COVID-19, News, race

NC’s first elected Muslim woman overcame challenges, faces new ones with COVID-19

Nida Allam made history last month, becoming the first Muslim woman elected to public office in North Carolina. But the job — indeed, the world — will be very different from the one she imagined when she decided to run for a seat on the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

Nida Allam.

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed life in North Carolina — closing public schools, emptying university campuses and shutting down most non-essential businesses. Durham is one of the hardest hit of the state’s 100 counties. With 63 confirmed infections as of Tuesday, it ranks behind only much-larger Mecklenburg County, which has reported 104.

Allam says she ran to be part of a new, more inclusive and progressive vision for Durham — one that includes voices and communities seldom represented in local government. That mission is now more important than ever, she said.

Allam has had plenty of time to think about the future, its unknowns and her role in all of it. She and her husband, Towqir Aziz, are now at the end of their own two-week quarantine.

“After the election we went to Spain to celebrate and kind of de-stress from the campaign,” Allam told Policy Watch last week. “But that’s completely not what it turned into.”

Instead, Allam and her husband found themselves engulfed in the international panic over COVID-19. As Europe struggled with an overwhelming number of infections and the United States belatedly began to put social distancing measures in place, they were just trying to get back home.

“Our flight was supposed to come back Sunday, but after [President Donald] Trump’s press conference they started cancelling all the flights,” Allam said. “We were scurrying to find a flight back. We finally got home but now we’re under a two week quarantine. We don’t have any symptoms — but just to be safe.”

Her doctor told her the office had only five available tests and had to save them for those with symptoms, she said. As of this week, Allam and her husband remain asymptomatic — but they are taking no chances.

They are saying their five prayers a day at home, she said, as are most observant Muslims with the local mosques suspending in-person gatherings for worship.

Allam said she is not even visiting her parents, who are her next-door neighbors.

“Right now we really have to check our own privilege,” Allam said. “We may be young, we may be healthy, but who could we pass this along to?”

These are not the questions and issues Allam expected to be tackling this month. Read more

public health, race

NC has one of the worst records in the nation for the deaths of black babies. An expert panel offers some solutions at next week’s Crucial Conversation.

Image: Adobe Stock

North Carolina has one of the worst records in the nation for the deaths of babies a year or younger, according to new reporting by Lynn Bonner of Raleigh’s News & Observer. The rate of Black babies’ deaths is driving that statistic.

Statewide, Bonner reports, the gap between Black and white infant deaths was wider in 2018 than it was in 1999. Black infants born in North Carolina are now more than twice as likely to die than white infants. The state has acknowledged it won’t meet its goals for reducing that gap by this year.

Join us for breakfast next Tuesday, February 11 at 8:00 a.m. for an in-depth conversation with Bonner about her seven-month reporting project. Bonner will be joined by an expert panel to discuss the extent of the crisis and how North Carolina can do better for its Black infants, including:

Whitney Tucker, who is the Research Director at NC Child. There, she leads the organization’s research on child wellbeing and provides actionable analyses of public policies impacting NC children and families. Tucker also engages in research for academic publication, with special interests in advocacy evaluation and policy tools advancing racial and ethnic equity.

Rebecca Cerese is the Engagement Coordinator for the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project where she uses her experience as a documentary filmmaker and producer to find and capture compelling stories that highlight the many North Carolinians struggling to access quality, affordable health care, especially those who fall in the Medicaid Coverage Gap.

Tina Sherman, Campaign Director for the Breastfeeding and Paid Leave Campaigns at MomsRising, has dedicated her professional life to supporting and empowering moms and families. Among many other things, she has served as a legislative aide in the United States Senate and worked with several child and women’s advocacy organizations.

When: Tuesday, February 11 at 8:00 a.m.
Where: North Carolina Justice Center offices – 224 S. Dawson St., in Raleigh
Space is limited – preregistration is requested.
Cost: $10 for those who pay online, $15 at the door; scholarships available. Click here to register.
Note: Online sign-up page will list the “pay at the door” option as “free,” but the actual, event-day cost is $15

Questions?? Contact Melissa Boughton at 919- 861-1454 or melissa@ncpolicywatch.com

Education, News, race, What's Race Got To Do With It?

E(race)ing Inequities | How race impacts everything from teacher experience, to student discipline, to access to gifted programs

With a new school year just around the corner, lawmakers, educators and parents should make time to read the thought-provoking new report “E(race)ing Inequities: The State of Racial Equity in North Carolina Public Schools” by the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED).

Policy Watch sat down last week to discuss the findings with James E. Ford, who is the executive director of CREED as well as a State Board of Education member and former NC Teacher of the Year.

In our extended interview, Ford explains why it’s time for another candid talk about race, and why North Carolina must adopt racial equity as a stated goal for our public school system.

If you don’t have time to read the full report. Here are seven takeaways from Ford and co-author Nicholas Triplett that merit further discussion:

 

  • Student groups of color had a higher likelihood of being taught by a novice [teacher] as compared to their White counterparts when controlling for gender, free/reduced lunch status, language status, and special education status.
  • Student groups of color were also far less likely to be in classes with a teacher of the same race/ethnicity.
  • Students of color were strongly over-represented within the districts/LEAs with the highest teacher turnover and vacancy rates.
  • Given the powerful influence that teachers have on virtually all measures of educational success, our results provide evidence that students of color in North Carolina have less access to the highly qualified, experienced, stable, and diverse teachers that are likely to provide them with the best chance of school success.
  • Not only are American Indian, Black, and Multiracial students over-represented generally in the incidence of both in-school and out-of-school suspensions, they appear to be the disproportionate recipients of suspensions involving subjective offenses and receive harsher forms of discipline (OSS vs. ISS) at higher rates. Furthermore, Black students receive longer suspensions on average than any other student group.
  • To give a sense of the magnitude of the racial discipline gap in the state, if Black students had been given out-of-school suspension (OSS) at the state average rate, almost 30,000 fewer Black students would have experienced OSS during the 2016-2017 school year.
  • The under-exposure of student groups of color in gifted and talented programs has the potential to diminish their long-term educational attainment, postsecondary participation, and professional achievements.

Learn more about the history of race and education in North Carolina in CREED‘s  “Deep Rooted” companion report.

ballot fraud, News, race, Voting

Elon Poll: In wake of Ninth District case, N.C. voters call election fraud a “major problem”

A new poll from Elon University finds more than half of N.C. voters surveyed consider election fraud a “major problem” in the state.

The poll was conducted this week in the wake of the dramatic hearings over alleged ballot fraud in the ninth congressional district,

“Now months out from the tainted 9th District election, North Carolina voters are broadly skeptical of elections in the state,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science, in a statement on the results. “A majority of the electorate has clear concerns about the fairness of future elections and the extent of fraud.”

Read more

Education, News, race

Combating poverty and other barriers, Wayne County coalition focuses on equitable economic development

Marking nearly a year of planning and progress in Goldsboro, a group of community residents, nonprofit leaders and elected officials that have been part of an initiative focusing on equitable economic development known as WAYne Forward, hosted a Fall Summit to discuss the ways in which the community can address poverty through collective effort. With high energy and deep conversations, the event highlighted the value of sustained work that brings many stakeholders together to promote opportunity for all.

These aren’t always easy conversations. A history of exclusion and discrimination that persists in eastern North Carolina creates barriers for current residents, as have policy choices and systems that block opportunity. Problems ranging from disproportionate suspension rates of minorities to disproportionate juvenile court rates and detention admittance rates to the lack of affordable housing and too few good paying jobs with career pathways. As well, multiple census tracts or neighborhoods in the county experience a poverty rate of over 30 percent, delivering what is considered a double burden on residents poor and not poor.

Yet, for the past year, the community organized around these troubling outcomes and has been working to understand the landscape of opportunity in their community. Building from community-based outreach such as food drives or school reading initiatives, these are just some of the ways Wayne County aims to bridge the gaps to fight poverty. Along with a continued emphasis on building a strong civic leadership, and grassroots network that can mobilize and organize residents, and a growing effort to revitalize main streets and lift up the arts and regional connections the community has proven assets to build on.

Still like many places, Goldsboro has its obstacles to overcome. In 2014, it was ranked as one of the areas with the greatest decline in the middle class by Pew Research Center. Research by the UNC Poverty Fund released last year found the persistent and concentrated poverty in Goldsboro along with systemic exclusion of communities of color was creating a toxic environment for children.

The opportunity to demonstrate solutions that have been proven to work and advance the wellbeing of all residents is available in Wayne County. Read more