The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 21st

Black Caucus Takes Up Racial Issues

CHARLOTTE - The National Black Caucus of State Legislators will consider more than 20 resolutions addressing issues facing blacks at its annual weeklong conference, which kicked off Monday with a reception at the Adams Mark Hotel in Charlotte.

The theme for the 24th annual conference, which will end Dec. 3, is "African Americans in the Digital Age: Equity and Access."

Caucus members will spend the conference discussing issues ranging from welfare reform to the judicial system. Caucus Executive Director Khalil Abdullah said the group is considering broadcasting some of this week's events on the Web. Though the Web casts will not be live, Abdullah said it is the first step in advancing the technology used at future conferences.

Caucus members began the conference with a formal reception Monday night. Though delegates spent the time feasting on hors d'oeuvres and discussing their flights into Charlotte, concerns about the upcoming conference were not far from members' minds.

Girard Geeter, Alabama State University public policy coordinator, said he hoped the legislators would leave the conference with a better understanding of the proposed resolutions, which include concerns about public school vouchers, privatization of prisons and health insurance.

Geeter said these resolutions directly affect the black community, especially when it comes to the privatization of prisons. "We're adamantly against it," Geeter said. "In our viewpoint, it's modern-day slavery."

Instead of contracting prison inmate labor out to corporations for a cheap fee, Geeter said the focus should be on rehabilitation. "Most of the African Americans in prison are young and haven't been exposed to anything," Geeter said. "Give them an education, and they won't return to crime."

Another major issue of concern at this year's conference is voter redistricting and reapportionment.

Abdullah said redistricting would be a main focus for conference participants. "Right now, legislators are going to be concerned about redistricting," Abdullah said. "That's their livelihood."

The U.S. Supreme Court met Monday to discuss possible racial gerrymandering in North Carolina's 12th District, a case which could impact how states nationwide draw congressional districts.

The weeklong conference will also give caucus members the chance to participate in round table discussions on corporate, labor and faith issues affecting the black community.

Abdullah said these discussions give members a chance to network and to hear other views on the topics.

"Each state brings its own perspective," Abdullah said. "If they leave with a better understanding of the issues and have been exposed to new kinds of views, that's great."

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