APPEARED IN THE SONOMA WEST newspaper chain, March 2015


Off the Top of My Head

A Writer All My Life?

By Gabriel A. Fraire


I have often heard myself say, “I have been a writer my entire ADULT life,” but I might have been a writer my entire life, if I had not gone to school, or, if I had gone to a different school.

I was born in the Mexican barrio but before I was five we moved to the best White neighborhood in the area. My father knew the best schools were there.  I did get a great public school education but there were other challenges I had to face being one of a handful of colored kids in an all-White school.

I never received any form of racial prejudice from my peers. But I took a lot of abuse from adults: merchants, parents, police, coaches, and teachers. The generation before mine just wasn’t prepared for a mixing of White people with non-White people. My parents, both born and raised in the United States, still had a high school prom in 1942 separate from the White kids.

I have always been mature. I was never a little boy and I wasn’t timid. When that first grade teacher hit me for writing the letter “M” differently than she did I wasn’t intimidated or frightened I was angry and it took all my strength not to hit her back.

I had written the letter “M” in one continuous line. She wanted me to draw the outside lines first and then the “V” in the middle. Because I didn’t she smacked me and yelled at me, “Do you have tacos stuck in your ears.” To which the whole class laughed.

Different teacher, few years later, we had an assignment to create art. Most of the kids drew pictures but I decided to write a play. I convinced a few classmates, who were very reluctant, to perform in it. The play was a huge success. The teacher loved it so much she insisted I write another. This time, however, every kid in the class wanted to be in the play. I tried to accommodate as many as possible and still there were more who wanted in. So, I gave four kids parts as horses. They were thrilled to be horses.

On performance day we began to set up. When the four kids took their position on the floor the teacher went crazy. She started yelling at everyone. “Get off the floor. Go to your seats.” She then turned her rage on me. “Is that how your people behave?” To this day I’m not sure what that was about. But I knew her yelling was real and ugly and left me bewildered.

A few months later the Russians put Sputnik in outer space and American schools became math and science factories. We had to beat the Commies to the moon.  I never read a book or wrote another word after the fourth grade.

My junior year abroad in college we had a professor who insisted we do lots of writing exercises. The class was full of English majors and would-be writers and I was neither yet he singled out my work for praise. He encouraged me to write more. That summer as I hitch-hiked through Western Europe I kept a notebook and I have been writing regularly ever since. And for me, writing has been my friend, my therapist, my educator, the record-keeper of my life.

I have had a great life, in part because I am a writer and have spent my life in an intimate relationship with a creative outlet.   I could probably say I have been a writer ALL my life but the gift was kept dormant until I got out of school, but that’s a bit wordy, and would require more explanation.  So, for now, I will continue to answer when asked, “I have been a writer all my entire ADULT life.”





Off the Top of My Head


Do You Suffer from OPT?

(appeared Sept. 25, 2014 in the Healdsburg (Ca.) Tribune, Cloverdale Reville, Windsor Times, and the Sonoma West Times and News  )



Do you suffer from OPT? Do you get irritated easily (especially around young children)?  Do you hear yourself saying, “Look at all those tattoos?” Or, “What kind of way is that to dress?” Then maybe you’re suffering from OPT, Old People Talk.

Old People Talk can strike one at any age. “Did you see this year’s freshman? They look so young.” But mostly it hits those over fifty.

There are many early visual warning signs of OPT, (we usually ignore). Some of us notice that are arms are not long enough to read effectively. Others hear their eye doctor suggest maybe it’s time for bifocals but they just don’t see it. Some of us object, “Not yet doc, I can still look over the top of these.” Others, reluctantly accept, “Do you have the kind that don’t look like bifocals?”

There are also audio indicators. “Let’s not eat there, that place is too loud.” The volume of the places we go does not increase despite the argument, “It didn’t used to be this loud in here.” The volume is the same, it’s our ability to distinguish the different sounds easily that has changed. The voice across the table from you just disappears into the overall noise of the room.

There can also be physical indicators. I was about 53 years old when I first became able to forecast the weather by the pain in my right knee (don’t tell me my scholarship to play didn’t come with a price). But my favorite sign - sleeping in a slightly different position and then in the morning feeling like you have to unwrap a fortune cookie. I sit on the edge of the bed and think, now why is this shoulder sore and I can’t think of one reason why it should be.

The bruise is another good OPT indicator. If you suffer from  OPT, then you are likely to find bruises you can’t explain. I like to blame the corner of the bed frame. I like to blame it on all the medications they have me on for old-timers diseases.  But the truth is I’m suffering from  OPT because I can’t just leave that bruise alone I have to tell someone.

Sticker shock is another early warning sign of OPT. I know you’ve heard it and maybe even said it yourself, “Wow, look at these prices, remember when it was…”

But don’t worry if you have any of these symptoms, there is a cure. One way is to install some filters on your mouth so that every time you start to suffer from OPT the words get delayed long enough for you to examine them and then realize you don’t need to speak, that it’s just an out-crying of OPT.

And, of course, there is probably some pharmaceutical  company that is in Research and Development of a pill for OPT but it will probably be very expensive. I should warn you though, try and avoid any self-medication of the usual alcoholic or herbal concoctions type because they only increase the symptoms of OPT.

I was talking with a women who recently moved here from England. She said when she started watching TV here she noticed that we Americans have pharmaceutical cures for illness she did not know even existed. I asked her if she had heard of OPT and explained what it was. She said, “Oh yeah, that’s a global condition.”

So, we can take some consolation, at least it’s not just an American thing.


Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 40 years. He is also the current Healdsburg Literary Laureate.





Aging with Grace

(appeared June 19, 2014 in the Healdsburg (Ca.) Tribune, Cloverdale Reville, Windsor Times and the Sonoma West Times and News  )


As a very young child I used to watch my grandmother eat oatmeal. Later in life it became my mother’s regular breakfast. These are my thoughts of aging as I eat my morning oatmeal.

I had an uncle that used to say, “I always hoped I would age with Grace. Then my wife Harriet found out and Grace had to go.” He would laugh wildly and aunt Harriet would just give her wry little smile, too familiar with the old, often repeated joke. I was just a little kid but the expression stayed with me forever and any time someone would say anything about “aging with grace” I’d  think of my uncle, a man who had very little grace at any age.

So, I wonder if I am able to age with grace, especially when I keep getting challenged in my effort.  Take movie theaters, as I kept creeping closer and closer to the “senior” age the age kept changing. Senior age was once 55, as I approached 55 it moved to 60, as I approached 60 it moved to 65. I think the plan was to keep moving the age up until I was too old to see or hear or care about going to the movies. Wait, the plan worked.  I seldom care these days about going to the movies.

I don’t mind getting old. There are lots of benefits to being old. You can yell at people  and they don’t yell back. They just think you’er a crazy old man. You can wear mismatched clothes because who notices. You can go to a potluck and only take bag of baby carrots because, let’s face it, none of us oldies eat much. When I get on a bus, pregnant ladies get up to offer me their place.

A young man once asked me if it’s hard to get old. I had to tell him when talking to an old man never use “hard” and “old” in the same sentence.

Another thing, I can start a story and not finish it and no one seems to mind, or even notice.

There are some things that are difficult about aging; one is getting tired. Every inch of me can get tired. My hair is so tired it no longer can make it to the top of  my head so instead it grows out my nose and eyebrows.

It’s also a drag that one by one the dentist keeps taking my teeth. Right now it’s a race to see who lasts longer, me or my teeth.

I’ve always been comfortable around young people but now I realize I can no longer talk to young people.

The other day a young woman asked. “How’s it going?” I said,  “I’m spinning a lot of plates today.”  Her empty eyes told me she didn’t understand. I continued, “you see, there used to be this guy on Ed Sullivan Show whose act was to set up a stick put a plate on top and spin the plate then he’d put up another stick and spin another plate soon he’d have ten twelve plates spinning on sticks and he’d run from one to another keeping those plates a spinning. She seemed to understand better what I meant but still looked perplexed. As she turned to leave I said, “Wait, you don’t know who Ed Sullivan is, do you?” Her eyes widened and she said, “No, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”


Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 40 years. He is also the current Healdsburg Literary Laureate.



Crossing that invisible line

(appeared Feb., 2014 in the Healdsburg (Ca.) Tribune, Cloverdale Reville, Windsor Times and the Sonoma West Times and News  )


I recently crossed this invisible line. I’m not sure when it happened. It’s not like some seminal moment that I will always remember. I don’t even know when I crossed or where I was when I crossed but I crossed.

I’ve heard a lot about aging lately, how 60 is the new 50. When I look around at my peers they definitely look good. We baby-boomers are aging nicely. I know my physical appearance at 65 is way better than my dad’s was at 65. That is a certainty but at 65 my dad was dead for three years so I’d hope I looked better.

I have always been old. I was once told I had an “old soul.” I think it’s more being the oldest of six children that made me old. My parents had four children under the age of five when I was ten years old.  I said to one of my bothers, “Man, my knee really bothers me I must be getting old.” And he said, without missing a beat, “You have always been old your body is just catching up to you.”

We baby-boomers were the generation that vowed to never trust anyone over the age of 30 and now we’er twice that. I hope that doesn’t mean people have to be doubly aware of our trust issues. I think I’m a much more trustworthy person today than say when I was in that group professing to not trust anyone over 30.

Even if I believe that 60 is the new 50 there is just something about being 65 that can’t change its effect because when we were growing up anyone who was 65 was considered ancient. They were really old, could barely walk, wore extremely outdated clothes and only talked about the “good ole days,” as if their real life was over.

Now here’s where the invisible line comes in. It seemed like only a few weeks ago I’d be in some retail store and I would ask to get the senior discount. The clerk would give me a look, give me the discount, then say, “Well you sure don’t look 65.” I’d smile and pretend the young girl was flirty knowing full well she wasn’t but still I’d walk to my car with a bit more bounce in my step.

Now, however, I walk into a retail place go up to the cashier and without even asking they give me the senior discount. And there it is, I unofficially crossed over that line. I didn’t see it. I don’t know when I crossed it. There is no pretending, no marketing ploy, no silly fantasies about what is being said. I am “senior.”

I used to see these old dudes at the gym, and they’d always be at the same locker. I wondered if they just got in a rut. Now that I’m one of those old dudes, I understand, I’m at the same locker every time too, it’s so I can remember which locker is mine.

When I was younger I’d always carry a notebook to write down things I wanted to remember. I still do that, if I can remember where I put my notebook.

At first stepping across that invisible line was a bit of a shock but I am adjusting because there are some real advantages to being old. For one thing I loved my grandfather and we were very close. He has been dead for some time now but every morning when I get up and look in the mirror there he is looking right back at me.


Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 40 years. He is also the current Healdsburg Literary Laureate.



Air Travel

(appeared April 24, 2014 in the Healdsburg (Ca.) Tribune, Cloverdale Reville, Windsor Times and the Sonoma West Times and News )


Have you flown recently? I know almost everyone likes to complain about air travel: Over booking, late flights, missed connections, no customer service, tiny seats, narrow aisles, dirty bathrooms. I personally come out of an airplane feeling like the human pretzel all contorted with aching muscles and pain in places I don’t usually have pain. But I don’t complain. I keep my mouth shut because I feel I owe a real debt to airlines. They treated me well as a kid and I owe them a little respect in return now that they have transitioned from a luxury air travel experience to an over-crowded bus with wings.

I had my first flight as a freshman in college back in 1967. Back then air travel was not an every day thing and it was way beyond my financial means. But someone at the airlines thought of this incredible idea that instead of sending empty seats up in a plane maybe they could fill them with people willing to wait around for a seat. They called it flying “Stand-by.”

Today, if you’er flying “Stand-by” it’s usually a bad thing. You missed a connection and there are no seats on the next flight, so you sit there and hope to get home sometime in the not too distant future. But back in ‘67 it was a new idea and the airlines decided they needed to induce people to fly “Stand-by” so they offered the “Stand-by” flights for half price.

I could fly home cheaper than taking an eight hour bus drive. I didn’t mind hanging out at the airport waiting for a seat. But also, airports were more fun back then. One could go up to the flight tower and watch planes land and take off. Or there was dining in actual restaurants, no fast food court because to be honest there weren’t that many fast food outlets way back when.

Raised urban, ethnic and working class my wardrobe was not how you might say, luxury flying appropriate. So, I looked a bit rough when I air traveled. Yet, no airline personnel objected or mistreated me. I was treated just like all the other “classy” travelers, offered pillows and blankets, given a choice of meals. No additional charge for anything.

One day I was stuck in Cleveland and I had to sleep in the airport. The next morning  I looked worse than usual. I stepped onto the plane and almost everyone on it was a businessman in a suit.  I ignored the looks and moved to my seat.

Once in the air the stewardess brought me a breakfast of pancakes. I lifted up the syrup packet trying to figure out how to open it.

I am the type of person who should never open chip bags, or cereal boxes or any packages that one might need to re-use or try and re-close. I just can’t open one of those containers without shredding the whole bag in the process.

So, I’m fiddling with my syrup, poke at it and it pops a hole and squirts the syrup in a perfect arc up onto the head businessman sitting in front of me.

I tensed and waited. He simply brushed the top of his head as if trying to brush away a mosquito. I didn’t say anything and he didn’t say anything but I’m sure some time later during the day he realized there was syrup in his hair and connected it back to me.  

I tell that story to remind myself never to complain about the small seats, lack of service, or otherwise horrible conditions of current flight travel because when it was a luxurious experience only for the rich they still allowed a working class lout like me to fly and they treated me well. I figure that’s got to be worth something.


Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 40 years. He is also the current Healdsburg Literary Laureate.




The Next American Revolution


(appeared March 27, 2014 in the Healdsburg (Ca.) Tribune, Cloverdale Reville, Windsor Times and the Sonoma West Times and News  )


Journalism has changed. That shouldn’t be “news” to anyone.  I believe the reporters in this paper do a good job with accuracy and presenting all sides of an issue but this is the exception. Today, it seems like most “reporters” feel they must insert their opinion on every piece. And there are entire networks and newspaper conglomerates with the sole intention of being one-sided in their presentation of  the “news.” And with the internet, oh my goodness, complete fabrications can be posted and then accepted as fact. Not just by internet surfers but “news-medias” will pick up these fake stories and run with them as if they were truth.

Recently, late night comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel created a fake video of a wolf walking the halls of an Olympic Village dorm. He then had an Olympian tweet about a wolf in the hallway. CNN and ESPN picked up the story and ran the video as “news.” Obviously, no one bothered to check the source.

A good journalist (in the “olden days”) did research, gathered facts then presented a story showing both sides of an issue. It was REQUIRED that one had to have more than one source before a story could be run. Today, it appears that often no source is checked. This makes it very difficult to discern what is real and what is not.

I am of the Vietnam era. The first and only “war” nightly broadcast on television. Journalist covered Southeast Asia with feet on the ground, eyes open, cameras recording. We witnessed the atrocities of war almost first hand and it made us sick and it hastened the end of the war.

Since then, warriors and war mongers have learned, keep the press out. Now only “embedded” journalist are allowed to report and record. And we have discovered, and many now finally accept, that our government will and does lie to us. So, it is very difficult today to know the truth.

If we care enough to seek the truth, each and everyone one of us has to be our own “old-time” journalist. We have to research, gather information, weigh the possible validity of that information, discuss the issues with others then try and make an informed decision. I know very few people who do that.

Most of us pick our “channel” or “paper” and just believe what they say or write. We find the media outlet that most reflects our point of view and then use it as our guide in making decisions. It is creating a bigger divide in this country. Whether is it propaganda from one side of the aisle or the other you must remember it is propaganda. You cannot believe everything you hear, see or read. You must use your brain and your ability to think. And if you do not have either a brain or the ability to think please do not participate.

It seems like every day the divide widens between the “left” and the “right” the “haves” and the “have-nots” the one-percenters and the rest of us.

Revolutions are never a pro-active movement they are always a re-active movement. When people are pushed to the point of having nothing else to lose they react. I don’t want to live to see the next American Revolution. I hope that somehow in some way we as a culture will see that this terrible divide is not good for anyone. That we need to work together, that we need to put our own self-interests aside and start thinking what is best for all of us. I hope that is possible.


Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 40 years. He is also the current Healdsburg Literary Laureate.











Black and Gay in Guilford County – Part 1 of 3 part series               

By Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor

In recent months many states across the country have passed legislation to legalize gay marriage and protect the civil rights of American’s gay and lesbian residents. Although there has not been such legislation to protect alternative lifestyles in North Carolina this state, like the other 49, has a homosexual population that exists under a veil of anonymity imposed by the mainstream community.

This is the first in a series of articles on being Black and Gay in Guilford County. In this series the Peacemaker will interview and discuss what it is like not just to be gay but to be Black and gay in Guilford County – Editor’s note

Being Black is an abomination to God. One should be ashamed about being Black. And, anyone who continues to choose to be Black, for their own physical safety they better hide the fact and pretend not to be Black. Insulted? Find these statements ridiculous? Replace the word Black with homosexual and that is what African American homosexuals in Guilford County face every single day of their lives.

It was difficult to find African Americans in Guilford County willing to admit they are homosexual. And of those who are open even fewer were willing to speak for the record. As one young African American homosexual said, “Homosexuality is a Taboo subject in the Black community.”

In this first part we explore the notion that being homosexual is a lifestyle choice.

“I completely disagree with those who think this is a lifestyle choice,” said Ashleigh Ratchford, a 23 year old student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). Ratchford was born and raised in Fayetteville N.C. She came to Greensboro to attend North Carolina A&T State University and while there she founded “Acceptance without Exception,” an organization designed to help Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students. She transferred to UNCG for personal reasons she claims are not related to her sexual orientation. “I don’t think anyone chooses to be one way or the other.” Ratchford said, and added, “It would be so much easier to be straight, more rights, more things you can do.”

Ratchford is not alone in her thinking. Every homosexual interviewed, whether they spoke anonymously or for the record, made the same claim: Being homosexual is not a lifestyle choice.

Barry Campbell a 41 year old Black male said, “I think was born gay. A lot of it just came natural to me.” Campbell a successful entertainment industry producer recently returned to Greensboro. An A&T undergrad in theater arts, in the spring he will begin a masters degree program in counseling.  “As a small child I would wear bows in my hair. I twirled a baton. And even before I knew anything about sex I can remember wanting to sit on the laps of my older sister’s boyfriends.”

Campbell said he was five or six when he first began to realize he was not like the other boys. “You have to understand. I’m not a transgender. I’m not interested in changing my sex.”

Tomietta Brown, 42, better known as Tomie, was born and raised in Greensboro. She said, “I always found myself attracted to women, I found the affection from women was greatly enhanced. I definitely feel I was born a lesbian.” She added, “I was always a tomboy, I liked to do boy things, trains, planes and automobiles. Baby dolls bored me. I liked motorcycles and Evel Knievel.”

Shameka Powell, 27,  did not “officially” come out until she was 16 years old. But she said she never hid who she was and she too always felt she was a lesbian. In the fall Powell will be attending the University of Wisconsin, at Madison to begin work on a doctoral degree. Powell said, “I doubt people would choose to be ostracized, criticized and derided. This is not a choice.”

Brown said the same thing. “In my opinion people don’t make a choice. Who would choose to be so isolated, ridiculed.”

When pushed on the issue: were they born as homosexuals or were they were influenced by someone, or did they have some traumatic experience, not one person wavered in their opinion of the origins of their sexual orientation.

Dara Nix-Stevenson, 36, a high school science teacher said, “People are persecuted for being gay. I can’t understand why someone would choose to be gay.” Asked if she can remember a turning point, a moment when she realized she was gay, Nix-Stevenson said, “Looking back, there was no traumatic experience, no major one incident that told me I was gay.” But she does remember in kindergarten she had a girlfriend and they held hands. 

Many people in the mainstream community point to the Bible to support their anti-gay feelings. Nix-Stevenson responded that often things from the Bible are taken out of context by White men. She added, “The Bible was used to justify slavery.” Another popular notion is that one’s environment can mold people into becoming gay.

Nyasha Gibbs, 20, is the current president of the “Acceptance Without Exception” at A&T. She refutes the point of view that environment is a factor in being homosexual.

“I wasn’t raised into it (being homosexual). I wasn’t surrounded by homosexuals. They had no influence. I had no way to even be introduced to this lifestyle. If you don’t have any of that influence how can you say it was the environment.” She goes on, “My mother was not promiscuous. I wasn’t surrounded by women. I can’t prove I was born this way but I can refute it isn’t based on environment.” She added that she has come to know people who grew up surrounded by homosexuals and they themselves are not.

Campbell also gives anecdotal evidence against there being an environmental connection or a traumatic experience that shaped his homosexuality. He said he had a very good childhood. His parents were educated. His mother was a teacher. “I had a real great childhood better than the Cosby’s (referring to the Black fictional family on television). I was never mistreated.”

Next week: Growing up gay.





Black and Gay in Guilford County


Part II growing up gay


By Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor


Growing up is a challenge for most but being homosexual presents its own set of problems.

“I don’t know how I did it.” Said Barry Campbell, now a successful entertainment producer. Campbell said he knew he was gay his entire life but being gay was not accepted and to hide it he acted straight. All through junior high school and high school he had a “girlfriend” but inside he knew it was fake. He said he also hid his flamboyant side. “Now, (openly gay) I’m more flamboyant than when I was younger.”

It wasn’t until college that Campbell began to be more open about his sexual orientation but even then the charade continued. “In college I had a girlfriend and a boyfriend. With the girl I was all man but with the man I was the girl. I was the submissive with the man.”

But leading two lives had its cost. “I became a substance abuser. Cocaine.” Campbell said the deceptions were just too hard. “I was living three different lives 24 hours a day.”

Hiding one’s sexual orientation is not unique. Nyasha Gibbs, a 20 year old A&T student, said, “All my friends were homophobic.”  So, she said she dated boys all through high school and kept her true feelings hidden. “I just didn’t feel they (her friends) would accept me.” She added that even when she finally came out she still didn’t tell her old friends. Today, however, she says that all her true friends are comfortable with who she is.

But for many homosexuals their sexual identity was kept unknown because sex itself was never discussed. Dara Nix-Stevenson, 36, a high school science teacher said, “Sexuality was not a topic of conversion in my household.” She said she had no family sex education. It wasn’t until she went to college that she truly started to confront her sexual identity.

Tomietta Brown, 42, a computer engineer, said while she was growing up the very concept of  one being homosexual was not even known to her. She grew up doing “boy things” and although in junior high she still played with boys she was more interested in kissing girls. “But being gay just wasn’t known to me.” As a matter of fact, Brown says, “The very term gay is something I didn’t even learn until I was an adult.”

Throughout her entire upbringing in Greensboro Brown admits never knowing anyone who was homosexual but when she went away to college and attended her first lesbian bar she ran into quite a few girls she had grown up with in Greensboro.

If dealing with friends is difficult imagine what it must be like to deal with family. The decision to tell one’s family members about being homosexual is not easy.

For Campbell, who said he was very close to his mother, he finally had to tell her he was gay. “I just got tired of deceiving her.” Campbell said his mother was never judgmental and had always been an opened minded person but it was still a shock.

When Campbell told his mother her reaction was typical and one that many of those interviewed echoed. “She said it was just a phase.”

Ashleigh Ratchford, a senior at UNCG, said she never tried to hide who she was. “I never had a boyfriend in high school…I always flirted with girls.” Still when she openly admitted it to her family, at age 19,  “They were shocked. Some were hurt I didn’t tell them sooner.”

Brown was 20 when she first came out to her family and she admits it was very hard. “I was told not to be gay. My mother kept saying, I know you’re not gay you’re my child.” She said her mother was the type that wanted to mold her children. “I wanted to take auto mechanics, she wanted me to take home ec. I took home ec.” Brown smiles at the irony, “But I still can’t cook.”

Gibbs said even though her mother was more open to it than her father, who still thinks it is just a phase, her mother’s response was, “That’s nasty.” Gibbs said her mother also tried to keep her away from girls which, of course, didn’t work.

After the denial subsides the next reaction is often concern. Gibbs said, “My mother was worried I was going to go to hell.”

Ratchford said, “My mom just wants my life to be easy for me and she said she knows being gay is not easy.”

Of those interviewed most of their families eventually came around to accept and even support their children.

Gibbs said, “Now my mother’s more open with it. She even likes my current partner.” Gibbs takes a moment to reflect, then adds, “My mom said, it’s not like you’re out there doing something bad, you’re living your life Christ-like and you’re happy.”

Campbell admits that confronting his parents with his sexual identity actually helped. “I think my mother and I are closer than ever now.”

But Shameka Powell, 27, a high school English teacher, warns those wrestling with their sexual identity to know the family dynamics before opening up. “If you know your family situation is not supportive, wait. Many kids get disowned or shunned.” Many of those interviewed sited the same warning and some claimed that a large number of young people in homeless shelters are there because they got kicked out of their home for being gay.

“It’s not easy being green.” Those were the words sung by Kermitt the frog on Sesame Street. It was a great song because children could easily replace the word “green” with any word that related to their issue. It’s true here too. “It’s not easy being homosexual.” There are internal issues. There are external issues.

Gibbs does a nice job of summarizing how, in her mind, is the best way to deal with the external influences. She said, “Ignorance is what holds people back and is the basis of their judgment. We can’t conquer ignorance without confronting it.”


Next week: Advice for those dealing with sexual identity issues.





Black and Gay in Guilford County - Part III

Little support for gays, Black or White, in Guilford County

By Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor

When Barry Campbell first agreed to talk about being Black and gay in Guilford County he did so under the condition of anonymity. He talked about the subject in general terms and in very personal terms. He talked about all the homosexuals he knew who had committed suicide. “They just could not accept who there were.” Campbell said. He admitted that he too had considered suicide. His conflict and frustrations led him to a cocaine addiction. Ironically, it was this addiction that saved his life. “I got help in the program,” he explained, “They kept saying, ‘We love you for who you are.’” Campbell said, NARC anonymous teaches one that honesty should come first.”

After the interview, Campbell changed his mind. He said to use his name. “Maybe I can speak for those who can’t.” Asked if there was any advice he would give to those conflicted over their sexual orientation, he said. “Keep God first. Keep your head. Always find somebody you can talk to who can identify with you.” Although this is excellent advice finding someone to talk with may not be that easy. There appears to be very little in the way of support groups for homosexuals in Guilford County.

Campbell, who was born and raised in Winston-Salem and did his undergraduate work at North Carolina A&T State University (A&T), said when he left Greensboro he first went to Charlotte, then Atlanta. “There is help in the larger cities. But here, (Greensboro) not yet. There is some HIV help but little support for gays.”

It was this lack of support that led Ashleigh Ratchford to start a group on the A&T campus. Ratchford said, “I didn’t think gay people had a voice (at A&T). I wanted them to feel welcome, like they are part of the university.” Two previous gay support groups on campus had dissolved. Although it wasn’t easy eventually Ratchford was able to start “Acceptance Without Exception.”

Current “Acceptance Without Exception” president Nyasha Gibbs, said, “When Ashleigh first tried to start the organization she was told by the administration there were no gay people on campus.”  Another male homosexual, who asked not to have his name used, said when he approached one of the Black county commissioners about getting some help to start a support group for gays he was told by the commissioner “There are no gays in my district.”

Gibbs tells the story of one young man who committed suicide. “Everybody thought he was so happy but he had no one to talk with.”

Asked if she had any advice for those struggling with sexual identity Gibbs said, “I wouldn’t know what to tell people. I still need guidance sometimes myself.” She did say that there needs to be more education in the middle schools and high schools about lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). “It would help acceptance. There would be less problems. Children are getting beaten up based on the opinions of their parents, parents who are instilling hatred. Children dieing what sense does that make?

“People don’t want their children thinking about this (LGBT) but the outcome should outweigh a parent’s opinion. Isn’t a child’s life more important than one person’s personal opinion?”

Gibbs also admits that there is not enough support for gays in Guilford County. She even admits, “Our group on campus is still in its training period, we still have on the training wheels.” She says people take down their flyers. She says when they have scheduled events and even reserve a space come the day of the event they will discover some other group has been given their space. “We are told to relocate or cancel the event.”

Gibbs said, “There needs to be more educating of teachers and students.”

There is a group on campus at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), Pride, but in the past it has only been available to UNCG students. However, according to next year’s Pride president, Melanie Ellsweigh,  starting in the fall the group will be open to anyone interested. The Web site for Pride is:

There is one group in Greensboro for LGBT teens. The group is GSAFE. It is not a support group and it is only for ninth through twelfth grade students. According to Dara Nix-Stevenson, current co-chair of GSAFE, “GSAFE attempts to be there as a resource.”

Nix-Stevenson says GSAFE is a public policy advocate for student, it is a training and education resource to help teachers, and it is to insure that student have some social networking. Nix-Stevenson said, “My goal is to increase students of color in this organization.”

Asked if there are support groups for gays and lesbians in Guilford County, Nix-Stevenson said, “There are none. I don’t think Guilford County is all that it can be.”

Nix-Stevenson does have some advice for young people. She says, “The law is behind you.” She said the Guilford County school system has a no-discrimination policy and self-identify is part of that. She said, “If you cannot get help from an adult who cares we (GSAFE) can do what we can.” The Web site for GSAFE is:

One final point that several who were interviewed wanted to stress was safe-sex. Shameka Powell, a 27 year English teacher in Guilford County, said, “Whether it is heterosexual or same sex it should be about being safe.” She said when it comes to safe-sex, “The ball gets dropped all the time among same sex relationships.”

There is little doubt that being Black and gay in Guilford County is a difficult life to live. There is little acceptance among the African American community. There are limited support systems. There is lack of education and understanding.

Despite these difficulties Powell, expressed an opinion shared by others interviewed when she said, “There has to be a point where you say, this is who I am. It has to be harmful to your soul to not be who you are.”






Obama Wins    

By Gabriel A. Fraire


Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the United States of America. In what appears to be a mandate for change, the senator from Illinois won the electoral college vote 338-158 and the popular vote victory of 62,236,958  to 55.285,700 with a few states, including North Carolina, still too close to call as of Weds. Morning.

Winning key battleground states in the East, including Pennsyvannia, Virginia, Ohio and Florida, Obama was declared a victor by the major media networks immediately after the polls closed in California at approximately 11 p.m. eastern standard.

There is little doubt that this is an historic moment in American history as the first African American was elected the next president of the United States. There is also little doubt that the large turnout estimated at more than 130 million people, 64 percent of the electorate and the most ever to vote in a presidential election, helped Obama.

It is also estimated that 96 percent of the African American vote went for Obama but that he also did well among Latino voters garnering 67 percent of their vote, and 66 percent of the youth vote.

Speaking in his hometown of Chicago before a crowd, estimated anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000, Obama opened his remarks with “Hello Chicago,”  and quickly followed with, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

Entering the stage with his wife, Michelle and their two daughters Maila and Sasha, the president-elect took a few minutes to savor the moment before Michelle escorted their daughters backstage and Barack approached the podium.

He awknowledged his supporters and his detractors when he said, “It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America…. It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

Earlier in the evening McCain addressed his followers at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix, the same location he and his wife held their wedding reception. Praising Obama, to a smattering of boos, McCain awknowledged the work of Obama’s campaign team and strategy and vowed to work with the new president.

“This is a historic election, and I recognize the significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation.”

Obama, who has been categorized as “composed” through most of his two year campaign effort remained composed and almost somber in this his defining moment. He took a moment to praise Senator McCAin.

“Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.”

He also took a moment to thank his runningmate, Joe Biden, the campaign staff and his wife, “And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.” He told his daughters he loved them and he brought a hugh laugh from the crowd when he said to his daughters, “And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.”

But he remained composed because he knows the challenges that face the country. “we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” But in his inestimable sytle he added his words of hope. “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.”

Not only did Obama win the presidency buthe led his paarty to gains in Congress and helped put the Democratc in control of the House and Senate for the first sime since 1995.

He also awknowledged that the task ahead are a challenge to all Americans.

“This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.”

And he made sure to reach out to those that did not support him. “And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.”

It was a speech of hope not just for the United States but for the world and he concluded by saying. “This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.”






Middle School Chess Tourney more than strategy     

By Gabriel A. Fraire  

Copy Editor


As Quaneisha Purnell studied her chessboard one could almost hear her brain working. “I like chess because you create good strategies. It takes tactics.”


Purnell was one of 138 students flexing their brains and sharpening their skills at the bi-annual Guilford County Middle School Chess Tournament that this year expanded to include a few schools from Forsyth County.


The event was held at Aycock Middle School last Saturday. Kent Boyles, the organizer of the event for the four years it has been in existence, confirmed the number and said he was pleased with the turnout. “We got a lot of kids this year.”


Edna Olayiwola, the Eastern Guilford Middle School Chess Coach, said she was surprised upon her arrival Saturday. “When I saw the line this morning I said, ‘Oh my God.’” Olayiwola, who admits to loving chess, said she had brought six of her students.


Obviously, she isn’t the only one who loves chess. Dante Armstrong, of Lincoln Middle School, also said she loves chess, “Because it keeps my spirits high. And it helps me get good grades.”


Chris Veneris and Damian Eastwell co-coach the Lincoln Middle School team. They brought seven students to the tournament. They said chess is big at Lincoln. Veneris said, “We have 30 to 40 kids in our club. We have so many we have to have a morning session and an afternoon session.”


Eastwell said one of the great things about chess is that every child is on an even playing field. Veneris added, it doesn’t matter how big or small a student is.


They both admitted that the tournament is really good for the students. Veneris said, “It’s a good social event. The kids get to meet students from other schools.”


The social aspect is what first attracted Jaclyn Coble, an 8th grade student from Southeast Middle School. “I started this year because of one of my friends.” She added, “It’s fun and I make new friends.” She said that when playing she will sometimes start to feel like she is losing then a move will open up and she will get excited.


Eastwell said tournaments are also good because the students get to play against someone they don’t know. At the school club level it doesn’t take long to discover the better players and often others shy away from playing them. “They come here (the tournament) and they are full of confidence. As far as they’re concerned they are the stronger player.”


Both men hope that the growing popularity of chess at the middle school level will carry over into the high school level.


Herb Goins, Guilford County Schools (GCS) director of athletics, student activities and driver education, said the program was originally initiated to give 6th grade students an after school activity. He explained that 6th graders at the middle school level cannot participate in many of the school’s extra-curricular activities like athletics. He noted that in past years the chess tournament would be mostly 6th graders. As the students moved into 7th and 8th grade they left chess because so many other activities competed for their interest. Boyles said, in explaining this year’s growth in participants,  “We’re getting more 8th graders. The kids are staying with it.”


But Boyles also attributes much of the success to Goins efforts and the support of GCS Superintendent Terry Grier. Boyles said, “The superintendent is very much behind the program. He made money available for clocks and equipment. The coaches are even paid…And, Herb Goins has been terrific.”


 At the tournament a computer program randomly selects opponents. Each student plays another student from his or her grade level. The winner gets one point, the loser zero and they each get a half point in the event of a draw. Each game is 30 minutes maximum in length. The winner at each grade level will participate at the state level and be sponsored by the school district.


Boyles said, “We are trying to get the public schools more competitive at the state level.”

All the adults interviewed on Saturday noted that chess helped students with math skills, thinking, planning. And like Boyles, most also said the more one plays the better they get.


Boyles, who is the chess coach at Kernodle Middle School, said, at the beginning of the year he can beat most of the students pretty easily but by year’s end, “Every year I get some kid who gets so good I can’t play them. They get so good they get obnoxious about it.” Then he smiles that little smile that only a teacher can smile when they know they have helped turn on a little light inside a students brain.






Black History Expo Friday                     


By Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor



African American business people need to get better at networking, at least that is the opinion of Tyrone Smith the founder of the Annual Black History Month Business Expo which is being held Friday, February 15 at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center, East Wing.


Smith, a North Carolina A&T State University graduate, said, when he came out of A&T and got into the workforce he found in the African American community a great divide. “They were not networking.” Smith said, rather than complain about it he decided to do something and in 1994 Smith, Ronnie Keith and Luther Falls Jr. got together to form Watchful Network.


The Watchful Network is a free, local, networking organization with the hope of promoting better networking among African American businesses. From Watchful Network came the idea of the Business Expo. This is the 13th year for the expo.


According to Smith, that first year they had 15 businesses participate as exhibitors. This year they have close to 100.


Last year’s attendance, according to Smith was approximately 1000 visitors but this year they anticipate more than 2,000.


Smith said, “The benefit for participants is to learn about products and services (of other African American businesses).” He added, it is also a great way to network.


Watchful Network has monthly meetings, free and open to any interested person. They also have quarterly business owner roundtables where each participant can speak about what is new and interesting in their business. Smith said that Watchful Network also has quarterly non-alcoholic socials where they just meet to relax and enjoy some light entertainment.


Currently, the monthly meetings are at the Greensboro Regional Board of Realty office but the group has hopes to, in the not too distant future, have their own building.


In addition to the business exhibits this week’s expo will also have workshops like: How to Start Your Own Business, Tax Advice, Home Buying with Little Money Down. There will also be a career fair where perspective employee and employers can meet. The Expos will also feature a keynote speaker, Dr. Dean Craig, the Dean of the School of Business and Economics at A&T State University.


Smith said he sees other cultures network and he wants to keep promoting the importance to the African American community about networking. He also said he wants to encourage everyone to come to the expo. “It is a free event where people can empower the community and empower themselves.”


For more information on Watchful Network or the Expo call: 336-392-8182 or visit







Greensboro Scenic Tours     

By Gabriel A. Fraire


Combining her love of English, history and psychology Sandra Alexander has created, with her husband Rondal, the perfect business for her. Ten years ago she started Greensboro Scenic Tours. Their business provides sightseeing tours of Greensboro thatare part history and part entertainment. But it hasn’t been easy.


“It has been a tough go. It’s still not easy.” Said Alexander. She said she got the idea of starting a tour company after a visit to San Diego. “We took a short tour to Mexico, Tiajuana. The bus driver dropped us off and said I’ll see you in two hours.” It started her thinking.  “This is something Greensboro is ready for.” But when she came home she found little support.


“I’m the kind of person that likes to run ideas past people.” She explained her idea to anyone who would listen. “I got nothing but negative responses. People would say, ‘What is there to see in Greensboro.’ People had very little faith in what Greensboro has to offer.”


But it didn’t discourage her. “I have had a love affair with Greensboro since I was a student.” Born and raised in Warsaw, N.C. a little tobacco growing community in southeast North Carolina, about 60 miles from Willington, she came to Greensboro to attend North Carolina A&T State University. A good student she went on to get a master’s degree from Harvard and a Phd. from the University of Pittsburgh. She eventually returned to A&T where she taught for 30 years. It was while teaching that she started the scenic tours business ten years ago.


A determined person, Alexander didn’t let the discouraging words stop her. She started the business from her home. Today, she has an office in downtown Greensboro and her company offers a variety of tours including: City Historic Tour, African American Heritage Tour, Mendenhall Plantation Tour, Blandwood Mansion Tour, Replacements Limited Tour, even a Dinner Theater Tour and a Nightlife Tour.


But the business didn’t really start to develop until after she retired from A&T. Not only could she devote more time to it but she introduced a new wrinkle.  “We introduced costumed interpreters.”


Realizing the potential of the theatrical talent available in the Triad, Alexander decided to add some entertainment value to her tours. She dressed her tour guides in period costumes and they become historical characters. On the Civil Rights Tour she has an actress portray Willa Player, the first female president of Bennett College for Women and the fist African American women president of a liberal arts college in the United States.


On the historic tour she might have Katie Coffin, a Quaker whose husband Levi Coffin was known as the president of the underground railroad. The Coffins are believed to have helped more than 3000 slaves escape slavery.


One of her more popular interpreters is ex-slave Harmon Unthank. Unthank was the co-founder with Yardley Warner of the first planned housing subdivision for African Americans in North Carolina.


But the interpreters are more than entertainment. Alexander note that each character portrays courage and character and has taken steps to change the world for the better.


“We added a new dimension. We combined education with entertainment.” Alexander said. They also added technology with a video monitor that displays video images or runs documentaries of the various sights.


Her costumed interpreters were so successful that Alexander expanded her business to include theatrical productions for young people.


Alexander, a distinguished writer and the 1994 winner of the North Carolina Arts Council Writer’s Fellowship, she has penned several books and she writes all the monologues and theater productions for her company. She said she does most of her research at the North Carolina Room of the Greensboro Library.


But despite her efforts business still doesn’t just flow into her office. “It’s hard to get the word out.” Alexander said. She said she has developed a good relationship with the Visitors and Convention Bureau, and has made inroad with the local hotel and catering industry. But, she says, there is a lot of competition for the entertainment and tourist trade.


Being African American and running a business provides another set of challenges. Alexander prefers not to dwell on those issues. Like many of the characters her interpreters portray, Alexander has an inner strength to persevere.


“I don’t know why I don’t give up. I’ve had enough knocks and bruises to just quit. I guess it’s just dogged determination.”


It is a determination that pays off, if not in dollars at least in gratitude as expressed by many of those who have taken the tours from educators, to students to guests to Greensboro such as Eleanor and George Dulles who write: “I would like to comment on how beautiful Greensboro is and how much we enjoyed our tour with Sandy Alexander. She was such a delightful lady, and we thoroughly enjoyed our morning and afternoon tour with her. Had it not been for her, we would only have viewed the city going to and from the airport.”


For more information on Greensboro Scenic Tours contact Alexander at: 336-274-2282 or visit their Web site:








Awareness program helps youth                             


Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor


The Black and Hispanic Achievers Program meets twice a month at the Hayes Taylor YMCA on East Market Street in Greensboro. The purpose of the program, according to director Myrna Wigley, is to educate and expose youth grades 8-12 to career options and to encourage a furthering of their education past high school.


In order to achieve these ends, Wigley says,  adults and organizations from a variety of fields serve as mentors, role models and instructors helping to guide the youth. The Achievers program is the premier teen program the Y offers nationwide and is currently being utilized by more than 126 Y’s across the nation.


Wigley said that each Y chooses their focus area. She said that in a city like Chicago, with a large Hispanic population, the program might be geared toward Hispanics. In a community like San Francisco the program might be directed towards Asians. In Harlem, where the program began in 1971, the program is directed toward black youth. Here, in Greensoboro, the program, which began in 2000, was initially targeting black youth but this year expanded its interests to include Hispanics.


So far, there are no Hispanic participants but Wigley says she wants to change that. She adds, however, that the program is open to all teens regardless of their ethnicity and she encourages any youth interested in furthering their education to, at least, stop by and see how the program works. They meet on the first and third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Giving up one’s Saturday morning is a pretty big commitment for anyone but especially a young person. But Mathew Pettit, a student from Smith High School, who is in his second year of participating in the program says, “It’s well worth it.”


Pettit said, “I get help with my SATs and with scholarships and I have been able to look at a lot of colleges.”


An important component of the program is that each spring the group takes a college tour. Wigley said two years ago they started in Pennsylvania and worked their way down the East Coast visiting schools. Last year they attended five in-state schools. This year they hope to make a southern tour.


Pettit said, “I learned that in most places you need at least a 2.5 grade point average.” He was also surprised to discover that many colleges have curfews for their students.


Wigley said the idea of the tour is to try and expose the students to as many schools as possible. “If they don’t see where their education is going then they think what is the purpose. They need to see an end goal.”


On the tours the students get to meet college students, admissions officers, and attend activities. Khadijah Boyd, one of the participants, added an important note about the tour. “It’s fun.”


But the tour also serves another important function. It exposes the students to travel and new experiences. Wigley said, some participants have never been exposed to travel, have never left the state some have never left Greensboro. “We all know how important travel is to one’s development.” Wigley said, and added, “It’s hard for one to see all their possibilities without exposure.”



Joseph Bryant, another student in his second year of participation, agrees. “This program helps me grow academically and socially. It helps me set goals and experience things I wouldn’t get to experience.”


Parents may attend the program with the students. And on the day the Peacemaker observed the program there were four parents in attendance. Merna Pettit, Mathew’s mother, gave a whole list of positive attributes about the program. She said she especially appreciated the fact that at the program her son was able to “meet like minded teenagers.” She said, “Here they can see that is it okay to be smart, that it is okay not to just party and that it is okay to be responsible.”


The three hour program starts with a devotion. Wigley said sometimes the devotion is spiritual but always it is motivational. After the devotion the students break into cluster groups to focus on their areas of interest. There are usually two focus groups per session. Often they do hands on activities. Occasionally, there are guest speakers.


The areas of focus this year include: Health and medicine, engineering and technology, arts and entertainment, media and communications. Wigley noted that this year the engineering and technology aspect of the program will focus on building a robot to compete in the annual A&T Tech Challenge which is held each spring at North Carolina A&T State University.


In describing the various presentations Wigley said, “Even if they don’t like math or science something (in the presentation) might spark their interest…Hopefully the influence will spark them to go back and do better in school.”


But everything isn’t geared toward careers and college. Wigley said they also present information on issues such as goal setting, study skills, job interviews, and public speaking. “We try to help with the student’s entire personal development.” Wigley said.


The participants interviewed all gave high praise to the director, Wigley. Bryant said, “She’s wonderful. She will check up on us if we miss days. She helps us with our work. She’s a good mentor.”


Kymaria Muhammad, another parent in attendance, added, “It is great when we have people so interested in our youth, giving them opportunities and extra guidance. We need to take advantage of this.”


Asked if there was anything on anyone she wanted to thank in helping with this program, director Wigley said, “Lincoln Financial has been monumental is their support of this program.”


Asked why she devotes so much of her life to young people, Wigley said, “Young people are really cool once they know they can trust you.”


For more information on the Black and Hispanic Achievers program call 272-2131. Anyone who does call might have the phone answered by Y representative Justin Hayes. Ask him what he thinks of the program and he will probably say what he told the Peacemaker. “It’s a great program. I wish I had that opportunity when I was young.”







Black Rabbi reaches across faith and race lines                   

By Gabriel Fraire

Copy Editor




Recently the New York Times ran a feature article about the first African American member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and the reverberations waved all the way to Greensboro. His name is Capers C. Funnye Jr. and he happens to be a friend of another well-known African American Jew, Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the publisher of the Carolina Peacemaker.


In a phone interview with the Peacemaker, last week, Rabbi Funnye revealed he had other Carolina connections besides being a good friend of Dr. Kilimanjaro. He said he was born in Georgetown, South Carolina, a small seaport town half way between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. But Funnye wasn’t long for the South. By the age of two he found himself in the big city of Chicago where he has lived ever since.


It was a journey of discovery that led Funnye away from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in which he was reared. He said that as a teenager he had difficulty connecting with his Methodist faith and became dissatisfied. He then embarked on a spiritual journey that led him to study all religions including Islam and Judaism.


It was Judaism that most peaked Funnye’s interest.  That Judaism combines a sense of the intellectual and spiritual and encourages study appealed to Funnye, but the main attraction, according to Funnye, “It was the idea to question. Don’t just believe what I say, question what I say.” He gives examples of Abraham and Moses, questioning God, not simply doing what they were told.


Rabbi Funnye said, “In Judaism faith and intellect merge.”


To convert to Judaism is a big step but how does one then go on to become a Rabbi?


Rabbi Funnye laughs, “I had no ambitions to become a Rabbi.” He says it was others who kept encouraging him to become a Rabbi. Actually, even when he was a child his minister at the A&E Church had encouraged him to pursue the path of church ministry. At the time, that also had no appeal for him. Eventually, he acquiesced to the continuous requests and began his rabbinical studies at the age of 28.


Funnye’s congregation is on the Southwest Side of Chicago in a predominantly black community. There are more than 200 members of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.


Rabbi Funnye describes his congregation services as being between Conservative and Modern Orthodox in their practices. But he admits there is a distinctive African American influence.


Much of the service is very traditionally Jewish in flavor. The men and women sit separately and the service is in both English and Hebrew. But Funnye admits, “Being Jewish doesn’t mean you can only sing traditional Jewish songs.” He also said, “We eat Kosher but that doesn’t mean we don’t eat collard greens.”


The temporary fame brought about by the NY Times article has helped Funnye in his quest to narrow the divide between African American Jews and the rest of the Jewish community. The Times states there are no firm national statistics on the number of African American Jews and that they have historically stood apart from the rest of the country’s 5 million plus Jews. Rabbi Funnye would like to change that isolation and possibly form a bridge between the two similar but different groups.


He said his congregation’s chorus has preformed throughout the greater metropolitan Chicago area. He also has found himself speaking in front of different synagogues. “I am reaching out and asking others to reach back.”


He is also reaching out to other faiths. “We want to work with Christians, Muslims, all individuals… faith communities…and teachers.” Funnye emphasizes, “We need to learn to work together.”


If this rabbi crosses religious lines it is easy to accept that he also crosses racial lines. Being black and Jewish does give Funnye a unique perspective.


Asked why it often appears that Jews and blacks, both people with a history of persecution, seem to dislike each other? He is quick to respond that there were, and still are, many Jews at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Then he added an interesting perspective on one possible explanation of the differences.


He explained that in big cities, like New York, it was traditionally the Jews who worked as social workers and teachers in the predominately black neighborhoods. That with the emergence of a larger number of African Americans with college degrees in the late 60s and early 70s, a direct result of the success of the Civil Rights Movement, there came a conflict. The young blacks were demanding the jobs as social workers and teachers in their own communities. The results being that they displaced a lot of Jews working those positions and a resentment rose into which each group fed.


So how does Rabbi Funnye deal with such resentment? What can he suggest as ways to overcome racial prejudices?


“Working on racial problems is everybody’s responsibility.” Funnye said. “This doesn’t fall to any segment or group.” He added, “God never created racial divisions. Racial divisions were created by man.” He added that it would take man to break down these divisions.


Rabbi Funnye is optimistic and very positive about his work and the future. He hopes that one day there will no longer be obstacles created by one’s religion or race. That we will all be thought of as part of one race, “The human race.”


He said he has been receiving emails from all around the world. And from these emails he does get a sense that his message is reaching others. He said, recently he opened an email and all it said was, “I am a white Jew and I am reaching back.”







Gene Banks new basketball coach at Smith       


By Gabriel Fraire

Copy Editor


Former NBA stalwart and two-time All-American at Duke University, Gene Banks, was introduced Tuesday at a press conference at Ben L. Smith High Schools as  the new varsity boys’ basketball coach.


New athletic director of Smith, Charlie Barnes, introduced Banks by saying, “We are extremely fortunate to have him here.”


Banks, a Greensboro resident, is well known in the triad as a former basketball star. He has played with such greats as Magic Johnson, George Gerwin, and Michael Jordon.


Banks was on the original McDonald’s High School All-American team in 1979 where he played with Johnson. He was drafted out of Duke by the San Antonio Spurs where he played with Gerwin, four years later he went to the Bulls where is was a teammate of Michael Jordon. Banks followed his NBA career with several years playing in Europe.


Born and raised in Philadelphia and attending West Philadelphia High, out of high school Banks was sought after by more than 300 colleges but chose Duke after his high school English teacher and mentor, William H. Dadwyler Jr., suggested he visit Duke because it had a good academic reputation.


Banks said, in a phone interview prior to the press conference, “Dadwyler didn’t know much about basketball. He always stressed academics. He wanted me to get a good education. He wanted me to be a better man.” And Banks says he wants his players at Smith to do the same. “My mission is to help make my players move up to the next level, not just in basketball but in life.


“Young men today need to know that schooling is important. They need to learn respect for themselves and others.”


Banks, who has always been involved in community activities wherever he lived, said about his new position at Smith, “This is just an extension of what I have always done, working with young people helping to guide their future.”


Smith Principal Dr. Noah Rogers said prior to the conference, “He (Banks) brings to our school leadership.” He added that Banks will be a good role model. “But most importantly,” Rogers said, “He is a good teacher.”


Rogers said Banks will also be activity involved with school and community relations which means he will be dealing with students on and off the basketball court.


Banks, who in he past has turned down coaching positions at the college and high school level, said he accepted the position at Smith primarily because he was impressed with the staff. “I sat with Dr. Rogers and his staff and I was very impressed with their vision and mission for Smith High School. I’m glad I am going to be part of that team.”


Banks originally moved to Greensboro when he was playing professional basketball oversees. “My wife’s family is from the Greensboro area, so we settled here while I played abroad.”


His late wife, Isabell Johnson Banks, is from a well-known Greensboro athletic family. Her uncle was Jona McKee a coach at Dudley, her other uncle Roger McKee was athletic associate at A&T State University and her cousin, the late Tony McKee, was a football coach at Smith.


Banks has coached Division II basketball at Bluefield State University in West Virginia and with the United State Basketball League’s Carolina Cardinals a professional league that is a feeder system for the NBA.


Asked what he liked best about coaching, Banks said. “I like the teaching aspect. Being able to take a little of myself and give it to young players. My strengths as a player were the intangibles: awareness, and knowledge of the game. I want to bring that to my players. It is my responsibility to get all the potential out of them on the court and off the court.”


Asked if he had any advice for his players he quickly responded. “Get Ready. Get ready to make a maximum effort. Get ready to be challenged on and off the court. And get ready to have the most fun you have every had playing basketball.”


Darian Jones, one of Bank’s future ball players who attended the conference said, when asked his opinion of his new coach, “I think it’s great to have a coach who came from pro ball.”


Dominque Bartell, another of Bank’s future ball players added, “What he brings will inspire us to do better.”


In addition to guiding students and developing players Banks said he wants to take advantage of Smith alumni. “I want to bring the past into the current.” He said he is already trying to get past Smith greats like, Bob McAdoo, Vince Evans and Jeff and Joe Bostic involved with the program.


“Getting the alumni involved and getting the community involved is all vital to making the whole program a success.” Banks said.


Banks has two daughters, India, a rising senior at UNCG and Bianca a rising sophomore at UNCG and a son Gene III who lives and works in Philadelphia.


Banks admits accepting this position will be a major challenge. “But I have already received a lot of calls of support. I know what I’m getting into and I’m ready.”


Rogers said, “He (Banks) is a perfect fit for Smith.”










Summer reading program supports the fundamentals         

By Gabriel A. Fraire

Staff Writer



At a time when almost everyone agrees that more needs to be done in the area of educating black children one Greensboro organization has been doing just that for more than 30 years.


Greensboro native, Sarah Walden Herbin, founded the Black Child Development Institute of Greensboro, Inc. in 1978. And according to its current leadership it has been going strong ever since. 


This summer The Spirit of Excellence Tutoring Program is one of the main thrusts of the BCDI-G’s work here in Greensboro.


“We try and match volunteers with students throughout the year.” Said June Valdes, executive director of BCDI-G. She noted that volunteers are screened, well trained, and given a structured network. “We want them to have a high level of comfort.”


Jessica Rogers who is the Tutorial Program Director at BCDI added, “We (BCDI) started with tutoring. It is our foundation.”


Throughout the year BCDI-G has ten sites with easy access, all in public places, where students and their tutors can meet.


Rogers said that although they tutor several subjects all through the year in the summer the emphasis is on reading. “Because reading is the thing that children tend not to do over the summer.” She added that every tutoring session they have involves some type of reading, even if it is a math program. “No matter what you do in life you can’t get away from reading.” Rogers said.


The sessions typically run three hours and the students can come in as their schedule fits. Each student is given one hour of one on one tutoring.


Gwendoly Mack, a senior at N.C. A&T State University, is another of the reading tutors. Mack said she plans to be a teacher so tutoring is a natural thing for her to do and she enjoys it but the best part is, “the connection I have with the children, pre-teens.”


Rogers noted that the tutoring program is often more than tutoring it is a mentor/tutoring program. Since many of the volunteers are college students, Rogers says it sets a good example for the children. It shows them they can go to college.


Victoria King, was Mack’s student on the day the Peacemaker visited Chavis Library where the sessions were being held. King admitted that reading wasn’t her favorite activity but she did add, “She (Mack) makes it fun.”


Tutors can come from all walks of life and BCDI-G is always open to new volunteers. Rogers said, “We have mostly students but we also have retired professionals and some people who just have a passion to help.”


Lydia Harris is one of those tutors who has that passion. She said, “Even when I was little and we were playing I was the one who pretended to be the teacher.”  Even though she enjoys it Harris said there can be hard times like when she sees the children get discouraged. “I try to make them feel like they can do it.”


Johnny Le, who was being tutored by SaKoyra Bullock, became very excited when asked how he liked the reading program. Le said, “I’m getting really good at reading.”


The tutorial program is just one of the many facets of the BCDI-G. There are a variety of other programs. Academy for Sports and Computational Exploration in Science, which is done in cooperation with N.C. A&T State University, has the goal of engaging area students in sports activities coupled with an exploratory, hands-on, scientific discovery in mathematics and science. The Martin Luther King Violence Prevention & Leadership Academy helps students learn conflict resolution, as well as life and social skills.


BCDI-G also has a mentoring program, which helps provide young people with positive role models. And there is a parent-to-parent program to help with issues of parenting.


BCDI-G also sponsors a variety of events like the Celebration of Children: A Day in the Park, the Annual Black History Quiz Bowl and the upcoming Back to School Extravaganza.


This year the Extravaganza is on Saturday, August 25, from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Bethel AME Church, located at 200 Regan Street, Greensboro.


The Back to School Extravaganza provides a half-day workshop for students and parents.  The workshop is designed to encourage parent involvement and to motivate students to achieve higher academic performance and strive for a successful school year. At the conclusion of the workshop, school supplies are distributed to each child in attendance.


BCDI-G is all about helping young people. Valdes said, “We want to help give the students the skills they need.”


The true success of any program is often best evaluated by the parents. Robin Scott-King who has two daughters in the program said. “This is a good program. It encourages children to read and reading is really essential to their fundamental development. Having this in the summer shows the kids that reading is not just for school but should be a part of their everyday life.” 


For more information about the Back to School Extravaganza or the Black Child Development Institute of Greensboro, Inc., please contact the BCDI-G office at (336) 230-2138 or email









Sixteenth Street bridge nearing completion             

By Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor



Work is nearly complete on the rebuild of the Sixteenth Street bridge and it could be open as soon as Feburary 8, according to Ted Kallam, the bridge project manager for the City of Greensboro.


Kallam said that since the bridge was being rebuilt it was also decided that the height over the existing railroad tracks should also be increased. Often there are time delays when working over railroad tracks due to the need to coordinate placing equipment over the tracks with train track usage. In this case, according to Kallam, there were very few delays caused by track time. Kallam also said the lack of rain, although not good for the community as a whole, did help expedite the construction work.


According to Darrell Ferguson of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the bridge replacement is part of the Federal Highway Administration’s bridge replacement program.


Kallam said, The plans for the project were designed by RWA/STV a consulting firm out of Rock Hill S.C. APAC Construction, Inc., which has a local office in Greensboro, is doing the construction work and was awarded the contract with a bid of $2,974,410. 


Kallam noted that during an update meeting with the contractor, last October, the contractor’s representatives estimated that they would be completing the project under bid. No final figures will be available until the work is completed.


Kallam said the project, which began in January of 2007  is approximately 80 percent complete. The final inch of road is expected to be complete prior to February 8. If there are delays in completing the final road surface due to inclement weather, Kallam said the bridge might still be open with an intermediate layer until the final layer can be applied.





Help needed for new refugees       

By Gabriel A. Fraire

Copy Editor



Imagine a major catastrophe, you lose your home, family, friends, job and your only means of survival is to be transported half way around the world. Stepping from a plane you find yourself in a land where you do not know the customs, the language, you have no contacts, no money, only the clothes on your back. How would you survive?


This is the scenario that many worldwide refugees face everyday. Fortunately, for African refugees who land in Greensboro there is help. It is an organization called North Carolina African Services Coalition.


For the past ten years North Carolina African Services has been helping African refugees adjust to life in American. Gloria Poole, job developer and case manager, of African Services explains. “Our work is to help these people find shelter, jobs, food, clothing, get their children in school, medical assistance, whatever they need.”


Until this year the organization has not dealt with new refugees but has taken referrals from such refugee organization as Jewish Family Services, Lutheran Family Services and World Relief. Poole said, “After the refugees have been here (United States) four months they are then referred to us and we help them get settled.”


This year, however, African Services applied for and was granted status as a re-settlement agency which means, once trained, the organization will become one of the agencies that does meet the new refugees at the plane.


Omer Omer, director of African Services, said. “This is new for us.” He explains that because African Services has done so well over the past ten years helping refugees get settled it is felt they have the skills and experience to be able to broaden their scope and now also become a resettlement agency.


Omer explains the difference in focus. “Before we were primarily involved with helping new refugees become self-sufficient.” Before it was the responsibility of the resettlement agencies to help the new refugees get all the necessary paperwork in order, social security cards, immunization shots, immediate housing, food and clothing. After the initial four-month period the new refugees were referred to organizations like African Services. “Now the new element is survival.” Now, African Services will be providing immediate assistance and long-term self-reliance.


Although Omer said he is looking forward to expanding the services of the organization there is much work to do. “We need community support. We need help from the community main stream.”


Prior to meeting someone at the airport all living arrangements must be made. Poole said, “We are working right now with landlords trying to make arrangements.”


Omer explains that new refugees come with nothing. It would be unrealistic to expect them to have security deposits and first months rent. Omer said, “This is why we need sponsors.”


A sponsor is a family, an individual, a club or group, anyone who is willing to take on some of the initial responsibilities of refugee survival. Omer said a sponsor is someone who provides first night or first week’s lodging, someone who can provide transportation to appointments like to a doctor’s office or a job interview.


Ideally, a sponsor will be able to provide in-kind or in cash lodging or funding for lodging for three months. He estimates the cost to a sponsor at approximately $450-$500 a month .


The organization has in the past helped about 60 people per year and that is the number they anticipate they will continue to work with which Omer says may translate into about 15 or 20 families per year.


He and Poole are working hard and Omer says they are already having much success with local African associations but they want to see more participation from African American organization, churches and mainstream community organizations.


“It has been generally perceived that the African American community is not involved.” Omer said. “But we find that this is not true.” He explained that what they have found is that there is little understanding of how the refugee process works. “We have to do a lot of education. People often ask things like, what do they eat?” All the refugees working through African Services are legal immigrants.


Poole and Omer appear to be a perfect team for the challenge. Poole is African American and a long time Greensboro resident. She helps bridge the gap between the African and the African American communities. Omer, although a citizen now, was a refugee from Sudan who knows exactly what these new immigrants to the United States face.


He remembers arriving in Miami via London, stepping from the plane and looking for the subway. There are no subways in Miami


North Carolina African Services Coalition is taking on a major challenge and they need help. Omer said he used to try and explain to people that new immigrants are good for the economy but that did not seem to reach people. Now he simply says, that helping new immigrants, “Is just good work. It is human work.”


For more information on helping North Carolina African Services, Inc. call: 336-574-2677.







As appeared in the Carolina Peacemaker

Tea Party members are guilty and scared


Tea Party members are guilty and scared. They feel guilty, whether they wish to admit it or not, for the two hundred plus years of abuse toward anyone not lily White Christian. And they’re scared because now that the tide is obviously turning, and soon they will no longer be the majority power in this country, they are scared that we will treat them in the same horrible way they have treated us.

Last week more than 2,000 people turned out in Greensboro to demonstrate their strength in Guilford County. If you were brave enough to go over to the plaza, last Thursday, you would have heard words that would turn any decent person’s stomach. Chants of White Power, the N-word, and threats could be heard some from the stage and others among the audience. The only thing missing were the white sheets. One person noted, “at least I didn’t see any nooses.”

As much as we find this type of political rhetoric irresponsible and reprehensible don’t be fooled into thinking these people are dumb. They’re not, many are very smart and all of them seem extremely motivated. So watch out. Unless you want to see Obama follow in the footsteps of Former Mayor Yvonne Johnson, unless you want to see the Congress swing way back to the conservative right, then you too better get motivated too.

You need to get motivated to not only vote, but to get others out to vote. Remember how we got Obama elected, we voted, we talked others into voting, we drove to the polls those who had no ride, we donated to the campaign, we worked and we prayed and we made it happen. Well we are going to have to do the same thing again, not just in the primary but in the November election and in every election from now until forever.

If you think getting Obama elected was all you needed to do you are wrong. The health care debacle should have been enough to open your eyes to the extremely negative energy of this partisan politics that has gripped the nation. But if it didn’t then learning of the large turn-out for this obviously racist, ultra-conservative Tea Party better open your eyes.

If we aren’t motivated to cocntinue the fight to move all people forward then be prepared to move backwards. White, racist, conservatives were shocked when they couldn’t steal the last presidential election like the two previous ones but they won’t be shocked again. They are ready, prepared, organized and out there working very hard to revert to the “good ole days.”

This is not a Black White issue. It is not a race issue. It is a human decency issue.

Do we want to live in a country that puts its citizens first or puts its corporate sponsors first? Do we want to live in a country that governs for the good of all or for the profit of a select few? Should humans worldwide be seen as valuable and of great worth or should they be simply viewed as another commodity to be used, abused and discarded.

These next few elections will tell the tale of whether we truly care or not. Was getting one Black man elected president enough or should we continue to fight for true change.

Tea Party members are staunch Obama foes. They blame the president for everything and anything. Never once do you hear these people attribute any of this country’s problems to the eight years of George Bush leadership. Yet it was Bush that got us into two wars, let the finance world run amuck, did little if anything to ease the environmental concerns, did nothing to advance health care, ignored the poor, the working class and anyone else who was not part of the White Christian club. He made this great county the butt of jokes, ridicule and disrespect all throughout the world. But no Tea Party wants to address that, they simply want to point their fingers at the current president.

It is obvious that there is no desire by Tea Party members to work together with those of differing opinions. It is obvious they are angry and exclusive. It is obvious they are highly motivated, organized, financed, and willing to work hard. We better be too or we will see a backlash of conservative control that could resurrect those nooses, if not physically in view, at least, psychologically in intent.






Appeared in the Carolina Peacemaker

Haitian recovery through sweatshop labor


By Gabriel Fraire

Copy Editor 

A recent Associated Press article ran in the local daily paper with the headline “Low-pay garment jobs may aid Haiti’s recovery.” At first glance one might see this as a positive act, new jobs aiding in the recovery of Haiti. But a quick read through the story presents some glaring injustices, injustices that seem to mirror one of the major disservices of a corporate run world.

Jobs to aid recovery is a great idea (one we could use in this country), however, can there ever be a good reason to perpetuate the concept of third-world sweatshops? The article states how one young garment worker makes $3.08 for an eight-hour day of labor. And despite living in a poverty-ridden country (even before the earthquake) three dollars a day is not enough money to sustain the worker who must sleep in the street and scavenge for food.

The U.S. government is aiding this process by encouraging all U.S. retailers to obtain from Haiti at least one percent of the clothes they sell. An act passed by Congress in 2008 called the HOPE II Act (Haiti Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act) allows Haiti to export textiles duty-free to the U.S. According to the AP article $513 million worth of Haitian-made apparel was exported to the U.S. last year with the factory profit margin averaging about 22 percent.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal but where is the justice in this? How can we allow a 22  percent profit margin on the backs of slave labor? And, more importantly, how can we perpetuate and even encourage such activity under the guise of helping? If we truly want to help shouldn’t we be allowing this duty-free export only if wages are increased?

In some ways it reminds me of how corporate America has, under the guise of economic recovery, come away with a major stronghold on the American worker. Thanks to the corrupt practices of the financial industry our “economic downturn” has given corporate America exactly what it has, for years, strived to achieve – workers who are forced to accept whatever is dished out by management.

Everywhere one goes today you can hear people complain about their job, or rant about their boss, or worry about their pay and still the last thing each and everyone of those complaining says is, “Well, at least I’ve got a job.”

American workers are so grateful to not be unemployed that they will now accept any and all conditions of their work. So, I guess if it can happen here then why not in Haiti. They will just be happy to have the job. Right? Well, that’s not what the young woman in the AP story said. She said, “We’re just fighting to survive.” Which also sounds like a lot of American workers, we’re just fighting to survive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a fantasy world were corporate owners felt some sense of responsibility to their workers or their customers? Wouldn’t it be grand if those factory owners, instead of making a 22 percent profit margin decided instead to make only 20 percent profit and would return the other two percent to the workers? Think of the hope that might truly give the Haitians knowing that not only would they be re-building their country but that the country they were re-building would be better than the one that was devastated by the earthquake.

It never ceases to amaze me how one can make profit on the misery and hardships of others. I have no doubt there were scammers, con men and “business” men who raced to New Orleans after Katrina to take advantage of the misfortune and now there will be the same in Haiti.






Appeared in the Carolina Peacemaker

Healthcare, peoplecare, the fight is not over

Finally, healthcare reform. It isn’t everything everyone wanted, it isn’t radical, innovative, earth-shaking reform, but it is a great first step and a positive change for all Americans. And, we should take a brief moment to relish in this change. “Yes We Can,” once again sounds like a statement in which we can believe.

BUT, and this is very important, we cannot rest, we cannot think that by winning this battle we have won the war. There is still much to do and there are vocal, very negative entities (i.e. members of Tea Party members along with the Republican Party) out there spewing their venom.

It is evident by their highly partisan behavior that the Republican Party has no intention of embracing any type of bipartisan politics. It is obvious by their vote and by their rude inexcusable language (“Baby Killer”) and obnoxious behavior (spitting at opponents), along with their constant, negative barrage of criticism that the Grand Ole Party has only one intention - to fight and oppose any and every idea President Obama proposes.

Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate, John McCain said members of the Republican Party will do all they can to repeal the health care reforms.

Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Republican of Wisconsin, denounced the bill as “a fiscal Frankenstein.”

And one of the Triad’s own representatives, Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, said it was “one of the most offensive pieces of social engineering legislation in the history of the United States.”

With this type of divisive rhetoric there is very little hope for Congress to move forward in a bipartisan fashion on any issue.

The sad part is that the Republican Party did not offer an alternative healthcare reform plan. Their sole purpose is to stop the Obama administration’s plan to improve the lives of Americans.

And, health care reform is just the first of a long list of services people in this country need. We need more jobs. We need some type of positive pro-active approach to our immigration issues. We need to stop the genocide of the African American male. We need to get our children physically and academically fit. We need to stop policing the world with our war machinery. We need to slow the ruination of our environment.

But how can any of these things be accomplished when the sole purpose of the Republican Party and their new fake front, the Tea Party, is to fight and oppose President Obama?

Many believe the Republican’s tactics are based on a deep seeded racism and distaste for a president who is multiracial. To be sure, America’s first Black President is facing opposition with a large serving of racism. We even heard a T- Party member use the N-word this week towards Georgia Congressman John Lewis and use anti-gay slurs toward Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. This is unacceptable behavior. However, let’s not be confused, if a White Democrat had been elected president, this Republican Party would be behaving in the same self-serving, negative, opposing for the sake of opposing way.

The worst part about this is that these Republican Congressional representatives have continued to make up lies and spread half-truths about healthcare reform. They stir up their constituents by talking about death panels, which never existed and those constituents in return repeat the nonsense.

We have some important mid-term elections coming up this fall across the U.S. and especially in North Carolina. We need to get out the vote and remove people from office who oppose simply to oppose while embracing the status quo. We need to elect people, regardless or their party, who will put America first not their party, their corporate sponsors, nor their pocketbooks.

It is amazing that President Obama is now our president. It is also amazing that he and Congress were able to get a healthcare bill passed. Now, we as voters must do an equally amazing feat. We must get out the vote this May and November in order to provide the president with more support in Congress.

Don’t sit on your hands thinking we are in a post-racial, bipartisan America. We are not. We have to fight now harder than ever to right this ship. For eight years the Republicans gave special privilege to the rich at the expense of the rest of us. Now, it is our turn. If we are to continue to enact social reform at all levels, we need to vote at the ballot box. Start now by campaigning for those who support the president. And in the spring primary and fall general election, vote and get others out there to do the same. The opposition is already working diligently to derail the Obama administration at every turn as they have tried to do with their anti-healthcare reform rhetoric.

Maybe some day America will be a country where all men and women are created equal, where each of us is treated with respect, where the good of the whole is placed above one’s individual greed, however that day is not now. Now, we have to fight for every little advance and if we do not, well, we’ve seen what the opposition is capable of…if we refuse to fight for our rights we will soon have none.








Appeared in the Carolina Peacemaker April 29, 2010

Put those negative campaign “hit-pieces” in the trash





The worst type of politicking in America reared its ugly head here in Greensboro this week. Personal attacks between political opponents is the lowest form of politicking.


When we came to the office Tuesday morning a flyer was placed in our mailbox which read, “Why You Should Not Vote for Ralph Johnson.” Johnson is running in the May Primary to unseat State Rep. Alma Adams who currently represents the 58th District. The flyer listed a host of negative comments about Johnson’s personal character.  Some were about his past, some about his political intentions. One paragraph stated, “Ralph has no family values, no wife, no children, no PTA membership & etc.” Each paragraph was negative, insulting to the reader’s intelligence and the act of someone (or a group) that will do anything to win an election.


We called Rep. Alma Adams, Johnson’s opponent, and asked her directly if she knew about this anti-Johnson campaign flyer. Her immediate reaction was that Johnson supporters had been passing out anti-Adams literature at the polls. We pushed her, noting that was not an answer, and even suggested that she publically refute such political tactics. Adams asserted that she did not know about the flyer, had nothing to do with its creation and distribution and has never used such tactics in any of her past 14 campaigns for elected office.


Johnson came to our office, he said he had only just learned about the piece and asked to see a copy. We let him read it. He was upset and obviously disgusted. He said, “Is this what it has come down to?”


We asked to see the campaign flyer distributed by Johnson and his supporters at the polls. He did not have any with him. When he produced it later we read: “5 Reasons why you should vote for Ralph Johnson” and although it had a positive title, the flyer went on to list negative points about Adams’ record, points that Adams says are false and misleading.


To list what each of these flyers states would be counterproductive to our intentions. We have no desire to give ink to either of these flyers. They each contain misleading, inaccurate statements about each candidate.


To attack an opponent is politics, but what we need are statements of fact- not accusations and half-truths. This type of negative campaigning does everyone a disservice.


Don’t campaign on what your opponent cannot, will not or has not done. Campaign on what you have, want and will do for your district.


At the Peacemaker, we are friends with both candidates. It disturbs us to have to witness this type of behavior, regardless of who is behind it. This type of campaigning is reprehensible and completely unnecessary. It is the type of politicking that most Americans are sick and tired of receiving.


If we worked either campaign we would find out who was behind this and have them stop.


Is there something about being a representative of the North Carolina House that is so inviting to lead to this type of desperation to get elected? Will this make one rich? We think not. Will this bring great fame to the winner? We think not. Is this a stepping stone to a more lucrative career? Maybe, but we think not. So, why the ugliness? We don’t know. All we really know is that we don’t like it and it does not place either candidate in a positive light. 


We suggest to anyone who receives such campaign literature, whether it is in this particular election or any election, to place the flyers right in the trash where they belong.


To the voter we say: Make the effort to learn your candidates. Go hear them speak. Meet them for yourself and then decide. But take that negative campaign literature and put it in the trash where it belongs with the other garbage.   





Appeared in the Carolina Peacemaker

Neo-Nazis coming to town


When we first heard this neo-Nazi organization (National Socialist Movement) was coming to Greensboro we couldn’t help but ask, why Greensboro? What is it about Greensboro that would make the Nazis choose our city? Do they have a strong following here? Does a top ranking member live here? Or is it that they just feel comfortable coming to Greensboro.


Greensboro the city where Klansmen could shoot people in the street and not get prosecuted, Greensboro the city where a Truth and Reconciliation Commission can convene yet not have the support of local elected officials, Greensboro where police Black officers appear to be more scrutinized that White ones, Greensboro where Black student scores don’t compare with White student scores, where more Blacks are high school dropout than Whites, where unemployment is greater among the Black community than the White, Greensboro where driving a car while looking foreign is enough reason to get stopped, Greensboro where the jails have more people of color than White people unless one looks at the make-up of the detention officers where there are more Whites than Blacks. Maybe these things can be noted of any American city but then once again we would have to ask, then why Greensboro?


Last week the Greensboro Human Relations Commission called a gathering of local community and faith leaders and the group agreed to not to form any organized protests the Nazi’s stay in Greensboro. They decided to instead put energy into discussions of inclusiveness. It is a noble sentiment. But despite the rhetoric about diversity and multi-culturalism Greensboro, in reality, is a place where those with Nazi philosophies and doctrines still feel welcome.


So what do we do about it? The supposed “peaceful anti-Nazi demonstration” held downtown by a mixed group of people, some local, some not, had some questionable signage. “I heart dead Nazis” what kind of sign is that. And why were there people there with masks covering their faces. Were they afraid of retaliation or were they intending to be retaliators and wanted their identities protected.


It was reported that a car drove down the street with neo-Nazi supporters and it created a stir of violence to the point that the car was even damaged. Where is the peaceful demonstration in those activities?


Now we have to ask is this neo-Nazi group going to return to Greensboro, as some have rumored, to create a larger more public demonstration on the anniversary of the 1979 Klan killings. And if they do what then, do we ignore or risk the violent confrontation of a counter-demonstration.


In the perfect world, if this group were to return, and hold an open public demonstration, the ideal response would be for the entire city to turn-out and line the streets in a truly peaceful vigil, holding candles, or religious symbols, no one saying a word but bowing our heads in silence, demonstrating that this type of Nazi demonstration will not be ignored or condoned AND will not provoke violence from an anti-demonstration contingent.


But we don’t live in a perfect world and we have no Gandhi to lead us.


There is no changing the minds of those with their hate-filled philosophies whether they have “right” or “left” political leanings. All we can really do is work harder among ourselves to be more tolerant and to teach our children to be more tolerant. Each and every one of us needs to reach out to someone of a different color, religion or national origin and let them know we are all in this together. That hate never achieves good. That violence only begets violence.


It is only through knowledge and understanding that we can continue to evolve and perhaps truly turn Greensboro into a multi-cultural haven where everyone is tolerated and all of us can live in peace and harmony.


Let us hope that this neo-Nazi organization, who may have come here thinking they were welcome or, at least, comfortable, has instead created a new desire in Greensboro to make this a better place. Maybe by continuing the dialogue of inclusiveness we might some day be a city where one’s race, religion, or ethnicity truly does not matter.