History and Origin

The AC Phoenix News: Serving the Piedmont Triad

AC Phoenix News was founded in 1983 and empowered a community to become politically active despite many structural adversities.
The Electoral Integrity Project just found that North Carolina's democratic index was on par with failed democracies like Venezuela or Iran. This came about due to decades of abusive gerrymandering. The AC Phoenix News operated in the heart of this structurally unfair landscape. In spite of this, the community newspaper was integral in the community producing Senators whom represented them. All of the Senators who would fly a flag over the United States capitol in honor of Rodney Sumler at his passing on March 7, 2015.

Rodney Sumler and his Family

Rodney Sumler was born on January 26, 1941. He attended North Carolina Agricultural& Technical State University, graduating in 1963 after years of student activism. He help organize the historic "Freshman Four" student sit-in at Woolworth, frequently celebrated on the A&T campus every February. 

His youngest daughter who attended his same alma mater asked if he was involved in the student sit-in. Rodney Sumler humbly said that he didn't because he had to attend class that day. This humility, humbleness, and strong belief in organization cultivated the young civil rights activist into the community leading editor of the AC Phoenix News.

Rodney Sumler also ran unsuccessfully for the N.C. House of Representatives. He also ran for what was then the Winston-Salem Board of Alderman before dropping out.

Then in the early 1990s, he and three other black political leaders faced federal corruption charges stemming from an investigation dubbed “Operation Mushroom Cloud.”  The convictions were controversial, with some in the black community saying that federal investigators were targeting leaders such as Sumler.

After he was released from federal prison, he continued to do community work, run his consulting business and his newspaper, which he founded in 1983.

His wife and his older three daughters also participated in the NAACP in the 1980s. This program hosted trips to the nation's capital and fostered some of the next community leaders, including his daughter Tanya Wiley-Brown who went on to serve as the publicist for Darrel Hunt, another former advocate for Criminal Justice reform after being wrongfully imprisoned

Finding the AC Pharos

The AC Pheonix News was eventually taken over by his daughter  as well as his son-in-law, Tanya and Dorrel Brown. However, at the time of this writing, the newspaper faced some financial barriers preventing it from coming back into physical print. It would continue digitally. 

Rahni Sumler, his youngest daughter, imagined creating an online community for economic justice. This would eventually evolve into a foundation in honor of her father, Rodney Sumler Research Foundation for Economic Empowerment and Environmental Protection.  The foundation has the mission to rewrite negative cultural narratives for people of color through education, research, and development. To achieve this mission, the AC Pharos was created as a hub for activists, researchers, and community leaders and members of the community to create a research driven movement. The AC Pharos would then become the publishing arm of the foundation.

The Case for Economic  Injustice


Equitable Economic Activism: Opportunities for All