2017: A year of turmoil for N.C.

2017: A year of turmoil for N.C.
January 04
02:00 2018

It was the year of recovering from the 2016 election of Donald Trump; when a Democratic governor came into office in North Carolina, bitterly opposed by GOP lawmakers; and a prominent black leader gained national prominence as he stepped away from the NCNAACP.

Those were just some of the top stories impacting North Carolina’s African-American community we covered in 2017.

January – Wake Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan is sworn-in to the NC Supreme Court, making him the second African-American to currently serve. Democrat Roy Cooper is sworn-in as governor, having unseated Republican Pat McCrory in the November 2016 election. Gov. Cooper immediately fulfills a campaign promise, choosing one of the most diverse gubernatorial Cabinets and administrations in North Carolina history. Meanwhile the director of the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro alleges to the Black Press that the facility is not being treated fairly by the City Council or Duke Energy.

At the urging of NC Republican legislative leaders, the US Supreme Court ordered a hold on any redrawing of the 2011 redistricting maps, as originally ordered by a special federal three-judge panel after the November 2016 elections. Gov. Cooper and Republican legislative leaders get into a war of words over repealing the controversial HB2 so-called “bathroom bill,” in addition to the NC General Assembly passing laws during a special session in Dec. 2016 that stripped the Democratic governor of many of his powers. Cooper sued the legislature, as a result.

Gov. Cooper appoints Durham Rep. Larry Hall, 61, to become secretary of veteran and military affairs, adding to the eventual large number of African-Americans serving in the governor’s Cabinet. As outgoing President Barack Obama prepares to leave office after eight years, North Carolinians dread the inauguration of Republican Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

A new study denotes that Black women are dying of cervical cancer at an alarming 77 percent rate higher to white women.

February – The NCNAACP blasts Pres. Trump’s false assertions of voter fraud. Duke Prof. Timothy B. Tyson makes national headlines with his new book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” when the Mississippi white woman whose husband killed the black Chicago teenager in 1956, admits for the first time that the 14-year-old did nothing wrong. The NCNAACP-led Forward Together Movement holds it’s 11th Annual HK on J Moral March on Raleigh and People’s Assembly. The GOP-led state Senate demands to vet Gov. Cooper’s Cabinet officers before approving them to serve. Gov. Cooper appoints Col. Glenn McNeil as commander of the NC Highway Patrol. Chancellors and presidents from North Carolina’s HBCU’s meet with Pres. Trump, and GOP lawmakers.

March – US Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions announces that the US Justice Dept. will no longer legally fight against voter ID laws. The NCNAACP and National NAACP Pres. Cornell Brooks call for an international economic boycott of North Carolina because of “repressive” policies by the Republican-led NC legislature. HBCU presidents and chancellors begin to doubt Trump administration promises to their schools. Emboldened by the Trump Administration, hate groups increase across the country.

Rock and roll icon Chuck berry dies at age 90. The Winston-Salem Chronicle is sold by founder/publisher Ernie Pitt. The controversial HB2 “bathroom bill” is repealed; shows and sporting events begin returning to North Carolina after a boycott. Kalvin Michael Smith, who supporters said was falsely convicted and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, is shot after he’s released from prison, and is listed in serious condition.

April – Concerns grow among HBCU leaders when Pres. Trump’s proposed budget doesn’t reflect promises he made to appropriate more funding to them. In fact, some funding is cut. Conservative federal Judge Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, is sworn-in as an associate justice to the US Supreme Court, retuning the high court to a 5-4 conservative majority. The International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro files a complaint against Duke Energy after the utility cuts off its power.

May – Winston-Salem Chronicle founder and publisher Ernie Pitt officially steps down. Donny Williams becomes Wilmington’s first African-American deputy police chief. Rev. William Barber announces that he is “transitioning” from the presidency of the NCNAACP in June to co-lead the national Poor People’s Campaign. In the meantime, Barber blast the UNC Board of Governors for threatening to close the UNC Center for Civil Rights, saying that it has no business litigating cases. The US Supreme Court upholds a 2016 ruling by an appellate court striking North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law down because it suppressed the black vote. Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman announces candidacy for the NCNAACP presidency. Gov. Cooper calls for a special session of the NC legislature to redraw its 2011 redistricting maps after the US Supreme Court agrees that they are unconstitutional.

June – There is concern that Trump Administration budget cuts to federal anti-poverty programs could profoundly hurt North Carolina for the next decade. GOP legislative leaders reject Gov. Copper’s call to go into special session to redraw the 2011 redistricting maps declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. Two black US Capitol Police officers thwart a mass assassination attempt by a lone gunman during a softball practice in Alexandria, Va. One of the officers was an alumnus of North Carolina Central University. NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber is asked to stay on until the October elections, and he agrees. Gov. Cooper veto’s the Republican-led legislature’s compromise $23 billion budget, and blasts them not funding the African-American Heritage Monument Project for the Capitol grounds.

July – US Rep. Alma Adams says Republican NC legislative leaders “don’t give a damn about citizens.” Raleigh-Apex NAACP Pres. Rev. Portia Rochelle announces that she is also running for state NAACP president. Freedom Monument project is in limbo after lawmakers fail to fund it in their budget. The NCNAACP blasts Pres. Trump’s nomination of Raleigh GOP Attorney Thomas Farr, who has defended the NC Republican Party in the voter ID case, and also worked for the late Sen. Jesse Helms. Hearings begin before a federal three-judge panel about whether the 2011 redistricting lines for North Carolina should be redrawn, and special elections scheduled. The judicial panel rules that the maps must be redrawn by Sept. 1st.

August – A federal three-judge panel blasted Republican legislative lawmakers for stalling their original August 2016 order to redraw racially gerrymandered legislative voting districts, and order that they be redraw immediately. Outgoing NCNAACP Pres. Bishop William Barber, calls the ruling a “major victory.” Meanwhile Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy: NC says the GOP are planning to pass another voter ID suppression law soon. In Charlottesville, Va. a young white woman is killed after an alleged white supremacist drives a car through a crowed street, killing her after demonstrators clash. Pres. Trump blames “both sides” for the violence. North Carolina religious leaders say white supremacist violence can happen here.

After statewide hearings, Republican lawmakers release redrawn redistricting maps, but plaintiffs suing to have new maps redraw legally show that the new maps are still unconstitutional. Sensing that the federal judicial panel is not pleased with the new maps, Republican leaders – who insist that race was not used in redrawing the districts – start publicly denouncing the process, and threatening to appeal to the US Supreme Court. Six past and current NC Supreme Court justices gather for the first time ever to commemorate their legacy on the state’s High Court. North Carolina’s two black congress-people, Alma Adams and G. K. Butterfield, stop short of saying that Pres. Donald Trump should be impeached.

September – Democrats express concern about Republican legislative efforts to craft a judicial redistricting plan. The NCNAACP joins the plaintiffs in the legislative redistricting case, charging that on the redrawn maps, 12 of the new districts are still racial gerrymanders, and are in violation of federal law. The US Census Bureau reports that more than 1.5 million North Carolinians live in poverty in the state.

October – Bishop Dr. William Barber formally steps down as president of the NCNAACP. Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman is elected to succeed him. Activist at the NCNAACP Convention in Raleigh warn about judicial redistricting, and other legal changes Republicans are planning. Federal partisan gerrymandering trial begins in Greensboro, with witnesses for the plaintiffs testifying that North Carolina’s partisan voting maps were extreme, allowing Republicans to win 10 of 13 congressional seats.

Rep. Alma Adams blasts Pres. Trump for essentially calling a black gold star widow a liar. Republican state Sen. Bill Rabon files a bill during the third Special Session of the year, reducing terms of service for state Supreme Court justices from eight years to just two. A federal three-judge panel designates a Special Master to redraw GOP redistricting maps. Despite efforts Pres. Trump, people flock to sign-up during the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act.

November – On Election Day, Vy Lyles is elected the first black female mayor of Charlotte, and Kinston elects an all-black Town Council. Durham Mayor Bill Bell steps down after a successful 16 years in office. Gov. Cooper orders more state business be done with minority companies. Rep. Alma Adams blasts Pres. Trump’s tax reform plan. Civil rights attorney Anita Earls announces 2018 run for state Supreme Court. Bishop Barber announces he’s going to Rome to meet the Pope. When he arrives, Barber is surprised that other world leaders know and admire him from his Moral Monday marches. Rev. Jesse Jackson announces he has Parkinson’s disease.

December – Gov. Cooper and Chief Justice Mark Martin agree to meet with the NCNAACP about criminal justice issues. Bishop Barber announces national Poor People’s Campaign to begin in May 2018. As blacks in the Alabama US Senate race help to defeat Republican candidate Roy Moore, the African-American Caucus of the NC Democratic Party gears up to turnout the black vote in 2018.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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