20th Anniversary Celebration for the Southern Anti-Racism Network

Senator McKissick is awarded the Worker Economic Justice Award at the Southern Anti-Racism Network 20th Anniversary Celebration

I would like to thank Ms. Theresa El-Amin, the Founder and Regional Director of the Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN), for hosting a wonderful 20th Anniversary Celebration for this organization yesterday evening at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, NC. It was my privilege and honor yesterday evening to be the recipient of the organization’s Worker Economic Justice Award. My dear friend, Lonna Harkrader, was the co-recipient of this award. This award was given to us in recognition of our efforts in passing the City of Durham’s Anti-Sweatshop Ordinance on August 7th, 2000. I was a member of City Council at the time and led efforts to pass the Anti-Sweatshop Ordinance which essentially stated that the City of Durham would not conduct business with businesses or entities that exploited labor which constituted sweatshops as the term was defined in the ordinance which included businesses that used and exploited child labor. As a member of the NC Senate, in 2009, I sponsored legislation that allowed the City of Durham to expand these anti-sweatshop protections. Ms. Anne Wolfley was awarded the Richard Paddock “Reliable Ally” Award for her work on behalf of SARN. I would like to thank SARN for the recognition which I received and for the advocacy which they have provided over the years.

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Town Hall Meeting with Durham’s Legislative Delegation

Yesterday evening, Durham’s Legislative Delegation conducted a Town Hall Meeting which took place at the Headquarters for the Durham County Democratic Party. I was extremely pleased to see a crowd of close to 200 people turn out for this event. There was standing room only. Each member of our delegation was able to discuss issues of concern which occurred during the Short Session of the General Assembly which ended recently.

There was a great deal of interest among those attending about the six proposed amendments to North Carolina’s Constitution which will be on the ballot in November; I would encourage each of you to vote no to these amendments which are unneeded and unnecessary. Many of the amendments are designed to intentionally confuse voters, and their true purpose and intent is to simply help the Republican supermajority turn out their base this November. There was also discussion relating to actions which need to be taken to ensure that we break the Republican supermajority in the North Carolina House and in the North Carolina Senate. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who turned out for this important event, and I would encourage each of them to assist us in turning out voters for the November election.

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Legislative Gun Control Proposal to Keep Our Schools Safe

Today, I participated in a news conference with Senator Jay Chaudhuri, Senator Jeff Jackson, Rep. Grier Martin, and Rep. Marcia Morey during which we presented a Legislative Gun Control Proposal to Keep Our Schools Safe. Our proposal included the following:

  • The enactment of extreme risk protection orders that would allow families and law enforcement to ask the courts to temporarily remove guns from individuals who endangered themselves or their community.
  • To expand universal background checks for assault-style firearms such as the AR-15 weapon used in the Parkland shooting.
  • To raise the age for the purchase of assault weapons to 21.
  • To prohibit the sale of bump stocks which are an inexpensive device that modifies a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun.
  • Increasing funding for school psychologists and school therapists.
  • Funding a highly visible statewide anonymous tip line.

During the press conference, I spoke of the need for our State to operate an anonymous tip line statewide so that students, family members, and concerned citizens can report potential threats of violence. I also spoke of the need for increased funding for School Psychologists and School Counselors in our state. The national average for School Psychologists is 1 for every 700 students, however, in NC, we currently have only 1 for every 2,000 students. When it comes to School Counselors, the national average is 1 for every 250 students, however, in NC, we only have 1 for every 375 students. Yet there has been one common thread that is tied together virtually all of the school shootings as well as other mass murders. It is the fact that the gunman has been diagnosed with mental illnesses which went unaddressed. We need to make certain that we diagnose and intercept students with mental illnesses at the earliest possible point in time to get them help so as to avoid circumstances that could result in their using firearms to hurt themselves or others. I also spoke of the need for us to direct the Center for Safer Schools to conduct a study to determine recommended funding for school resource officers who are law enforcement officers assigned to our schools.

The package of reforms which we collectively proposed will be part of legislation which will be introduced this year. I am hopeful that we will obtain bipartisan for these common-sense measures which will represent meaningful incremental change.

The Durham Democratic Party Public Hearing on Resolutions

I’d like to thank all the activists who attended Durham Democratic Party public hearing this past Saturday at the Hillandale Resource Center where a compilation of resolutions submitted during Democratic Precinct Meetings were discussed. This year, Stephen Gheen, Chairman of the Durham County Democratic Party, established a committee to review resolutions submitted at precinct meetings with the goal of creating a single document containing all resolutions which would be voted up or down at the County Convention for the Democratic Party. Mr. Milo Pyne and Attorney Shelia Ann Huggins were appointed as Co-Chairpersons of the committee. The committee was composed of approximately 10-12 activists in the party which was charged with this important mission. I had the privilege of serving as a member of this committee. The committee met for approximately 14-16 hours to devise a proposed resolution package for the party’s consideration. The purpose of the meeting this past Saturday was to receive community input on the resolutions before the package was finalized. I’d like to thank all the members of the committee who participated in the Durham Democratic Party public hearing, but more importantly all of those who came out for this special occasion to share their thoughts, concerns, and constructive input.

A Walkout & Moment of Silence at Durham School of the Arts

Today, I joined over a thousand students at the Durham School of the Arts who joined hand in hand with teachers, administrators, community leaders, and parents who are deeply concerned about the safety of our schools and policies which do not go far enough in restricting access to firearms in our country.

The event took place at approximately 1:15 pm when student leaders began with a moment of silence to commemorate those who had lost their lives to school violence. This was followed by the reading of the names of each person who was killed during the recent school shooting incident in Parkland,. At approximately 1:30, the bells of a local church chimed 17 times in honor of those who lost their lives. At the end of this moving ceremony, students were asked to take out their cell phones and to make a call to elected officials in a call to action.

Their message was simple:

“I’m a student at Durham School of the Arts. I don’t need a response. I want to share with you my thoughts on Gun Control in the US. I am opposed to the easy access to guns. We need to have more stringent laws as well as thorough background checks to those who want to get a firearm in order to decrease gun violence in our schools. I am a student and I do not feel safe in the State of North Carolina.”

These are profound words which I hope will reach the hearts and conscious of those serving in Congress and motivate them to finally take meaningful action. 

I’ve been extremely excited by the level of student activism and engagement on issues related to gun control in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy. It’s unfortunate that such a horrific incident was needed to bring together people all across America to understand the need for change. I have not seen such a level of engagement among students since the anti-war movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We can only hope and pray that the time has finally come for meaningful change, which is long overdue, to occur.