Archives for August 2013

Past is present as North Carolina honors 1963 march and battles voting laws

CHARLOTTE — In North Carolina, commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s dream credited past struggles while a current battle over voting laws took center stage.

In an uptown Charlotte park Wednesday, the crowd used the examples of civil rights pioneers in a continuation of the Moral Monday protests against conservative laws from the Republican-controlled state legislature. Similar gatherings were planned in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts. While many issues, including education and health care spending, were reflected in comments and emblazoned on signs, the new state voter-ID bill was a unifying cause.

Later Wednesday evening, several Democratic and Republican legislators took questions from their Mecklenburg County constituents in a raucous forum called, ironically as it turned out, “Solving It Together.” At the top of the list in hundreds of questions submitted beforehand – voter-ID laws.

Celebrating Civil Rights Progress in Charlotte



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the Civil Rights Movement continues to resonate in Charlotte. Contributions of local legends like Franklin McCain, one of the original Greensboro Four who sat at Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, are still being celebrated along with King. Mary C. Curtis talks about how this history remains rich throughout the years and what it means for Charlotte today.

North Carolina activists draw inspiration from 1963 March on Washington

CHARLOTTE – A Moral Monday gathering in Charlotte this week channeled sights and sounds of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago.

As the sun broke through the clouds in the late afternoon, more than 2,000 stood and sat, sang and waved signs, listened to speakers, and wondered if some gains of the civil rights movement are slipping away in North Carolina.

It was a dress rehearsal for those planning to make the trip to Washington for Saturday’s commemoration of the historic march.

Linda Bain, listening on Monday, said she planned to travel from Charlotte to Washington by bus for Saturday’s events, meeting friends from New York City, where the retired educator lived before her move south this year. She missed the first march.

“I was a little too young,” she said. “I’m feeling more and more compelled to be there,” Bain said, “because of what’s going on here in North Carolina and around the country.”

‘You knew things would be different’: How the March changed one family

My sister remembers the day – and one particular moment. To get to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963, Joan Curtis did not have far to travel. But as part of the contingent from the Civic Interest Group (CIG), a Baltimore-based civil rights group affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), she realized how big a step it was and how important that day could be.

“It was a bright, sunny summer day and I was happy to be there, and I was 18 and I was smiling and everything,” Joan recently recalled. Her assignment was to stand in front of a tent, handing out signs as fast as they were being made for travelers who wanted to carry slogans such as “We Shall Overcome” as they filled every spot on the National Mall.

There was a woman from the Midwest – a white woman – with her son, a little boy about 10 years old. She had a camera to make home movies, and after Joan handed her a sign, the woman had a request. “Look at you, with that smile on your face,” my sister remembered her saying. “I want to get that on my movie camera. Could you do that again, walk back and hand me that sign?”

When I spoke with my sister, prodding her memories of the day, she said that the mother and son from the Midwest were indicative of the diversity of the day’s crowd and wondered if the Joan of 1963, a smiling freshman from Morgan State, lives on in a 50-year-old movie clip. Does that boy, who would be around 60 now, watch it to bring back memories of his own?

Moral Monday’s Making its Mark in Charlotte


Charlotte, N.C.- Moral Monday’s have made their mark on Charlotte. Fair pay, voting and funding for education were just some of the topics demonstrators focused on. Mary Curtis was there and has an inside report.

From rodeo clowns to voting rights, understanding race and history

Have the folks who jeered the President Obama stand-in at that Missouri rodeo ever heard of Bill Pickett?

Pickett was an African American cowboy, inventor of the gutsy bulldogging technique, grabbing cattle by the horns and wrestling them to the ground. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries,

Pickett starred in rodeos and movies, traveled the West and in the 1970s was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. He’s depicted as a legend of the West on a U.S. stamp. Pickett was a founder of the same rodeo tradition that allowed the Missouri state fair crowd to whoop and holler, encouraging a bull to run down the “president” while an accomplice jiggled the broad lips on the mask of the clown dressed as Obama and an announcer teased violence that recalled the worst of the ways this country has treated its black citizens.

Keeping It Positive: North Carolina’s hidden gems and controversial headlines


CHARLOTTE, NC: Heard of the K-9 Museum in Fayetteville? National Political columnist Mary C. Curtis learned about that museum and more of North Carolina’s hidden gems at a NC Division of Tourism showcase.

Lawsuits greet new North Carolina voting laws

Add Rosanell Eaton’s name to the list of those who might be affected by North Carolina’s new voting bill, which starts but doesn’t end with provisions requiring certain forms of photo ID at the polls.

The 92-year-old Eaton is a plaintiff in a lawsuit announced on Monday after North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill, passed at the end of the legislative session with the support of GOP super-majorities in the state House and Senate.

‘In the presence of justice’: remembering Julius Chambers

CHARLOTTE — Though his name may not be as well-known as other civil-rights champions, the soft-spoken Julius Chambers fought passionately and tirelessly and got results. At his funeral service in Charlotte on Thursday, mourners remembered him, what his legacy meant, and how they could best carry on his work.

As speakers, friends and those he touched traced his amazing journey, they also cautioned that the fight for equality is a constant struggle. As legislators in the state he especially loved and served rush to enact rules rolling back progress in voting and education funding, his life is a history lesson North Carolina and the country could use right about now.

Family of Henrietta Lacks gains some control over her cells and – perhaps – peace

It’s not about money. Though many have made a lot off the cells of Henrietta Lacks, her surviving family members won’t see any of it. But her descendants will finally gain some control over how pieces of the poor black woman who died in Baltimore in 1951 are used in medical research. When scientists and doctors crave the key to the genetic code that unlocked treatments and vaccines, two family members will have a seat at the table where the decisions are made.

It’s about time.