It's billed by the NAACP as a mass community gathering "to build further support from a broad perspective against resegregation in Wake County." Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough Street, and the Rev. Nancy Petty, one of the four protesters arrested for sitting-in at the last Wake school board meeting, are hosting. The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, will be there — he, too, was arrested.
Their names are Loida, Viridiana and Rosario. Three young women, each an honors graduate of a high school in North Carolina, each successful in community college, each ready for college or, in Rosario's case, finished with college (UNC-CH, BA in biology) and ready for graduate school. Three women who are, instead, on a hunger strike in Raleigh because, after listening to a decade's worth of national stalemate over immigration reform, they don't see any alternative. They are, you see, children of illegal immigrant parents. So, even though they've grown up in the United States and are here as a result of decisions they had nothing to do with, they too are treated as undocumented aliens and are denied Social Security numbers.
Does that mean they can't work? Not at all, and they do work, just not at desirable jobs commensurate with their abilities or aspirations. Simple fact, all the "good" jobs require a SSN and a background check. But many employers aren't so picky, and the federal government isn't picky either — it won't issue SSNs, but it will issue federal ID numbers so undocumented folks can work, pay taxes (including Social Security taxes that they'll never get back) and file tax returns at the end of the year.
Can we be any more cynical than that?
Today was Day 6 of water and sports drinks but no food for the three protesters. They're encamped on state property behind the old Museum of History (now the Archives building) on the corner of Lane and Wilmington streets. They have a permit to be there through July 1, but say that won't be the end of it, and they won't eat until U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan agrees to sponsor legislation known as the Dream Act that would give young people like them a path to citizenship.
The three sounded fine this evening, when I stopped by, and said they feel all right, just tired; but they're also realizing that, if they don't watch it, their thinking can get scrambled pretty easily due to physical weakness. They were in good spirits, in fact, and "amazed at the support we're from the community," Loida said. Media attention has been slow in coming, but there's been some—the Daily Tar Heel and the Durham Herald Sun covered them when they visited Chapel Hill on Friday, for example — and they've called a press conference on Tuesday.
One other bit of news: They're planning a candlelight vigil with supporters Monday night at 8. If you come, bring a candle and, if you can, some water for yourself and them.
By the way, all three were willing to give their full names, and in fact their last names were included in articles and blog posts written about them by others. Raleigh Public Record did a good piece on them yesterday and listed their full names, for example. I haven't used them here because they didn't volunteer them immediately and said they preferred not to give them, though in the same breath they said I could find them elsewhere. I don't think they'll be deported because of what they're doing, and I don't think their parents will either — I hope not. And in any event, what I write or don't write won't make a bit of difference as far as the authorities are concerned. So I guess my omitting their last names is nothing more than not wanting to be complicit in any way in what I consider to be a totally cynical and corrupt set of immigration laws.
Loida, at 22, is the youngest of the three women and the one who's lived in the U.S. the shortest time — nine years. Her parents brought her from Peru when they came, Enrique said, on a tourist visa. The parents did apply for permanent residence status, he added, but they made some mistakes on their application and were turned down. He works in construction and as a volunteer pastor in an Evangelical Christian church in Alamance County. Loida graduated from East Forsyth HS, National Honor Society, Advanced Placement courses, track team, color guard, youth leader — she ticked off a list of accomplishment off-handedly, as if they didn't really matter because, well, they haven't mattered to anybody since — and she completed two years of coursework in community colleges. But when it came time to transfer to a UNC system school to finish her undergraduate work, as any "legal" resident with her record would've been allowed to do, she found she couldn't except by paying out-of-state tuition rates she couldn't afford.
Five years later, and in some desperation, she plans to enroll at UNC-Asheville and take one course at a time. "It will cost about $3,000 to take one course, and I'll work and save for the next course, and be in school forever. That's why I'm here," she said. "It's not fair. We all just want to contribute and give back, and we can't because we don't have a 9-digit [Social Security] number."
If her situation is appalling, Rosario's is just as bad or worse.
She's 25, an honors graduate of Southern High School in Durham and of Alamance Community College. This is someone who, when her parents brought her to the U.S. at age 13, spoke no English at all. Needless to say, she had trouble in school, but not in math and not in science either — she got "A" grades in both by mastering the symbols, she said. After Alamance, she transferred to UNC-CH and graduated with a degree in biology two years ago. She did pay out-of-state tuition rates with the help of a "sponsor" who wanted to be anonymous. Now, she'd like to continue in graduate school and support herself, as most such students do, by working in a lab. But without an SSN, she can't get past the background checks. So she's forced to settle for menial jobs. "I want to continue studying and earn my doctorate," she said. "I know it seems impossible, but I'm fighting for it."
Viridiana, who is 23, has been in the U.S. since she was seven. She is a Lee County High School graduate "with honors, drum major in the marching band," and was accepted at N.C. State but then not allowed to enroll without a proper student visa. She went to community college instead but says it's been hard to maintain her motivation given that the Dream Act has been around since 2001 and seems to be going nowhere. Recently, her sister graduated high school with an even better GPA than she did, Viridiana said, only to find that even the community colleges wouldn't take her. "So those of us who have the push to make it, and want to make it, what do we do?" Viridiana asked. "Without the Dream Act, what do we do?"
Over three million students graduate from U.S. high schools every year. Most get the chance to pursue opportunity. However, a group of approximately 65,000 youth have their options constrained due to undocumented status.
These youth — like the three women on a hunger strike now — have lived in the United States for most of their lives. They want more than anything to be recognized as Americans, and to help build a better future for everyone here....
The DREAM Act — which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — would recognize that commitment. The law has four strict requirements. A person must have entered the country before the age of 16; graduated high school or obtained a GED; have good moral character with no criminal record; and have at least five years of continuous presence in the U.S.
If someone meets those criteria, the DREAM Act would provide a six years window for them to either obtain a two-year college degree or complete two-years of military service. If all of these conditions are met, the person would have the opportunity to adjust their conditional permanent residency status to U.S. Citizenship.
As Shaw said, If we want to build a stronger America, we want Americans who have a commitment to education and public service.
Rosario, Loida and Viridiana already have those qualities. The DREAM Act would just give them a well-deserved path to citizenship."
Hallelujah, brother! The Wake County Board of Elections has joined the 21st century, finally putting candidates' campaign finance reports online. No more having to trudge down to South Salisbury Street and pull them off the shelves.
The reports are here in all their glory.
Read 'em and, don't weep; do understand that very few people contribute $4,000 to a candidate out of the goodness of their hearts. Chances are, they want something.
The downtown amphitheater in Raleigh won't be the BLA after all. The state ABC says it can't be named for Bud Light or any other booze item. Doggone it, the BLA seemed so perfect.
$300,000 a year times 5 years = $1.5 million down the drain.
What are we bid for your name [HERE] on the city's new amphitheater?
Bill Randall unburdened himself today on a subject that's clearly kept him up nights. Randall, a candidate in Tuesday's runoff election for the Republican nomination in the 13th N.C. congressional district — Rep. Brad Miller's seat — thinks it's possible, for reasons he can't explain, that BP wanted an oil leak in the Gulf ... and the federal government, which as you know is capable of perfidy beyond our understanding, also wanted a BP leak ... and there was "collusion" ... but then, as these things sometimes do, it all got out of hand.
Watch and learn as Randall explains for about three minutes (from News14 Carolina).
Or, start with this primer:
"Maybe they wanted it to leak, but then it got beyond what was anticipated and we had an explosion and loss of life," Randall said. "Is there a cover up going on? I'm not saying there necessarily is. But I think that there are enough facts on the table for people who really need to do so to do some investigative research and find out what went on with that."
Randall is running against Bernie Reeves for the GOP nomination.
Etheridge is extremely sorry.
“I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”
It was already a very tough re-election year for him. Now ...?
Before the Iowa caucuses in January of '08, Obama was trailing in the polls for the Democratic nomination. I'm not sure anybody — except maybe Cash — foresaw him winning North Carolina in November en route to the presidency. But win it he did, with Cash documenting events along the way. For the Great Schools in Wake organizers, to whom the mission of safeguarding the county's schools must look equally uphill about now, Obama '08 is a perfect way to kick off their summer film series.
Next up, on June 22: "Blood Done Sign My Name," the film based on Duke historian Tim Tyson's book about a murder and the civil rights struggle in his hometown of Oxford, NC. Tyson, who is in the Great Schools corner, is likewise expected to attend.
Ah, Horseshoe Farm — remember that battle?
Now comes the news:
Horseshoe Farm Park Will Test Sustainable Landscape Rating System
The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) announced the selection of Horseshoe Farm Park as one of the first landscapes to participate in a new program testing the nation's first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.
Horseshoe Farm Park will join more than 150 other projects from 34 states as well as from Canada, Iceland and Spain as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes, with and without buildings. Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution and restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social benefits to land owners and municipalities.
SITES, a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden, selected Horseshoe Farm Park based on its extensive environmentally friendly elements. These sustainable practices include: protecting a variety of habitats by minimizing site disturbance, implementing sustainable building systems, treating storm water and waste water on site and promoting environmental education.
Check the Friends of Horseshoe Farm website for more.
About Deborah Westmoreland. She called me a couple of weeks ago to ask if I knew that the Wake school board was laying off 40 librarians — media specialists these days — as of the end of the 2009-10 school year. I did not know that. I remembered Deborah from her involvement in the first Sparkcon a few years ago. Since then, she'd taken a job with the Wake schools as media specialist at Moore Square Magnet Middle School. Now, she was one of those being laid off.
Her call prompted me to write a column in the Indy this week about two related subjects. One is the fact that, with all the attention being given to the new school board majority's anti-diversity policy, and its plan to carve the county into "assignment zones" that will inevitably, I think, result in high-poverty schools in Raleigh and East Wake, too little attention has been paid to the new majority's very inadequate budget.
The Republican Five — the members in the 5-4 board majority — are "starving the beast" with a budget which, on the surface, seems reasonable given parlous times, but which is in fact far short of what's needed to keep a good system going. State aid is tanking, and the Wake system continues to grow with four new schools opening this fall and a projected enrollment increase of 3,800 students. Yet the school board asked the county commissioners for the same amount of money for next year as it received this year. Obviously, something will have to give.
Part of what will give is class sizes, which will get bigger — how much bigger we won't know until the General Assembly finishes its budget .., and in turn the General Assembly is waiting for Congress to come through with almost $500 million more for Medicaid. If the Medicaid money doesn't materialize, deeper cuts to state school aid will follow.
Which brings me to the column's second subject: So far, the school board's biggest cuts have not been to classrooms in general, but rather have fallen on programs like Project Enlightenment and library professionals — programs that are of special importance to the kids and families who are struggling.
I wrote about Project Enlightenment earlier. Visiting with Deborah a week ago on her last day at work, I got an update on why the modern library, now a multimedia center, can and should be the heartbeat of a good school.
You can read the column here. Below the fold, I'll relate who Deborah Westmoreland is and what her responsibilities were as the media special in her middle school. See if you don't come to the same conclusion I did — that cutting school librarians is like fielding a football team without helmets. You can do it, but some of the players are gonna get hurt. Which ones? ...
This is Whitley Street in Raleigh. I know, it's not much — yet. But use your imagination. What about shops and cafes on either side of it as part of a new, mixed-use, transit-friendly, walkable development near the Hillsborough-West Morgan roundabout in Raleigh? You know, all those cool buzzwords we use to describe what we want Raleigh to be when it grows up? Well, here's a chance to grow up some.
Anyway, I thought a picture of Whitley would help frame the column I wrote for the Indy this week, which ran with the headline — I didn't write it, but it's right on — "The most important property in Raleigh." As I was finishing the column, some folks from the neiighborhoods went to the City Council with a petition to extend Whitley from its premature termination over to Ashe Avenue — not far. As they counted it, Whitley could provide 40 on-street parking spaces for a future Bolton tract development. Not too shabby.
Note: The public hearing on FMZ’s rezoning application for the Bolton tract, Z-011-10, is scheduled for July 22 at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers.
Here's a link to the column. Full text is below.