A1 A1
File/the daily reflector  


Morgan Murray /The Daily Reflector  

Girls hoops tournament final

Rezoning request involving JPII Athletic Complex withdrawn

The owner of a high school athletic complex wants to withdraw a rezoning request he brought before the Greenville Planning and Zoning Commission last month.

Rich Balot, who developed the John Paul II Catholic High School Athletic Complex, made his withdrawal request on Jan. 13, Chief Planner Chantae Gooby said. However, it fell after the 10-day deadline for submitting such requests, so the planning and zoning commission must approve the withdrawal at its 6 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.

Balot wanted to rezone the property to office-residential (high density multi-family) so the complex would no longer be under the conditions set by the Board of Adjustment when it authorized the construction project.

Ending the conditions would allow Balot to permit local youth teams to use the facilities for practice. Under the current special-use conditions, only the high school and St. Peter’s school teams can use the complex.

Residents of nearby Planter’s Walk, Planter Trail and Quail Ridge neighborhoods opposed the rezoning. They said the conditions set under the special-use permit would help control noise and lighting from the facility.

Staff recommended denying the request, because the surrounding area was residential and having office-residential zoning would be considered spot zoning.

Several planning board members expressed unease with approving spot zoning. Other members questioned if other teams could be permitted to practice without changing the zoning.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda:

  • A request by Ark Consulting Group for a preliminary plat for a multi-family development on three lots located on the north side of Fire Tower Road near the road’s intersection with Meeting Place and Kittrell Road. A preliminary plat is a map of a proposed development showing how it will be laid out.

Ark Consulting is proposing a development called “Farrington Trace.” The development will have 774 linear feet of streets. Sidewalks will be built on one side of all streets. There also will be a detention pond for stormwater containment.

The location was the subject of a rezoning request that was protested by neighbors in early 2019. Nearby residents said a multi-family development would add more traffic to a road that had a heavy traffic flow that backs up at certain times of the day.

Fire Tower Road was planned for widening but that project has been delayed for several years because of funding shortfalls in the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Several rezoning requests are on the agenda, including one that seeks to rezone slightly more than 2 acres located at 3180 Charles Boulevard from residential-agricultural to office-residents (high density, multi-family.)

U.S. marks King holiday amid fears of deep racial divisions

DETROIT— To commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nicholas Thomas and more than 100 other volunteers will board up vacant houses, install school safety signs and make other improvements to a Detroit neighborhood. Their mission is to celebrate King’s legacy by being good neighbors and helping lift up a primarily black school in one of the poorer areas of the city.

As Thomas fans out across the neighborhood with hammer and nails, King’s legacy of peace and racial and social justice will be foremost in his mind. But at the same time, he’s struggling to come to grips with the deep racial divisions roiling the nation under President Donald Trump.

“Dr. King wanted unity. We have Trump separating immigrants ... the wall,” said the 19-year-old Thomas who is black.

As the nation marks the holiday honoring King, the mood surrounding it is overshadowed by deteriorating race relations in an election season that has seen one candidate of color after another quit the 2020 presidential race.

Two black candidates — U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker — and the lone candidate of Hispanic ancestry, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, have dropped out of the Democratic race for the White House.

“That scares me a lot,” said Deja Hood, 21, of Chicago, a senior at Eastern Michigan University. “Who is going to really back our voicing? You can’t understand a minority if you’ve never been in a minority situation. Even though you can advocate for us all day, you could never understand the issues we go through on a daily basis.”

Booker, Harris and Castro struggled with raising money and with polling. Asian American entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Samoan American, and black former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick remain in the race but are not considered top contenders for the Democratic nomination.

The front-runners in the field are all white men and women.

“It’s disappointing, but really not surprising. You look at it and think, ‘damn, now what?’” said Xavier Cheatum, 22, an African American senior at Eastern Michigan who along with Hood is participating in King events on the school’s Ypsilanti campus, west of Detroit.

People have the right to be — and should be — concerned about the state of race relations and the way people of color, in particular, are being treated, said Jill Savitt, president of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

“What we’re seeing right now, it’s very public and people are showing their hatred openly, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there,” Savitt said. “There is a coming realization in our country. We have to come to a reckoning about our past and the truth about our history from slavery to the lynching era to Jim Crow. Only with real honesty about our situation can we come to some reconciliation and move on to fulfill King’s hope and dream of a real, peaceful multicultural democracy.”

It doesn’t help when elected leaders don’t — or are slow to — stand against hate and intolerance, she added.

Trump referred last year to a predominantly African American congressional district that includes Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” During a 2018 immigration conversation in the Oval Office, he disparaged Haiti and some African countries with coarse language.

And following a 2017 clash between white nationalist demonstrators and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” and that there was “ blame on both sides.” One anti-racism activist was killed.

In 2018, there were more than 7,000 single-bias incidents reported by law enforcement, according to FBI hate crime statistics. More than 53% of the offenders were white, while 24% were black. Nearly 60% of the incidents involved race, ethnicity and ancestry.

“Racism has long been a way for people to maintain their power,” Savitt said. “Manipulating people’s fears and anxieties is the way you do that. The Trump administration has certainly fanned the flames.”

Trump is trying to court black voters, knowing that he isn’t likely to win them over en masse but could chip into Democratic advantages if he wins more black support in critical swing states. His campaign has stepped up outreach efforts, including to African Americans and Latinos, marking a departure from 2016 when Trump’s volunteer “National Diversity Coalition” struggled to make an impact.

The campaign already has spent more than $1 million on black outreach, including radio, print and online advertising in dozens of markets since the coalition’s launch, the campaign has said.

Only 6% of African American voters went for Trump in the 2016 election, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Trump’s message to black voters in that campaign was: “What have you got to lose?” Supporters now say they have a record to point to, including the low black unemployment rate and investments in historically black colleges and universities.

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of African Americans in early January found that 90% disapprove of Trump’s job performance and 83% say Trump is racist.

Laying it all in Trump’s lap is unfair, said Carol Swain, an advisory board member to the national Black Voices for Trump.

“With Trump, he has pushed the American nationalist identity that I think tamps down the kind of conflicts we would have,” said Swain, who is black and has taught political science at Vanderbilt and Princeton universities. “He has pushed patriotism over race and that benefits our country.”

Faith Morris, chief marketing and external affairs officer for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s definitely a white America. A black America. A Hispanic America,” Morris said. “And there’s a very broken line that connects the different Americas. In 2020, we still feel the oppressive issues that Dr. King fought against. He focused on the same things we’re focusing on now.”

Jacob Sklarsky recently read a book about King and the civil rights movement to students in his second-grade Chicago Public Schools class.

“To look at the faces of young black kids who are sometimes hearing about this history for the first time, they are distressed by it,” said Sklarsky, who is white and a member of KAM Isaiah Israel, a Jewish congregation in Chicago.

“They were very relieved at the end because, in a way, it was all worth it,” Sklarsky said. “It gives us some hope, but it’s also very sad that we’re not anywhere near what King dreamed of.”

Events honor King

Today’s holiday offers Greenville-area residents many opportunities to celebrate the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., whether through acts of service or participation in community event.

The third Monday in January, set aside as a federal holiday in 1983 to honor of King’s Jan. 15 birthday, is designated as a national day of service. East Carolina University and the City of Greenville are sponsoring events for volunteers to work. Many community organizations are commemorating the day with celebrations and demonstrations:

Events and activities on Monday to honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. include:

Community Unity Breakfast

The City of Greenville and the Greenville Pitt-County Chamber of Commerce will hold the 23rd Annual Community Unity Breakfast 7:30-9 a.m. in Harvey Hall of East Carolina University’s Murphy Center, 100 Ficklen Drive. Chris J. Suggs, founder and CEO of Kinston Teens, will be the speaker. The nonprofit organization helps young people to be involved in government and make their voices heard.

ECU Day of Service

East Carolina University’s Day of Service, sponsored by ECU’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center, will begin with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. in the Main Campus Student Center Ballroom C. After an opening ceremony, participants will work at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, MacGregor Downs Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ronald McDonald House, RHA Health Services, Boys & Girls Club, the Community Crossroads Center and the ECU Purple Pantry.

March and rally

A march, rally and a meal sponsored by The Coalition Against Racism, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Thomas Forman Park/C.M. Eppes Gym, 400 Nash St. Anyone marching should meet prior to 9:30 a.m. The group will march to the Pitt County Courthouse for a rally with several speakers. A free “People’s Feast” will be served at C.M. Eppes Gym after the rally.

River Park North

The City of Greenville will host River Park North’s annual MLK Day of Service from 10 a.m. to noon. The park, located at 1000 Mumford Road, is a 324-acre nature facility that offers boating, fishing, hiking and picnicking. Residents are encouraged to participate in trash clean up, trail maintenance and debris removal. For more information call 329-4560.

Interfaith Celebration

The Interfaith Clergy of Pitt and Martin Counties will present the Sixth Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, “Grace for the Struggle,” at 12:30 p.m. at St. John Missionary Baptist Church Soul Saving Station, 2921 Briery Swamp Road, Stokes. The Rev. Gregory Black will be the host, Bishop Rosie S. O’neal of Koinonia Christian Center will speak and the program will include music, a poetry reading and a fellowship meal.

Charles Becton

Attorney Charles Becton, law professor at North Carolina Central University and former Judge of North Carolina Court of Appeals, will speak at 2 p.m. at Ayden Christian Church Family Life Center, 462 Second St., Ayden. All are welcome. Light refreshments will be served.


ECU is hosting events through the week including:

  • A panel discussion about justice at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the Main Campus Student Center, Room 249, and a gospel concert at 7 p.m. in Black Box Theater.
  • White House correspondent April Ryan will discuss civil rights at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Main Campus Student Center, Ballrooms A and B. As a White House correspondent, Ryan is the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the Withe House, a position she has held since the Bill Clinton era, according to ECU. Ryan is a member of the National Press Club and can be seen almost daily on CNN as a political analyst. This is a ticketed event thought it is free and open to the public. Tickets may be picked up in advance at the ECU Central Ticket Office in the Main Campus Student Center or at the door on the night of the event.
  • The “In Honor of a King” Step Show will be at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Hendrix Theatre.
  • “Health is a Civil Right” will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in Black Box Theater.

Children encouraged to dream, soar above challenges

Stories of hope, courage, heartache and success — all revolving around the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — provided inspiration to a group of elementary school children at the C.M. Eppes Recreation Center last week.

King, the children learned, remained steadfast in his efforts to dismantle segregation and work for peace, love and change in the world,

Wednesday was specially chosen for the presentation because it was King’s birthday, although today is recognized as the official legal holiday.

Keith Cooper, founder of the Benevolence Corps, shared stories about King’s legacy with the children.

Cooper said he hopes that events like Wednesday’s will inspire them to work hard in life and to pursue their dreams regardless of the barriers they face.

“Dr. King said that we should be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character,” he said. “We want to let these children know that we believe in that; we believe in that aspect of Dr. King’s dream.

“It’s very powerful and it’s been very inspiring to many generations of folks who want to keep the fire burning,” Cooper said. “ We want this message to inspire the youth to let them know that they can do well, that they can succeed and be doctors, lawyers, engineers, even senators, members of the U.S. House and president of the United States down the road if they apply themselves in the tradition and the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

Cooper added that children often grow up in homes where parents are not in the picture and how it was people like King who dedicated their lives to changing those factors so that children don’t fall through the cracks.

“Now days, unfortunately, a lot of the fathers are in prison,” Cooper said. “Some of the mothers might be on the streets selling drugs and that type of thing.

“These are the kinds of things that Dr. Martin Luther King shunned, avoided — he criticized,” Cooper said. “He knew that we were better than that and that we are better than that.

“He knew that’s part of a cycle of criminality that’s unacceptable and should be unacceptable to everybody,” Cooper said.

“Dr. King taught us to strive towards excellence, maintain laser focus on what you want to do and what you want to be in life,” he said.

Cooper encouraged the children to follow King’s example and pay attention in school, read and respect their parents.

He also provided some humor as he described a time he acted up in school as a child.

“You guys are very, very lucky,” Cooper told the children. “One day I got in trouble in school and I recall before that time, every time I would go home there might be a big pot of Lima beans on the stove and biscuits.

“I smelled the food from the front porch and one day after I acted up, I opened the door thinking that my mother was going to be the very inviting mother that she’s always been to feed me,” he said. “ And I couldn’t find my mother. Guess what? She was standing behind the door with a broomstick in her hands.”

It’s the no-nonsense discipline his parents provided that Cooper attributes in part to staying out of trouble and avoiding a life of crime.

“You don’t see me in jail. I’m not in prison, I’m not on drugs,” he said. “Because I learned my lessons. I graduated with a Ph.D from the school of hard knocks.”

Along with Cooper’s talk, Kassie Lynch-Davis, an employee at a local loan company, and Mildred Elliot, a librarian at the George Washington Carver branch of the Sheppard Memorial Library, read books to the children.

As a reward for their participation, the children were provided with treats from the Greenville Police Department’s Police Athletic League.