Over the past several months, you may have heard about the progress that is underway regarding the passage of an expanded Non-Discrimination Ordinance in Winston-Salem. This fight stems back to March 2017, when in the wake of House Bill 2 (HB2), the controversial state law that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections, the General Assembly passed House Bill 142; also known as “the Compromise Bill.” HB142 partially repealed HB2, but in its place installed a ban on local governments from expanding local discrimination protections by enacting or amending any ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating public accommodation. On December 1, 2020, that prohibition expired. Shortly thereafter the Non-Discrimination Ordinance Coalition, a volunteer organization dedicated solely to advocating for the expansion of non-discrimination protections in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, was founded.
To that end, on Monday, March 22, 2021, the Winston-Salem City Council unanimously approved a “Phase One” package of non-discrimination resolutions and ordinance amendments. These new ordinances and policies vastly expanded protections, opposing discrimination based on “race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, veteran status, disability, age, marital status, familial status, protected hairstyle, political affiliation or national origin in any aspect of modern life.” Additionally, “Sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression” will be explicitly added to the city’s fair housing ordinance. Further, a Non-Discrimination Study Sub-Committee for the city’s Human Relations Commission will be established to focus on “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Questioning, Intersex and Asexual and/or Ally (LGBTQIA+) matters.”
These expanded protections are a huge victory and a step in the right direction. I want to say thank you to all of the NDO Coalition volunteers, thank you to all of our supporters, and thank you to our business and community partners, for your tireless activism. Via the toolkit available on our website and developed by Equality NC and Campaign For Southern Equality, we saw over 500 members of our community write in to lend their support to this ordinance. Far more than many other municipalities. This had a direct impact on the expansion of protected classes and the speed at which these ordinances were passed through committee and council.
That said, the fight is far from over. Currently, the ordinance and policies only apply to city officials and do NOT apply to the private sector; however, “Phase Two” consists of city officials, over the next 100 days, studying ways to enforce non-discrimination regulations on private sector employment and in places of public accommodation.
Likewise, the NDO Coalition now shifts our focus to this “Phase Two.” I thank the city council, the city attorney’s office, and the city staff for all of their work on this issue thus far and look forward to assisting and supporting their efforts as they develop a mechanism of enforcement for our non-discrimination policy at the conclusion of the 100-day review window. We must protect our marginalized communities and reject bigotry in all forms. I stated after the passage of Phase One and I will reiterate it here, If we fail to offer protections in employment and places of public accommodations this policy is little more than performative activism, with narrow-in-scope changes and empty platitudes. Our citizens are relying on our representatives to pass an ordinance that fully protects our citizens in employment and places of public accommodations and not just on paper.
If you would like to join our advocacy efforts during our Phase Two push, there are many ways you can get involved. First, you can visit https://www.NDOcoalition.com. Become familiar with our roadmap and use the toolkit embedded under the “Advocacy” section of our website to message your local representatives and let them know you wish to see our non-discrimination policies expanded to places of public accommodations and in public employment practices. Even if you have already messaged them during Phase One, reach back out to them! Second, use our website contact form to inquire about volunteer opportunities. We will be canvassing throughout Phase Two, to educate and solicit support from the local business community for public accommodation non-discrimination protections. Third, help us spread awareness. Share our website and join us on our newly created socials at @NDOcoalition on Facebook and Instagram. Fourth, you can apply to the above-mentioned, newly-created Non-Discrimination Study Subcommittee of the city’s Human Relations Commission. Its goal is “to advise the HRC and City Council on critical issues and opportunities facing the LGBTQIA+ community and recommend policies and procedures that will advance social and economic equality for the LGBTQIA+ community.” To apply you must (1) be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, (2) reside in Winston-Salem, and (3) commit to attending at least 75% of regularly scheduled monthly meetings on the first Thursday of each month at 4 PM, starting on July 1, 2021. Apply at http://bit.ly/LGBTQsubcommitteeWS.
The fight to expand non-discrimination protections in Winston-Salem is ongoing but with your help, we can extend these protections to all of our citizens. We look forward to working with the city and our community partners during Phase Two to ensure we make an assertive and enforceable Non-Discrimination Ordinance.
Young Dems Held Virtual Conference to inform Forsyth Residents on Mental Health and Education in the age of COVID
On Saturday, February 27, the Young Democrats of Forsyth County held a virtual conference with sessions in the field of mental health and education.
The mental health session hosted Shea Graham, a licensed therapist with degrees and post-graduate certificates from Columbia University and Harvard Medical School, respectively. Shea presented on ways that we can maintain our mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and also spoke to warning signs that signal expert intervention may be necessary.
The education session consisted of Representative Amber Baker, a former principal; Alex Bohannon, a recently appointed the the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education member; and Rebecca Martin, a local school teacher. Representative Baker and School Board member Bohannon discussed the action steps that local and state government were taking to re-open schools safely. School Teacher Rebecca Martin gave a presentation aimed to educating parents on the best ways to keep their school children focused during virtual learning and the COVID pandemic.
The virtual conference was recorded, and YDFC plans to edit the recording into segments that it will share through its social media. So, if you were not able to make the virtual conference but would love to hear from these experts, please be sure to check out the Young Democrats of Forsyth County's social media pages!
Kerry Peay is a member of The Law Enforcement and Legislative Reform Committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus. This Committee consists of five core members and other contributors from across North Carolina to talk about ways to making law enforcement better. This Committee formed in the aftermath of George Floyd's and Breonna Taylor's deaths.
These members hoped that their solutions could be eventually turned into public policy. None of the members, Kerry included, believed that their work would lead to a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. But that is exactly what happened here. The Law Enforcement and Legislative Reform Committee was one of around 200 nominations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
If you would like to read more about the groups nomination, click here.
Congratulations Kerry and keep up the great work!
Two new, statewide issues caucuses have formed in the North Carolina Democratic Party: The Rural Caucus and the Disability Issues Caucus.
On Wednesday, January 27 at 7:00pm, organizers of the Rural Caucus held a formation meeting to vote on temporary officers and Bylaws. The meeting was a tremendous success: Over 100 Democrats across the entire State of North Carolina attended the meeting, which is a record for any statewide auxiliary formation meeting. After a long three hours, the Bylaws were approved and the following temporary officers were elected:
Brandon Combs (Person County) - Acting Chair
Jennifer Thompson (Montgomery County) - 1st Vice Chair
Hon. BJ Gibson (Scotland County) - 2nd Vice Chair
Chris Suggs (Lenoir County) - 3rd Vice Chair
Emily Hogan (Watauga County) - Secretary
Colton Browder (Haywood) - Treasurer
Rural organizing has become a recent focus of the Democratic Party as we collectively look to expand and include more people. In fact, newly elected DNC Chair recently held an open meeting to discuss its importance and to lay out a strategy to achieve success in rural organizing. Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hwsGffMxIM&feature=youtu.be.
On Saturday, January 30 at 6:00pm, organizers of the Disability Issues Caucus also held a formation meeting to vote on temporary officers and Bylaws. The meeting was an overall success, with over 40 individuals attending the meeting. As a result, the Bylaws were approved and these temporary officers were elected:
Michael Evola - Acting Chair
Kara Hinkley - 1st Vice Chair
Kris Dixon - 2nd Vice Chair
Tia Cheek - Secretary
Both the Rural Caucus and the Disability Issues Caucus now must wait for approval from the NCDP State Executive Committee, which will hold a vote on Saturday, February 27. Following Bylaw approval by the NCDP SEC, each county will then have the opportunity to create its own chartered unit under each statewide caucus. Hopefully, Forsyth County can create its own Rural Caucus and Disability Issues Caucus in the near future!
On January 13, the North Carolina General Assembly began a new term that brought with it both new and experienced officers. Three Forsyth County Democrats will serve in this term.
Amber Baker and Evelyn Terry will represent us on the NC House of Representatives side. Representative Baker, representing House District 72, is serving her first term. She has served for more than a decade as principal of Kimberley Park School in Winston-Salem. Representative Baker holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Winston-Salem State University. She also earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. at the Ohio State University.
Representative Terry, representing House District 71, has been representing Forsyth County since being sworn into office in 2013. She has experience serving as the chair of the Forsyth County Department of Social Services Board of Directors and President of the George Black House and Brickyard. She is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the NAACP, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others. Representative Terry has a bachelor's degree from Johnson C. Smith University and a master's degree from Appalachian State University.
On the Senate side of the General Assembly, Paul Lowe, Jr. is our sole representative during this term. Senator Lowe represents Senate District 32 and will begin his Sixth year as a State Senator from Forsyth County this year. Professionally, Senator Lowe serves as a pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church.
To learn more about these General Assembly members, search for them here.
From left to right: Representative Amber Baker, Representative Evelyn Terry, State Senator Paul Lowe, Jr.
This past Tuesday, January 5, Georgia held runoff elections for both of its United States Senate seats after both seats ended in a virtual tie during the November general election. As a result of Tuesdays election, both Democratic Party United States Senate Candidates, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, defeated their Republican opponents. The Democrats will now control both houses of Congress and the Presidency, opening room for an ambitious and progressive Biden administration agenda.
Reverend Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler with 50.8 percent of the vote to Loeffler's 49.2 percent. With a victory margin over 1/2 of a percent, Warnock avoided a recount against Loeffler. Before becoming the Senator-elect from Georgia, Reverend Raphael Warnock was the senior pastor at Ebenezer Methodist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jon Ossoff defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue. Ossoff beat Perdue by gaining 50.3 percent of the vote to Perdue's 49.7 percent, also winning by more than the recount margin. Ossoff, at 33 years old, will be the youngest Democrat elected to the United States Senate since President-elect Joe Biden in 1972.
On December 5, the precinct chairs and vice chairs residing in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education District 1 nominated Chenita Barber Johnson to replace Barbara Burke on the Board of Education. This seat became vacant as a result of Barbara Burke's transition to the Winston-Salem City Council following the November elections. This nomination will be considered by the WSFCS Board of Education, which makes the final decision on Councilwoman Burke's replacement.
Chenita Barber Johnson has served the community in numerous roles, including leadership positions that directly help our students. For example, Chenita Barber Johnson co-founded the Coalition for Equity in Public Education, an organization that seeks to promote and ensure equity and anti-racist policies, curricula, cultures, and environments, along with transparency and accountability in all things related to the WSFC public school system. Chenita has also served as the PTA parent liaison and mediator.
Congratulations on your nomination, Chenita!
On October 20, Forsyth County Democrats joined together to attend the Vote Common Good Rally in Winston-Salem. The Vote Common Good Rally brought together people of faith––regardless of age, political leanings, or faith interests––to raise their voices to stop the re-election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. The event also sought to inspire and mobilize people to make the common good the principal voting criteria this election. Many candidates delivered messages of hope and inspiration while many musicians performed for the attendees.
A special thanks to Pastor Scovens and Chad Armstrong for hosting the event at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. Here are some photos from the event:
Voters in Forsyth County are out in waves on this first day of Early Voting. Many of the early voting locations have lines wrapped around the building; others have lines extending down the road. Near the Anderson Center, Winston-Salem State University students marched to the polls while the marching band played music. This is a wonderful day for Forsyth County and Democracy.
Although this voter turnout is a great sign for American democracy, we want to let everyone know that there are many other early voting sites that do not have wait times! You can find the early voting locations and most recent wait times by clicking here.
The Young Democrats of Forsyth County Registering Winston-Salem State students, including the Basketball and Volleyball Teams!
On Tuesday, October 7, the Young Democrats of Forsyth County were on the Winston-Salem State University campus to register students for the upcoming election. During this voter registration drive, YDFC was able to register both the WSSU Basketball and Volleyball teams! Forsyth County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin was also in attendance, assisting in the registration of many WSSU students.
This is only one of many voter registration drives that the Young Democrats of Forsyth County have been recently hosting all over Forsyth County. These efforts will continue until the voter registration deadline has passed. The voter registration deadline is this Friday, October 9, so be sure to register to vote if you have not done so already! You can register to vote here.