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Yesterday I read about the new #BrandNCProject that the Department of Commerce had launched with UNC’s business school. News of the effort immediately drew mockery from some those who don’t like the direction the state is going in in comments sections of news articles and on Twitter.

The survey asks us what words best describe our enduring core values we hold as North Carolinians. The examples include kindness, diversity, loyalty, friendliness, compassion and courage.survey screen shot

“Enduring core values are basic fundamental principles that guide our individual behavior and both determine and reflect how we think and act toward others,” the survey’s instructions state.

I earnestly tried to answer this survey as a North Carolinian who cares deeply about my state’s future and wants its brand stand out, and as someone who wanted to possibly shape this project’s development.

I tried, but I couldn’t.  That’s because I believe holding values and practicing values are two different things. Building, sustaining and practicing “enduring core values” is hard work that is never completed. It takes investment and examination.

Living a principled life is a journey, maybe even a battle. It’s about the sum of our actions.

So maybe we should step back and reflect on some different questions: How are we as North Carolinians living up to our values?  Are we on the right path to being the friendly, diverse, compassionate, fair, creative place we aspire to be? If not, how do we get there?

However important a brand might be –and I don’t dispute it is— it just feels like our leaders are again putting appearances first. And that is not an enduring core value I want for my state.

Jim Lind is a decorated US Air Force vet and a software development professional who’s done it all over a 39-year career: managing and developing for commercial industries, for the military, for education systems, for space systems, you name it.

He’s also been unemployed since early 2009 when the Great Recession resulted in major layoffs at his and so many other workplaces. When Jim finally found work for a contractor for Amtrak, the sequester cut that short just 10 weeks into the job.WP_20140220_005-edit-600-web

Jim was one of eight unemployed professionals who met with U.S. Rep. David Price and Wake Tech President Stephen Scott last week to explain the human toll exacted by North Carolina’s reckless changes to its unemployment insurance program, detailed by a recent Budget and Tax Center report on the issue. They also spoke about how important the programs at the community college have been for them.

“The reason I am here is to talk about who the unemployed are. Who are we really. Myths are not helpful for becoming re-employed,” he said.

Jim explained that the federal extensions of unemployment at a higher weekly rate than is available now were a life saver for him, providing the most basic assistance to eat and pay some bills.

“I had to count slices of bread, eggs in the fridge, measure things in ounces, plan when to wash my clothes in order to be able to pay the rent where I was living,” he said. Plus, even looking for work in today’s world requires expensive tools like a cell phone, an Internet connection and computer, a car. “I don’t know how cutting people off…is helpful for people finding work.” Read More

“Harvest of Dignity,” a 30-minute documentary that chronicles the lives of modern farm workers in North Carolina, won a regional Emmy over the weekend in the topical documentary category.

The film updates Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 report, “Harvest of Shame”, and shows that unfortunately, not much has changed about how our country treats the people who work so hard to deliver the bounty of our farms to our grocery stores and our tables.

Donna Campbell of Minnow Media in Carrboro, worked closely with the Farmworker Advocacy Network to make the film. Upon accepting the award in Nashville Saturday, Campbell said she did so on behalf of North Carolina’s farm workers.

“Those of us who haven’t spent 16 hours in a sweet potato field really have no idea what hard work is,” she said (you can watch the awards speech around 01:14 of the Emmy broadcast.

At least 150,000 farm workers and their families are in North Carolina for each growing season, according to the North Carolina Farmworker Institute.  often making less than $11,000 a year. Wage and safety violations are unfortunately all too common, with workers still facing difficulties like pesticide exposure, unacceptable living conditions and rampant wage theft.

The thought-provoking movie is worth watching with a book club or group of friends or neighbors, sure to raise awareness and generate discussion. Watch the movie and download discussion materials here: http://pic.tv/harvest/.

This weekend, for the 28th year, Raleigh will celebrate the diversity of its population during International Festival. I love this event. It’s at the convention center with the shimmer wall, and the hundred-plus booths showcase the cultures of different countries and regions that call the Triangle “home.” There’s food, dance and a whole lot of other activities, including cooking demonstrations.

A naturalization ceremony kicks off the event, inviting more people into the fold of the American experiment of a representative democracy. This will happen despite a government shutdown.

It also happens at a time when immigrants, as well as their supporters in our communities, are clamoring for an overhaul to our broken immigration rules. This week, despite government gridlock, House Democrats worked to refocus attention on moving the country forward by introducing a comprehensive immigration bill. 

This weekend, people will also be raising their voices around the country, participating in events commemorating the National Day of Immigrant Dignity and Respect.  About 15 events throughout North Carolina alone are planned.

The Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center  will be collecting signatures at International Festival telling our Congressional representatives that we want fair and inclusive immigration reform that focuses on legislation that creates a roadmap to citizenship and reunites families, and to oppose bills that penalize immigrant families and diminish public safety.

 

CambioWe as Americans know when a person is arrested and jailed in our country he or she has the right to a lawyer regardless of ability to pay.

Here’s the thing, though. People –including American citizens — who are jailed on immigration violations DO NOT have those same rights.

An immigration lawyer sure would have been helpful in the case of North Carolinian Mark Lyttle, a mentally ill native of Rowan County who was deported TWICE to Mexico in 2008. And there’s this doozy, where a man (finally determined to be a U.S. citizen by birthright) whose father is a U.S. citizen was deported at least four times based on a non-existent passage in the Mexican constitution.

Yes. As crazy as it sounds, American citizens get jailed and deported. Regularly.

According to immigration lawyer Kara Hartzler’s 2008 testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Immigration, her Arizona non-profit sees between 40 and 50 cases per month of people in immigration detention who have potentially valid claims to U.S. citizenship.

“These individuals will commonly be detained for weeks, months, and even years while attempting to prove their citizenship. While some are ultimately successful, others often abandon their cases in the face of what can feel like indefinite detention,” Hartzler states.

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