Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The march for justice in Ferguson


As told to me by: Mary Ratliff, President – Columbia Chapter NAACP &
NAACP Missouri State Conference of Branches

We had already walked 50 miles when we approached the small town of Rosebud. The police who escorted us on our journey told us we would have to get back on the bus that travelled with us. It was too dangerous for us to walk down the streets of Rosebud, they said. But we refused.
In a town that must have a population of 500, at least 400 hundred of them were in the streets, yelling and mocking and threatening us. As I walked down the streets of Rosebud, looking into the twisted faces of men and women spitting evil epithets, one woman, old, obsess and full of hatred chased us from corner to corner with a sign that read “all this for one dead nigger.”

No, this was not Selma Alabama in 1960, but the route between Ferguson Missouri and its state capitol, Jefferson City.
The Missouri State Chapter of the NAACP organized the 120-mile march to protest the decision of the Grand Jury not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Michael Brown down in the streets of Ferguson. NAACP National President/CEO Cornell William Brooks, who led the march, said that we had promised to have feet on the ground the entire 120-mile march, and we were not going to allow the hate that Rosebud Missouri represented stop us. I echoed his sentiments, and other marchers vowed that they too would march through Rosebud Missouri, with heads held high.

We had planned for a moment such as this. Adolphus Pruitt, Ist Vice President of the Missouri Conference and I worked diligently to lay the groundwork for the protest. We had explained to those marching that they could not fight back if attacked because all the media would cover was the violence connected with the march; not the violence that precipitated the march in the first place.
This was, perhaps, the most difficult part of the journey. Although we planned for it, we didn’t really expect it.  Not like this. I had flashbacks of Bull Conner, fire hoses and dogs. That was all that was missing to make this circa, 1960.

Many students from Lincoln University in Jefferson City had joined the march. One young student approached me and told me, “Mrs. Ratliff, I want to march, but they can’t spit on me, or hit me.” I told him it would be best if he were to ride the bus. I had to explain to him that those types of indignities, none of us wanted to bear. But if it happened, we would have to think of the greater good before giving in to our natural, human desire to meet violence with violence.  Straying from our commitment to non-violent protest would surely lead to confrontation, and possibly even death among ourselves or others.
We started our journey with about 60 marchers. The numbers rose and fell as we travelled the 120-mile stretch between Ferguson and Jefferson City. We had folks who would come out and walk with us in the evenings, and then go to work the next day.

Our only encounters were not with hatred. Along the way, groups of people would come out to greet us and wish us well. Many brought food and drink.  In Rosebud, even, one lone elderly lady stood on the side of the road and told us, “You are doing the right thing.”
By the time we reached the capital our numbers had swollen from hundreds to more than a thousand. What we saw on our journey from Ferguson to Jefferson City was both the worst and the best of humanity. The fact that this is not a post-racial society was crystalized in the tense moments when our movement came face-to-face with inbred racism that, if buried at all, lay only in a shallow grave. But we also saw people who looked pass the issue of race and saw the injustice in a system that is supposed to be designed to protect us all.

And that is really the issue. Not whether Mike Brown was a good kid or a bad kid. Not whether Wilson was a good cop doing his job to the best of his ability or a racist angered because a young black man defied him. The issue is whether our justice system can look at those moments when a life was extinguished on the streets of Ferguson Missouri and see neither man; only the acts that took place on that day, and determine whether those acts were just.
Thus far, our justice system has not been able to meet that standard. Until that standard is met, we will not stop. We cannot stop. We MUST not stop.  In the words of the old Negro spiritual, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired!”


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eric Garner Verdict, Saddening, but Predictable

By Mildred Robertson

It is with wonder that I heard the decision of the Grand Jury in the Eric Garner murder case. According to the dictionary, murder, by definition is “the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in the law;”  “The unlawful killing of another human being without justification or excuse.” Based upon these definitions, the taking of Eric Garner’s life undoubtedly falls into the category of murder.
So how is it that a group of American citizens can come together and determine that it is okay for a man to be choked to death on the streets of New York with an unlawful chokehold, with witnesses looking on and with a video of the entire incident? What could have possibly gone on in that court room that convinced those jurors that what happened on the streets of New York on July 17, 2014 was lawful and justified?

Or was that not even a consideration?
Has America determined that the life of a black man has no value? Has America yet again determined that African Americans are less than human, and therefore do not deserve the protections afforded by our constitution?  Is it safe to say, that if you are black in America, and scare some white person because you’re black, or you’re big, or perhaps, even aggressive, that you are automatically some demon-possessed hulk against whom lethal force is appropriate?
You know, I said it was with wonder that I heard the decision…not surprise. I would have been surprised had justice been served.
As I read social media about this incident and others like it such as the cases of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, I am amazed at the lack of empathy from so many about a life snatched unnecessarily soon. It as though young black men have no right to expect to reach adulthood.
I liken the Mike Brown verdict, along with that in the Trayvon Martin killing, and certainly the Eric Garner case, as modern day lynchings, where whites—not all, but enough to be disturbing—view it as entertainment.
They seem to take pleasure in the social unrest, pointing to looting and rioting as an excuse for the murder, not seeing the connection between societal ills and the behavior of some who are hopeless. I say some, because some of the actions taken by protestors are opportunistic.
It saddens me that the media has allowed the focus to be moved from the issue of the injustice to these young men, to the clearly lawless actions of a few. Let the law handle the looters – but our nation must face the very real threat of a racial chasm that will tear us apart if we do not acknowledge the very real racial disparities that are alive and well in our country.   
I caution my white brethren who are so quick to defend these lawless actions of the police in the Eric Garner and Mike Brown cases. If given this type of leeway in the black community – who is next. If you sit by and watch them come for me—once they have completed that task, will they come for you? Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Political and Civil Rights Icon Brad Thompson Urges North Carolinians to Vote

Why I'm going to Vote

By Brad Thompson

It seems that too many people are questioning whether their vote matters in this election. I am convinced that it matters a great deal and I am going to make sure that I vote. Early voting begins October 23rd and Election Day is November 4th. I will be in the number.

 We do not have to look beyond our own borders in North Carolina to see the debilitating effect of not participating. Voter Suppression has turned into Voter Intimidation with Americans for Prosperity distributing misinformation to voters about  their status. We have elected to not participate in the Affordable Care Act denying hundreds of thousands of people access to health care. We have cut education by $500,000,000 leading to larger class sizes and fewer teachers. We have now  sunk past Mississippi to the lowest state in support for education in the country. We have eliminated the Racial Justice Act. We have ended the Low Income Tax Credit for families that really need it. We have cut the length and the amount of  unemployment compensation. This has been led by a reactionary General Assembly that in a few years is seeking to dismantle years of progress. Is this the price we are prepared to pay? When is enough enough?

 I am not so jaded as to feel that everything is made right by voting. It is not. But it is one place where our capital is equal. A vote counts no matter who places it. People we care about are being hurt daily by these misguided public policies. It must stop. And if casting my ballot leads to the ending of this, I will cast my ballot. It is not for the brave people who fought so hard, even gave their lives, for our right to vote. It is for me and my children that I do it. It is for those of us who live today and for those who will follow us.

 This is too important to be taken for granted. I hope everyone who can will vote.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

North Carolina GOP Internal Battles Stall Short Session

By Mildred Robertson

A Herculean battle is raging in North Carolina as opposing forces struggle for domination in the North Carolina Legislature.
You might think it is the Moral Monday demonstrators who have been a thorn in the side of the Republican-led legislature since the 2012 elections; calling for voting rights, women’s rights, Medicaid expansion and a number of other social imperatives.
 Or it is possibly the North Carolina Public School teachers who have been both lauded and reviled during this legislative session by those who think that many, perhaps most, are unworthy of their pay, or should work harder for it, or don’t need extra hands in the overcrowded classroom.
No, you say, it must be the women of North Carolina who must give over their health decisions to their bosses and travel half-way across the state to find the health services they need.   Or could it be environmentalists who are appalled at the slipshod manner in which the legislature has moved forward with plans to begin fracking in the state.
Surely it must be the unemployed struggling to hold on to their homes and feed their children while their weeks of eligibility are whittled away.
Well, recent polls by both the conservative group Civitas and the left-leaning Public Policy polling say none of these groups have great love for the 2014 North Carolina Legislature. But the battle between these groups and the Republican-led legislature pales in comparison to the battle within the ranks of the NC GOP itself. A three-way tug-of-war between the House, the Senate and the governor have all but paralyzed the state.
While one would think that a party that controls both chambers and the governor’s mansion would whiz through the short session, piling up victories as the opposing party gnashes its teeth and beats its chest in defeat, not so in North Carolina. In fact, the Democrats have ordered popcorn and a coke as they watch the GOP implode.
The short session, which has languished into July, has produced few victories for the GOP as they battle each other with the vigor of mortal enemies. A budget battle has positioned the GOP in opposition to educators and state workers. The move to use lottery earnings to fund teacher pay raises has enraged many on the religious right. The GOP appears baffled as to how to address Medicaid issues. They cannot even decide how much of a short-fall to anticipate, much less how to rectify it.
It would seem that the NC GOP would be relishing its victory over redistricting, voting rights restrictions, budget cuts, reductions in unemployment benefits, and the taking of both chambers of the legislature and the Governor’s mansion. But let us not forget—they are the party of “No.”
 It turns out they know how to fight much better than they know how to legislate, and so they fight one another.

What Does it Take to Be a "Traditional" North Carolinian?

Guest Commentary
By: Brad Thompson, President BTA Public Relations

It seems that after 400 years, more than 250 of those in slavery, and almost 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Bill, and after the Savagery on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, after the loss of life of courageous Americans in not only the Civil Rights struggle but the Wars in which we participated, we still have not earned the right to be considered "American". How far do we have to go before we can be recognized as "traditional"?

House Speaker Thom Tillis has again let the "cat out of the bag" on his thinking on who represents the "true" North Carolinians. And make no mistake about it, you (minorities) are not included. No pretty words can cover the fact that "traditional" means "white only".

That offends and should not be taken lightly.

I am happy Rev. Earl Johnson and the RWCA in Wake County called attention to this with a Press Conference. They should not be the only voice heard in response to this thinking. It is understandable why the General Assembly is able to enact such repressive legislation with the "leadership" thinking as it does.

 We have come too far to turn back. "Forward Ever, Backwards never".

Brad Thompson is President, and Principal Consultant for BTA Public Relations. A former Mayor Pro-Tem of Raleigh, NC and State Director of the Office of U.S. Senator John Edwards, Brad brings to the team more than 25 years of marketing, outreach and political organizing experience. He has successfully managed marketing programs and political campaigns at the local, regional and state levels. He has extensive awareness of and relationships with principals and organizations throughout North Carolina and the Southeast and is often consulted on strategy and major policy issues, particularly those affecting the African American community. Brad specializes in new market and partnership development and in team building. Brad is a graduate of NCSU in Engineering Operations where he was a Herbert Lehman Scholar.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014


By Mildred Robertson
After a valiant fight against lung cancer, on Wednesday, May 21 at about 8 p.m. Central Standard Time, 51-year-old Dwayne C. Cox transitioned from earth to Heaven. His battle had been a long one, even though, much of the time he did not know his enemy’s nature. You see, he had no health insurance and was not diagnosed with cancer until it was too late.
He knew he was sick. He knew it was serious. He sought help, making numerous trips to the emergency room, only to be sent home with some pain meds, and a diagnosis of a pulled muscle, or no diagnosis at all.
Dwayne was one of the masses of people who make enough to live, but not to afford the luxury of a health insurance policy. He was fairly young, robust, and early on, it seemed like a good gamble to choose other expenditures over health insurance premiums.
And the system just was not that concerned about him. 
Months before his death, he decided to make yet another trip to the emergency room. This time, he said, he would not leave until they told him what was wrong with him. He prayed to God to move on his behalf, and his prayer was answered. He was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and he finally began to get treatment.
But it was too late. They even enrolled him in a clinical trial to attempt to prolong his life—but, it was too late.   
You see, I do not believe Dwayne had to die right now. Had his illness been diagnosed earlier his life most likely could have been prolonged, or perhaps even saved. Life is not something you should have to purchase. Whether you live or die should not depend upon your bank account. Treatable illnesses should not be turned into death sentences. Unnecessary pain and suffering should not have to be endured because of economic status. Help should not be withheld until the end is obvious and inevitable.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, North Carolina is among 19 states not moving forward with Medicaid expansion. There are 27 states, including Washington D.C., that are implementing expansion and 5 states in open debate about it.  Missouri, where Dwayne lived, has opted out of Medicaid expansion. Had the benefits of the Affordable Care Act been available to him, would he still be alive?
In my home state of North Carolina there are 168,000 uninsured people eligible for Medicaid; 130,000 of them children. Nationwide, there are 3.6 million uninsured individuals who are eligible for Medicaid, but won’t get it because the state they live in has opted not to expand Medicaid coverage. According to a New York Times Poll, more than half the people in many of those states support the expansion. 

Universal health care is not about politics. It is about people.

Dwayne was a father, a brother, a son, a nephew, a grandfather, who died too soon. That is why state legislatures that stand in the way of coverage for the nation’s most vulnerable are so insidious.  That is why the expansion of Medicaid is so essential.
For Dwayne, it is too late. But for millions who live without the safety of healthcare coverage, there is still time.

Raise your voice. Demand universal expansion of Medicaid coverage.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


By Mildred Robertson

If you are a former foster child between the ages of 18-26, you may be eligible to enroll in Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). ACA allows young adults coming out of the foster care system to get Medicaid coverage, regardless of income, until they reach the age of 26, just as other young adults are able to remain on their parent’s health plan.
According to “Stateline Weekly,” about 26,000 young adults ages 18-22 years leave the foster care system each year. These young adults are left without state protection. But ACA grants these individuals full Medicaid coverage until they reach 26 in the state where they lived when they left the foster care system.
The problem however, is that many eligible young adults are not participating in the program. Former foster children many times are transient, relocating to go to school, find jobs, reunite with family, or are simply homeless. According to “Stateline Weekly,” 26,000 young adults leave foster care each year without permanent homes.
It is imperative that we get the word out about the availability of this valuable resource to young adults who sorely need the health coverage. Under ACA, they are entitled to it, whether the state they live in participated in the health exchange or not.
Under the Chaffee option, a provision of the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, young adults released from foster care were eligible for Medicaid until they reached 21 years of age. Now, under ACA, that coverage is extended to the age of 26. It is not part of the Medicaid expansion, so the benefit applies in all states, not just the ones that expanded Medicaid.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lewinsky Irrelevant to Political Discourse

Monica Lewinsky – Really?

By Mildred Robertson
Okay. I get that keeping the blue dress did not work out like you planned; nor did your little romp under the presidential desk. But do you really think you can be made relevant again because Hillary may run for the White House?
It is sad that Lewinsky can get a spread in a major magazine because at one time she made a horrible mistake and consorted with a married man. It is even sadder that some might consider the ill-conceived affair between Lewinsky and Bill Clinton an issue relevant to whether Hillary Clinton is qualified to be the first female elected to the highest office in the nation.
The affair does not reflect on Hilliary’s character, but that of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky—neither of whom is running for president. While Republican opponents will do their best to make Lewinsky an issue; and she will do her best to become fodder for the nightly news, the affair just doesn’t matter as it relates to presidential politics.
The stakes are too high, and the cause too important to let a “reality TV” mentality dictate the nation’s political debate. The nation is currently emerging from one of the most devastating economic downturns in recent history. Heightened racial tension is supplanting the perceived “post-racial” society that many proclaimed upon Obama’s election.  Scientists are telling us that global warming is not a future threat, but one that we face today. Voting rights are being threatened throughout the South and millions of Americans go to work every day, but still can’t afford adequate food or housing.
So let’s get to the facts. Where does Hillary stand on the minimum wage; job creation, universal healthcare, education, social and racial justice, global warming and international conflicts across the globe?  These are questions that will determine whether she is fit to lead the most powerful nation in the world.
It is too early for me to determine who I will support in the 2016 Presidential election. I do want to determine how the candidate that I support will address issues of national concern. But I can guarantee that a philandering husband will not be among the measures that I use to make my choice.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Justice for Jacksonville Teen Jordan Davis

Florida Gun Laws Amount to 21st Century Lynching
By Mildred Robertson
Well, it was almost justice. A bewildered Michael Dunn raised his hands in disbelief as a Florida jury found him guilty of shooting into a car of unarmed Black teenagers, and killing one of them. Mind you, they didn’t find him guilty of murder.  The white 47-year-old software engineer started an altercation with the teenagers in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot because he thought their music was too loud. He then fired 10 rounds into the vehicle, killing Jordan Davis.
Dunn claimed self-defense. But what was he defending himself from? There was no weapon found in the car—just a dead child.
It is a familiar story. Young Black males seem to be deemed inherently dangerous just by their existence. It appears that Florida juries find it reasonable for armed grown men to mow down Black youth without fear of repercussion. The Florida gun law is the 21st Century hangman’s noose where society says it is okay to sacrifice a Black child at the whim of any white citizen. That citizen can be found innocent because any “reasonable” person would have feared for his or her life in the presence of this child.
But where is the reason? Is it not “reasonable” for a young Black man to expect the freedom to walk safely to the corner store for skittles and a soda? Is it not reasonable for Black youth to drive into a service station for gas, without the fear that they will lose their lives because some stranger does not appreciate their tone when they ignore his reprimand?
Just as in the George Zimmerman case, Dunn provoked this encounter. He did not have to address the issue of the loud music with the young men. He could have mentioned it to the store clerk. Or he could have just got his gas, got in his car and drove away. Yet all he had to do to get a pass in Florida was to say that someone in the car threatened him, and he “thought” he saw the barrel of a rifle. In Florida, that will get most white men a “get out of jail free” card. (It did not work so well for Marrisa Alexandar, also of Jacksonville, a Black women who fired into the wall to frighten a known abuser away).
Dunn made the mistake of firing at the fleeing car, which is what could earn him 60 years in prison. Even in Florida, they couldn’t figure out how to make folks in a fleeing car be seen as a threat.
It is good that Dunn was at least found guilty of these lesser charges. Florida has mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for crimes committed with guns. So Dunn faces 20 years for each of the three counts of his conviction. That is likely little comfort to Davis’ grieving family.
It appears prosecutors will retry Dunn on the murder charge. If they do, Florida needs to be aware that the whole world is watching. Because of its racial overtones, the trial has drawn international attention.