North Carolina residents on SNAP cuts: ‘This is just a worse version of bad’

CHARLOTTE – Diane Byrd, 53, is making ends meet – barely. The in-home health care worker makes just over $400 every two weeks. She pays $470 in rent. And she has depended on the $200 in food stamps she receives, not for herself but for her son’s daughter, Zabria Sherrill, the 7-year-old granddaughter she is raising. “You’ve got your light bill, your gas bill. You’ve got to do the wash,” Byrd said on Friday. “If they cut back on what I get, I’ll have to scratch it out.” But she said she’s not sure how.

On Nov. 1, when Congress failed to act, the temporary increase in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — established in the 2009 stimulus bill – expired. More than 47 million American saw their benefits go down, a cut of $5 billion in the next year; the Agriculture Department estimated that a family of four receiving food stamps would receive $36 less a month. In Congress, the discussion is about cutting SNAP benefits further as a means of reducing spending. The only disagreement between Democrats and Republicans is over how deep the cuts would be.

Agencies that are expected to fill in the gaps will continue to do the work they’ve been doing on the ground for years. “Since December of 2007, nothing has given these folks a break,” said Carol Hardison, chief executive officer for 13 years at Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte. “This is just a worse version of bad,” she said of the SNAP cuts.

Has the National Action Network surpassed the NAACP in influence?

As Ben Jealous prepares to step down from his leadership post at the end of this year, there is no question that he brought stability and visibility in his five years as the president and CEO of the NAACP.

Now, as members and observers give Jealous a proper celebratory sendoff, they are also looking to the future of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. How is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded in 1909, tackling 21st-century challenges and what is its relationship with other civil rights organizations?

North Carolina activists draw inspiration from 1963 March on Washington

CHARLOTTE – A Moral Monday gathering in Charlotte this week channeled sights and sounds of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 50 years ago.

As the sun broke through the clouds in the late afternoon, more than 2,000 stood and sat, sang and waved signs, listened to speakers, and wondered if some gains of the civil rights movement are slipping away in North Carolina.

It was a dress rehearsal for those planning to make the trip to Washington for Saturday’s commemoration of the historic march.

Linda Bain, listening on Monday, said she planned to travel from Charlotte to Washington by bus for Saturday’s events, meeting friends from New York City, where the retired educator lived before her move south this year. She missed the first march.

“I was a little too young,” she said. “I’m feeling more and more compelled to be there,” Bain said, “because of what’s going on here in North Carolina and around the country.”

Lawsuits greet new North Carolina voting laws

Add Rosanell Eaton’s name to the list of those who might be affected by North Carolina’s new voting bill, which starts but doesn’t end with provisions requiring certain forms of photo ID at the polls.

The 92-year-old Eaton is a plaintiff in a lawsuit announced on Monday after North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill, passed at the end of the legislative session with the support of GOP super-majorities in the state House and Senate.

Are GOP leaders missing a ‘Sister Souljah moment’ on Ted Nugent rants?

How has a rock musician who hasn’t topped the charts for decades – “Cat Scratch Fever” was back in 1977 – become a media-ready presence, relevant and, in certain circles, respectable?

For Ted Nugent, frequent and heated statements about President Obama, guns and race have done the trick. Nugent has always been an outrageous rocker, boastful about his exploits – sexual and otherwise. Headlines and notoriety in his business are gold, especially if, as it’s being reported, he has a live album in the works. But why are Republican leaders either encouraging the “Motor City Madman” or tacitly going along?

Rather than seeing an opportunity for a “Sister Souljah moment” – named for then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s 1992 public repudiation of someone perceived to represent extremist views as a way reassure the middle — Nugent has been elevated on conservative news outlets and is a sought-after guest. He’s become the foul-mouthed bard of the right wing.

The not-guilty verdict in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin has given Nugent new material.

Franklin McCain, 53 years after Greensboro sit-ins, sees parallels in current North Carolina rights battles

t’s been more than 53 years since Feb. 1, 1960, the day when Franklin McCain, David Richmond, Joseph McNeil and Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan) bought a few things from the F.W. Woolworth in Greensboro, N.C., sat down at the lunch counter, asked to be served and were refused because of their race. The actions of the four North Carolina A&T State University served as an inspiration, part of the sit-ins and civil rights efforts that changed the country.

The significance of that day has been honored and celebrated — with the International Civil Rights Center & Museum opening in the shell of that long-closed Greensboro Woolworth exactly 50 years later and a small section of the lunch counter on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. But in 2013, are the results of that historic youth-led challenge being rolled back in North Carolina, the state where it began?

Franklin McCain said he believes they are.

“Unconscionable,” he called the wave of conservative legislation pushed through this year by Republican super-majorities in the state House and Senate, with mostly support from GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. “I would love to sit here and be telling you today that we’ve conquered a whole lot of things,” he said in a recent conversation with theGrio in his Charlotte home. “It irritates me that things that we thought we solved 40, 50 years ago have raised their ugly heads again.”

North Carolina GOP tries to take advantage of Voting Rights Act ruling

In North Carolina, the Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the Voting Rights Act meant full speed ahead for proponents of new voter-ID laws – at least that was the word last week. Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, who had called requirements for federal pre-clearance before voting changes “legal headaches,” said in reports that the court’s ruling “should speed things along greatly.”

Then on Monday, Apodaca said debate on the legislation requiring photo identification to vote in person in North Carolina would be put on hold for a week because Republicans are still working on it, according to the Associated Press.

As a continuing backdrop to the legislative back and forth, this week the state capital of Raleigh saw another headline-making weekly demonstration.

Is Paula Deen’s n-word use a Southern thing?

Some fans and fellow chefs have defended her, accepting the first explanation that as a child of the South, such language and attitudes were common and not a sign that she treated anyone poorly. Putting aside the difference between what anyone does or says behind closed doors at home and the atmosphere entrepreneurs must create in the workplace, does accepting that “everyone did it that way so can we just stop being politically correct and move on” characterize a region with a broad and racially poisonous stereotype?

Growing protest vs. conservative legislation: North Carolina in the national spotlight

CHARLOTTE – North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory was a rock star to the crowd gathered at the party’s 2013 state convention over the weekend at the Charlotte Convention Center. But as the conservative agenda led by GOP super-majorities in both the state House and Senate in Raleigh continues to advance, disapproval is mounting, with an increasing amount of national attention.

How did a Republican wave overtake a Southern state long thought of as moderate, even progressive, one that gave Barack Obama a narrow win in 2008 and where the vote was close as Mitt Romney took it in 2012?

And will a growing and diverse group of protesters gathering weekly at the state legislative building in Raleigh for what they call Moral Mondays, speaking up and being arrested, be able to turn back a tide of legislation North Carolina NAACP president Rev. Dr. William Barber calls “extreme and immoral”?

For South Carolina families, food banks help ease the grip of hunger

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sometimes the line forms before the doors open at 9 a.m. at Harvest Hope Food Bank, a part of the Feeding America network. Chris Daly, chief operating officer of Harvest Hope, told me on Tuesday, “It gets you when they’re here before you.” The father of four said he can’t imagine the stress level of the clients, some trying to keep their children calm during what may be a two-hour wait. Harvest Hope tries to be “hospitable, quick and respectful,” he said.

The cavernous Columbia facility is part distribution center, supplier — with the agency’s other facilities — to about 500 partners in 20 South Carolina counties that feed some 38,000 people a week with what amounts to 30 million pounds of food a year. Also important is Harvest Hope’s role as a food pantry, where families can come Monday through Friday to pick up the protein, dairy products, produce and bakery goods that will help them through tough times. “You never get more than a few feet away from the end goal of the mission,” Daly said. “It keeps you grounded.”

In the United States, the child food insecurity rate, according to Feeding America data, is at 22.4 percent. In a list that no state wants to lead, South Carolina ties with Mississippi in the No. 10 spot at 27.4 percent. The numbers say that in South Carolina, 292,800 children out of a total under-18 population of 1,067,813 live in food insecure households.