Now what?

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There’s been a lot of prayer lately.
Prayer for officers. Prayer for the victims that were killed by officers. Prayer for the families that have lost loved ones, both officers and black and brown men.
We’ve marched. We’ve had community forums. We’ve blocked highways, called for blackouts and held town halls that have held the ears and eyes of thousands.
People black, white and blue have begged for some type of reform but yet nothing has been done.
So do we give up?
Do we decide that our opinion doesn’t matter?
Do we say that we can’t change the perceptions and narratives that beget fear on both sides of the fence?
Do we go home and give up or do we continue the mission even after we’ve picked up and bagged all of the bullets?
Throughout all of this did we come up with solutions? That’s what we need. Let’s look past the police interactions gone wrong. Let’s not ambush police in retaliation killings. Let’s use our power.
Let’s do what’s necessary to make sure that things like this no longer happens. That starts at the root of the problem, whether it’s systematic and institutionalized racism or sheer lack of knowledge. Call your senators and representatives and let them know what you want. Call your local leaders and ask them what they plan to do to combat the inequalities and injustices that are carried out on a daily basis on in education, employment, housing and government politics.

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I had a conversation about a march that was held in High Point on Sunday. Someone observed the lack of city council members in the crowd. As in zero. Don’t like it? Call members of High Point City Council and ask them why they felt that it was unnecessary to stand in solidarity with the African-American community.

Editors Note:  I’m told that Chris Williams walked with the marchers. Jeff Golden came through on his way to work.

The bottom line is that there are people who can change some of the more legal issues we face on a daily basis. There are laws that can examined, policies that should be reformed and initiatives that could be taken seriously. Our paid representatives are supposed to act on our behalf. If they’re not doing what you feel should be done let them know. They work for you. Not businesses, corporations or the wealthy only. Especially when they accept a stipend from ALL of our tax-payer dollars.

If they can’t do that then perhaps you should look at voting them out so they can focus on doing what that small percent wants them to do. Without taxpayer’s dollars.

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Source: Facebook

Let’s be 100 percent transparent – There will still be people who will hate you because of the color of your skin. There will still be people who fear you because of the color of your skin. You can’t change that. You can make it so that if they act on that hate they will have to face the consequences.  You can show them that no matter how much they hate, it doesn’t run your life and decisions. You can show them that their hate doesn’t drown out your voice.

So again I ask, what will you lend your power to?

It’s easy to call the plays when you’re not in the game.

It’s easy to explain what you would’ve done if you weren’t in the situation?

It’s just as easy to place the responsibility on someone else when you don’t feel like it’s your job.

Want to see change? Be the agent of change. Because standing around twiddling your thumbs does nothing to make sure things these shootings don’t continue to become the norm.

So again I ask you, what will you lend your power to?

I’m Just Saying.

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Washington Street sings the Blues

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You ever heard the term “too little, too late?”

In this case it has no choice but to ring true. So true that we should all meet down at Jackie’s Place to hear some lady sing the blues.

She should sing to that fact that it just couldn’t come together. She should sing to the fact that no one cared long ago to take the steps required to keep the legacy going. She should sing in order to express the sorrow that was felt as we watched each historic brick being removed.

Oh Jackie would have a packed house if this lady sang to the “should’ve been’s”, “could’ve been’s” and the “if only’s” that have fallen off the lips of those who cared, didn’t care or just didn’t care enough to care.

Instead we’re stuck looking at a piece of legislation that has reared its head after we’ve lost three key features to High Point’s African-American History. The Kilby Hotel, First Baptist Church and the Odd Fellows Lodge buildings have all ended their reign of standing tall on a street where many traveled, bringing historic names to the area and offering a sense of good old pride from a race of people who fought tooth and nail to be able to say that they have their own.

North Carolina legislators recently approved a bill that would allow local governments to make grants or loans to help with the rehabilitation of historic structures. All three of the above were historic, even earning a spot on the National Historic Registry.

Senate Bill 472 was approved by an 87-18 House vote and will go into effect once signed by the Governor. It would allow the city and county to make grants or loans toward the rehabilitation of commercial and noncommercial historic structures. That bill would not be contingent on the building being publicly or privately owned but would really just depend on what projects are valued in the community. The bill would require projects be presented in a public hearing and adhere to the state Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control acts. Those grants and loans can’t exceed 0.5 percent of the annual property tax valuation for the city and county.

Which brings me to my next point – What projects do we and our elected officials really value?

We still have historic buildings on Washington Street that we should be taking care of and I don’t just mean the city. Are we going to take advantage of this opportunity to keep history alive? Yes the city has a plan but that same plan has been there for a while without much progress after its adoption in 2008.

It’s now 2015. Apparently the big push to add new sidewalks, repave streets, put in new sewer lines and lighting is one way to “revitalize and rehabilitate” the area. I simply think of them as bare necessities that a business/property owner that pays taxes should expect. Maybe that’s just me. Don’t get me started on the common sense used to place a playground less than 10 feet from an active railroad track in an effort to “beautify” the area.

Moving on…

We as a community should be screaming from the mountaintop about saving the history on this street. And when we get up there it’s the job of those who govern the city to actually listen.

Those in favor of the bill say that it’s important for the city to have “a stake in the project.”

What bigger stake is there than putting your money where your mouth is?

We now have another tool to save the remaining structures on the street including Hoover’s, The Ritz and many more. Who will look out for those buildings and speak up?

Or will we sit on our hands and watch a critical piece of High Point’s African-American history come crumbling down?

It would be like we took the buildings apart with our own hands because we didn’t use our voices and knowledge to help them remain standing.

If so we might as well put on our finest black, meet at Jackie’s Place and celebrate the memory of what Washington Street used to be while mourning the potential of what it could’ve been.

I’m just saying.

Excuse me, Who Has the Mic? It’s not the Residents

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I read some rather disturbing news today. A story in Triad City Beat let me know that the Human Resource Commission would be dismantled, although the term revised was used. All of this during a period of time that the City of High Point’s Human Resource Director has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint with the federal government, fearing for her safety due to her race. All of this because of a phrase that reads “dismantling white supremacist systems” on a program about police and community relations.

Really? If I didn’t know better I would think High Point and Co. were bored and simply needed something to throw on the agenda. Apparently, there is nothing else to talk about, like how to bring money to other areas of the city instead of just the North, East and Southeastern areas. Maybe you could figure out why everyone’s light bill has doubled. A handful of people, not cause for concern. The majority of the city? May be time to pull out the flashlights and look around.

Or here’s a thought, while those flashlights are out, perhaps you can look at the city’s salaries and make sure that employees’ performance is matched up to their pay. Wendy (who makes $100,828 annually as the executive director of City Project) and City Project Crew make a lot of money and still can’t seem to implement the suggestions from paperwork Duany charged them $410,000 for his consultation and master plan. I haven’t seen a sea can since that model at The Crit in 2013. All I’ve seen are the bike lanes on Southside and the goats that the Southwest Renewal Foundation brought in with the $33,000 that Council allocated them. That’s right folks, I said goats. The goats were brought in to eat the kudzu so that a greenway along Richland Creek could be developed. Not a bad idea if you don’t add in that the goats cost about $1,200 an acre.

But no. Sadly, let’s decide to “overhaul” a program that could leave the majority of our residents voiceless instead of finding a more efficient way of doing investigations and dealing with complaints. Why you ask? According to TCB, Councilman Latimer Alexandar said that the desire grew out “of concern that the department “was headed in a direction contrary to where the city really felt it needed to be.””

You don’t say?!? I wonder what part of the city he’s referring to.

Moving on. Under the new guidelines, council will now govern the commission stripping them of the ability to investigate complaints that include “the denial of equal access to, and discrimination in employment, housing, education, recreation and public accommodations” where that denial could be due to a person’s “race, creed, color, national origin, sex, age or handicap.” The commission will also no longer be able to act as a public forum to hear complaints, disagreements or misunderstandings that could lead to “more serious conflict.”

So what would the commission do you ask?

Apparently, it would generate plans and analyze human service needs for residents. Per definition, they would carry out specific duties outlined by council instead of advising them and keep a watchful eye on the activities and trends in regards to human relations in the city. It is expected to help the youth become qualified for employment and present a six-month plan in its biannual report to council. All while doing it with less members, it was reduced from 13 to nine seats, all appointed by the mayor and membesr of council. This pretty much eliminates that part where the commission would act independent of council but work side by side.

The second part of this interesting change is that it seems to omit current Human Resource Director Al Heggins. Any mention to her title has been changed to “human relations program.” She has made it clear that she feared for her life after dealing with racial tensions and institutional racism in the city after some backlash from the flier. Apparently, some council members and their constituents were bothered about the explicit discussion of race in programming and literature produced by the HR department, Alexander told TCB. A discussion that a large part of High Point wanted to have, therefore going to their local commission to set-up a number of community meetings with police officers so that residents could speak on their fears, ask questions and address departmental procedure. So what happens to Heggins? No one is saying.

Caught up? Good.

What bothers me the most, outside of the liberties taken to pass this motion in a special meeting, is that a handful of constituents felt bothered talking about race relations. What bothers me even more is that so did elected officials who are put in place to not only represent their wards but the city as a WHOLE. There was no public hearing on the matter and it wasn’t done at a regular meeting, meaning they didn’t give a damn what the general public thought. Perhaps it’s time for new leadership.

Those offended constituents weren’t the ones calling for the community meetings. I’d be surprised if they attended. The meetings are exactly what was being done across the nation in the wake of events in Ferguson, Mo. because, you know, it was national conversation. A conversation that was worldwide and apparently made some people feel bad enough that they didn’t want to talk about it. I think they tried that approach shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation. I didn’t go so well.

Perhaps those council members who are expected to look at what’s best for the city, should stop babysitting constituents and tell that select group they should stop being so sensitive. Or they could just admit that it was never about what the city wanted or needed as a whole but an individual decision made upon the perception of themselves and their neighbors, followed by them stepping down to truly serve their community so that someone interested in helping the ENTIRE city can step up.

You know all this complaining reminds me of an old proverb:

THROW IT OUT THERE AND A HIT DOG WILL HOLLAR.

I’m just saying.

Money Talks: High Point Gets a MLK

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After decades of trying, High Point will finally get a Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7 to 1 to rename the 5-mile stretch, from W. English Road to Business Interstate 85, of Kivett Drive after the civil rights leader. Signs will be up and changed by Jan. 1, 2016. The renaming would also call for Kivett Drive to be in small lettering under the streets new name.

For more than 20 years, residents, agencies and clergy have called on those in power to take charge and rename a street after King. A decade ago, a memorial was put up but that was as far as the petition went. Last summer, a petition to rename Green Drive was shot down after businesses and residents complained about having to change their address. The street would have changed from Brentwood Street to Fairfield Avenue.

For so many this is a big step and one that has taken quite some time to complete. I’m happy that the city has taken steps to be more progressive and listen to their residents.

But that’s the thing.

They haven’t listened to their residents, because if they had this would have taken place more than 20 years ago. For more than half of my life the request has been on the table and for just as long that request has been denied. Here’s the kicker: There are people who are on the city council, commissions and boards that have been there for the last 30 years as well.

So I guess my question would be, why now? Why did you decide after 20 years to finally give into the requests of those whom you work for? Whom you are elected to serve and hold their best interest at heart?

I would like to think that it was all about the residents however a statement to media has changed that.

While the commission also approved the renaming of College Drive to University Parkway during the meeting, High Point University supported the MLK renaming.

Here’s where the question comes in.

Commissioner Marie Stone was quoted by The High Point Enterprise as saying that the 14 organizations that passed resolutions in support of the renaming made an impression on her. Those agencies included High Point University, The High Point Chamber of Commerce and the High Point Convention and Visitors Bureau.

So the hundreds of residents that have asked for the change over the years didn’t count? The taxpayers’ who asked for the request ten years ago didn’t matter? Tell me, is it that their wallets were not deep enough or was it because they didn’t have anyone to pass a resolution or make a proclamation about the widely-publicized need? What is it that changed the minds of power this time?

I guess we’ll never know. We’ll just have to wait and see what city council has to say about the renaming. You know, the people who have been sitting on the council for 20 plus years. Those who have heard and denied the request before. Perhaps if they see certain agencies signed off on the renaming they would let it pass.

It seems that the money, not the residents, seem to be calling the shots around the city. The question isn’t what’s in your wallet but more like how deep is your wallet. Or at least that’s how it comes across to us residents that have been yelling the same recently-approved request from the mountaintop all these years.

I’m just saying.

Why High Point needs a MLK Drive – but it doesn’t need to be Green Drive

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The proposal for a city street to be named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has come before High Point City Council again.

And again it has been voted down.

The motion to change the name of Green Drive failed 5-4 at Monday night’s council meeting.

It is reported, by High Point Enterprise, that council members Jeff Golden, Foster Douglas, Jay Wagner and Mayor Bernita Sims voted in favor of the motion. Members Jim Davis, Jason Ewing, Britt Moore, Judy Mendenhall and Becky Smothers voted in against the motion.

Words like diversity and inclusion were thrown out at the meeting. For a city that is already sitting on a racial powder keg between a black mayor, two separate Easter Egg hunts thrown by the city at different locations with a large difference in demographics and an African American community that feels ignored at City Hall and other areas in the city, I think we do need a street named after Dr. King. Out of our surrounding cities, we are one of the few cities that do not have one.

However, I do not think that street should be Green Drive. A street where, lets be real, most white residents don’t travel down. A street that is rampant with a vast array of drugs, crime and whinos. A dilapidated, both physically, socially and economically, community that some have forgotten about and others don’t care about is not the background needed for a street named after Dr. King.

The late reverend and late civil rights leader died fighting for equality and waiting for the day that black and white would work together. We could at least name a street that is in a more diverse area for him instead of the “urban” areas in the city.

It is hard to tell a group of people that you want them here as long as they stay in the pigeon-holed area that you leave for them. It is even harder to do what’s best for those thousands of people who do not always hold the checkbook but definitely contribute to the bottom line.

I’m just saying.