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tv   Former Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee  CSPAN  April 9, 2021 7:43pm-7:59pm EDT

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some 400 to 500 meters from the shore, that there would be a natural standoff from launched weapons mortars of some kind, but what al-qaeda did for its part was really quite ingenious in that exploiting the local cell -- he was actually taken out on an air strike on the 1st of january this year. he was the senior local guy that the masterminds tapped into because they knew him from relationships of bosnia and other places. but he would not know the nuts and bolts of the operation again, because of the car pun meant to lies a shun. but what al-qaeda was able to do, and wing about yemen and generally if not down to ground level, through those trusted relationships, they knew that they could hide in plain sight because one of the things i'll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, and i've met a lot of smart people in the community that are convinced that the yemen
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government was complicit, there's not one scintilla of evidence that has combined way that the government -- and again, that's counterintuitive to how al-qaeda operated and if anything, the government was an enemy of that kind of sunni extremist islam. so my greater point there is that they were able to exploit the conditions, they were able to have a colossal failure that would've otherwise brought a lot of attention, a boat with explosives stuck in the sand in january of 2000, not one police officer or any government official that we know of or aware of it, they were really quite hurtful in leveraging the cultural intelligence, their knowledge and those sorts of things. now, the other part of it is, my organization to an extent, this is a responsible for doing country see high cpc threat assessments. to threat assessment at that time talked about the permissive environment for transnational terrorist groups and that there were a lot of pockets outside
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of the major city of sana and itself of unknowns by the government. so therefore, caveat emptier, as far as port physics and things like that but really there is nothing to definitive that said, warning lights of course don't go to a country like yemen. >> anyone else? any other questions? well, i'd like to thank you both for a fascinating discussion. [applause] it's just been remarkable in as i we said before, we all owe you a great deal of gratitude for your service. you really make a difference. >> thank you very much. >> and we want to thank you all for coming as well. this is going to be on c-span's website, so if you'd like to see more. thank you for coming out. [applause]
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howard lee was the first african american elected mayor in a majority white southern city. it's right so we sit down with mr. lee to talk about serving as the chapel hill's mayor and challenges he faced while in office. >> mayor why did you decide to run for mayor of chapel hill? >> what was probably more of an accident than it was a purpose i went to a friend of mine and asked if he could we consider
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running for mayor because i personally didn't think a black person had any prayer of being elected mayor of chapel hill. he didn't want me to do that he can persuade me to do it and he went to the local newspaper and told him that he had a scoop which is that i plan to run for mayor and that the newspaper without checking printed that story as front page headline. and that of course split the chapel hill committee following that i had pressure on both sides. a black person living in the south was told at the time, you would be right. and i thought well you know let's make it right. and then i thought i would run for mayor and that's how it all started. and i chose to run for mayor, not necessarily to win, because i still didn't think i had a chance of winning. but there was. and that went on it was a whole
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different life for me. i remember turning to my wife when the victory was announced and i said okay, now that got it. what am i going to do with it? it was the beginning of a new life and a very good life for me. >> where did you grow up? >> i grew up in a little town, southeast of atlanta cold lithonia. it was a town that which was the site of the big rock quarry. they produce grain and rock that was shipped all over the world. and that was the main source of jobs in lithonia. but it was sort of a country town. and my parents lived on a sharecroppers farm when i was born. and i lived on that farm with my grandparents until i was eight years old before moving more into the urban area of that section of the state. >> you grew up in the
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segregated south, were there moments when you were you know you realize that your life was a part of from other peoples, and you are being separated from other folks? >> yes that they do come a time that i realized that we just weren't being treated fairly, and number one the georgia clan was organized six miles in stone mountain georgia from where we live. and every friday afternoon, the klan would hold a rally in the field across my house and burn across. and that was implanted in my mind, the idea that this is a dangerous group for us, but we are being intimidated and bullied and i didn't like that. then i came know i had my first very best friend, was a white boy. he and i were inseparable until
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we reach the age of 15. and when we reach the age of 15, his parents told him he could no longer be my friend, and that he as a white boy was better than me, and therefore he and i could no longer hang out together. he came to me and told me that story. which is amazing. and he felt horrible about it, but he had no basis of not obeying his parents. and that split is up. we never had contact again. i became very angry as a result of that, and then that was my first protest. on a saturday morning, i will never forget it, i was in the town of lithonia and went to the bathroom, and went in what was called at that time a colored bathroom. it was a unisex bathroom, and it was dirty with all kinds of greeson oil and tiles in the bathroom and i refused to use
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it. i don't know why but on a particular occasion, i simply said i'm not using it. so i went into the white men's bathroom. i use the white men's bathroom, and i came out and was going on my way, and i decide since i'm here at mice will check out the white women's bathroom. i went in there, and i was discovered by the owner of the store, and when i came out a group of men were waiting and they push me around and started beating me up. and it was one thing that my dad had told me, in the south as black boy, you have to learn how to run. and on that day it certainly well, because i was able to get away and i was able to out-run these guys. but my whole life was reshaped in that one incident. up to that point, my goal was to grow up, move to new york or anywhere outside of the south, and i just didn't want to be in the south. but my life change in such a way, that after that experience
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i said to myself i would never ever leave the south, and i would stay and do whatever i could to make sure that again some ownership of my home area. the second promise was i will never be able i'll never take on the system again, but i will tackle with the problems which i think i can tackle without confronting in the process. so that was the beginning, and i felt of what ultimately transform me into the person i became for the rest of my high school years, and then all through college into this point. >> what brought you to chapel hill? >> graduate school. when i finished my graduate work, and duke had offered me a job, as a researcher with the funded program, and we had planned to go back to georgia. they offered me more money than
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i had ever dreamed, and we accepted you know i excepted the job. and what came along with that job, was a possibility of living in deep forest, which was a very prestigious development around the university. but for some reason we decided we want to stay in chapel hill. >> how would you describe chapel hill at that time? >> chapel hill was a schizophrenia community. it was schizophrenic because it had this liberal image, and that is what sucked us in. and there were, you know there was a strong progressive liberal community in chapel hill that really we're trying to break down the racial barriers. but then, if one look closer, it was also one of the most discriminatory communities, in the area.
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because there was no middle class and all the blacks lived in the western section of chapel hill and they would and they were the ones who didn't most of the menial work in chapel hill, because the jobs you know was not very very broad. and most of the towns people who are not university connected, we're old line southerners, who had anywhere from prejudicial attitudes to very strong prejudicial attitudes. my wife and i, upon moving to chapel hill had difficulty buying a house. which we force the real-incher into selling. and after we moved in, we lived under the threat of death for a better part of the year for both ourselves and our children. so chapel hill was very segregated.
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so when we bought our house, was in the eastern part of chapel hill, and that was the first time a black family had bought a house in utah outside of the traditional black community. and black folk thought you know we thought we were too good to live in the black community, and they really didn't see that if we could open up opportunities, and show that housing could be available for people regardless of their ethnicity, it could make a difference in terms of you know how we resolve many of the conflicts. and overtime it did come to that. and of course the university people were very proactive, so all of these folks are coming here, and they just simply did not buy into the southern tradition of segregation. and the restaurants had by the time we got here they had started to break down discriminatory barriers. most of the demonstrations, and
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there were some of the nastiest demonstrations in north carolina took place in chapel hill. including on one occasion, where a group of kids were sitting at a restaurant, and a waitress goes in the bathroom, and urinates it comes back and starts pouring on the head of the demonstrators. that was embarrassing. even the most horrible people who oppose the demonstration, did not think that was the proper thing to do. and it criticize it. and that got a lot of criticism. but gradually things started to improve. and then improve quickly. >> 1969, what is the reaction to you winning the coming mayor of chapel hill? >> well my first reaction was from my wife, not thinking i was going to win. you know i did not write a an
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acceptance speech. i did not plan a silver tory event. i was just sitting around smoking cigars and having fun, and getting ready to go home, and to get back to my position, but then i won. i look at my wife and said now that i have it 1 am i going to do with it? and it was such joy, and such elation in chapel hill. not just in chapel hill, but once the word got out i was on the verge of winning, people started to come in from durham, even some from rally, or gains borough, because several of the colleges in greensboro had some had students in the campaign. and i was not here when -- won their first championship, but i was told that the crowds in the street were absolutely
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amazing. and that was is what happened the night of my election. the reaction was mixed, there were some people you know some newspapers printed stories and sit chapel hill elects a black power mayor. and some wrote the -- elected mayor of chapel hill. but some recognize the historical aspect of what had occurred. and i did not know until that night, they had never been a black mayor of a majority white municipality i don't think ever and so that started the headline. but even the more pleasant part is that even my hometown paper, had a positive story. atlantic atlanta journal had positive story. and i was confident that my election, certainly put

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