Spring Fellowship Applications Open

Fall fellowship picture

APPLICATION DEADLINE IS Sunday, January 1 at 11:59PM. Applications sent earlier will be prioritized. $500 stipend upon successful completion. Descriptions of fellowships are below

Decisions will be made by January 6. 

Eligibility requirements:
*Must be in North Carolina
*Must be between the ages of 18-30
*Must be committed to to social justice
*Must be available for training January 13-16 training, & evaluation convening April 22-23

Women, LGBTQ folks, and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply. We believe in centering and elevating youth led leadership of the most marginalized among us. We believe that when we unite and organize we create change in our communities and throughout the state of North Carolina.

Fellowship term: January 6, 2017 – April 23, 2017

Solutions to the problems facing North Carolina and our global community lie within our ability to work together for the common good and to build the leadership and power of young people to create lasting change. In order to create the kind of future we all deserve, we must understand our past, defend the gains made by those who came before us, and ignite and empower everyday people to lead efforts to build a fair and just future. When those most affected by injustice are the leaders who find and implement solutions, we will create a better world. We put our mission into practice by cultivating young leaders, building skills, and sharing an intersectional analysis that sees all of us as part of a legacy of change. We view youth as leaders who are capable of articulating their struggles and creating tangible solutions.

Started in 2013, our fellows are engaged in dynamic campaigns and organizing efforts aligned with the mission of Ignite NC and centered around the issues that concern their communities. Some of these efforts have included campaigns for a livable wage, Black Lives Matter, UNC Board of Governors and administration accountability, HB2, and election protection.

Ignite NC is building a network of youth organizers to build organization and win concrete changes in our communities across the state. From police murders to attacks on voting rights, youth are facing attacks on all levels. However, young people are taking to the streets and rising up to demand justice in our communities. Historically young people have played a significant role in transforming the country and the world. We are calling all youth who are ready to join the movement for justice to continue this legacy and apply for the Ignite NC fellowship. The stakes are too high, we must take a stand and develop campaigns that change the future of our communities.

If you  are currently working with a campus or community organization, or want to help build the youth and student movement, this fellowship provides organizing training, mentorship, connection to youth across the state, tools to create transformative change and a stipend to enable you to spend more dedicated time to organize.

Ignite NC is accepting applications for fellowships this Spring: Trianing Fellow, Community Organizing and Media & Communications.

Applications are due January 1, 2017.  Everyone will be notified by January 6, 2017.  

Training Fellow:

These fellows will work directly with staff to also be another resource for the Organizing and Communications fellow.

Their main workplan for the semester will be to develop a training to happen by the end of the semester on their campus or community that builds knowledge and skills.

Whether it is in the beginning or end of the semester, the bulk of their work will be getting trained themselves on facilitation, base building, leadership skills, etc.

They are also welcome to engage and organize with any of the work the organizing and communictationss fellows will be committed to.

To apply fill out the application send a copy of your resume to northcarolinaignite@gmail.com

Community Organizing Fellow:

Ignite NC is committed to providing organizational resources to support ongoing efforts to build power for young people and people of color in NC. This upcoming semester we will be focusing on three main issue areas!

Higher Education: Universities in NC have become increasingly inaccessible. Youth are forced to take out thousands of dollars of debt while class sizes grow and programs and centers get cut.  Be part of a campaign team that organizes for accessible higher education.

Migrant Justice: Young people across the country have changed the national narrative what it means to be a immigrant in this country. From challenging narratives of what it means to be  workers, demanding equitable access to education, demanding justice for those detained in detention centers, and changing city and campus policy to address issues of safety, discrimination, and sactuary. Be a part of a team seeking to bring capacity to this movement on a local level developing a work-plan that builds upon local coalition campaigns.

Gender Justice: Students have been at the forefront informing the narrative and addressing concerns of gender equity in this state and nation. From House Bill 2, the anti-worker, anti-trans legislation passed in March 2016 in NC, to addressing sexual assault and reproductive healthcare, more than ever youg people must direct the conversation and movement for gender justice. Be a part of a team that works to educate the larger community that works to fight back against gender based violence and discrimination. Read more about HouseBill 2 here.

To apply fill out the application send a copy of your resume to northcarolinaignite@gmail.com

 Communication Fellow:

Communication Fellow’s will support the organizing work of the organizing fellows! Activities will include writing press releases, managing social media, creating graphics/flyers, updating website and developing a media strategy.


  • Develop and implement a media strategy that supports organizing efforts
  • Using traditional and social media to create awareness about emerging organizations and initiatives
  • Creating email announcements that uplift and aid organizing work
  • Create materials and keep website updated
  • Gather pledge cards to engage youth around relevant issues

Ideal candidates will have:

  • Be Familiar with wordpress, HTML, social media platforms and have communication experience
  • Demonstrates a passion for understanding strategic communications and its integration into an overall marketing strategy.
  • Exceptional written and personal communication skills
  • Demonstrated creativity in the practice of PR or related field
  • Willingness and ability to work well in teams
  • Experience in manage social media accounts

To apply fill out the application send a copy of your resume to northcarolinaignite@gmail.com

#BlackLivesMatter Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition respond to NC HB 2


On the anniversary of the passing of Blake Brockington, a Black trans teen from Charlotte, N.C., Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly moved to attack working people and create dangerous conditions for women, LGBTQ people, Black and Brown people, and any workers who experience discrimination or who struggle to make ends meet.

The General Assembly and Gov. McCrory chose to criminalize trans and gender nonconforming children and youth, and to scapegoat trans women and other trans people for rape by passing NC HB 2. House Bill 2 bars city and county governments from raising their municipal minimum wage, as well as prohibiting anti-discrimination policies that account for gender identity, expression and sexual orientation.

Lawmakers were given only five minutes to review the bill and it passed within a 12-hour period without a single trans person of color being allowed to speak.

  •      This bill reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline that trans and gender nonconforming students of color already face, by making their choice of toilet grounds for suspension or arrest.
  •      This bill rolls back decades of hard-won progress and will harm our whole state. It undermines municipal democratic control, advancements in anti-discrimination policy and further prohibits wage increases. This is a direct assault on working families and particularly working women of color, who are most likely to be paid poverty wages. LGBTQ folks of color are workers, and we are worth more![1]
  •      This bill uses trans panic and the scapegoating of trans women to derail real conversations about safety and consent. Trans and queer people are survivors of sexual assault, too. Our safety matters, and we don’t make our community safer by threatening others with the brute force of the murderous police or incarceration. If our state is truly concerned for survivors of sexual assault, it will make comprehensive consent and sex education mandatory. This law does nothing to prevent indecent exposure and sexual assault, which are already illegal, but instead prevents local governments from protecting the safety and livelihoods of queer and trans people.
  •      We honor and fight for Blake by affirming that our lives matter. Anti-transgender bias and legislation and persistent structural racism directly impact the devastating rates of suicidality, unemployment, physical and sexual violence, poverty, incarceration and homelessness experienced by transgender people of color.[2]
  •      Trans and Queer people of color demand a living wage and freedom from criminalization and discrimination, in the workplace and in the bathroom.

Tonight, we are calling for a Special Session of the People outside of the Governor’s mansion. For Blake Brockington, for Angel Elisha Walker, for all Black and Brown trans and queer people in North Carolina who have been murdered, disappeared or incarcerated, it is our duty to speak. It is our duty to demand freedom, to demand a living wage, to demand education, to demand comprehensive health care that is accessible and free of charge.


QPOCC, The Tribe, #BlackLivesMatter North Carolina, Sister Song, Ignite NC, Southern Vision Alliance, Youth Organizing Institute, #BlackLivesMatter Gate City, Workers World Party, SONG NC, Greensboro Mural Project, GenderBenders, Fight for $15, QORDS, Trans Pride in Action, Queer Youth Circus, House daLorde, Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI-NC), SAFE Coalition NC, LGBTQ Center of Durham, Center for Family and Maternal Wellness.

[1] Trans People of Color experience rates up to four times the national unemployment rate. Black transgender people live in extreme poverty with 34 percent reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This is more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races (15 percent), four times the general Black population rate (9 percent), and over eight times the general U.S. population rate (4 percent). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Discrimination Survey. National Center for Trans Equality and National GLBTQ Task Force (2011).

[2] In the 2011, Injustice at Every Turn National Report comprising of 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming participants: 41 percent of respondence reported attempting suicide, 55 percent lost a job due to bias, 51 percent were harassed/bullied in school, or were the victims of physical assault (61 percent) or sexual assault (64 percent). www.endtransdiscrimination.org

A public response from ‘The BOG 4’

Letter: A public response from ‘The BOG 4’


Femi Shittu With the support of Irving Allen, Jen Myers and Madeleine Scanlon “The BOG 4”

On Jan. 26, 2016, the UNC System’s Board of Governors held their meeting at The Center for School Leadership Development building on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This public meeting is held every six weeks and rotates among the 16 colleges and universities of the UNC System.

The UNC System is made up of:

1. Appalachian State University

2. East Carolina University

3. Elizabeth City State University

4. Fayetteville State University

5. North Carolina A&T State University

6. North Carolina Central University

7. North Carolina State University

8. UNC Asheville

9. UNC Chapel Hill

10. UNC Charlotte

11. UNC Greensboro

12. UNC Pembroke

13. UNC Wilmington

14. UNC School of the Arts

15. Western Carolina University

16. Winston Salem State University One public residential high school for “gifted” students:

17. NC School of Science and Mathematics

Considered one of the most prestigious college systems in the nation, as you can see, the system is made of top schools such as UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, and North Carolina State. It holds some of the most profound HBCUs such as North Carolina Central University, Winston Salem Sate University, and the nation’s largest HBCU, NC A&T State University.

Now that we have gotten all the credentials out of the way, it needs to be said that the Board of Governors, the prominent decision makers over this system, in NO WAY reflects the students that make up this college system. The Board of Governors is made of 33 individuals in which 4 are Black. Of course, the average face of this board is an older upper class white man.

In the past few years the Board of Governors have faced intense scrutiny in several ways, but in three concentrated areas.

1. The untransparent decision to make Margaret Spellings the next president of the UNC System. Spellings is a product of the right wing and has served several positions under George W. Bush including Secretary of Education. She was also one of the principal proponents of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act.

2. The cutting of programs, mainly from Humanities/Liberal Arts departments all while large raises are being given to those higher in the towers such as chancellors.

3. The overall lack of care and support of the HBCUs in the UNC System.

It is important to note that there are 5 HBCUs in the UNC System and the state of North Carolina has the most HBCUs of any other state. We hold up Fayetteville State University and Elizabeth City State University as the HBCUs who have had to carry the bulk of the violence by the UNC System. Both HBCUs have faced millions of dollars in cuts in the past couple of years mainly due to “drops in enrollment”. Ironically, drops in enrollment are due mostly to the lack of resources and funding for these schools over the past decade. Specifically, Elizabeth State University has suffered through tumultuous times including some of the worst cuts in the entire system while having 3 chancellors within the past approximate 3 years.

Concerning the cuts on Humanities Departments across the system I will start with my personal experience. I attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a double major in Psychology and African American and African Diaspora Studies (AADS). Both programs are profound and rewarding programs. However, my AADS program is now running off of $3500 for an ENTIRE school year while the Psychology department has remained untouched. This is astonishingly 1/3 of what the program was running on in 2010. Though both fall under the liberal arts spectrum, we all know simply just how white the academic world of Psychology is. My experience reflects the closing of the Poverty Center at UNC Chapel Hill, the removal of the entire Spanish program at NC A&T State University, the cutting of Women and Gender Studies at NC State University and the new announcement of the cutting of Liberal Arts programs at East Carolina which sparked the clapback at January’s Board of Governors meeting.

Out of the 33 people who are on the Board of Governors, approximately 10 were present at the first meeting of the New Year. Someone commented it was because some were still dealing with the effects of the massive snow storm the East Coast had endured within the past week. With that held, it was still baffling and created tense energy for so many members of the board to not be present. One of the 4 Black people on the board was in attendance. The meeting went on like these meetings usually do: old uppity white folks sitting around talking nonsense and believing that they are actually doing work. Dozens of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and general supporters listened in on the meeting. We were pretty much “respectful” as we sat there periodically commenting to each other on the bullshit and giving the occasional loud yawn to show our disapproval with the boring nature of the meeting which is ultimately about our education and future. Then, someone on the Board dropped the statistic that education majors are down a staggering 30%. This sucked the air out of the room. We all understood that this is a direct correlation of the state of teaching in North Carolina. North Carolina, deemed the worst place to teach in 2015, has some of the poorest paid teachers of public education in the nation. This statistic was ruthlessly followed with a unanimous vote from the Board of Governors to cut from the liberal arts department at East Carolina University. When one of the board members asked if anyone disagreed we all yelled “NAY!” and so it began.

After standing and proudly voting to cut the futures of many ECU students, the members were asked to take their seats. Since there were so many empty seats at the Board of Governors table, because none of them showed up, someone said “yeah, let’s take our seats” and we began to fill up the empty seats and started to chant.

The video picks up where I am stopping.

I want to close with saying that the action we took symbolized our collective power and how decisions about our future should involve US. Why don’t we deserve a seat at your table as you discuss our education? We will not sit there as you flippantly cut programs as if you are reading from the daily paper. We will continue to shut your meetings down until you listen to the the students of the UNC System instead of making decisions for us that are hurting our people on the ground. We understand this attack on HBCUs and the Liberal Arts programs as a component of the larger Right Wing takeover the state of North Carolina has been enduring since 2012. That is me saying “MOVE!” and “I need to see him!”. They were shoving Irving in a corner, trying to force him on the ground, and trying to close the door. I feared something would happened to that Black Man if they closed that door with just him and 10 officers. The videos ends as I am told to put my hands behind my back.

The cops were physically violent and we do not agree with how they reacted in the space. All four of us were wrongfully arrested and we find it our right to put pressure on those who hold our education in their hands.

NO Justice. NO Peace.

#KeepItDown: Solidarity with Bree Newsome and all others resisting racism and anti-blackness


Image above shows  Bree Newsome, Ignite western field organizer, Tribe CLT organizer, and People’s Power Assembly organizer scaling the SC Capitol flagpole to remove the racist confederate flag.

Ignite’s statement written by Irving, our eastern field organizer.

Today in Charleston South Carolina activist Bree Newsome was arrested for taking down one of the last relics of the old South. This act was not just in defiance to the massacre at Mother Emmanuel, but in defiance to the systematic terrorism and oppression black bodies have suffered for centuries in this country. The fact that the flag could not be removed by the governor alone  as  it is being protected by congressional super majority  procedures illustrates how endemic white supremacy is within our structure. Overnight society views on the flag began to change and government was not able to answer the call of the people they are elected to serve. When the government fails to hear the voice the people, the people must act in its best interest. We cannot wait on legislatures to play political football while lives are being taken everyday. If Bree Newsome was wrong, the actions in Greensboro February 1, 1960 were wrong. Noncompliance with an unjust law is mandatory if we are to ever live free. Today at 11 a.m.  a White supremacist rally will take place with the emblem of oppression flying overhead in affirmation, while a helpless state government watches. We call on the governor to pardon Bree Newsome for her courageous actions. Now is not the time to engage in gradual or incremental steps. The soul of this nation cries out for justice and government must hear that call.

Recapping 4/15: Enough is enough, “the bottom has been stuck.”

A piece by Communications Fellow Chris Hart-Williams

Hundreds came out to the Historic Shaw University Quad at Shaw University for the the largest one-day mobilization of low-wage workers in the history of North Carolina.

Low wage workers, such as fast food workers joined supporters and students who mobilized during the nationwide one-day strike, a to demand a $15 an hour minimum wage along with union rights for not only fast food workers but, also and not limited to university adjunct faculty, home health care providers, and farm laborers.

Student’s included those speaking out and fighting for fair pay at the rally, Ariel Griffin Shaw University’s Student Body President, welcomed protesters to the campus and said, “the ‘Fight for 15’ encourages you to bring and fight for change in your community.”

Shaw University is birthplace of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC which gave voice to young people who desired social change in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement.

Students from across the state representing campuses from UNCG, UNC-CH, and NC State to App State, UNC-Pembroke, and NCCU traveled to Shaw and participated in demonstrations throughout the day of action.

North Carolina is one of 21 states whose minimum wage is not higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Ignite NC fellow Ajamu Dillahunt, JR. said, “We are students demanding a living wage, and we can not survive on 7.25, and we will demand a living wage, and we will get a living wage.”

“I’m here to let all of the college students know what they are walking into, said Kwanza Brooks a fast-food worker from Charlotte who spoke at the Rally.

“You all go to school everyday, focusing on your degrees, and thinking you’re going to get in that career, but like me and some others who are out here fighting today we walked that path, completed school, got degrees, and we’re working in fast-food for $7.25. an hour.”

Brooks encouraged young people and college students to start promoting and pumping the movement up, because the future of this movement relies on young people to say, “enough is enough!”

“This is not the future that I sat here and laid for my own kids, and the rest of you Brooks herself is 38-years-old with three kids. “My oldest is 16, getting ready to graduate from highschool, and this is the type of job her parent has to have right now just to make ends meet,” Brooks said. S

Single women make up about 43 percent of the the low-wage workforce, nearly double their share of the overall workforce of 23 percent. One in five families with a someone with a fast-food job receives an income below the poverty line, 43 percent of fast food workers have an income two times the federal poverty level or less, according to census data analyzed by the University of California–Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

“It’s not right, I didn’t go to school for five years to stand here and struggle between my light bill and my electric bill or my car insurance, or my water bill, or my rent, or my or some food, or some clothes – you know the bare necessities.”

For young people who haven’t yet entered the workforce but will soon, the fight for economic justice is of grave concern.These injustices cannot continue.

The low-wage workforce has gotten more highly educated in recent decades, 43 percent of low-wage workers have at least some college education, a degree, or even an advanced degree. With this reality, adjunct professors who are also making poverty wages and fighting employment insecurity are joining the fight for $15.

The Fight for $15 has become everyone’s fight.

Labor and civil rights are a moral issues said Rev. Dr. William Barber II president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP who joined in the one-day of action at Shaw. He encourage young people to, to support the Fight for $15, saying that it is also a fight for justice.

“An economic policy that does not establish justice and promote the general welfare of all is unconstitutional and un-American, ” Barber said. “You can’t enjoy the fruit of your labor on a poverty wage,” said Barber. “There is no justice in salaries that do not allow you to live once you have worked.”

The top has had phenomenal growth since 1973, according to Barber, but “the bottom half has been stuck.”

“The average CEO makes 350 times more than the person whose working for them, what we are saying to the CEO is you can have some of your money but you can’t have all your [money] especially when workers are making it for you,” Barber said.“We are all connected together in america we are the richest nation on earth more people than any other time in our history.”

In solidarity, attendees marched around the block adjacent to Shaw’s quad plaza, to the McDonald’s on E. South Street.

NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan said in a statement on the day of action, that “workers in the ‘Fight for 15 and a union’ are the vanguard of a resurgent labor movement in the South, a movement that is focused on raising wages for all workers and empowering them to bargain collectively for their share of the wealth and prosperity made possible by their labor.”

Hundreds of fast-food workers first walked off the job in New York City two-and-a-half years ago, since low-wage workers in big cities and small towns across North Carolina have continued to make their voices heard.

The fight to raise wages is more demanded than ever across the country.

The April 15 day of action highlights the fact that many fast-food and other low-wage workers are willing to whatever it takes to win.

Victories include a $15 wage in Seattle and San Francisco, and a $12.25 wage in Oakland, cities such as Raleigh and the dozens represented on April 15 are set to continue to mobilize to achieve a living wage.


Chris Hart-Williams is a senior at North Carolina State University. There he is studying political science. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of N.C. State’s Nubian Message and is a former staff writer of the student paper Technician. Chris received a certificate of appreciation from the state of NC while a communications intern at the Office of State Human Resources in Spring 2014. He also worked as an intern at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.

Turn up! Raise up! #FightFor15

On April 15th thousands of people came out to Shaw University to demand living wage and union rights. Among thousands were students from across the state of North Carolina who are coming to fight alongside fast food workers, home healthcare workers, adjunct faculty, and childcare workers demanding dignity and respect.

Ignite NC organizing fellows were instrumental to this mobilization: playing roles of bus captains, media spokespeople, and organizing direct actions to raise the stakes.

The #FightFor15 is Everyone’s Fight: Students for a Living Wage!

By Chris Hart-Williams, Ignite NC Communications Fellow Spring ’14

#StudentsFor15 are turning out in solidarity with low-wage workers across the country, demanding living wage, right to a union, and dignity and respect on the job!

Workers in the Fight for $15 met for the 1st Charlotte People’s Power Assembly where they shared shared their stories that highlighted the struggle to demand living wages from the multi-million dollar corporations that employ them.

The Charlotte People’s Power Assembly is a monthly meeting space to build solidarity through trainings, dialogue, and collective strategy and mobilization. The first People’s Power Assembly happened on March 7 and focused on the economic justice and the “Fight for 15.”

Fast food workers, who are tired of working for poverty wages had time to share during the assembly.

One worker, Brittany, spoke of the realities facing today’s fast-food workers and the difficulties of covering basic needs such as food, rent, healthcare, and transportation in absence of a living wage. For Brittany, the April 15 strike is more than a day for low-wage workers, it’s a part of a movement that attends of the assembly hope to continue

This movement in large part depends on young people taking a stand and saying that economic injustice is not acceptable for their future.

People who work hard for a living should make enough to support themselves, their families, and be treated with dignity and respect.

Brittany shared that just the day before the assembly, she lost a family member, and her superior told her she couldn’t leave until she found someone to replace her.

“We are behind right now and we have to keep up,” Brittany said. “Economic injustice hasn’t died.”

Fast food and low wage workers are mostly adults with families. Just compensation and dignified treatment would strengthen communities across the state and allow struggling workers to provide themselves and their families with basic necessities.

Youth involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, students, and other community members were also at the assembly for dialogue and collectively strategized about what we can do to fight back together. What emerged was the need to mobilize in mass numbers to the April 15 national day of action for living wage. Tens of thousands of people across the country will be speaking out for better jobs and justice.

“Economic justice and the Fight for 15 is essential, and that’s what’s necessary,” said Ignite NC fellow Ajamuito Dillahunt. Dillahunt is a student who will join hundreds of other students to unite with workers on April 15 in Raleigh at Shaw University. “We need to be in solidarity with workers, who want to be paid for the work that they do”

Students, community members, workers from all over North Carolina, and the rest of the nation, are taking action to demand a future.

For young people who haven’t yet entered the workforce but will soon, the fight for economic justice is of grave concern. These injustices cannot continue, and voices like  Dillahunt are important and need to be heard, loud and clear.

Today’s college graduates are set to be the most in debt. While their odds of landing a job that pays a living wage has not not increased they on average pay back around $33,000 in student-loan debt.

The low-wage workforce has gotten more highly educated in recent decades, 43 percent of low-wage workers have at least some college education, a degree, or even an advanced degree. With this reality, adjunct professors who are also making poverty wages and fighting employment insecurity are joining the fight for $15.

The Fight for $15 has become everyone’s fight: students, fast-food workers, home care workers, and adjunct faculty. Anyone who is concerned about economic justice, living wage, and right to a union will be taking the streets on April 15 to demand a better future for all of us.

Ignite NC fellows have a crucial role in this major mobilization. Fellows will be organizing on their campuses across NC to bring out over 500 students in solidarity with low-wage workers. Be sure to follow Ignite NC on Facebook, Twitter, and Website to get updates about how you can get to April 15 and make an impact.


Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.42.38 PMChris Hart-Williams is a senior at North Carolina State University. There he is studying political science. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of N.C. State’s Nubian Message and is a former staff writer of the student paper Technician. Chris received a certificate of appreciation from the state of NC while a communications intern at the Office of State Human Resources in Spring 2014. He also worked as an intern web contributor at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.


Ignite NC to march at HKonJ: Fully fund HBCUs! End the pipeline!

A piece by Communications Fellow Chris Hart-Williams

Young people will join thousands at the “Moral March on Raleigh” to visibly challenge attacks on voting rights, economic justice, public education, equal protection under the law, and more at the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street, HKonJ march through downtown Raleigh on Saturday, Feb. 14.

“I’m going to HKonJ because my first experience was a good one, and also I want to express my concern with the school-to-prison pipeline,” Bernard Fields a junior at UNC Pembroke studying international business with a concentration in marketing said.

The school to prison pipeline is a system too many North Carolina school children fall victim to. It’s a system of laws, policies and practices that pushes students out of school and on a pathway toward the juvenile criminal justice system.

Quisha Vaughn, who is also a student will be at the march. Vaughn studies chemistry at Elizabeth City State University, ECSU in northeastern North Carolina.

During the summer of 2014, it was publically announced that ECSU was potentially the target of a UNC Board of Governors study that looked into dissolving system schools suffering with low enrollment. ECSU is one of the 16 UNC-System institutions. Lawmakers amended the budget to end the closing provision only after hearing outcry throughout the state.

“Students from all over decided that coming together to help a fellow HBCU was needed because that could have easily been their school. We understood that the legacy our founders created had to be continued,” Vaughn said.

The NC Senate budget mandated the study for campuses where full-time enrollment declined by more than 20 percent since 2010. ECSU saw a 26 percent enrollment drop between 2010 and 2013 — the only UNC school that meets that definition.

Closing ECSU, an economic hub in the northeastern region of the state would be “putting hundreds of people out of worK” said Vaughn.

In January the UNC Board of Governors voted to eliminate four degree programs at ECSU. Its studio art, marine environmental science, physics and geology programs were cut to save $468,000 annually, according to the New and Observer.

Vaughn said she wants lawmakers to support all institutions of higher-education in the state no matter their size.

“Because we are smaller institutions does not mean we are of less importance.”

According to Vaughn, her fellow Vikings felt the same as her when she found out that proposed program cuts at ECSU were going to be carried out by the UNC Board.

“Students felt hurt, alone, and let down,” Vaughn said. “They were disappointed because they felt as though they had put their trust and education in the hands of people who were supposed to protect them and make sure they get the best quality education.”

Now many ECSU students sense that there is lack of communication, security, and stability, according to Vaughn.

“When I applied and was accepted, I made a conscious decision that I wanted to start my legacy here,” Vaughn said.

In Spring 2014 she ran for class president to become a voice for her peers and that she wants to continue to do so.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are sixth on the 14 Point People’s Agenda for North Carolina, it calls for the state to financially support HBCUs, and develop equitable infrastructure and programs with doctoral-level leadership for today’s challenges, the agenda reads.

It also lists action steps which include rejecting any proposed tuition hikes supporting the establishment of an HBCU Development Commission with staff and a long-term mandate to increase public and private funding for the HBCUs as well for need-based scholarships, higher faculty salaries, better recruitment programs and stronger curricula.

Ignite NC fellows will be mobilizing our local communities and campuses to HKonJ to uplift the work we will be doing this Spring to ensure that all workers have a living wage and right to a union, that all students will not be met with attacks on their public education, that HBCUs will not be defunded, that youth and students of color will not be met with police brutality and violence, and that North Carolina move towards a more progressive future for all who call it home.


Chris Hart-Williams is a senior at North Carolina State University. There he is studying political science. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of N.C. State’s Nubian Message and is a former staff writer of the student paper Technician. Chris received a certificate of appreciation from the state of NC while a communications intern at the Office of State Human Resources in Spring 2014. He also worked as an intern at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.

NC Vote Defender featured in the Nation blog

“In 2012, the Koch brothers and right-wing millionaire Art Pope achieved an extremist takeover of North Carolina, resulting in devastating legislation from healthcare to education to voting rights. Fifty years after the original Freedom Summer in Mississippi, youth are organizing to reverse the onslaught. July 7 marked the first day of hearings for a preliminary injunction on the most draconian voter suppression law in the country, which eliminates same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, guts campaign finance laws and requires a photo ID but prohibits the usage of student IDs. In response to this law, we’ve mobilized at Moral Monday’s with the state NAACP, and more than 350 people with NC Vote Defenders and Democracy NChave monitored polls in thirty-four counties. This month, while youth pack the court room and county board of elections, the Youth Organizing Institute Freedom School is training high school students on community organizing to build on the legacy of youth struggle in North Carolina.”

—Bryan Perlmutter

See the full article here