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Pam Saulsby talks with Benjamin Chavis

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WNCN's Pam Saulsby sat down with Benjamin Chavis Tuesday at the North Carolina Democratic Party headquarters in Raleigh to talk about the controversy surrounding Chavis being potentially named executive director.

"I would strongly consider the position," Chavis said, if he were offered the position of executive director of the state party.

Chavis is an Oxford native and was a member of the "Wilmington 10." That group was wrongly convicted of firebombing a Wilmington grocery store in 1971. Chavis served about five years in jail and prison before his release. Then-Gov. Beverly Perdue pardoned Chavis and other members in late 2012.

Chavis said he is aware people are concerned about his past ties with the Nation of Islam and issues with sexual harassment.

In 1993, Chavis, then a minister in the United Church of Christ, was named executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was fired in 1994 after admitting that he used NAACP funds to settle a sexual discrimination case against him without consulting the board. He converted to Islam and helped organize the Million Man March in 1995. Chavis also has been a leader, with Russell Simmons, of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

"I am not currently a member of the Nation of Islam," Chavis said. "I'm a member, in good standing, of Oak Level United Methodist Church of Christ in Henderson."

Chavis said he had many past connections with the Nation of Islam but said all allegations of sexual harassment were "utterly false."

"Sometimes when you're in the public light, people will allege all kinds of things against you." Chavis said.

He said no matter the leadership position he is in, he always works to get the job done.

"I believe in working hard, working smart and getting the job done," Chavis said. "Democrats in North Carolina need a lot of hard work, need to make a lot of progress, to take back some of the seats that have been lost in the election.

"I will not let anything from my past distract me."

Chavis explained that he works to improve the quality of life for all people as he is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement.

It was announced after the interview that the Executive Council of the NCDP voted via teleconference to approve Casey M. Mann as the interim executive director. The council will meet again in 30 days to explore options for a permanent executive director.

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