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For Black Farmers: 'Justice Delayed is Justice Denied'

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For more than 10 years, tens of thousands of Black farmers have been denied justice and a share of a $1.25 billion government settlement as compensation for decades of discrimination in federal farm loan programs. Many have lost their farms waiting.

Some have died waiting. And on August 5th, before going on its summer recess, the Senate prolonged the wait by failing to once again appropriate the funds to right this egregious wrong.

Consistent with an unfortunate pattern that has stalled Congressional action on everything from health care reform to unemployment benefits, the Senate is stuck in a stalemate over the Black farmers' settlement due to partisan bickering over how it will be financed.

But, as noted in a recent Reuters news story, "The measure brought to the floor included offsets required under congressional 'pay-as-you-go' rules mandating new spending be offset with cuts elsewhere so as not to add to the deficit."

This is a clear case of political obstructionism and a violation of civil rights. Attorney General Eric Holder and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the settlement in February. President Obama included money for it in his current budget. The House of Representatives approved the funds in July. But the Senate has repeatedly refused to add its final stamp of approval. According to John Boyd, Jr., President of the National Black Farmers Association, "It shows that some of the same treatment that happened to the Black farmers at the Department of Agriculture is transpiring with the Senate's inaction to help Black farmers."

The original class-action lawsuit, Pigford v. Glickman, filed in 1997 and settled in 1999, awarded $50,000 to Black farmers who were denied Department of Agriculture farm loans due to racial discrimination from 1983- 1997. The government has already paid out more than $1 billion to 16,000 farmers. The new funding is for payments to as many as 70,000 farmers who were denied previous payouts because they missed the deadline for filing.

The Black farmers settlement bill has the support of the White House, the Agriculture Department, Senators and House members of both parties, the Congressional Black Caucus and the major civil rights organizations, including the National Urban League. The National Black Farmers Association has taken the fight to Capitol Hill on numerous occasions and has appealed to the White House for help.

When the February settlement was announced, CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee and many others thought that justice had finally arrived. In a statement then she said, "I am encouraged that today's settlement is an opportunity for Black farmers who were denied the benefit of USDA loans and programs to begin to be made whole."

But justice continues to be denied. This is a travesty. The federal government has spent trillions on bailouts to banks, corporations and investment firms, but struggling Black farmers have been left out in the cold. As John Boyd said, "It seems like the trains leaving the station in the Senate manage not to have the Black farmers on them."

August 28: March for Jobs and Justice Where Ever You Are

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(NNPA) We have to thank Rev. Al Sharpton and other Civil Rights leaders for turning our attention to the atrocity planned by Glenn Beck, Conservative Fox TV talk show host, to have a rally on the Lincoln monument on the anniversary of the March on Washington. Rather than “restoring honor” as they say, this march, heavily supported by the National Rifle Association is a perversion of the progressive spirit of the original nonviolent march, which held out the hope of racial reconciliation and that America would finally cash a check of justice that would allow all of us to invest in the great project of Democracy.

Glenn Beck is a White nationalist who frequently says that progressivism is the problem with democracy, so he and his Tea Party henchmen want to return America – virtually – to honor a set of values that were around when Black people were still being lynched. I agree that he must not be allowed to appropriate the day of the great March and the values that we are still attempting to protect and uphold, so I will be there in Washington.

At the same time Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. is leading a March in Detroit, Michigan on August 28 to highlight the fact that the economic Stimulus and therefore, jobs have not reached many Black communities and that going forward, Detroit, a City that is 82 percent black and economically challenged, is a symbol that we need a new national urban policy. Rev. Jackson is right to make clear the fact that jobs is the great issue of our times and where better to make that case than in Detroit.

Also, many people from New Orleans will not come to Washington because they will be commemorating the Katrina Hurricane damage and resurrection that weekend. In that event, I am told they will include elements of the other marches. But some national news organizations are planning their own five-year look at New Orleans and there are primary elections that day in the State, so that weekend also means that other events will have to struggle for press attention.

In any case, I think that people, especially in this economically challenged environment, should march where they are. If they can come to Washington, DC, or Detroit, or go to New Orleans, fine, but there is work to be done right there at home. It strikes me that, in sympathy with the national marches, local organizations could plan jobs marches to their local workforce agencies, city halls, construction projects where there are no Blacks working, and other places where the demand for jobs by local people is a logical act. Many of us have talked about “civic engagement” well here is an opportunity to do just that, when the national spotlight could connect a national march to one held by a local community.

Perhaps this is a good idea that come too late, but I am reminded that many folks could not come to Washington, DC on August 28, 1963 and so they had local events. For example, I marched on Woodward Avenue in Detroit with hundreds of thousands of people and heard a version of the “I have a dream” speech a few days before it was given in Washington, DC. The same could be said about the Million Man March: people came by the boatloads in 1995, but by the celebration of the 10 year anniversary, an effort was made to urge folks to have local marches to highlight the values of the original march in their communities.

Finally, there is another reason why blacks should try out their local mobilization legs and that is the elections that are coming down the pike this fall.

I will say more about the elections later, but it strikes me that since the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation is a sponsor of the March in Washington, DC that is sign that they are making a move to get organization thinking about how they will organize to get out the vote later on.

So, these marches are about jobs and justice and respecting the values of the movement for which so many people gave their lives, time and energy. But they are also “right now” oriented to the present crisis of unemployment and to prevent the conservative movement from distorting Dr. King’s dream, but also to keeping political power in the hands of those who can help us best.

Ron Walters is a Political Analyst and Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park.

One of his latest books is: Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Voters, Black Candidates and American Presidential Politics (Rowman and Littlefield)

Institutional Racism in Congress

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(NNPA) The sensational exposés about Rep. Maxine Waters have failed to relay an important fact to the public about why she arranged meetings between herself, a bank, and former Treasury Secretary Paulson. It had to do with trying to support the survival of the Black economic infrastructure which had been hit hard by the financial crisis the country faced.

Rep. Waters has for a long time been an advocate for Black businesses in the Congress, essentially because they had been marginalized and excluded routinely. Here, she took over the role of Parren Mitchell of Baltimore who was their champion, but who left the Congress with an illness.

I was invited to a meeting by Rep. Waters last November to provide a brief analysis of where we were as a community in the throes of the economic crisis to a small invited group of representatives of Black economic organizations. In the room were the leaders in fields such as automotive, banking, financial services, broadcasting and others. All told tails of ruin and destruction of businesses they were experiencing because of the inability to access capital.

The head of Black auto executives, for example, said that their dealerships in the General Motors system had dived from 63 to 26 and if there was no help from GMAC (which was receiving federal funds) it go lower. This testimony was laced with cries for help that were not being responded to at the White House, the Treasury Department or elsewhere in government. It seemed that the Black economy was on its own in the midst of this crisis.

This has been a relatively consistent state of affairs for Blacks who have not been able to enjoy the advertising, service contracts and other resources that other firms enjoy, and for them to be deprived of resources being handed by government to fix economic crisis smacks to me of institutional racism. After all, some of my tax money – and yours – was sent to GMAC, the General Motors Financial corporation, to keep dealerships in business, but Black dealership were being cut right and left in the process General Motors set up.

Well this is the reason we should be concerned about the attempt to cut off the efforts of Maxine Waters to bring the Black businesses into the room where the deals were cut with Treasury by charging her with ethics violations. There are much deeper issues here of importance to the Black community. In fact, the process of the Office of Congressional Ethics itself also smacks of institutional racism. We must believe that out of the 435 members of Congress, and the 36 cases brought before the OCE (most of which involved white members of Congress) that the process yielded the cases of two Blacks that were worthy of going to trial.

This would mean that “the swamp” that Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to drain in the House of Representatives was characterized by the indiscretions of Black members when we all know that is now the case.

As a result of this move by the OCE, both Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters have put the Democratic party in a box because the two Republicans (including the infamous Republican Chair of the OCE, Porter Goss) and two Democrats who proposed trials for them probably believed that they would make a deal, take some form of censure and move on. But they have decided to fight because of the OCE process which leaked the charges to the media they believe are untrue, which has resulted in their public trial and prosecution.

So, they’ve decided to fight to clear their names – right at the moment when elections are bearing down and the Democratic party is not favored to hold to most of its seats either in the House or Senate. The Republicans will probably use this issue against Nancy Pelosi as the symbol of the Democratic party in the House, but it will not affect either the seat of Range or Waters.

So, I disagree profoundly with Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and his colleagues who say that the problem here is the “entrenched entitlement” of these individuals.

They don’t seem to have a clue as to what the Black community is facing, either in the House of Representatives or in this current economic crisis, or how valuable Rep. Waters has been.

Dr. Ron Walters is a Political Analyst and Professor Emeritus of Gov ernment and Politics at the Univ ersity of Mary land College Park. One of his latest books is: Freedom Is Not Enough: Black Candidates, Black Voters and American Presidential Politics, (Rowman and Littlefield).

 

Social Security: The 75-year-old Lifeline for Many African-Americans

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By Catherine Georges, NNPA Special Commentary –

(NNPA) Just like the years fly by as we age, it’s hard to believe it’s been 75 years since Social Security was first created. And for many Americans of all generations, and of all ethnic backgrounds, Social Security is a lifeline. To fully celebrate this historic anniversary, we need to recognize the program’s importance and its value for future generations.

Social Security is without a doubt the most successful government program in history. In fact, 53 million Americans get benefits, and a vastly larger number are protected if tragedy strikes. Social Security checks put food in the refrigerator, and shoes on people’s feet. They help people repair their homes, buy medicine and pay for utility bills.

However, for a great many households, Social Security is the only source of income. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to ensure the future of Social Security is solid.

For African-Americans in particular, the time is now to ensure that the program stays strong so it can continue to provide the lifetime guaranteed benefits that people depend on.

The average retirement benefit from Social Security is around $14,000 –but for Africans-Americans, and due to income levels and varying financial situations, average benefits are lower.

For example, in 2008, the average annual Social Security income received by African-American men 65 and older was around $13,000, and $11,000 for African- American women. Among African- Americans receiving Social Security, 28 percent of elderly married couples and 54 percent of unmarried elderly persons relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. Furthermore, a recent research released by Brandeis University and Demos, a public policy organization, finds that older African Americans face widespread financial insecurity during retirement, a trend accelerated by the current economic crisis.

So how do we ensure Social Security remains viable for older Americans while at the same time stays strong for our children and grandchildren?

First, we need to find ways to reduce the nation’s debt, without harming Social Security. Unfortunately, some of our country’s lawmakers are considering Social Security cuts to help reduce the federal budget deficit. This is wrong and unfair.

Social Security has not contributed one dime to the deficit. We need to remember that these benefits help families pay their bills. We need to keep our priorities in order.

Next, we need to address the long-term solvency of Social Security. We will need to make some careful changes to put Social Security on stable footing for the long haul. This will require some gradual adjustments to revenues and benefits. But we need to make the right changes, so basic protections endure. We need to make sure we maintain adequate guaranteed benefits, especially for those who need them the most.

Finally, Social Security faces a challenge of confidence. For too long, the public has heard that benefits won’t be there when they need them. This pessimism is harmful and off base. It’s time for people to get the facts.

Social Security is not going bankrupt.

Without any changes at all, Social Security can continue to pay 100 percent of promised benefits until 2037 and more than 75 percent of benefits after that. But that is not good enough, especially for the people who need Social Security to make ends meet.

Overall, any changes to Social Security should preserve the basic “earned right” character of the program and its fairness, including progressive benefits that are helpful to lower-income workers.

Changes must always protect the most vulnerable. Finally, those who pay into Social Security should be able to count on benefits, adjusted for inflation, for as long as they live.

We want to celebrate more historic anniversaries for Social Security in the future. By keeping this great program strong, we can make sure that will happen.

Catherine Georges is a member of the AARP board of directors. For more information on the health care law, go to www.aarp.org/getthefacts.

A Response to the Last Emancipation Review

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While Cheryl Brown is a patriotic soldier and loyal gatekeeper in the preservation of Black History she seems to be much too jumpy and trigger happy to be given a rifle in the future. In the July 29, 2010 edition of the Black Voice News, she put me, the writer of “The Last Emancipation,” in the scope of her literary rifle and fired – Bang! Someday history will reveal whether she succeeded in shooting an enemy, a comrade, or shooting herself in the foot. A writer named Barbara Jenkins submitted a review of the first production of “The Last Emancipation,” which was published in the Black Voice News on August 7, 2008. The headline read: “Five Thumbs up for The Last Emancipation.” The second production, two years later, was better than the first according to many people in the audience who saw the first production. However, Mrs. Cheryl Brown didn’t see the first show two years ago, and from her commentary last week, it appears she missed the second one as well even though she was present in the theater. The headline of Mrs. Brown’s commentary dated 7/29/10 read: “How Dare You Last Emancipation – We Must Not Support Buffoonery.” Read both articles online at: www.blackvoicenews.com Type Barbara Jenkins’ name in search box to access her article.

“Welcome to The Emancipation Train. You’re about to take a journey back in history. I’m taking you back beyond your childhood, beyond the childhood of your parents and grandparents. We’re going back to only a few decades following slavery. Look and listen as this train journeys along the track of injustice and the struggles of a few unsung heroes in their fight for equality.”

The above passage was the monologue that opened the play, “The Last Emancipation”, at The Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamonga on June 21 & 22, 2010. I, as the conductor, clearly and loudly announced my intentions to take the theatergoers on an imaginary journey back in history only a few decades following slavery. I asked everyone to look and listen. Unfortunately, Cheryl Brown co-publisher of the Black Voice News was so infuriated by some of the sensitive scenes that she didn’t clearly hear the dialogue and abandoned the objectivity required for any journalist. Evidence of Cheryl Brown’s failure to listen to some of the dialogue became apparent as she expressed her great disgust with me over the telephone about the way the character Mary McLeod Bethune was dressed during the court scene – in a pant outfit instead of a dress as Mrs. McLeod would surely have worn. I interrupted and asked, “Besides the clothes do you agree with what the Bethune character had to say?” The reply was something to the effect that she didn’t hear what was said because she was too upset by that time after having seen Mary McLeod Bethune inappropriately dressed. For the record, I agree with Mrs. Brown on that issue – and I apologize for that wardrobe oversight. However, Mrs. Bethune’s words were powerful, intelligently presented, and revealed useful and little known information about history such as the reason whites referred to older Blacks as “aunts” and “uncles” instead of Mrs. or Mister. It was also uncovered during Bethune’s testimony many of her notable accomplishments.

Regarding the courtroom scene, Mrs. Brown, in her commentary indicated that the entire courtroom scene was inappropriate because African Americans were not allowed to testify in court during those days. Mrs. Brown further asserted that “The Last Emancipation” made Booker T. Washington look like a sellout. A poem called “Booker T. & W.E.B.” by Dudley Randall written in 1929 opened up the courtroom scene and enlightened the audience of the social views of Washington and Dubois. Everyone should read this historical poem, which is an accurate glimpse of the adversarial relationship between Washington and Dubois. The Washington character was a defense attorney with an unpopular client who was white.

Washington’s role as a defense attorney was to attack the claim of a popular character, Aunt Jemmy aka Aunt Jemima who was suing the pancake company to have her image removed from the pancake box. Of course a nearly all Black audience favored Aunt Jemmy and was against Washington and his client; however, it was Washington who pointed out some very meaningful historical facts during the trial. Washington pointed out that it was characters such as Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that exposed slavery as the horror it really was and lead to the war that ended slavery.

And there were several other interesting nuggets of history presented by Washington, which the DVD will reveal.

Personally, I prefer to form a union rather than a tit-for-tat challenge. It would be great if all socially conscious citizens, civic groups, and educators united to emancipate the slave images from the products.

Mrs. Brown greatest complaint was with the fictional symbol of “Uncle Tom”.

Mrs. Brown is proud to be acquainted with the real life family of Josiah Henson, the ex-slave that inspired the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Therefore, when the name or memory of the fictional Uncle Tom was used satirically in my play, Mrs. Brown’s compassion lied with the real life person - Josiah Henson – and she tossed a Molotov cocktail at the conductor… However, my play had nothing to do with Josiah Henson. It’s highly unlikely that anyone in the theater, except Mrs. Brown, and her passengers on Brown’s annual Underground Railroad Trip who can’t separate satire from reality, thought of Josiah Henson during the brief Uncle Tom appearance.

The Uncle Tom in the play was a symbol of unwarranted loyalty and obedience from a Black man to an undeserving white man/woman or job. In the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Uncle Tom died before slavery ended. In real life the exslave Josiah Henson died in 1883 before Aunt Jemima Pancake mix was created in 1893. Therefore, it was impossible for Josiah Henson to be the imaginary figure in the courtroom scene, Uncle Tom was merely a symbol of oppression. All of the other characters in the courtroom scene would have been alive in 1897. In the play, the mythical Uncle Tom was a sharecropper because slavery was over. However, he still stayed on the plantation without pay through trickery by the landowner. Uncle Tom testified in court, three decades after slavery ended, that he thought he was still a slave. And yes, the symbol of Uncle Tom was an intentional buffoon in this play; however, another buffoon was the character, R. T. Davis, the white owner of the pancake mix. For the record, there’s a buffoon (clown) or two in most comedic plays.

The slideshow showing characters in blackface and Black characters on commercial products also offended Mrs. Brown. I suppose this is the root of her reducing the entire play as buffoonery. However the slideshow of offensive characters on products during the post slavery era was part of the journey the conductor told the audience that they would be taking. That so-called offensive slideshow was countered at the end of the play by an updated and very positive slideshow. The updated version displayed a sample of many accomplished African Americans and reminded the audience that we really have come a long way.

The updated version aptly ended with an image of President Obama and his family.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Brown was too indignant to appreciate the real message of the play. Prior to the play, few people in the audience had ever given serious thought as to why the images of Aunt Jemima, The Cream of Wheat Man, and Uncle Ben are still on the boxes of products after all these years. The larger message is that people, especially African Americans in the limelight today, are being swindled in their contracts just like our early luminaries. Few people knew The Cream of Wheat Man’s real name was Frank L. White. Nor did they know that Mr. White died in 1938 and was without a name on his tombstone for 69 years - this is also Black history. Few people knew that Uncle Ben now has a website and is called Chairman Ben. The message to the audience via Uncle Ben was not to get too impressed with job titles but to become a person of true significance. In my opinion, Mrs. Brown missed the essence of “The Last Emancipation” as she also likely missed or overlooked the standing ovation and many people saying throughout the lobby that “The Last Emancipation” was the best play they ever saw".

Such accolades to both performances and also the debut performance two years ago leads me to conclude that Mrs. Brown believes that the 1,600 + theatergoers who loved the play were lacking in racial pride and were amiss in their obligation to become enraged. Mrs. Brown was a one-woman firing squad on “The Last Emancipation,” in her newspaper commentary, without interviewing one person in the theater or acknowledging the rave reviews on the lips of hundreds of others.

I feel compelled to propose an open forum with an unbiased audience with the common interest of ridding the play of any harmful misrepresentation of African American History or their icons. In closing, I challenge Cheryl Brown to a panel discussion following a public DVD viewing of “The Last Emancipation,” at a church, community center, or library. If she accepts, the details will be publicly announced. Everyone is welcome to attend and participate. Finally, Mrs. Brown stated that she hopes I scrap the play or get some help from the professionals at Cal State San Bernardino or University of California Riverside to do it right. Well, the fact is, I received valuable advice from theatrical professionals at both universities and neither one had any objections to the portrayal of the historical characters. Each of the professionals, and Cheryl Brown knows who they are, advised me to add more conflict, and to show and not tell the action.

The two professionals also suggested that I had too many typos and the script was not professionally written and in such form would not be read by a professional theatrical director; however, the plot had potential.

Imagine that! Here’s a good play with a strong social message and these scholarly robots were more concerned with the packaging rather than the content. Nevertheless, upon improvement of the manuscript, I was blessed and highly favored to have had the play read and accepted by director Rev. Bronica Martindale and producer Tammy Martin- Ryles of Brota Productions who saw beyond my lack of stage writing protocol and saw the talent. Thank God, I’m truly grateful. It’s a good thing multimillionaire, darn near billionaire, high school dropout, later earned a GED, playwright Tyler Perry didn’t wait on approval from the scholarly university robots or he would still be sleeping in his car.

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