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.
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.
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 web contributor at WRAL News in the Fall of 2014.
Ignite NC supports NC House Representative Rodney Moore’s Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill and the push for the powers and duties of the Department of Public Safety to be under review with respect to criminal information. The Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill will collect data to track police conduct, racial profiling, and the dissemination of information collected. The purpose of the change in law is to provide a fairer system that provides non-bias judgment before charging an individual with a crime.
The bill prohibits discriminatory profiling and will create independent citizen review boards to ensure that particular race, ethnic and gender groups are not being targeted. The community will form a commission that thoroughly evaluates the conduct and judgment of the local law enforcement with the permission of the General Assembly. Additionally, the bill will enforce training for standardized Local and State Police and Sheriff Deputy and Correction Officers on race equity, LGBTQ equality, religious freedom and domestic violence prevention including the revamping of Neighborhood Watch programs.
Ignite NC supports this bill because it will allow the community to have oversight on local law enforcement behavior and decisions. The bill will also reduce racial discrimination within the Greensboro, Charlotte, Durham, and Fayetteville communities, with hopes of extending to the entire state of North Carolina.
Organizations and community stakeholders are encouraged to be integral members of the oversight commission, equity trainings, and citizen review boards. Passing the bill will educate officers about the diverse communities in the area to make sure they are making decisions that are fair and beneficial to the city. Despite the advancements of this bill, Ignite NC believes this is only the beginning of an effort to be transparent and accountable. We strongly encourage more action to taken by the General Assembly, elected officials and community leaders.
Ignite NC recognizes and uplifts the important work being done by youth of color across the country over the past year to end police brutality and violence. This acknowledgement is significant because Black youth, youth of color, and LGBTQ youth are disproportionately targeted, prosecuted and incarcerated.
We remain committed to building community and genuine partnerships with young people most directly affected by police violence and the Prohibition of Discriminatory Practices Bill. While we support this bill we understand that this is not the end. Young people across North Carolina demand more and we stand firmly behind them.
Ignite NC is a statewide youth-led organizing and leadership development program committed to justice and equality.
Ignite NC supports organizing fellows across North Carolina who are working for economic justice through the Fight for $15 and and for police accountability. We support young people-led and centered efforts for justice and accountability across systems, whether they be fast food corporations, police agencies, prisons, or criminal justice system.
IGNITE NC VISION STATEMENT: 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.
A reflection piece by Communications Fellow Chelsea Moore
This past Valentine’s day was a big weekend full of justice and love for Ignite NC fellows and essentially any and every activist across North Carolina.
The 9th annual HKonJ Moral March on Raleigh happened with the participation of thousands of activists, organizers, and organizations from across the state. Ignite NC Fellows were present along with our partners Youth Organizing Institute, and NC Student Power Union. Ignite NC Fellows along with our partners and other youth organizations from across the state marched at the forefront of HKonJ in the Black Lives Matter/Stop The War On Black America Contingent.
The march was overall a racially, gender, and religiously diverse setting for participants. And despite the chilly weather, Black Lives Matter was a loud and resonating message throughout the weekend. With so much taking place in the past few years regarding injustice for the African American community this was a great place to have their voices heard. There were also many other issues marchers were rallying for ranging from women’s health, to the fighting for $15 for minimum wage workers, to rights for immigrants, to education for our children and their future.
Later in the day Ignite NC Fellows participated in the first-ever statewide Black Lives Matter Youth Assembly hosted at Shaw University where SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) was founded in 1960. This youth assembly brought together nearly 200 youth to discuss issues in their communities and what kinds of solutions are needed.
This year we are looking forward to our fellows rooting themselves in the communities each of them attend school in and/or reside in. Our mission is to educate our very own as well as surrounding communities on issues that take place not far from us. Furthermore, this spring we plan to unite and defeat the unreasonably low pay for minimum waged workers, with a new wage of $15 per hour and right to a union. We will also fight to end all police brutality, holding each individual and every system guilty of racist violence accountable.
HKonJ weekend was very impactful for Ignite NC fellows and we made an impact as well: highlighting the important work and issues from our local communities and campuses while uplifting the work happening everywhere across North Carolina. As we incorporate both new and old fellows for the spring it was great to see fellows reunited in the same space and have our voices heard. Many of us took to HKonJ weekend to spend Valentine’s Day with those we are fighting with side-by-side for a more love-filled and justice-filled world. Look forward to hearing and seeing more from us.
Chelsea Moore is a sophomore at Bennett College for women. There she majors in Journalism and Media Studies with hopes of becoming a notable public relations specialist/marketing executive. She is most passionate about equality for all races and genders in corporate America. She looks forward to partnering with other fellows to have their voices heard about issues taking place in our nation.
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.
Ignite NC has begun another semester of organizing and building power across the state! Twenty-three new fellows from Boone, Charlotte, Greensboro, Triangle, Pembroke, and Elizabeth City convened in Durham NC for a two-day training. Throughout the weekend we built community, organizing skills, and learned form each other about our struggles and vision for a better society.
The purpose of these fellowships is to build the youth and student movement in North Carolina. In order to do this, we must make deep investments in young leaders – through training, ongoing coaching, and access to resources for on the ground organizing.
Ignite NC is seeking organizing fellows to build the movement for grassroots people’s power in NC. From racial profiling to joblessness, young people must organize to change their own conditions and collectively build a better future. These fellowships are designed for youth who are currently working on an issue based campaign. The majority of fellows selected for this fellowship will be working around Economic Justice and the Fight for $15hr
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, and a stipend to enable you to spend more dedicated time to organize. The theme of the Spring 2015 application is Economic Justice. While some fellows may have a different focus, the majority will be helping to build the movement for economic justice.
The positions can be based anywhere in NC, through there are a limited number of positions. If you are selected for this fellowship, you must be able to attend:
A mandatory organizing training on January 17- January 18 (Durham NC)
Youth Convening and HKonJ February 13-14 (Raleigh NC)
Be Available on April 15 to fight for economic justice.
We are seeking candidates with a demonstrated commitment to social justice. Women, LGBTQ, and people of color strongly encouraged to apply. Considering applicants between the ages of 18-30. You do not have to currently be a student to apply.
Communication Fellow’s will support the organizing work of the organizing fellows! The positions can be based anywhere in NC but are preferred to be in the Triangle. Activities will include writing press releases, managing social media, creating graphics/flyers, updating website and developing a media strategy.
If you are selected, you must be able to attend:
A mandatory organizing training on January 17- January 18 (Durham NC)
Youth Convening and HKonJ February 13-14 (Raleigh NC)
Be Available on April 15 to fight for economic justice.
We seek candidates with a demonstrated commitment to social justice. Women, LGBTQ, and people of color, outside the Triangle or Charlotte area, between the ages of 18-30, are strongly encouraged to apply. You do not have to be a student to apply.
Specific Requirements Include:
BASIC FUNCTION AND RESPONSIBILITY: Fellows the communications unit in its efforts to develop and implement strategies to advance the brand, value and mission of Ignite NC, and the strategic planning and management of organization-wide outreach and marketing projects and collateral through traditional and new media marketing tools, and collaboration with University and departments Community Organizations on effective cross-marketing opportunities.
Young people across the country are building a movement against police violence in our communities. The movment began as grand jury’s decided not to indict the officers involved in the murdering of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. People have taken to the streets to disrupt business as usual and demand that power holders take action and law enforcement be held accountable. Ignite NC stands with the #BlackLivesMatters movement. We have helped with actions, die-ins, rallies and protests throughout NC. Take a look at some of the pictures from actions.
December 4 – Workers across the country took to the streets going on strike. They are demanding $15hr and union rights for low-wage workers, in particular fast food workers. The protests led by the Fight for $15 movement was the largest of its kind. Over 180 cities took part in the strike. Community support played a vital role in standing in solidarity for these actions. Ignite NC and its fellows helped mobilize students for the strike. In North Carolina, protests took place in Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, and Greenville.
First they were supposed to vote early — in a nightclub. Then students, employees, and faculty at North Carolina’s Appalachian State University were supposed to vote early a mile from the farthest edge of campus, in a county building that had little parking. Then, after students filed a lawsuit, a state judge intervened, saying that the county board of election’s decision to end early voting in the on-campus student union — after eight years of allowing it — could have no purpose but to disenfranchise students and was unconstitutional. That decision, however, was not the final word. It was put on hold by an appeals court, and then the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
By that time, the Watauga County Board of Elections haddecided to restore on-campus early voting — a practice it had eliminated by a partisan vote pushed by the board’s Republican majority. Appalachian State is the largest employer in Watauga County, and its students make up roughly 40 percent of the county’s population, but their preference for Democratic candidates does not jibe with the rest of the county’s Republican tilt. In 2012, about 35 percent of the county’s early votes were cast at the Appalachian State student union.
But after all the chaos, it turns out that Appalachian State students are the lucky ones: They are some of the only students in North Carolina who will be able to vote early on campus this year. Early voting sites have been eliminated on college campuses across North Carolina and the South, part of a broader effort by local elections officials and state lawmakers to erect new barriers to voting. The new policies, which run the gamut from shortened early voting periods to strict voter ID requirements, disproportionately affect young voters — and especially youth of color.
“If you look at what young voters did in this state [North Carolina] in 2008 and 2012, it’s impossible to not conclude they mattered a lot,” said Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, one of the law groups representing plaintiffs in a challenge to a restrictive election law the North Carolina legislature passed last year. “When young voters turn out a lot it can be dangerous to entrenched power, so they’re seen as threatening.”
After Republican takeovers in statehouses across the country and the South in 2010, many states enacted new restrictions on voters. And the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder last year striking a key provision of the Voting Rights Act freed many states with histories of discriminatory voting practices to pass and enforce new laws without approval by the federal government. Four Southern states — Texas, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama — used the new lack of federal oversight to enact restrictive voting laws that disproportionately affect young and minority voters. A group of young voters are challenging North Carolina’s law on the basis that it abridges their right to vote in violation of the Constitutional guarantee that all 18 year-olds can vote — the first time voters have challenged a voting law on age discrimination grounds.
Virginia is implementing its voter ID law for the first time this fall — as are Alabama,Mississippi, and Texas. Voter ID requirements can also disproportionately affect young voters since the laws in some states like Texas do not allow the use of student IDs, even if issued by public universities. (North Carolina will begin enforcing a voter ID requirement that excludes student IDs in 2016.) As a consequence of such laws, and due to a higher likelihood of not having other eligible ID, young voters are more likely than the general population to report not showing up to vote.
And in Florida, notorious for long lines and other problems in past elections, voting rights advocates say state law may hurt young voters this year as well. In 2011, the state government cut early voting by six days, contributing to very long lines in the 2012 election. Astudy by the Advancement Project found that long lines affected young voters and voters of color more than older and white voters across Florida.
Ciara Taylor, political director at the Dream Defenders, a group advocating for voter activism against police brutality and racism, reports that polling places have been moved off college campuses across Florida. In Tallahassee, for example, there are no early voting places on either Florida State’s or Florida A&M’s campuses, which have a combined enrollment of over 50,000 students. And while Florida allows voters to use student IDs to vote, they must also present an ID that has their signature, such as a credit card.
“The voter ID law goes hand in hand with the cut back of polling locations at college campuses and shorter hours at polling places,” Taylor said.
Local elections officials have said some on-campus voting locations have been axed because they cannot provide curbside voting for disabled voters — even though that has never stopped them from being used in the past. Other election boards — including those in the counties where Appalachian State, Elizabeth City State, and Winston-Salem State are located — provided no reasons for shuttering voting sites. Because of the election of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in 2012, county boards of elections in the state now have GOP majorities for the first time in decades.
Barriers to youth voting have also taken other forms in North Carolina. For example, the Guilford County Board of Elections rejected over 1,400 voter registration forms for students at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, another historically black school, reports Irving Allen, the fellowship director for Ignite NC, a non-partisan group that trains poll monitors and registers young voters. The students used the university’s address rather than their dorm address and room numbers and consequently had their forms rejected — the first time this has happened, he said.
“I understand the logic behind it, but before students were able to register by just putting the address of the school,” Allen said. “It creates this disarray and confusion.” Because the board of election did not follow up with the new registrants directly due to lack of funding, Allen said, that job fell to student activists.
Last year the Pasquotank County Board of Elections blocked an Elizabeth City State senior, Montravias King, from running for the local city council because he was registered to vote at his campus address. Pasquotank County’s elections board has repeatedly challenged students’ voting rights at the historically black school even though college students’ right to register to vote was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1979 case. King, who is black, was eventually elected to the local city council after taking his case to the State Board of Elections with the help of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed one of the nation’s most restrictive election laws last year, shortening early voting and ending same-day registration, out of precinct voting, and pre-registration for 16 and 17 year-old students. In 2016, the law’s voter ID provision will come into effect. Student IDs, even if issued by a public school, will not be accepted as voter IDs. While supporters of the law claim that it will prevent election fraud, opponents see an attempt to disenfranchise people of color and young voters.
“It seems like a unified push to make it more difficult for students to vote,” said Claudia Shoemaker, president of the Appalachian State College Democrats.
Young voters of color especially affected
Studies have found that voter ID laws disproportionately affect youth and people of color — college students or not. For example, a review by the federal Government Accountability Office found that strict voter ID laws like North Carolina’s reduced youth voting in Kansas and Tennessee in the 2012 election. In Kansas that year, 18 year-olds were seven percentage points less likely than 44 to 53 year olds to turn out to vote.
Voter ID laws are also enforced in ways that disproportionately target young voters, and especially voters of color. Young voters of color are asked for photo ID as much as 50 percent more often than young white voters — even when an ID is not required to vote. The same study found that when voter ID is required, young African-American and Hispanic voters were asked for ID more often than young white voters.
“Young people of color tend to be profiled more and asked for ID more than their white counterparts,” said Katherine Culliton-González, director of voter protection for the national civil rights group the Advancement Project.
These efforts to curb young and minority voters come as youth — and especially minority youth — are becoming increasingly larger parts of the American electorate. Voters between 18 and 29 years old were critical to President Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012. In North Carolina in 2008, the only age group of which a majority voted for Obama was voters aged 18 to 29, according to CNN. Obama won the state by just 14,177 votes.
Six years later, many of these young voters will now have to surmount new barriers just to be able to cast their ballots.
“For a country that advocates the importance of civic engagement, to be taking away the rights of these citizens is just un-American,” said Taylor of the Dream Defenders. “I think that people are realizing that voting is a lot more important than they realized before.”