisions in an effort to avoid the strict sanctions of the open meetings law,” McSurely said.
McSurely said that he expected a response that some of the records requested are personnel files and therefore not subject to open records laws. He countered that they are “more than personnel matters, this goes right to the heart and soul of this university.”
McSurely added that the power the Board of Governors holds is given to them by the residents of North Carolina and the board members should be held accountable for their actions.
“We also pass laws – that’s the people, over at the people’s house – to prevent a small band of ideologues, bent on stealing rather than guarding our state treasure, to at least conduct their thefts in broad daylight,” McSurely said.
The group was protesting the 2015 firing of Ross that led to a much-criticized search process culminating in the hiring of Spellings. Kierra Campbell is a senior at UNC. Campbell said she was speaking out against Spellings for the President-elect’s connection with for-profit higher education.
“I came to UNC to get an education,” Campbell said. “I came to UNC to get a liberal-arts degree, and I’ve grown as a holistic person because of my education at UNC.
“And I believe any privatization of any type of education system is not going to allow other students to get the same opportunity.”
Altha Cravey is an associate professor at UNC and a member of the group of faculty speaking out against Spellings known as Faculty Forward. Cravey said she believes Spellings’ attitude toward students and faculty will be a detriment to the University System and the state.
“Margaret Spellings talks about students as customers,” Cravey said. “She does this repeatedly, and this is indicative of the ideology she holds that education is a private thing and not a public thing.”
Campbell said that she takes issue with Spellings and the process which resulted in her election as President.
“You’re hiring someone to represent us, to represent our needs, to fight for us and this woman doesn’t know us,” Campbell said. “She doesn’t know what students need. She doesn’t know what it’s like being on a campus. She’s not even a previous educator.”
Campbell added, “[Spellings] cares about the interest who put her in that power. She cares about corporate interest, and she cares about making money. And that’s what she’s good at, and that’s what she knows how to do. She doesn’t know how to take care of me.”
McSurely said the group was hopeful that the information would be delivered before the March 15 primary election is held in North Carolina.
Spellings’ first day as System President is set for Tuesday, March 1. The first BOG meeting under Spellings’ leadership is slated for March 4 at Fayetteville State University.http://chapelboro.com/featured/naacp-requests-records-over-hiring-of-margaret-spellings-as-unc-system-president
Despite freezing temperatures thousands came to downtown Raleigh Saturday morning to protest for voting rights and other causes.
The tenth annual Moral March on Raleigh and HK on J People’s Assembly was organized by the NAACP.
Handwritten signs called for healthcare for all and an end to private prisons, among dozens of others.
Tyler Swanson, an NAACP youth leader, said Raleigh was a good place to hold such a march.
“We stand in a city, we stand here on the shoulders of the great youth that came before us, to organize, to pave the way for us so that we can live in a better future,” said Swanson.
Advocates, like Kim Porter with NC Warn, spoke out for environmental protection.
“It’s a moral issue and an environmental justice issue when we worry about the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat,” said Porter.
The event began near Shaw University before making its way down Wilmington and Fayetteville streets to the state capitol, with marchers chanting along the way.
The main theme of the march was voting rights. The NAACP is the lead plaintiff in a recent federal case regarding North Carolina’s photo ID requirement to vote.
Even though supporters for presidential candidates were there, Rev William Barber, leader of the North Carolina NAACP, said the march did not support any specific politicians.
“You can come but you can’t have the movement, you can’t hijack the movement, whoever you are supporting that’s fine but we are supporting economic sustainability, addressing poverty and labor rights,” said Barber.
Critics of the movement say that their demands would cost tax payers thousands of dollars.
Organizers passed out filers encouraging people to register to vote, as well as spreading information for the upcoming primary.
“At the end of this march we are going to do a mass organizing and we need to sign up thousands of youth to join a volunteer army,” said Barber.
Marchers were enthusiastic and the energy was high but it remains to be seen if these efforts will increase voter turnout on Election Day.http://chapelboro.com/featured/thousands-attend-annual-hk-on-j-march-protest-voting-rights
Thousands are expected to march on the state capitol Saturday morning to protest voting rights, minimum wage and representation for all.
This will mark the 10th annual Moral March on Raleigh.
Dr. William Barber, leader of the North Carolina NAACP led a press conference announcing the march.
The march comes as a federal trail against North Carolina’s voter ID laws concluded last week. The NAACP was the lead plaintiff in the case, now Barber said they are taking the fight to the streets.
“This is our Selma, this is our time, this is our vote. We are fighting in the legislative halls, we are fighting in the court rooms but we are also determined and organized to fight in the street and to show up at the ballot box,” said Barber.
The ruling from the voter ID case isn’t expected to come down before primary voting begins in March, so voters will be required to bring a photo ID to vote unless they can prove a reasonable impediment such as disability, transportation or lack of proper documents. Lawmakers added the reasonable impediment clause last summer after a similar law in Texas was declared unconstitutional at face value.
Proponents of the bill say it helps prevent voter fraud. Opponents of the photo ID law say it disproportionately affects minorities.
“We believe that it is a tragedy that 50 years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act we have less voting rights today than we did 50 years ago,” said Barber.
North Carolina’s voter laws have changed rules regarding early voting and same day registration, though only the requirement to have a photo ID was being challenged during the trial.
Barber said he wanted to disprove the idea that anyone’s religious or personal beliefs would exclude them from the march.
“We are in fact made up of people who are deeply theological and conservative. I am,” said Barber.
Instead Barber advocated to judge policies on a moral basis.
“We look at policies based on, not personality but are those polices morally defensible, constitutional consistent and economically sane,” said Barber.
Critics have labeled the marches as left-wing activism.
Organizers of the event will also focus on registering voters and sharing information about the upcoming election.
“This will not just be a march, where we march and then go home. This is an organizing mobilization in the public square,” said Barber.
The mass moral march on Raleigh will begin at 9 am with an opening rally at Shaw University followed by a march down Fayetteville Street to the state capitol.http://chapelboro.com/featured/massive-moral-march-on-raleigh-planned-for-saturday
The much-debated North Carolina voter ID law was back in federal court this week.
Local Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman was called to testify in the trial on Wednesday. Nieman was called to provide his experience with residents who have had their license revoked and the demographic trends of those who have had their license revoked multiple times for minor infractions.
Nieman spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about his role in the trial:http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/local-assistant-district-attorney-testifies-in-voting-rights-trial
North Carolina’s branch of the NAACP said the state has not been adequately informing voters for the new rules for the 2016 elections.
Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP, said the organization is deeply concerned about the issue.
“According to the law, you can vote with or without a North Carolina driver’s license or other photo ID,” Barber said.
Voters without a photo ID will have to fill out a reasonable impediment declaration and be able to cast a provisional ballot. These voters must also provide their birth date and the last four digits of their social security number.
“That should be said up front in every ad, in every brochure,” he said. “Instead what we’re seeing is brochures where that information is on the back side five lines down. Or it may be casually mentioned in the radio ad but not mentioned up front.”
Examples of reasonable impediments given by the State Board of Elections include family obligation, disability or transportation problems.
“There is no standard for reasonable impediment as the law is written and as the state board has interpreted it to us,” said attorney Irving Joyner. “The problem is people out in the communities don’t know that. No one is telling them and the only message that is coming from the state board is that you have to have a state-sponsored voter ID.”
Joyner said this lack of information is also a problem because it affects poll workers. He said untrained poll workers may tell people who do not have an ID that they will not be able to vote.
“The director of the State Board of Elections has already acknowledged that people have not been trained,” he said. “We are roughly a month and a half away from the March 15 primary. If you’re not going to train them now, when are you going to do it?”
Although the NAACP is informing citizens about the changes to voting laws, Barber said the ultimate goal is to get rid of the voter ID laws entirely.
“We’re going to continue to fight,” he said. “We’re not going to be satisfied until the ID requirement is fully fixed and no voters are intimidated or kept from casting their ballot. We believe it, courts have already said at its face, photo ID is unconstitutional.”http://chapelboro.com/featured/naacp-state-not-properly-informing-voters-ids