- Monday, 09 April 2018
- Written by BILL BOWMAN
Fayetteville’s dishonored City Councilman Tyrone Williams, along with coconspirator T.J. Jenkins, president and founder of the marketing firm The Wrijen Company, have Booker T. Washington, the late former Fayetteville Cumberland County Commissioner Thomas Bacote and business executive Floyd Shorter all spinning in their graves with disgust and disappointment. Williams and Jenkins are supposedly business and civic leaders of the black community.
Together, they conspired to extort $15,000 from PCH LLC, the development firm heading the $65 million Prince Charles renovation project, by contending there was a problem with the property title, which Williams could make go away for mere 15 grand. It’s both appalling and criminal.
They both are also guilty of using and abusing one of Fayetteville and Cumberland County’s oldest and most honorable and dignified business organizations, the Fayetteville Business and Professional League. The FB&PL is one of the most prestigious and influential organizations in Cumberland County, serving African-American minority business owners and professionals. For over a half a century this distinguished organization has worked diligently in the interests of local minorities by mentoring young people and stressing the importance of education and training. The organization supports entrepreneurism and new business development while encouraging civic and governmental engagement.
Under previous leadership, the League was the catalyst in minority business development and creation. It utilized workshops, networking, partnerships and joint venture programs to take advantage of business opportunities throughout Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the state. Thomas Bacote was one of those leaders. He loved and served the league, spending decades advocating for it.
He introduced the FB&PL to me in the late 90s when I started Up & Coming Weekly. He eventually sponsored my membership into the organization. I was its first white “minority” member. Several years later, the organization recognized Up & Coming Weekly as FB&PL’s Business of the Year. After Bacote’s death, Wilson Lacy, Cumberland County Schools executive director of operations, took the leadership position and shepherded the organization for 17 years.
More recently, the league’s leadership was organized by my dear friend, Floyd Shorter, who died after a brief illness in 2016. Floyd was an amazing man known for his gentlemanly demeanor, sense of humor and perpetual smile. He learned much from Lacy and became a “tour de force” in civic leadership, championing small businesses by mentoring and encouraging black and minority-owned businesses right up to his death. He taught at Fayetteville State University’s School of Business. He lectured. He sat on numerous boards and committees, including serving the Chamber of Commerce, Economic and Business Development and the Crown Coliseum. But, what he really enjoyed was his leadership role with the League. Under Shorter’s leadership, the League grew in both membership and stature. When he was at the helm, the ship sailed smoothly. However, upon his death, the organization struggled – until Jenkins stepped in under the pretense of bringing stability, relevance and leadership to the organization. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be the near perfect example of someone doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.
Jenkins owns a marketing and advertising agency. He is described on LinkedIn as a multicultural expert, consultant, social leader, marketing and advertising maven and “All around good guy.”
After Jenkins took over the leadership of the FB&PL, he and Williams, who had only been a councilman for District 2 a few weeks, approached Jordan Jones of PCH, LLC about the $15,000 pay-to-play scheme they concocted. Jones recorded the entire conversation, turned it over to law enforcement immediately and released it to the media last Friday.
So, this begs the question: When was this scheme hatched? Was it in September, 2017, when Jenkins, as president of the FB&PL, met with Barton Malow, general contractor for the Astros Baseball Stadium, and PCH LLC officials were invited to present contract opportunities to League minority businesses? Was it at this meeting that they concluded Jones and PCH, LLC would be easy marks? Or, could it have been at one of the League’s Community Impact Forums, where it advocates for business and economic development, civic responsibility, civic involvement, ethnic pride and education?
I applaud Jones for his actions, as I do Fayetteville Attorney Karen McDonald for her protective and proactive actions on behalf of our city. I’m confident it will be resolved properly and in a timely manner.
Williams must resign. He is not our kind of people and cannot represent District 2 or any part of our community. The same goes for Jenkins. He must resign from the Fayetteville Business and Professional League for the League to continue its mission and traditions of advancing the successful development of minority businesses while elevating and directing smart, savvy, hardworking, honest and ethical minorities to positions of influence.
This is for the betterment of our community and for future generations. We must start judging people, especially candidates, by their character, integrity and intelligence – not by the color of their skin.
Leaders lead. Leaders make mistakes. But, they make honest mistakes.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
Editor’s note: In the March 28 issue of Up & Coming Weekly, it was incorrectly reported that Evolution Ink tattoo artist Earl Noble had won season 6 of SpikeTV’s “Ink Master.” Noble had the honor of competing in season 6 but did not win. This statement acknowledges that Noble was not aware of or responsible for the error.
Photo: Tyrone Williams
- Tuesday, 03 April 2018
- Written by KARL MERRITT
Editor’s note: In the March 7 issue of Up & Coming Weekly, Karl Merritt wrote a column titled “Rap at the Dogwood Festival?” He lamented that rap would be featured at the festival in 2018 and explained why he felt this way. He received several emails in response to that column. In the following article, he responds to some of what reader Aissatou Sunjata wrote. Her thoughts were published in a letter to the editor in the March 21 issue and can be read here; it is the second letter: www.upandcomingweekly. com/views/4865-logically-flawedmusket- argument.
I want to share and respond to some of what was said by a reader who, rather vehemently, disagreed with what I wrote. The letter was sent by Ms. Aissatou Sunjata. With her permission, I emailed Sunjata my thoughts and questions as prompted by her letter. After a few days and a follow-up email, she emailed me saying her schedule would not allow time to address my comments or questions. Consequently, what I say here is in response to her initial letter to the editor.
From the first paragraph, Sunjata states: “If Mr. Merritt’s mentee is fortunate he will not be so strongly and staunchly biased against rap music and perhaps give some background and discernment involving rap music. Rap music, like jazz, like the blues, like country music, has a history.”
As I have repeatedly written, my life experiences indicate that a proper framework for thinking is essential for successful living. That means values and beliefs that lead a person to choices that produce fair and positive outcomes. Therefore, my assignment in mentoring the 13-year-old black girl that I mentioned in that column is to help her develop such a framework; not to tell her what to think.
Here is a basic example of what I mean. Today is Saturday, March 24, 2018. My mentee and I are scheduled for a reading session, by phone, at 5 p.m. At 12:14 p.m., she sent me a text explaining her call today would come from a different phone number than usual. I have never talked with her about calling on time. The conversations are about being individually responsible, identifying opportunities that are life-enhancing and going after them … these kinds of values. For weeks, my phone has rung at exactly the agreed upon time. I have not told her not to listen to rap; that decision will be made within her thought-processing framework. My lamenting rap at the Dogwood is about impact on thought-framework development, on paradigm shaping.
I am not alone in contending that rap can have a negative influence on individuals. Read the paper at this link: www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/792/ the-influence-of-rap-and-hip-hop-music-an-analysis- on-audience-perceptions-of-misogynistic-lyric. There are articles that use general statements to give value to rap, but part of this one deals with facts and reasoned analysis. At one point, the paper says, “While a correlation may exist between exposure to misogynistic music and audience attitudes regarding violent acts against women, a causal link cannot be demonstrated between listening habits and resulting misogynistic behavior.”
This says to me that the type of rap discussed in my column can adversely impact that 13-year-old’s paradigm, her framework for decision-making. It might not directly cause negative actions on her part, but will likely influence thought patterns that will, coupled with other destructive conditions, result in unwise choices.
Then, from Sunjata: “There is rap in gospel music. How can it all be bad?” Years ago, I watched a young man do “gospel rap.” I processed it through my paradigm and decided, “Not for me.” Since I made that decision years ago, it only seemed fair to see if the genre was different today. To that end, I watched several gospel rappers on YouTube. Some of them were: Tre9 performing “Pull Up on Ya Block;” “NC Female Christian Hip-Hop Cypher #NCFemaleCypher;” Sicily performing “Problems Music Video-Christian Rap” and Lazarus performing “Walk by Faith.”
As before, the words were meaningful, but, for me, not worshipful and definitely did not encourage me to a paradigm rooted in a faithful walk, or relationship, with God. In most cases, if I turned off the audio, I could hardly distinguish these Christian rappers from those described in my column that prompted the letter from Sunjata. With one or two exceptions, their dress and movements were similar.
On my part, there was a sense of being entertained rather than sensing God’s presence and worshipping him. When all this was processed through my thought-framework, my paradigm, it was rejected. Without a doubt, this genre appears to be an attempt to reach young people where they seem to be. If that statement is true, and I believe it is, we have sunk to an alarmingly treacherous position as a society. I do not view Christian or gospel rap as redemptive for the rap genre.
Here is one of two statements in her letter where Sunjata says I took credit for rap being included at the Dogwood Festival: “It is funny that Karl Merritt is taking credit for the Dogwood Festival’s inclusion of Rap this year and then bemoaning them adding rap music.” I asked that she tell me where I took this credit. There was no response. If someone else can show me where I made this claim, I would appreciate it.
Further, Ms. Sunjata says: “Very tired of people not wanting to alter or change anything in Fayetteville except what is important to them. I don’t enjoy baseball, but okay, there is going to be a field and a team. Perhaps the choice of selecting Coolio might not be appropriate for the audience which will attend the Festival. How will we ever know unless they give it a try?”
Trying something new should be based on a logical assessment of the likely outcome of doing so. It appears to me the likely positive outcome of a baseball team in Fayetteville passes the reason test. As Sunjata seems to admit, that is probably not the case with rap at the Dogwood, given what has been the audience for that particular event in the past.
My contention is that the measure of success of rap at the Dogwood Festival should not be how many people attend. Instead, it should be how attendees’ framework, paradigm, for decision-making is affected. Obviously, my contention is that the effect will be negative. Consequently, trying this new thing does not pass the test of reason for me.
The bulk of my original column about this issue focused on how I am convinced that unfair actions, better described as pressure, by some members of Fayetteville City Council produced the decision by leadership of the Dogwood Festival to include rap in this year’s events. I find it of note that Ms. Sunjata did not mention that section of my column. In light of her seeming commitment to dealing fairly with people, I would have expected agreement relative to the case I presented in that section.
For me, the bottom line of this discussion goes back to Proverbs 4:23, from the New International Version of the Bible: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” This is not a reference to the physical heart, but, rather, to that invisible place where our thought-framework, our paradigm, resides. In great part, we guard that heart by being careful what we expose ourselves to. Above all, I hope this is the course that 13-year-old black girl will follow. Not only do I wish this course for that 13-year-old, but for every person and for me.
Photos: Left: screenshot from the YouTube video “NC Female Christian Hip-Hop Cypher #NCFemaleCypher.” Right: Media photo from coolioworld.com.