RALEIGH — Black Voters Matter. That was the theme of an event held that drew hundreds to Raleigh on the eve of the first presidential debate.
The Black Voters Matter Freedom-fest and Unity Rally was hosted by the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina (FDFNC) along with support from Think Before You Vote, and North Carolina Black Conservative Voices.
The event had over 300 people register. Those who attended were offered a BBQ dinner followed by a series of speakers that included the chairman of the Frederick Douglass Institute, Reverend Dean Nelson, and the institute’s executive vice president, Kevrick McKain.
“They’re about 150 plus years too late,” said Nelson of the Black Lives Matter movement. “Black lives mattered in 1854 when the Republican party set up its platform that affirmed all black people matter.” He then added “somebody say amen” to which the crowd in unison responded with “amen.”
Nelson urged people to know their history, to keep fighting for justice and that “we will see a better America when we elect Donald Trump and Thom Tillis and many other Republicans in North Carolina.”
Civil Rights icon Clarence Henderson, who took part in the famous 1960 sit-ins at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, also addressed the crowd. Henderson has served as the president of FDFNC since 2017.
As he took the stage, attendees gave Henderson a standing ovation that lasted for several minutes. In his remarks, Henderson recited the preamble to the Constitution, reminding the audience that our rights come from God and not government.
“We want everybody to know our vote is not to be taken for granted,” said Henderson. “And Joe Biden – the last time I checked I was black and I still ain’t voting for you.”
Henderson went on to say that he had been a member of the Democratic Party because “someone told him to be,” but that ended after he did some research on the history of both parties.
Pre-recorded remarks from N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest both received sustained applause from the crowd. Forest’s wife Alice, his mother former Congresswoman Susan Myrick, and campaign manager Hal Weatherman attended from the Forest campaign.
Accepting endorsements from the Frederick Douglass Foundation that evening was Susan Tillis on behalf of her husband U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, and Myrick, on behalf of her son Lt. Governor Dan Forest.
The event was emceed by twin brothers Addul Ali and Raheem Rkitech Soto of the Urban Conservative Podcast. Ali also serves as the chairman of North Carolina Conservative Black Voices.
“Tonight, we are celebrating the fact that Black Voters indeed to matter,” Ali told North State Journal. “We are hopefully creating the beginning of a paradigm shift here in North Carolina where Black Conservatives are no longer going to be all quiet and passive – it’s just not going to continue that way.”
“This is showing unity… and the fact that we have some people here who are not Republicans – this is their first time coming to hang out with Republicans,” Ali said. “This is about showing folks that Republicans care about black voters and likewise, we as black voters are aware and we are watching and we are going to hold you accountable at the ballot box.”
The Frederick Douglass Foundation was founded by Dr. Timothy F. Johnson, Rev. Dean Nelson and Mr. A. Troy Rollings as a national education and public policy organization with local chapters across the United States. The organization brings the “sanctity of free market and limited government ideas to bear on the hardest problems facing our nation.”
North Carolina Black Conservative Voices is a coalition of Black Conservative leaders affiliated with the NCGOP seeking to bring together members of the Black Community in North Carolina to support conservative policies and elect conservative policymakers. Their goal is to “bring greater economic opportunity, safer communities, more school choice options, and better healthcare policies for generations to come.”
“We are here trying to get the message out to our community and engage with the party [NCGOP] that has been very open and supportive of us,” said North Carolina Black Voices Board member Danielle Robinson. “We’re just letting people know that there is a new way… there is a new option for our community.”
Robinson serves as a precinct chair for the Wake County Republican Party and is also a founding member of the BLEXIT NC.
Think Before You Vote describes themselves as a “national voter education and advocacy group dedicated to creating the informed electorate that the founders of our country envisioned.”
“I just joined as a member of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina and I saw they were having this event and so I wanted to come,” said Demetria Carter, who drove in from Greensboro for the rally.
Carter said she was “humongously surprised” when she read on the foundation’s website that there were over 100,000 blacks in North Carolina who are conservatives and Republicans.
“I’ve never seen that number in print before – anywhere,” said Carter. “I am just thrilled to death about that.” She added it makes her feel like she’s not alone.
NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley applauded the Black Voters Matter rally as a “great event” and was happy to see so many people turn out for it.
“No president has done more to reach out to black Republicans and black voters,” said Whatley. “The outreach from the president and the party has really been fantastic.”
A long list of GOP candidates was also on hand including State Superintendent candidate Catherine Truitt, Secretary of State candidate E.C. Sykes, Court of Appeals Judge Chris Dillon, and Senior Associate Justice Paul Newby, who is running for Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court.
Newby, who was a speaker at the event, told North State Journal that he was very excited to see so many people there “in support of the fundamental principles of our nation.”
Truitt in her remarks told attendees she wasn’t there to talk to them about school choice because they already know she supports it and that “it is not the state’s responsibility to tell you where your child should go to school.”
“Instead, I’m going to talk to you about the biggest civil rights crisis of this century,” said Truitt. “14 percent of African American kids in our state read and do math on grade level going into high school. Only 14 percent.”
Truitt said that for the last 40 years, no matter who has been in charge, no one has “mover the needle” and that Democrats have just “thrown money at it.”
“I am here to tell you that money is not going to fix this problem,” said Truitt. She pledged to start a statewide literacy campaign to end the problem, stating that education is the “surest path to economic prosperity.”
“When you create jobs, they are not party differentiated, they are not R’s or D’s,” said Sykes. “Jobs are jobs.”
Sykes said he is blessed with business experience to do that job but is also running because of the “attack on our values” both nationally and in North Carolina and that someone has to take a stand.
“We are all on a faith journey. We all have to stand for our values,” said Sykes to murmurs of “amen” from the audience.
Near the end of the event, Don McQueen was asked to take the stage and discuss school choice. McQueen is the executive director of Torchlight Academy, a popular charter school located in Raleigh.
“Choice… is not about schools. Choice, is an American ideal,” said McQueen. “We’re going to choose the president in a few days. Choice. We’re going to choose a new governor in a few days. Choice! We’re going to choose a new superintendent in a few days… Choice!” McQueen said raising his voice. “But why the hell does it stop at the classroom? Why does it stop at my G*d damn zip code?”
McQueen then said they might have to edit his remarks and laughed with the crowd. He then said he’s seen children come to his school not being able to do the basics and called out Wake County’s attempt to put more rules on charter schools in an attempt to “water them down.”
“You want to water down charter schools? No,” said McQueen. “No. We’re coming together tonight with heads forward and put this message out: We’re standing behind Dan Forest. We’re standing behind Catherine Truitt. And we’re standing behind choice.”
A number of the candidates running for the state legislature attended, such as Mario Lomuscio, Senate District 15, and Mark Cavaliero running for Senate District 17. On the House side, candidates included Ron Smith for House District 34, Fred Von Canon for House District 35, and Kim Coley for House District 36.
Congressional candidates at the event included Alan Swain and Robert Thomas. Swain is running for the second district seat against Democrat Deborah Ross. The seat is currently held by George Holding who announced his retirement late last year. Thomas is a candidate for the fourth district currently held by Democrat David Price. Price has held the seat since January of 1997.
Wake County Board of Commissioners candidates included Karen Weathers who is running for the District 6 seat and Faruk Okectin who is running for the District 7 seat. Wake County School Board candidates Deborah Prickett, Steve Bergstrom and Greg Hahn also attended.