A note about this coverage
On May 20, 2014, an Open Forum occurred that requires some change from the way material from the Forum is regularly reported here.
At some open Forums, individuals report on specific issues. Often, videos of those presentations are made and treated just as they would be on any other Forum day—posted at YouTube and archived on this site.
At other open Forums, as with the May 20 conversation, participants engage in discussion about controversial issues vital to the African-American community. Within other organizations, similar discussions might be held only behind closed doors. For some years, the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum has remained open to all during such discussions.
To respect privacy of Forum participants and to encourage candor during such discussions, it is the policy of this website to transcribe or paraphrase these discussions without identifying the names of the speakers. This policy hopefully will allow the matters under discussion to be shared broadly with a much wider audience, and perhaps to advance resolution of issues discussed.
A classic prior example of these Open Forums is from 2007, when young people and older people openly discussed perceptions of a generational leadership gap within the African-American community.
“From the political perspective, I think that we have seen some truly embarrassing actions coming out of elective offices. That includes the City Council, County Commission and the School Board.
“We have seen an effective failure to come together among those people on those boards who represent and look like us to come together in some kind of consensus on an agenda that affects us.
“And it’s borderline criminal that we have as many people of color in positions we have, elective positions, and we are still getting the short end of the stick. And we’re still seeing continuing embarrassments from these groups.
“It would be my hope that, whatever pressures may be needed and implemented to bring to bear on these folks, to collectively assemble and come up with an agenda of issues and priorities that affect people of color.
“What the heck is the point of having them there if they are not going to address issues specifically that target us and relegate us to the old ways of having to go to the overseers and the masters when they are in control of those boards and commissions and agencies and positions and have to ask them for crumbs.
“I have said before and say it again today, and I say it emphatically, while I am not a Republican, and typically disagree with most of the positions that they put forth, I do admire and respect them for being able to count, and then having the unmitigated gall to put forth and pass issues for which they stand. We have no gall, no balls, and very little intellect among our current makeup, regardless of how slick, how bright they may seem, or how good they may look or speak. The core is that they are sadly, sadly deficient in efforts to do what is in our better interests.
“So I would call upon this body to hold all of those persons accountable. If it means bringing them in here and forcing them to address issues they have so far failed miserably in addressing.
“Now I know that there are some of them that are here today, and I hope you will take what I say back to your colleagues. There are some who have been re-elected, some who are now elected. And as you go back, I hope you will take these sentiments to your colleagues as well.
“So if anybody has anything to say as to what I have said, I’m man enough to stand here and say it, not to pull my words back, and I will challenge any of them, any of them, to a debate, have a conversation, or at least bring it to people like this group and others to address.”
“Let me first say Amen to … what was said. We have a way, if we would just listen, we have a way to deal with what was said.
“One way of course is to have a strong African-American coalition, which we do not have. If we had a strong African-American coalition, they would have a way to deal with issues that have an impact negatively and positively on the African-American community.
“Number two, the Black Political Caucus needs to change its modus operandi, the way they operate. Instead of having politicians come before them and saying, ‘These are my qualifications and this is what I am going to do’, the Black Political Caucus needs a proactive agenda that these are the things that we want for our community; if you buy into it we will support you, if you don’t buy into it we will not support you.
“Those are two prescriptions…. There are some more. It’s a very serious issue that we need to deal with.”
“Identify the issues. I hear you talk about their positions, but I don’t get the issues. What are the issues?”
“I heard the chair of our county commission on a session on poverty a little over a week ago. And I’m not sure when he got off the boat in Charlotte, but it was not very long ago and the question was asked, what are the issues?
“And he said that that’s what he wants to find out, that we need to have an agenda of items. We need to come up with some issues. Those issues have already been put forth.
“Education is one, and the disproportionate numbers that we represent in virtually every negative category there is. Social services, health. You’ve heard of the attacks on Obamacare, for instance. Those are three that come to mind in my particular mind. So my hope is that education, social services, health and poverty would be four of the ones.”
“What about teachers’ pay?”
“That’s part of education.”
“You’re talking about seconding a motion – as he was saying it, I felt like even among all of you, we were saying uh-huh, amen, and so thank you for what you said.
“Another issue is community input. [Candidates] get up here and say we’re going to fight for our citizens, of the people by the people and for the people, and then they go back and they don’t fight. He alluded to a point that some people come in and itemize their agenda and they’re about that. But [our candidates] don’t do that….”
“Another thing that we don’t think about in our community is recognizing for the future. It seems like we always elect people because of their name, their status, who they know, but we really don’t look at their records. And it’s been blatantly right in our faces. The same person who promises to do something but hasn’t done anything for the last 20 years, why do we continue to elect them?
“We have a man here who’s chair of …, a young man, a person who’s ready to step up to the plate. But when we try to step up to the plate, it seems like somebody is looking like, Who they? I don’t know who they are.
“But the crazy part about it is, I’m a young leader right here, been a part of Charlotte, grew up here when in Charlotte you wouldn’t go downtown, knew Charlotte when Charlotte was not even a place on the map. But the people running this city are not even from Charlotte. But yet they ‘know’ what is going on with Charlotte citizens.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to step up to the plate and pay attention to their records, like you said hold them accountable. Ask them the tough questions, you know. They might be our friends, but they are also our leaders… So I applaud you for what you had to say, and I ask us, look at our young folks, the future, because at the end of the day a lot of the people in this room won’t be here in 20 or 30 years. You want to make sure that when you leave this Earth that you know they are in good hands….”
“Let’s get a group together and outline these issues. And anybody that comes before us, they need to know what our issues are, because you’re right, they come up and say a whole bunch of stuff and we never hold them accountable. We haven’t demanded that….”
“I am so tired of the school system’s higher-ups coming in here and sitting and we’re firing questions at them that we should be asking ourselves. Because I’m telling you I am a witness: Our African-American children, for the most part, are out of control in these schools. I see it every day.
“Now we have got to stop blaming the school system, and start parenting our children. And we are doing the wrong thing by saying, ‘What are you going to do about this and what are you going to do about that?’ You’re asking questions that we should be asking ourselves.
“How can we get our parents and our children under control? That’s a big question; I cannot answer that. But I just know that [school officials] are not responsible for our children and what goes on in our house. [The schools are] giving them breakfast and doing everything, afterschool care. But what is it that we as parents, or how can we get our parents, and I’m not talking about a program. We don’t need another program. We just need to somehow reach parents.”
“The issue is not either/or, that either we do a better job of parenting or we do a better job in the school system. It’s both. And there are reasons why many of our children are ‘out of control.’
“The truth of the matter is, and I don’t hear this very often, that as a group of African-Americans collectively, we have been dehumanized in this country for 400 years. I’m not blaming anybody for that other than that there were public policies that caused that. Public policies of slavery, the public policy of segregation, the public policy of discrimination, et cetera, et cetera.
“So I’m not going to go around blaming the victim for these problems. I’m going to look at the victim and try to correct the behavior. But I was one of those little children in the school system, and I jumped over some seats and left the school, because the teacher wanted to beat me for talking in class.”
“I made a comment a couple of weeks ago, that of the three major institutions in our community – the home, the church and the schools – that the homes and the churches have failed miserably, forcing our schools to become more of a social services agency for which they are not designed or intended to be. So I agree wholeheartedly that we’ve got to get those first two in line and stop forcing the issues on to the third, education, to do things that we have failed to do.”
“I’m in just about every school. They’re always calling me to volunteer. I don’t see enough males [in classrooms]. I see too many white teachers. And [teachers] are so concerned about how they’re going to get paid that the care is not there like it used to be….”
“One thing we don’t pay attention to in our community is mental health and behavioral health. We just think the kids are bad. We don’t focus on their mental health and behavioral health. We need to focus on it.”
“I wanted to say that this Forum is the oldest standing forum in this community, and we have always come to this Forum to get information and share our ideas. And we walk out this door and we don’t take a lot of action.
“But we know that most politicians, and most that come through here on a consistent basis, usually get elected to office. They come in here with all this goobledegah, yada yada yada, and then they come back again and we put them back in again, and we support them.
“I know everyone in here has influence over at least 10 people. I know that I get at least 10, between 10 and 20, ask me who to vote for because they don’t know the people. So we have some influence in this group….
“I think that it is time for us to take action in this group, in this organization, and do exactly [what was first mentioned] that we need to do. We meet on Tuesday mornings. We need to be able to meet where we can meet and come up with a strategy and a plan to hold people accountable, our elected officials. We have GOT to start somewhere holding them accountable.
“We talk about the Black Political Caucus, we talk about the African-American Caucus, we talk about the Democratic Party. Accountability is the key to all of this. And we need to start. We can start right here. But we can’t publicize it. We have to have a strategy. We need to have a closed-door policy where we come up with a strategy on how we are going to hold them accountable. We need to have some [observers] at these City Council meetings, and we need to have someone talking, and asking questions, and putting people on the spot, because we know how things change.
“I was at that same meeting [on poverty]. Things were not clear from our leader of the county commission. He kept saying, ‘You’ve got to take a personal interest. You’ve got to take a personal interest.’ He kept saying that over and over again. Now, that may have meant one thing to [one person] and a different thing to me… all of us may have digested that differently.
“But we can start right here on a Tuesday morning with a closed discussion on how. We have done it. I have worked with some people in here, that we have made some power moves in this town, and nobody knew that we had anything to do with what was going on.
“I worked with three different groups that made some power moves. We met in secret. We made things happen, and none of the ones of us that was involved took any credit. So we need to start right now in coming up with a strategy to hold those elected officials accountable.”
Sarah Stevenson: “The Tuesday Forum is a forum. We’re not going to do that in here. This is open. But you can go out on that parking lot and form anything you want. This is an open forum, I have to say that.”
“How many of you here today represent and are active in at least one group or organization? Then that’s why you are here. What you see here and hear here is what you should be taking back to your groups and organizations so that they can develop their strategies and implement those strategies and, if necessary, we all come together collectively to come together with our strategies.
“I have to tell you that Charlotte’s finest hour, in my opinion, was when we built the new airport. The City Council had approved the building of that airport without an MBE minority business enterprise component. In other words, they were saying, we ain’t giving black contractors or anybody anything.
“The groups and organizations that came out of the Forum – collectively, we took that information back to those groups and organizations and, for my memory, that’s the first time and maybe even the last time that I have seen black groups, organizations, associations, whatever, come together in lockstep and say, heck no. No participation, we ain’t doing it. You take it back to your group.”
Two comments at this point were omitted because of their close identification with the speakers.
“A number of us came together in 1996 or 1997 and put together an African-American coalition. Fifty-two African-American organizations signed up… but when we had a meeting what we had was six or eight. So I concluded that what was lacking was spiritual commitment to carry forward a pro-active agenda. Today [the agreed-upon agenda] needs only a little modification….”
“The only thing I would like to say is that the baboon does not ask the lion to raise its baboon baby. It is our responsibility to educate our children. That’s not saying we should not send them to public school. But one of the most wasted commodities in our community is the church. It sets empty [most of the week]. It’s our responsibility to educate our young….
“Ignore these people we elect when they don’t [help us]. I don’t have any great expectations for them, because I know they are there to represent everybody. We vote on them from District 2, but when they get up there and set down, they’re there to represent everybody….”
“We know that it starts with the parents and the home. But there is something that is not working for those not under the sound of what you are saying. Someone has to take it to the churches.”
“My question, as someone representing a church here today, is what do you ask of us? For me personally, we have several youth days, and we want to cater to the children, but the parents don’t bring them out. You can have something there and have it ready for them, but if the parents don’t bring them, who is going to bring them? We can’t physically go out and get every member and bring them back to the church.”
“The blind cannot lead the blind. Many of these parents that we want to raise our children and put a lot of responsibility on, themselves have not been educated. That applies also to the churches… 92% of black preachers have not even been to theological school. That’s like giving a lawyer a client and telling him to go to court and he’s never been to law school. We’ve got a problem at the very top with our ministers. You cannot be an effective pastor of any black-oriented church if you have not studied your black history. You don’t know that the very Bible that you are preaching out of was written by black people, and give your congregation a sense of pride, a sense of historical connection….”
A speaker mentioned that parent education worked for tenants of Fairview Homes public housing as their neighborhood became the public-private Genesis Park.
“Action has to be taken, outside of the schools and even outside of the churches. It is incumbent on the community to influence our children, our young parents. I agree with teaching the parents what they need to know to teach their children, but we have to understand, no one is going to do it for us. Other people do it for their own. We have to do it for our own….
“We need to contact the individuals in this room, those that aren’t here today, to try to amass a group of individuals that will speak to this and hold their elected representatives accountable.”
“I come to these forums and I listen and [there are] so many great ideas, but until we can get in the mind of these parents, to change their mindset, this is going to be an ongoing conversation. I’m the foster parent of two kids, and the children’s mother is basically about to get her [parental] rights taken. She’s out there just roaming around. But until you can get into the minds of these parents, this will be an ongoing conversation.”
One comment at this point was omitted because of its close identification with the speaker.
“We have to recognize that the dynamic of our village that we had to raise our children has changed drastically. The people who are in positions and capable and best suited to help, moved out of the village, and they don’t come back except for church and Sunday School.
“But the prime example is that Parent University and the thing that Carlenia Ivory represents. There’s another program that they have created that is called partnering, getting community partners… [Their staff is] still not enough. I would encourage our school board representatives and tell them, you need funding to do this. Quit playing around.”