Racial & Economic Justice

Moeser Wrong to Rethink Bell Award

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, February 12, 2005

Like so many Chapel Hillians, for many years I knew one fact about Cornelia Phillips Spencer: she was “the woman who rang the bell” to signal the reopening of UNC a few years after the Civil War. Southern history being what it is, I was not surprised to learn that there was more to the story.

The debate over the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award has brought out the best and the worst in UNC Chancellor James Moeser. A former academic himself, somewhere in his heart of hearts Moeser seems to have some sensitivity to the humanistic values of the university. But in his day-to-day life as chancellor, he often must bury that part of himself so that he can properly serve the financial necessities of nouveau academia.

A Tale of Two Taxes

The Herald this morning reported that Carrboro is requesting that the legislature grant authority for two tax increase. The funds are apparently needed to support rising costs for the bus system.

The first is a doubling of the motor vehicle license tax to $30 per vehicle. In one sense, this seems sensible to add costs to a behavior that you want to discourage to fund one you want to support. Nonetheless, this is a regressive tax. The only people the extra $15 might hurt are those truly at the margins financially. Still, I wouldn't quibble over $15.

More problematic is the second proposal which is to increase the sales tax from 2.5% to 3%. The sales tax is notoriously regressive. Carrboro's working poor will be hurt by this tax.

Both these items are on the agenda for discussion with the legislative delegation and were placed there by a unanimous vote. It's truly shocking that none of the Aldermen voted against a resolution with the sales tax provision. Hopefully it will die in discussion with the legislators if not before then.

Eyes on...

Today is Eyes on the Screen, nationwide grassroots screenings of "Eyes on the Prize," a very important documentary on the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. You can watch in Carrboro:

Community Realty
February 8, 2005 at 8:00pm
201 North Greensboro Street
Approx Capacity: 15. 13 people plan to attend.
Organized by: Scott Morningstar
Episode 1
Bring a folding chair if you can.

As an African-American Studies minor (OK, over 10 years ago), I can attest to both this film's importance and to it's watchability. It allows the individuals who collectively formed the grassroots of this critical movement to speak for themselves and document their own experiences. The result is compelling and educational.

Howard Lee: Still going strong

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, February 05, 2005

The spring of 1969 was a heady time for the U.S. left. Halfway between the violence of the Democratic convention in Chicago and the peace-and-love of Woodstock, it was a time when millions joined protests against the Vietnam War while increasing militancy turned the movement for civil rights into one for Black Power.

In Chapel Hill, a highly contentious mayoral race was at times overshadowed by striking cafeteria workers at UNC. Nonetheless, a coalition of blacks, liberal civil rights supporters, anti-war activists and those galvanized by the 1968 campaigns of Eugene McCarthy for president and Reginald Hawkins for governor waged an unprecedented campaign to elect Howard Lee as the first black mayor of Chapel Hill (or of a white-majority Southern town since Reconstruction).

In doing so and by also electing a liberal slate to the then-Board of Aldermen, voters swept out an old guard that had dragged its feet on civil rights, on establishing a public transit system and on support for the efforts of the Inter-Church Council.

Summer reading takes a hard look at race

Guest Post by Paul Jones, cross-posted at The Real Paul Jones

Former governor of Mississippi William F. Winter recently reminded the Seminar for Southern Legislators that 1970 was a watershed year. "[A] remarkable group of so-called New South governors had been elected across the South. Running on platforms promoting racial equity, educational quality and economic development, they brought a new tone to the political arena which had been dominated for so long by the one issue of race. Their names would soon be known across the nation - names like Jimmy Carter of Georgia, Reubin Askew of Florida, Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, John West of South Carolina, and Linwood Holton of Virginia."

But Tim Tyson, who was only 10 years old at the time and living not far from Chapel Hill in Oxford NC, saw a different world. The murder of black veteran Henry Marrow sparked riots and burnings and marches, showing that racial equality was far from a done deal.

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