Moral March on Raleigh Planned For Saturday

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.

Local Assistant District Attorney Testifies in Voting Rights Trial

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:

NAACP Says State Not Properly Informing Voters About IDs

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.”

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Candidate Forum

It is election season and candidate forums are helping voters decide who they will cast their ballot for this year.

Eight candidates are running for four open seats on the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Board of Education; two incumbents are not running for re-election.

A CHCCS debate on Monday night presented by the PTA Council, Chapel Hill – Carrboro NAACP and the Special Needs Advisory Council was aired live on WCHL.

Listen to the debate below:


Municipal races in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough will also be on the ballot this fall.

Early voting begins on October 22. Election Day is November 3.

Forum Saturday Will Tackle Equity, Excellence At CHCCS

The “achievement gap” has been a major issue in our local schools for years, even decades. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district is generally recognized as one of the very best in North Carolina (if not the best), but there’s a persistent disparity between rich and poor, and between whites and minorities, when it comes to test scores, graduation rates, and the other measures of academic performance. That disparity is wider in CHCCS schools than in many other districts. And there’s also a “gap” in discipline as well: students of color are more likely to be punished or suspended for infractions than their white peers, even when both commit the same offense.

Educators, administrators, staff, parents, and everyone else involved in the schools have long been concerned about those persistent “gaps.” But while the district has committed a great deal of resources and effort to tackling the problem, actual progress has been frustratingly minimal.

What are the next steps? How can our schools move toward equity and make real progress in closing the achievement and discipline gaps, while maintaining the excellent quality that the district is known for?

Members of the community are invited to a community forum on this topic Saturday, September 26, from 1-4 pm at Northside Elementary School. Co-sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Organizing Against Racism, the CHCCS Multicultural Student Achievement Network, and the CHCCS PTA Council, the forum is called “Achieving Equity and Excellence in Our Schools: Challenges and Opportunities.” Everyone’s invited to offer feedback, hear from others, and be a part of the ongoing effort.

Greg McElveen of the CH-C NAACP (a former school board member) and Wanda Hunter of Organizing Against Racism joined Aaron Keck on WCHL this week to discuss the forum and the larger issue.

Hundreds Gather in Hillsborough to Support Confederate Flag

Several hundred confederate flag supporters gathered in downtown Hillsborough Saturday for a ‘Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.’

It was pitched as an educational event to learn more about the history of the flag and other Confederate memorials. WCHL’s Jess Clark was there, listen below:


Last Thursday, on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, NC NAACP leaders held a press conference aimed to “promote the accurate history of ugly racist policies and symbols of hatred.”

NAACP Protests Hillsborough ‘Ride and Rally’

More than 150 people gathered in front of the historic Hillsborough courthouse for the North Carolina NAACP’s “Press Conference for Historical Accuracy.” The crowd included elected officials, local NAACP leaders and residents of many races, some waving small American flags.

North Carolina NAACP leader Rev. William Barber said his organization called the conference to mark 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act and to protest the 2013 state voting laws and moves by the 2015 legislature to protect Confederate monuments.

“Our current legislature and governor will protect monuments and flags of our racist past that fuels racism in our present, but they refuse to protect voting rights.”

The NAACP press conference in Hillsborough came two days before as many as 1,500 Confederate flag supporters are expected to converge upon the town for Saturday’s “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally.” The rally was organized in response to efforts to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from the Orange County Historical Museum.

“When we equate Southern heritage with pro-confederate rhetoric and symbols, we are falling victim to the lie of Southern heritage—a lie that so many of my white brothers and sisters have been fed for their entire lives,” said Laurel Ashton, field secretary for the North Carolina NAACP. She was one of many speakers at Thursday’s press conference who expressed skepticism about the history and values behind Confederate symbols.

“An accurate reading of history shows us that most Confederate monuments were erected 50 years after the war to celebrate a successful campaign of violent white terrorism to crush Reconstruction,” Ashton said. “An accurate reading of history shows us that it wasn’t until the 1950s when the Confederate flag became main-stream after a rise in white supremacy groups following the passage of Brown v. Board of Education.”

Rev. Barber called on Governor Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to repeal the monuments bill, saying the Confederate symbols it protects represent white supremacy.

“And if you push white supremacy to the nth degree, it means that you have the right to kill or destroy anybody that’s not like you,” Barber warned. “That’s dangerous. It’s dangerous yes, in the mind of Dylann Roof, but it is even more dangerous when it is supported by governors and legislatures of the state because it gives a legitimacy to it.”

The North Carolina NAACP will continue its protest of the state legislature and the removal of sections from the Voting Rights Act in a 170-mile march across North Carolina. The 170 miles are part of a larger march organized by the national NAACP. Like the historic march for voting rights in 1965, this summer’s march begins in Selma, Alabama, and ends in Washington, D.C.

‘Southern Heritage’ Rally Could Bring 1,500 to Hillsborough on Saturday

The Town of Hillsborough is preparing for a rally in support of Confederate heritage this Saturday that’s expected to draw more than 1,500 people.

Billed as an “educational rally about Confederate heritage,” the event is organized by a group called Orange County Taking Back Orange County.

Members are hoping to draw attention to an effort by Hillsborough leaders to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from a building built in 1934 that now serves as the Orange County Historical Museum.

The “Southern Heritage Ride and Rally” was inspired by a similar event in Alamance County last month that drew more than 1,000 supporters. Participants will drive from Burlington to Hillsborough then gather at 2 o’clock on the lawn of Town Hall for two hours of songs and speeches.

In a press release, Police Chief Duane Hampton says: “This is going to be a very challenging event for public safety to manage, and we are asking for and appreciate the community’s patience and help as this event happens.”

Multiple law enforcement and emergency management agencies will be on hand to direct traffic. Officials are asking “citizens who would like to express a counter view… to do so at another time.”

Police are also warning of traffic delays before and after the event. In addition to the rally, the Carolina Tarwheels Bikefest event is slated to come through Hillsborough on Saturday, with 850 cyclists visiting historic sites in and around town.

Police are reminding the public that weapons and alcohol are not allowed at the rally. You can learn more about parking options and street closings here.

In response to the planned “Southern Heritage” rally, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is hosting an event Thursday morning in Hillsborough called a “News Conference for Historical Accuracy.”

Reverend William Barber will commemorate the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and address the Governor’s decision to sign a bill protecting Confederate monuments.

That gets underway at 11 a.m. in front of the historic Orange County Courthouse at the corner of North Churton and East King streets in downtown Hillsborough.

North Carolina Voting Rights Trial Begins Monday

The case against a set of voting laws passed by the General Assembly in 2013 begins Monday in federal court.

The U.S. Department of Justice and civil rights groups, including the North Carolina NAACP, took issue with a series of voting laws the General Assembly passed in 2013. The Voter Information Verification Act, or House Bill 589, ended same-day voter registration and out-of-precinct voting. It also reduced the number of early voting days and requires voters to present a photo ID beginning in 2016.

Jasmyn Richardson is an attorney for the Advancement Project, an organization representing the NAACP in the case.

“We have a few big claims, to simplify them,” Richardson says. “The biggest one is under The Voting Rights Act.”

The Voting Rights Act is the landmark federal legislation of 1965 that outlawed racial discrimination in voting. Richardson says the plaintiffs will argue House Bill 589 conflicts with Section 2 of that Act.

“And under that section, we’re basically arguing that House Bill 589 as it is enacted places an unfair burden on African Americans and Latinos.”

Those racial minorities, Richardson says, use the voting provisions eliminated by House Bill 589 at higher rates than whites.

“Our argument essentially is that by taking that away, you’re taking away what a group of Americans, particularly African Americans and Latino Americans, had been accustomed to using,” Richardson explains.

Richardson says the plaintiffs will make several constitutional claims as well, arguing the bill applies differently to different people and that it places a burden on the general right to vote.

The state argues the laws are not discriminatory, but meant to increase confidence in the integrity of North Carolina elections.

Judge Thomas Schroeder will preside in the case. He serves on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Winston-Salem. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Memories on the Fault Lines of Race

Two people who wanted to be something else have grabbed our attention recently: Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP chapter president in Spokane, Wash., and Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon champion.

Dolezal, who grew up white, wanted to be black. She took every step she could think of to be a black person. Though her parents are white, she grew up with black siblings. She married a black man and has black, or mixed-race, children. She attended the historically black Howard University. Later, she worked enthusiastically and effectively to improve the lives of black people.

Bruce Jenner, who grew up male, wanted to be a woman. Many applauded, although some women said, “Oh no, you can’t be a real woman. You didn’t spend a lifetime with the terrible challenges that every real woman has to face.”

Although some African Americans welcomed Dolezal’s efforts to be a part of the black community, others said, “No. Only those who have actually suffered the challenges that all real black people face from birth can have a legitimate claim to be black.”

Dolezal and Jenner brought back an assortment of personal memories of encounters on the fault lines of race.

The late Maxine O’Kelly, an outstanding African-American leader, served on the UNC Board of Governors while I was Secretary of University. One day she explained to us that her very light skin created ambiguities and problems for her, so that she determined to marry someone with much darker skin, “so my children would never have to worry about people thinking they were white.”

Several years ago, at the request of then University of North Carolina-Pembroke Chancellor Joseph Oxendine, I worked for about six months in Pembroke, the unofficial capital of the Lumbee people. Some Lumbees have red hair and blue eyes, and others have very dark skin. These differences cause no problem for Lumbees. UNC-Chapel Hill history professor Malinda Maynor Lowery in her book, “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation,” lovingly and authoritatively explains that the identity of the Lumbee is defined primarily, not by the percentage of Indian blood, but by kinship, mutual recognition, and strong and longstanding connections to the land.

While we were living in Charlotte, my children were assigned to formerly all-black West Charlotte High School. Our children flourished, making us proud of their performance and of our connection with the school’s history. However, once an older woman in the school’s neighborhood jarred me when she said loudly and pointedly, “The white people have come and taken our school away from us.”

For many years, my family and I were active members of a predominantly black church in Charlotte, where our children learned at an early age the otherness of being a minority. But when I tried to take advantage of our commitment to the “black church” in my political campaigning, a black minister deflated my claims, saying, “That is not a black church. It is a white church that has black members.”

In “Civil Rights Journey: The Story of a White Southerner Coming of Age during the Civil Rights Revolution,” my brother-in-law, Joe Howell, explains how he and my sister were active in the civil rights movement in the deep South during the summer of 1964, at a time when the leadership of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) determined that white people would no longer be welcome in leadership positions.

Howell records his humiliation under the SNCC leadership on the same pages he describes the humiliations of the local blacks under the oppressive white power structure.

What are the lessons from these recollections?

I am not sure, except that when we react to those who want to change their lives dramatically or discuss our racial differences and attitudes, we should look for ways to communicate with kindness and respect.