Hapy New Year: A year in reviewBy Afrique I. Kilimanjaro, Editor & Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer / January 1, 2016
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In Greensboro, a number of landmark achievements occurred as well as struggles and points of contention that divided and ultimately brought the community together. There were historical commemorations as well as contemporary achievements that will affect life in Greensboro in the future. As we say goodbye to 2015, we look back at some of the memorable news stories and headlines featured in the Carolina Peacemaker. If you thought 2015 had lots of fireworks, 2016 is likely to be just as lively.
Hayes Taylor YMCA opens new facility
The new 55,000 square foot Y held its grand opening last January 17. The state-of-the–art facility, located at 2630 E. Florida Street in Greensboro, includes amenities such as a wellness center, exercise studios, gym and indoor track, teen/inter-generational center, daycare center, kids’ adventure center, child watch room, community room and a café.
Col. Larry Burnett, executive director of Hayes-Taylor said, “This facility is more than just brick and mortar. We want it to be a hub where people can come together and make a difference in Greensboro.”
55th Anniversary of the Woolworth’s Sit-ins
The North Carolina A&T State University family gathered in early February to celebrate and remember the courageous act of four A&T freshmen: Ezell Blair Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond. These students began the lunch counter sit-ins at the Woolworth’s store on February 1, 1960 in downtown Greensboro. The “A&T Four” sat – in at the Whites–only Woolworth’s lunch counter and refused to leave when denied service. They stayed until the store closed and returned the next day with 25 fellow students. That pivotal moment helped galvanize the American Civil Rights Movement and lunch counter sit-ins across the United States.
Attending this year’s events were surviving A&T Four members Jibreel Khazan and Joseph McNeil. Sons of the late Frank McCain and David Richmond- Franklin McCain Jr. and David Richmond Jr., participated in panel discussions and ceremonies representing their respective families.
U.S. Rep. and A&T alumnus, Edolphus “Ed” Towns, served as keynote speaker. Towns told the A&T students, faculty, alumni and friends, “We must stand up for equal opportunity, better schools, fair minimum wage, immigration policies that make sense, voting [rights], and [against] racism. No more excuses…”
Lynch sworn in as Attorney General
North Carolina native Loretta Lynch was sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States. She is the first Black woman and the second woman to serve in this office. Lynch thanked her parents, the Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, a retired Baptist minister and Lorine Lynch, a retired librarian who now reside in Durham, N.C. Both were on stage during her swearing in ceremony. In her remarks, Lynch said, “To the people of this great nation, your protection, your liberties and your rights will be my sacred challenge.”
The U.S. Senate confirmed Lynch on April 23 by a vote of 56-43. That vote ended a five-month partisan deadlock over her nomination by President Barack Obama. Lynch waited for a vote longer than the last seven attorneys general combined.
GSO NAACP membership votes down SB 36
The membership of the Greensboro NAACP unanimously voted down a decision by its Executive Board to support State Senate Bill 36, a bill to redistrict the Greensboro City Council and take voting power from the mayor. More than 100 members of the Greensboro branch attended the monthly community membership meeting (Marsh 15) at Union Memorial Church on Lee Street (now Gate City Blvd.).
During a senate hearing on the bill (March 10), N.C. District 27 Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford), lead bill sponsor, read a letter from the Greensboro branch’s executive board stating that the organization supported SB 36. The bill makes the Greensboro City Council an all-district system with no at-large representation. It makes the mayor a non-voting member of council except in the case of a tie. It extends council terms from two to four years. Residents would vote for two people, a district representative and mayor, whereas the current system allows voters to cast five votes: one for district rep, three at-large reps. and mayor. The bill at one point included a provision that Greensboro could never amend the legislation. That may be changed, however it’s all being challenged in court.
According to Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, third Vice President of the N.C. NAACP, who attended the Union Memorial branch meeting, the branch’s leadership violated the NAACP’s constitution. Any bill regarding redistricting is to be vetted by the state organization’s attorneys, which did not happen with SB 36.
Spearman, newly transferred to Greensboro to serve as pastor of St. Phillip AME Zion Church on Ashe Street, became a hero to many people in Greensboro’s African American community because he stood and stated to Melvin “Skip” Alston, an NAACP Executive Board member, former state NAACP president and an ardent redistricting bill supporter, “Mr. Alston, you are bullying your way to destroying this branch.”
Alston explained, “I support Senate Bill 36 and I think it’s good for the African American community. The plan would give African Americans majority control over at least three districts and influence in a fourth.”
While the bill passed the state senate, it remained dormant for weeks in a House committee. Wade was able to turn the bill into a “Trojan horse” by adding it to HB 236, a somewhat popular Trinity, N.C. redistricting bill. All of Wade’s maneuvering ultimately led to HB 263’s passage without proper vetting or public input.
Now lawsuits have taken flight and Greensboro residents have vowed to fight the measure in the courts.
Community unveils massacre marker
A marker erected to recognize the events of November 3, 1979 was unveiled on Sunday, May 24 at the intersection of McConnell Road and Willow Road in Greensboro. The marker recognizes the killing of five Communist Workers Party (CWP) members at the hands of members of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party. The CWP members were participating in a demonstration at the Morningside Homes Housing complex. The marker reads, “Greensboro Massacre: Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party members, on Nov. 3, 1979, shot and killed five Communist Workers Party Members one-tenth mile north.” The five members were Sandi Smith, Dr. James Waller, Bill Sampson, Cesar Cauce and Dr. Michael Nathan. Last February, the Greensboro City Council voted 7 to 2 to support the placement of the marker.
Renaissance Co-op secures funding from city
With nearly three years of planning, the Renaissance Community Cooperative has made significant progress and intends to open a full-service grocery store at the Renaissance Shops at Phillips Avenue, formerly the Bessemer Shopping Center.
Last April, the Greensboro City Council passed a resolution to support the Renaissance Co-op and awarded it a Challenge Grant of $250,000. The vote passed 6 to 3, with council members Tony Wilkins, Mike Barber and Zack Matheny voting no.
The community-owned 10,000 square foot grocery store will alleviate a 17-year food desert created when grocery store giant Winn-Dixie closed in 1998.
“We’ve come a long ways and it’s time to move forward to bring closer some fresh fruits, vegetables and fresh meat to our community,” said former Greensboro City Council member Dr. Goldie Wells, president of the Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice.
America’s Journey for Justice focuses on voting rights in N.C.
America’s Journey for Justice, an 860 mile walk led by the NAACP, was deemed the longest walk advocating civil rights in history. The journey began August 1 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and ended Sept 16 in Washington, D.C. North Carolina’s participation in the journey maintained a laser sharp focus on voting rights with 13 Greensboro residents representing Temple Emanuel, Beth David Synagogue and New Garden Friends School marching from Fuquay Varina to downtown Raleigh. The Old North State remains at the forefront of the battle over voting rights.
in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4b and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Those provisions utilized a formula (4b) and required state jurisdictions (primarily in South) to be precleared (5) regarding any changes to their voting district maps and voting practices. Jurisdictions under such rules were noted to have long histories of racial discrimination.
North Carolina still has the strictest voting laws in the nation and a battle to protect access to the ballot box is currently being waged in federal court. The law shortens early voting, eliminates same day registration during the early voting period, prohibits voters from casting out-of-precinct provisional ballots, expands the ability to challenge voters at the polls, eliminates a pre-registration program for 16 and 17 year-olds and requires voters to show a photo ID prior to voting.
Four African Americans win Greensboro City Council seats
The claim that redistricting of Greensboro would provide more representation for African Americans may be moot since the city’s voters recently elected a record four African Americans to serve on the Greensboro City Council, the most in Greensboro history.
Longtime public servant and incumbent Yvonne Johnson was elected At-Large and continues to serve as mayor pro tem. She is joined by incumbents Jamal Fox who represents District 2 and Sharon Hightower, District 1 representative. District 3 Rep. Justin Outling, handily defeated his opponent to represent the district outright. Outling, a graduate of UNC Greensboro and Duke Law School, was initially appointed to finish Council person Zack Matheny’s unexpired term.
These representatives will serve alongside Marikay Abuzuaiter (At-Large), Mike Barber (At-Large), Nancy Hoffman (D-4), Tony Wilkins (D-5) and Mayor Nancy Vaughan. As our city and world become more inclusive and the voting process preserved and protected, more people from diverse backgrounds will undoubtedly be elected to serve in public office
Group works to improve Greensboro Police/community relations
More than 200 people attended a Nov. 19 City Community Working Group meeting on race relations. This meeting, held at Shiloh Baptist Church, was the group’s first public gathering. The group developed from a community police accountability meeting held in 2014 at Bennett College and has been meeting every Monday for nearly a year to discuss ways the improve police/community relations in Greensboro.
The group formulated four proposals and called on the Greensboro City Council to initiate the following:
- End “contact” policing by officers in the Greensboro Police Department.
- End the practice of charging people with delaying, obstructing or resisting arrest unless those charges are linked to some precipitating charge.
- End the practice of making marijuana possession a high priority crime since it has been used as justification for targeting young Black males.
Review and revise anti-bias training currently provided to GPD employees.
This meeting also highlighted the case of the Scales brothers in Greensboro; two young African American men who were stopped and arrested by GPD for walking in the street. In addition, an investigative article published in the New York Times revealed that African Americans in Greensboro are subjected to more traffic stops and searched four times more often than Whites.
Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott, Mayor Nancy Vaughan, members of city council, the county school board and residents have been active participants in this ongoing dialogue.
Warnersville celebrates 150 years
Greensboro’s oldest African American community celebrated its 150th anniversary with a three day celebration that will be remembered for years to come.
Warnersville was the first African American community in Greensboro founded for freed slaves. This year, the community was awarded the distinction of being the first ever Heritage Community in the state of North Carolina. Warnersville received the North Carolina Council of Museums Award of Excellence for its exhibit at the Greensboro Historical Museum entitled, “Warnersville Our Home, Our Neighborhood, Our Stories.” This exhibit will be showcased through February 14, 2016.
Union Square campus breaks ground
The first building of the Union Square Campus is under construction. The building will house collaborative nursing programs from North Carolina A&T State University, UNC Greensboro, Guilford Technical Community College and support from Cone Health. The completed building will be located at the corner of Gate City Boulevard (formerly Lee Street) and South Elm Street in Downtown Greensboro.
The three-story building will contain classrooms, labs and offices for nursing education. The program will offer two-year Associates degrees, RN, BSN and accelerated BSN programs, Doctor of Nursing Practice and continuing education certificate programs.
During the ground breaking ceremony, Cone Health’s Chief Nursing Officer, Teresa Broderick said, “This campus will have state-of-the-art labs and training for our students. The most important thing is the collaboration of the universities. The deans and chancellors of these universities put aside the competitiveness and got together to collaborate on this site. I anticipate great things to come. This will be the place to get your nursing education.”
ID bill targeting immigrants signed by McCrory
A group comprised of Greensboro residents, faith leaders and Greensboro Police Department administrators spoke out in October against actions by the N.C. General Assembly to limit the types of identification undocumented residents can use in the state.
The Protect North Carolina Workers Act (HB 318) was signed into law last fall by Gov. Pat McCrory. The bill bans cities and counties from establishing “sanctuary cities” for people living in the United States illegally. Law enforcement agencies may now collect residents’ immigration information and report it to the federal government. The bill also requires employers to use E-Verify, a federal database to determine a prospective employee’s immigration status, with the exception of farm workers.
Photo ID cards distributed by Greensboro nonprofit, FaithAction International House help immigrants obtain services such as utility service connections. The law now makes only specific types of identification acceptable to obtain city services. Pay stubs, utility bills, property tax receipts and government issued ID cards by foreign consulates are now considered invalid.
The law also includes a provision affecting childless and unemployed food stamp recipients who work or volunteer less than 20 hours a week by ending 90 day food stamp extensions.
Greensboro City Council also passed a resolution opposing this law.
Dr. Franklin Gilliam, chancellor of UNC Greensboro
UNC Greensboro welcomed Dr. Frank Gilliam, who became the eleventh chancellor (first African American man) selected to lead the university. Gilliam was appointed by the UNC System Board of Governors last May. He comes to Greensboro from Los Angeles where he served as Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. He was also a professor of public policy and political science at the university. Gilliam succeeds Chancellor Linda Brady who retired in March.
A. native of Bloomington, Minn., Gilliam earned a B.A. from Drake University (Iowa) and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa (Iowa City). He said, “It’s important to connect the community to the campus.” He noted that UNCG and other universities in the area have seen that by fusing resources together, they can help grow the city of Greensboro.
Jane Fernandes, president of Guilford College
Dr. Jane Fernandes became the ninth president and first woman to lead Guilford College in its 178 year history. Fernandes holds a bachelor’s degree in French, a master’s and a doctoral degree in comparative literature. She leads a faculty comprised of 180 people plus 180 staff members. All come together to guide the educational endeavors of more than 2,000 students. Fernandes told those in attendance at her August 26 installation ceremony, “Guilford was my first choice. I accept this responsibility with great humility.”
We will always remember the following people who passed in 2015:
- Julian Bond, civil rights activist, professor and former chairman of the NAACP
- Amelia Boynton, civil rights activist.
- Dr. Josephine Boyd Bradley, first African American to integrate and graduate from Greensboro High School
- Rev. Howard Chubbs, pastor of Providence Baptist Church
- Howard Coble, former U.S. Congressman representing the Sixth District
- Frankie Daye, executive director of the Paul Robeson Theatre at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University
- Ida Jenkins, longtime educator who died at age 103
- Marilyn Easterling Pinckney, beloved mother, grandmother, educator and friend.