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Targeting Black Voters with Surgical Precision Is Illegal!

Voting restrictions imposed by the North Carolina General Assembly during the legislative session immediately following President Barack Obama's reelection have been ruled unconstitutional by a Federal Appeals Court. The unanimous 3 judge panel ruled that the law targeted African American voters with "almost surgical precision" to counteract increased voter participation among communities of color in the state.   Story of America documented the crafting of the law in 2013: The voting restrictions were waiting in the wings of the North Carolina State Senate during the summer of 2013 as a more moderate House Bill 589 was being crafted. After the Republican majority on the United States Supreme Court ruled that the a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be nullified, the state senate added 50 pages of new voting restrictions designed to create long lines in urban centers, and place other burdens on minorities, students, and the poor.  The amended bill was rammed through both houses and signed by Governor Pat McCrory (R) within a matter of days. McCrory later said that he the had signed the bill without reading it. The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in Shelby v. Holder on June 25, 2013 was an unexpected decree considering the case before them. In Shelby County, Alabama, white lawmakers had redistricted their county board of supervisors in order to eliminate the only African American member. The Department of Justice stepped in, the white lawmakers sued, and Republican operatives joined the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs. Rather than rule on whether or not race-based redistricting is constitutional, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court ruled that federal regulation overseeing changes to election law in areas with a history of voter suppression needed to be updated for a new, post-racism America. Rather than blocking discriminatory election law changes before they go into effect, the Department of Justice would now have to wait until after the law was implemented, and, prove that it had impacted voters in an unconstitutional manner. North Carolina held elections in 2014 with some of HB 589's provisions in effect — which means that the current state legislature was elected using illegal voting restrictions.   U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R), who was also elected in 2014, shepherded the voting restrictions through the General Assembly in 2013 as House Speaker, then benefitted from them the following year as minority voter participation fell off precipitously. Continue reading

Must See Sermons by Rev. Dr. WIlliam Barber

Rev. Dr. William Barber's moral critique of plutocracy is a call to arms, not just for the faithful, but for all who want to achieve the America promised to us in our founding documents. Here are 4 videos of Rev. Barber speeches and sermons, produced by Story of America: Here he breaks tradition and comments on the 2016 presidential race in each of 2 guest sermons at the All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC: Rev. Dr. William Barber's message of moral clarity and civic courage is spreading. The video above by Eric Preston of Fusion Films documents Rev. Barber's Palm Sunday sermon at the historic Riverside Church in New York City.  Yara Allen sings. "Walk with me, Lord" to introduce to Rev. Barber's sermon. Continue reading

Federal Trial on North Carolina's Voting Restrictions Underway

Winston-Salem, NC —  Story of America witnessed the North Carolina General Assembly's passage of what many call the most aggressive voting restrictions since the end of the Jim Crow Era.  A Federal Court challenge to determine the constitutionality of North Carolina's restrictions may well be headed to the Supreme Court. I spoke with Allison Riggs, lead counsel for the League of Women Voters, which, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and the North Carolina NAACP will argue  that House Bill 589 violates the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  [CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EXAMINING THE CASE] Continue reading

5 Hour Wait to Vote in Urban Centers: 2016's most cynical election strategy

This video shot on election day 2012 is the best documentation so far of the unfairness of long lines at the polls in urban centers. Subsequently, other swing states such as Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have implemented policies designed to engineer long lines at the polls in urban centers. Defenders of this strategy say election administration should be 'equal' regardless of population density, even if this means unequal access to the polls due to waiting times. Conservative lawmakers, who have accepted and implemented election law changes suggested by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage foundation have also accepted the argument that the constitutional right to equal justice under law does not protect things like early voting and weekend voting simply because they help to ease long lines in populated areas. Instead, they argue, the notion of equal protection can be used to justify cutting back on early voting and weekend voting because they are essential to avoid long lines where the population is dense, but less so where the population is sparse.Critics of the "long lines" electoral strategy compare it to Jim Crow practices such as poll taxes, saying that wage earners who miss time at work or have to hire child care in order to wait five or more hours to vote are facing the equivalent of a poll tax. By contrast, we shot the video below on the same day, in a more rural area of Virginia 2 hours southwest, not far from James Madison University: Continue reading

Pride Before Facts

I know most of you don't want to hear this, but I need to get this off my chest. This is not a critique of President Obama's speech; it is a request for us to hit pause during the ongoing political circus and think about premise of the entire spectacle. Why do we need to hear that we are number one from our president every year?  Even after Iraq and the financial crisis, most of us want to hear that America is #1. We are very invested in this identity, this story of us. Continue reading

Perspectives on South Carolina's Confederate Flag

Bill Starr has a South Carolina lineage that predates the Revolution, and ancestors who fought in the Civil War for the Confederate States of America. But he wants the Confederate flag flying on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, SC to come down. Annabel Park of Story of America interviewed him on June 24, 2015 moments after he had waited in line for an hour to pay respects to the murdered Civil Rights leader, Senator, and Reverend Clementa Pinckney where he lay in state in the capitol rotunda.  Continue reading

What I Saw Around the Confederate Flag Pole

Columbia, SC -- For the last few weeks since the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17th, the fierce debate here and around the nation revolved around whether or not the Confederate flag should be removed from SC's Capitol grounds.  From the day after the shooting, the Confederate flag drew attention and scorn for flying at full mast when the state and US flag above the dome were lowered by the Governor's order to half-mast in an expression of mourning. Petitions began circulating as early as June 18th through MoveOn and other networks with hundreds of thousands people demanding the removal of the Confederate flag from all government property in South Carolina.  Continue reading

My Journey into America's Divide

For most of 2010 through 2012, I was trying to figure out answers to these questions: Why are the American people so divided, and hostile to one another? How will we meet the many challenges we face when there is conflict among the people and gridlock in Washington?   Continue reading

Awakening the "We the People" Within

We had a simple question when Eric Byler and I began our journey around the country with Story of America: Why have we become so divided as a nation and how can we become more united? As I watched the video of our interview with James Morgan of Bakersville, NC, a mining town in the Appalachian Mountains, I finally recognized what really propelled this journey. It wasn't some academic answer to my question; it was something deeply personal.  Continue reading

I'm a born-again citizen

Editor's note: Annabel is one of the producers of Story of America. This is an auto-biographical story about how she became committed to being an active citizen.  This  is the oath that I took when I became an American citizen in June, 1991, in Boston: I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United  Continue reading

Time Travelers: My brush with the KKK in South Carolina by Crush Rush

Columbia, SC -- On July 18, 2015, I experienced something that I would have never thought would have happened in my life. I came in direct contact with time travelers. I’m talking about members of the Klu Klux Klan and the Neo Nazi Party. That’s right; I’m talking about the political organization responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. The same political operatives who lynched an estimated 4800 Americans in the name of White Supremacy, and that’s just the documented cases. This is the same group that in its peak in 1920 had more than 4 million people in membership. On July 18th, I was within an arm’s reach of time travelers from an era of American history that most of us think of as gone and forgotten. Continue reading

In Seceding, TX Mentions Slavery 21, Race 9, Rights 4 Times

In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education voted to minimize the role of slavery in developing new guidelines for teaching about the Civil War. Patricia Hall, a Republican board member, asserted, "States' rights were the real issues behind the Civil War. Slavery was an after issue." Starting next month, 5 million students in Texas will learn about American history based on these changes.  Continue reading

Someone had to teach him

Editor's Note: Author of Blood Done Sign My Name, historian, and one of the leaders of the Moral Monday movement, Timothy B. Tyson, posted this on his facebook page. We are printing it here with his permission. A young man wears Rhodesian and apartheid-era flags on his jacket. Both countries never existed during his lifetime. Both flags are commonly worn as in-group insignia among politically organized white supremacists. "You have to be carefully taught," as the old song from "South Pacific" puts it. He slaughtered nine African Americans in a church. Continue reading

Black Boxes

Editor’s Note: This is an update to a powerful essay published on April 24, 2014 on storyofamerica.org, Not a Monster’s Daughter. It included this breathtaking line: "My name is Megan A. Collins, I am rape conceived and I should be afforded the right to my own history. This is my story." The update is in two sections: “Black Boxes" and "“Reflecting on the experience of publishing my story.” Black Boxes Though most adoptees could not imagine a time when record access would be open, on March 20, 2015, the state of Ohio opened all sealed adoptions finalized between 1964-1996. The option was given to birth parents to have their name redacted from the original birth certificate if they filed the correct forms by the March 19th deadline. A basic medical information packet was required to be completed for this to be an option. Of 400,000 records, one hundred and fourteen redactions were said to have been completed by the deadline. Continue reading

Baltimore Rising — Bob Zellner statement re. charges filed in Baltimore

On the historic day of May 1, 2015, I had the good fortune to be with Civil Rights legend Bob Zellner. In the early 1960's, Bob was arrested and tortured by police several times for leading peaceful Civil Rights demonstrations as the first white Southerner to serve as Field Secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Below is his written statement. Bob Zellner, May 1, 2015: Today is May Day, an international day of solidarity among working people.  On this May Day, 2015, people will take away different things from the actions of the young State’s Attorney in Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, charging six police officers with serious crimes including murder in the death of Freddie Gray.  Continue reading

"This Is Scary" my arrest at Occupy Los Angeles

I have just learned of a $2.45 million settlement between the City of Los Angeles and lawyers representing the nearly 300 people who were arrested at the Occupy Los Angeles protests during the 2 am hour of Nov. 30, 2011.  I was one of them.  I understand this means I may receive some money from the city. This would be a form of justice for two reasons: (1) the ordeal detailed below, and (2) Lord knows I've paid the City of LA enough money in parking tickets. This is the account I wrote a few days after my release from jail, with photos I shot with my phone. That first one — click to enlarge — was shot moments before I was arrested as a wall of militarized police marched toward me.     Continue reading

Sustaining a Lifetime of Movement: Advice From the Young at Heart

Today a friend in the justice movement texted me these words: "Happy New Year. I'm depressed." In trying to offer some advice, I summarized the remarks quoted below, which had made me feel better about life.     Continue reading

Divide between communities and police

As you know, Story of America aims to create greater understanding and civil engagement on divisive issues. One of our goals for 2015 is to create better dialogue between communities and law enforcement. We were able to contribute to the dialogue in Prince William County through our critically acclaimed documentary project 9500 Liberty, the youtube series and the feature film. This is the trailer for the film.  Continue reading

Donate in the next 5 days and get an awesome t-shirt!

Dear friends,  We're more than half way to reaching our goal of raising $25,000 with ten days left of our campaign. We have $11,166 to go. To help us reach our goal, a talented artist and designer, Daniel Marquez, created this striking t-shirt for our supporters with the timely message, "Awaken the We the People Within."   Continue reading

Donate to Story of America & Sneak Peek at Feature Film

Happy New Year! We created Story of America two years ago understand why we are so divided as a nation, and seek solutions for how we may become more united. Since November 2012, we have released four web series on: voting rights, Moral Monday movement, fight to save Pungo District Hospital in Belhaven, NC and understanding racial division in Alabama. Continue reading
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