PEMBROKE — The District 13 representative led a Lumbee Tribal Council charge on Thursday in defense of tribe members who are seniors in Cumberland County public schools.
Ricky Burnett told council members the Cumberland County Board of Education voted Sept. 5 to end the practice of allowing graduating Lumbees to wear a decorative stole during graduation ceremonies, which he said had been allowed since 2010.
Burnett asked his Education Committee members to approve a resolution asking the school board to rescind the ban. The resolution would be presented during the school board’s meeting on Tuesday.
Speaker Bobby Oxendine granted a motion for the Tribal Council to go into a 10-minute recess so Education Committee members who were present could meet and discuss what action to take. After coming out of recess, Burnett told council members the Education Committee members had decided he would write a letter that would be signed by the committee members and that letter would be presented to the Cumberland County school board.
“If only they had given a reason why,” Burnett said after the council meeting.
The school board members did not explain why they voted to prohibit students from wearing the stoles with Lumbee Tribe emblems, he said.
“They earned that right,” Burnett said.
Like other high school seniors in Cumberland County they are required to perform community service and work on other service projects, he said.
“If you are a member of Beta Club, you get to wear a stole,” Burnett said.
Burnett received pledges to be at Tuesday’s school board meeting from other council members. Their presence will add weight to his argument, Burnett said.
“I’ll only have three minutes to speak,” he said.
In other business, Tribal Council members approved a resolution in support of RTI International, a nonprofit headquartered in the Research Triangle Park, conducting focus groups to determine what types of messages would resonate best with pregnant members of the Lumbee Tribe.
The purpose of the focus groups is to find the best ways to recruit tribal members to participate in the Early Check Project, said Blake Harper, an RTI research public health analyst. The project aims to perform blood tests to identify newborns who have rare health conditions before symptoms appear.
“The check is performed by pricking the newborn’s heel,” Harper told council members.
The focus group sessions will last up to 90 minutes, Harper said. Participants will sign consent forms before taking part. Participants will receive a $100 incentive for participation.
The resolution was necessary because the project involves Lumbee Tribe members, said council member Jan Lowery, who introduced the project and the resolution to the Tribal Council. The resolution helps ensure the rights, privacy and safety of tribal members who participate in the focus groups and the Early Check Project are protected and that all information gathered by RTI is shared with tribal administration.
“They’re going prick newborns’ heels and the blood tests will be performed in Raleigh,” Lowery said during the council’s 10-minute recess.
Speaker Oxendine referred concerns about certain members having missed too many council meetings to the Ethics Committee. The action was taken after Councilman Frank Cooper stated protocol dictated that any member who missed three meetings in a row is to be dismissed from the Council.
“The Ethics Committee will look at the records,” Oxendine said.
Tribal Administrator Freda Porter invited council members to the Thanksgiving Praise & Prayer service on Monday Activities are to start at 10 a.m. at the Tribal Housing Complex and move at 11:30 a.m. to the Boys and Girls Club, where lunch will be served.
The Tribal Council began Thursday’s meeting by celebrating the high school students who volunteered their time and effort to the Lumbee Tribe Spot Fry & Fall Festival, which took place Oct. 21 at the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center. Each of the 30 volunteers received a certificate that Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. urged them to keep because colleges look at applicants’ volunteer activities and the certificate part of their resumés.
“It’s a resumé builder,” Godwin said.
The chairman praised the young people for their service and thanked their parents for letting them volunteer.
“God bless you all for what you do,” Godwin said.
Nine of the volunteers were there to accept their certificate. They were Shylah Godwin, Skylar Hunt, Winifier Jacobs, Jaydean Lewis, Kimberly Locklear, Madison Locklear, Makayla Locklear, Seth Locklear, and Kierre Wong.
The volunteers not present were Isaiah Blakely, Madison Brewer, Charles Graham, Madison Graham, Bradlei Griffin, Bradleigh Hunt, Johnaca Hunt, Mahlea Hunt, Makayla Hunt, Monica Hunt, Quessie Hunt, Jakob Jackson, Honiah Locklear, Honovi Locklear, Kyla Locklear, Paige Locklear, Anthony Owens, Amya Sampson, Jonica Sampson, Hunter Singh and Destiny Strickland.
Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.