Dr. Kareem Crayton Hired as Interim Director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice

DURHAM, N.C. – The Board of Directors for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) has hired Kareem Crayton, J.D., Ph.D. to serve as the interim executive director as the organization conducts a search for a full-time director.  Anita Earls, the organization’s current executive director and founder, is stepping down from her position at the end of the year to run for a seat on the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

 

Dr. Crayton’s employment with the civil rights organization will start on January 1, 2018.

 

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Kareem Crayton be a part of this transition,” said Farad Ali, Chair of SCSJ’s Board of Directors.  “In the 10 years since our founding, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice has become one of the premier civil rights organizations in our country.  We are committed to moving forward, and Dr. Crayton is the right person to help us do just that.”

 

Dr. Crayton is an internationally respected scholar, expert, and consultant whose work centers on the intersection of law, politics, and race. He is the only academic in the United States in law and political science whose primary work explores the relationship between race and politics in representative institutions. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Crayton is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science as well as a law degree from Stanford University.  Aside from managing a consulting firm, Dr. Crayton has most recently served on the faculty of Vanderbilt University Law School.

 

“The  Southern Coalition for Social Justice is vital to defending the civil rights of marginalized communities in the South,” said Dr. Kareem Crayton.  “Having worked with this organization over the years as a partner, I know the key role SCSJ plays in making our governing institutions more accountable and responsive.  I am therefore excited to lead the board, staff, and our community partners through this phase and to make sure we continue this important work well into the future.”

 

Anita Earls, SCSJ’s current director, praised the board’s decision. “Kareem brings great insight to our organization. His deep knowledge of issues related to race, politics, and the South will be an incredible asset to the coalition,” said Earls.  “I am comforted to know that Dr. Crayton will be taking charge of the organization I founded and love.”

 

“There is no way that SCSJ would have accomplished everything we have without the leadership of Anita Earls.  We are thankful for and will certainly miss her leadership,” said Farad Ali.   “Our work moves forward, though.  We will continue to challenge unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymandering that disenfranchises people and communities of color.  We will persist in our advocacy for reforming the criminal justice system, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and creating fairer and safer schools for our youth.

 

Community Organizer Baqir Mujahid Honored at Second Chance Gala

New Bern, N.C. — Community Organizer Baqir Mujahid was recently recognized for his reentry and employment work at Wash Away Unemployment’s RESTORE: Second Chance Gala on Saturday, October 7. The late SCSJ Community Organizer, Umar Muhammad, was also posthumously recognized for all that he did for people directly impacted by racial and social injustice.

Corey Purdie, founder of Wash Away Unemployment and organizer of the gala, said Mr. Mujahid has been always focused on the communities most at need, noting: “Baquir was chosen because of his diligence and his authenticity of the work involving individuals directly impacted by the criminal justice system. In preparation to assist SCSJ for Greenville expungement Clinic I had an opportunity to meet Baquir for lunch but he asked me to meet him at a certain location; when I arrived, I observed Baquir in regular clothes with an

Baqir Mujahid, far right, accepts his recognition alongside the late Umar Muhammad’s jacket. Both were recognized for their organizing work.

SCSJ t-shirt on in the middle of some would called “The Hood” speaking to brothers and sisters on behalf of the expungement clinic and talking to them on that level to help them move forward and clean up their criminal history and tapping into other resources. This, of course, was not the first time that I met Baquir, but this is first time observed him demonstrating what it’s truly about to be an advocate for Criminal Justice Reform.”

Purdie also mentioned the impact of the late Umar Muhammad, a community organizer for SCSJ who was awarded posthumously: “Umar was what I would call a legend and one who has set an example for many of us to follow, from moving in the community to moving in the Legislative Office to moving from state to state, fighting for the rights of directly impacting individuals returning from the criminal justice system.”

The Restore: A Second Chance Gala honored several other community leaders who had provided a second chance to others, especially those impacted by the criminal justice system and who they themselves have used their own second chance to do good for their community.

Congratulations to Mr. Baqir Mujahid and all the incredible work you do for the community.

 

SCSJ supports call to remove Confederate monuments, memorials, and flags at the courthouses in North Carolina

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has signed onto a resolution drafted by the North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System that calls for the immediate removal of all Confederate monuments, memorials, flags, and other symbols and markers of racism and white supremacy, from all public spaces inside or outside of courthouses in the state.

The resolution recognizes that “visible and systemic markers of racism and white supremacy, including those commemorating the Confederacy, were erected outside courthouses and centers of government power specifically to reclaim those public spaces for the unjust causes the markers and symbols represent.”

While there is currently a state law prohibiting the removal of divisive symbols of racism and injustice, the resolution calls upon the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the 2015 statute.

You can read the full resolution here:

 

NCCRED Resolution by Dustin on Scribd

Clean Slate

Clean Slate Clinic registration is open!

Pre-registration is currently open for our next Clean Slate clinic! Pre-registration is required if you want to meet with an attorney at this event. To pre-register, call 919-323-3380 ext. 152 before June 20, 2017. You must attend the clinic to receive free legal services. 

When: June 24, 2017, 9 am to 3 pm (doors open at 8:30 am)

Where: Fruit of Labor Cultural Center (4200 Lake Ridge Dr., Raleigh)

Learn more: cleanslatenc.org 

The Clean Slate Project works to address the collateral consequences of having a criminal record in North Carolina. We provide direct legal services, advocacy, and policy work, with the goal of supporting organizing efforts to ensure that people impacted by the criminal justice system are leading the movement for reform.

Clean Slate

Greensboro workshop focuses on cleaning up criminal records

This story was written by Amanda Lehmert and was originally published in the News & Record on Saturday, February 28, 2015.

GREENSBORO-On a bitter cold Saturday in January, folks crowded the pews at the Beloved Community Center.

There was a pregnant mom who was having trouble finding a landlord who would rent to her.

There was a young man who couldn’t get a student loan. And a certified crane and forklift operator who couldn’t find a job.

They had one thing in common: a criminal history that was making it hard for them to move on with their lives.

In recent years, the General Assembly has passed laws that have given people new ways to clean up their criminal records.

Such organizations as the N.C. Justice Center and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice — which ran the session at Beloved — have held clinics around the state to provide no-cost legal services to help people get their records expunged or pursue other legal remedies.

Just in the last few months, hundreds of Triad residents have taken advantage of the avenues to clear their name.

“They face roadblock after roadblock after roadblock,” said Daryl Atkinson, a senior attorney with the Southern Coalition, a left-leaning nonprofit organization based in Durham.

“If we can offer a legal intervention that can remove some of those barriers so people can get jobs, housing, education, we can get more productive folks in our society,” Atkinson said.

***

Nearly one-third of Americans are arrested by the time they are 23 years old, according to research published in the journal Pediatrics.

They may have the charges against them dropped. They may have to serve time, pay fines or fulfill their probation. But that doesn’t mean their punishment is over.

They must also deal with collateral consequences. Those are the social and legal barriers that prevent a person from living life like someone who has never had contact with the justice system.

The UNC School of Government has cataloged a wide range of North Carolina rules that can hinder a person’s ability to get a job, certain licenses or public benefits — sometimes indefinitely — once convicted of a crime.

Becoming a foster parent. Getting a hunting license. Working for a pest control business. Accessing low-cost child care. Driving for a wrecking company. Getting certified to euthanize animals. Running a beach bingo game.

And those are only the state rules. People with a criminal record also face federal barriers and limits imposed by individuals and companies.

A record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by about 50 percent, according to research published in the American Sociological Review.

Even an arrest for a low-level crime without any conviction hurt a person’s ability to get a callback from an employer, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Purdue University found.

African American candidates with a record are even less likely to get a chance for a job, researchers found.

The stigma continues, sometimes years after someone cleans up his or her act.

“After five to seven years, if someone hasn’t committed another crime in that period of time, they are no more likely to do so than someone who’s never been caught,” said Bill Rowe, the advocacy director for the N.C. Justice Center, a left-leaning research and advocacy nonprofit organization in Raleigh. “You should pay whatever is the right thing to do for the mistake you make. But how long do you keep paying?”

***

The people who packed into the Beloved Community Center in downtown Greensboro last month know this all too well.

Russell Williams, 51, of Greensboro is certified to work forklifts and cranes. He can’t get work.

“I’ve never had a felony in my life, yet my little misdemeanor criminal past keeps me from getting jobs,” Williams said. He said he stole tuna fish and Spam because he was hungry.

Another man has worked at Taco Bell for 12 years, but he can’t get promoted because of his record.

Deidra Bowman, 21, a Randolph County resident, came to January’s session in her K&W Cafeteria uniform, hugely pregnant. She had a string of arrests when she was a teenager.

“I was just young and dumb. I got into a lot of fights,” Bowman said. Those charges were dismissed.

She was about to be a mother of two babies. She has a steady job. But a half-dozen landlords wouldn’t rent to her because of her arrest record.

“I don’t want to live in the ’hood,” she said. “I don’t want to live in the slums.”

Another man is studying nursing, but he can’t finish his clinical work because the hospital affiliated with his school won’t take workers with criminal records.

Rico Gant, 27, a Reidsville resident, is working as a certified nursing assistant and studying at community college. He would like to transfer to UNC-Greensboro, but he was denied financial aid because of his record.

Gant was convicted of a felony more than 10 years ago, when he was a teenager. He hasn’t been in trouble since.

“I didn’t know the impact it would have now,” he said.

***

More than 200 people reached out to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice for help as a result of that January clinic at Beloved. Lawyers working pro bono were able to help some of those people begin the process of clearing their names.

The state law allows people to have their criminal records erased — or expunged — under limited circumstances, such as first-time, dismissed or juvenile charges and nonviolent felony convictions.

Often, a person is only eligible if they have stayed out of trouble for years.

In 2013, the state also added expunction for first-time prostitution charges in cases of human trafficking.

People who have been convicted of no more than two low-level felonies also may seek a certificate of relief, which was adopted by the legislature in 2011. State Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro was one of the bill’s sponsors.

If a judge grants the certificate, a person may get some relief from those state-sanctioned collateral consequences, like getting a licence from an occupational board.

“One-third of jobs in North Carolina require some sort of occupation certification or license. The vast majority of those (occupational boards) have traditionally denied individuals based on convictions,” even when the crime has no connection to their ability to do the job, said Daniel Bowes, a lawer with Legal Aid.

The certificate also limits the legal liability of people who then hire or rent a home to someone with a record.

Advocates say those new laws are a good start, but they would like to see them go further.

“People are thinking a little differently now about what we need to do to make sure people do integrate and have a chance to get back on their feet,” Rowe said.

labor union organizing

Participate in the National Survey on Black Women’s Labor Union Organizing and Leadership Experiences

National Survey on Black Women’s Labor Union Organizing and Leadership Experiences

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is conducting a national survey of black women union members, organizers, leaders, and worker’s rights activists to learn more about their experiences in the labor movement. 

The survey is a companion piece to a forthcoming report and larger project, And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power, and Promise (May 2015). 

The objectives of the project are to: (1) surface best organizing practices and lessons learned from the incredible union election success rate of black women workers and organizers; (2) explore the value proposition of harnessing the organizing expertise of black women for advancing progressive economic policies of benefit to African Americans and working families, more generally; and, (3) make visible the expertise of black women workers, organizers and labor leaders so that their knowledge and ability can effectively inform strategies being formulated to advance the labor movement and economic justice. 

The responses to the survey will be kept will be kept confidential. While results will be included in a forthcoming report, no responses will be attributed, and no names will be shared. For additional information about the survey or broader project, please contact Marc Bayard at mbayard@ips-dc.org

The survey address is:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/blackwomeninlabor

The Survey will be open from January 15-February 15, 2015. 

Please share it widely with your friends, colleagues, and allies. 

Thank you. 

 

The New Jim Crow

Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow

These are tumultuous times for the criminal justice system. Huffington Post reports that exonerations of wrongfully convicted people are at an all time high. Meanwhile, Marissa Alexander has finally been released from a nightmare of incarceration resulting from firing a single warning shot at a known abuser. In the background, police are not being charged for killing the people they are sworn to protect -even when the murder is caught on tape as in the case of Eric Garner. The “Drug War” continues to separate families, racially profile young black men, and cost taxpayers billions of dollars to incarcerate people of color on simple drug possession charges.

If there is a single thing that can be said about “criminal justice” right now, it is that the system is woefully broken.

 Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow

In the midst of this unrest, our partners at SpiritHouse are hosting a Durham City Wide Study of The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book examining race and the criminal justice system. Click here to learn more about the event and take part. Watch a preview of the book below.

 

What is being done to combat this situation?

As these injustices continue to pile up, communities across the U.S. are coming together to fight back.

  • The #BlackLivesMatter movement has raised awareness about our troubled criminal justice system and its apparent indifference to the lives of Black men, women, and children.
  • Organizations like SCSJ continue to hold Clean Slate Clinics to assist people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system to regain control of their lives by getting free legal assistance to obtain certificates of relief, expungements, and other documents necessary to overcome the massive barriers to finding employment, housing, and education with a criminal record.
  • Universities such as UNC are holding panels to discuss how white supremacy reinforces racism in academic settings.
  • Arizona State University has a new course examining white supremacy and how it reinforces racist systems in the U.S.
  • YOU can join the movement to reverse the tide by participating in Durham’s City-Wide Reading of The New Jim Crow. Act now!

List of Community Partners

Individuals: Trude Bennett, Martin Eakes, Irv Joyner, Alison Moy, Mary Moore, Vivian Timlic – NAACP Diane Standaert

Organizations: Action NC, Center for Documentary Studies (Staff), Central Park School for Children Equity Team, City Well Church of Durham, Communities in Partnership Old East Durham, Durham Anti-Racist White Caucus, Durham People’s Alliance, Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, FADE Coalition, First Presbyterian Church of Durham, Golden Belt Neighborhood, Muhammad Mosque No. 34, North Carolina Central University Black Law Student Association, North Carolina Public Defender Association Committee On Racial Equity, Project TURN, Self Help Credit Union, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

 

Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers

Duke-UNC

Duke-UNC Initiative on Poverty and Inequality Summer Fellowship

Duke-UNC Initiative on Poverty and Inequality

Summer Fellowship

This is a joint effort between UNC and Duke University to focus on issues of poverty and inequality in Durham and Orange counties. The initiative emphasizes the importance of developing an historical understanding as well as working with local communities to find policy solutions to these persistent problems. This past semester, students from both universities worked with grassroots organizations, political groups, research institutes and local governments to gain a better understanding of the complex nature of poverty in our area. As both counties engage in poverty reduction work, it is important for the universities to play an active role by dedicating resources and student, faculty and staff involvement in these efforts.

This summer, Duke students have the unique opportunity to work alongside UNC students in local organizations focused on combating poverty. Students will engage in fieldwork, grassroots organizing, and research targeted at economic inequality in Durham and nearby communities. This gives students the chance to leave campus and learn the complexities of the areas in which they live. Students will do historical work to give them a baseline understanding of the depth and complexity of issues surrounding inequality. As the main component of the program, they will be paired with an organization that matches their interests and a deep need and desire for student involvement. Many groups in Durham are anxious for young, student perspectives and those with research, analytical and creative skills to help them inform their organizing. This program focuses on facilitating a conversation between the community and the university in order to ensure effective collaboration and best benefit the organization.

Duke-UNC

This program is funded by Duke Engage and will function as a Duke Engage independent project for up to three students. The program will last 8 weeks and students will be given the standard Duke Engage stipend. The ideal candidate would have understanding of poverty in the South and previous involvement in the Durham community. We are looking for students with some of the following skills: documentary, writing, research, computer programming, canvassing.

If you are interested please send your résumé and a brief cover letter (a couple paragraphs is fine) detailing any experience that might be relevant for this position to Adrienne Harreveld (alh57@duke.edu) by Jan. 14th.

Movement Supporting Immigrant Children Grows in Durham

The start to 2015 marked the continuation of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s efforts in empowering the immigrant community in North Carolina to protect the human and educational rights of their children.  On January 5, 2015, the Durham City Council unanimously passed a resolution that is welcoming and supportive of immigrant children, including those who travel alone to the United States to escape violence and extreme poverty.  The resolution’s strong language states that immigrant children are important members of the community, should be afforded legal representation at immigration proceedings (children are not guaranteed the right to an attorney in immigration proceedings), and have an absolute right to attend public schools, which is consistent with federal law and the United States Constitution.

The City of Durham is the largest jurisdiction in NC to pass a welcoming resolution for immigrant children.  Durham’s City Council became the fourth NC local government entity to pass a resolution after similar resolutions were passed by Carrboro’s Board of Alderman (11/18), the Orange County Board of Commissioners (12/1), and the Chapel Hill Town Council (12/3) in 2014.

George Eppsteiner, staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, was particularly encouraged by Durham’s passage of the resolution since Durham has the largest population of “unaccompanied children” than any other jurisdiction in North Carolina that has passed a positive or negative resolution regarding immigrant children.  The City of Durham, with its vibrant immigrant community, has made a statement supporting immigrant children and affirming their constitutional right to attend public schools in North Carolina.

Eppsteiner, on behalf of SCSJ, has worked with community organizations, including the NC Latino Coalition and the ACLU of NC, and community members to pass welcoming resolutions and was impressed with the community’s response in Durham.  “We were able to work with immigrant students, teachers, community leaders, and public officials to pass this resolution.  We had over forty people from the community come out to support the resolution on January 5th and it looks like momentum is growing elsewhere.”

SCSJ hopes to continue to work with communities in North Carolina to pass resolutions that are supportive and empowering of the immigrant community in 2015 and beyond.

lives matter

Black and Brown Lives Matter: March for Justice & Racial Unity

Date:    Tuesday,  December 23

Time:    12noon  (Press Conference 11:30am)

Begins: Ebenezer United Church of Christ

734 Apple St.  Burlington, NC

Concludes: First Christian United Church of Christ

415 S. Church St. Burlington, NC

Distance: 1.2 Miles

 

Join the marchers and lift up a voice asking for justice and equal protection under the law for all people.  Join the marchers and lift up a voice for racial unity and peace in our hometown.  Join the marchers and make a difference.

 

More details from Noah Read:

BLACK AND BROWN LIVES MATTER: MARCH FOR JUSTICE AND RACIAL UNITY

Local clergy and community groups will march in support of the national
movement to end racial disparities, focusing on our criminal justice system

Community members and coalition members of the local faith-based Partnerships to Empower People and the NAACP’s Alamance People’s Assembly will gather for a short press conference and a 1.25 mile march from Ebenezer Baptist Church to First Christian UCC in Burlington, NC.

We march in solidarity with those peaceful protesters across our nation calling for equal protection under the law. To further this goal, we support a commitment to the improvement and full enforcement of all laws prohibiting racial profiling, to the full investigation of all possible cases of excessive force in policing, and to the reversal of current trends in the militarization of local law enforcement.

We also march in support of all community members, especially members of law enforcement, who believe that the only way to avert future tragedies, remedy today’s unsustainable conditions, and heal our historic wounds is to embracing as our best hope the formidable work of building relationships across all barriers. Or as it says in the book of Isaiah, we hope to join those who

“…will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities… (and) will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”

To that end, this event is an urgent invitation for our community to begin that work.

#     #     #

When: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 Press Conference begins at 11:30 am. The March will run from 12:00 noon until 1:00 pm with a short prayer service at 1:00 pm.

Where: Press conference, March begins at Ebenezer, UCC, 734 Apple Street, Burlington, NC. March ends at First Christian Church, UCC, 415 South Church Street, Burlington, NC. Van transportation will be provided to take people from Ebenezer to First Christian. Bus transportation will be provided to return to Ebenezer from from First Christian.

Those who are unable to walk the March are encouraged to join us before the March for the 11:30 press conference and after the march at 1:00, for a brief prayer service at First Christian.

Contact: Noah Read, Alamance NAACP – attentionalamance@gmail.com or 336.260.4399

This information is also posted on the Alamance NAACP website here:

https://alamancenaacp.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/black-and-brown-lives-matters-march-for-justice-and-racial-unity/

and on Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/330171610508695/

Noah Read

Alamance NAACP Political Action Chair

336.260.4399

alamancenaacp.wordpress.com