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Plantation Where 14-Year-Old Slave Was Hung to Become Outlet Mall

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By Askia Muhammad, Senior Correspondent
Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – The site of a Maryland plantation which is renowned by local historians for its connection to Black history and to the Civil War has lost its historical designation and is on its way to becoming an 85-store outlet mall, after an early January vote by the Prince George’s County Historic Preservation Commission.

It’s “another tragic event in the story of Salubria,” Bonnie Bick, a local resident and organizer of the Reinvest in the Heart of Oxon Hill (Maryland) campaign told The Final Call. “At the same time that we were reviewing archeological information that said Salubria was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places; the vote was taken by the Historic Preservation Commission to take away, not to nominate it for the national register, but to take away its entire historic designation.”

Salubria is the name of a Maryland plantation, where in 1834, a 14-year-old slave girl—possibly influenced by Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in South Hampton, Va., in 1831—poisoned her master’s children and was later sentenced to death. She is listed in the Maryland Archive as the first Maryland woman who was reported to have resisted slavery. She confessed to having two years earlier poisoned an infant child of her slave master. She may be the youngest woman ever to be executed in the United States.

Despite the murders of his children, the plantation owner, horticulturalist Dr. John Bayne became a Union officer in the Civil War, helped convince the state of Maryland to compensate slave owners to free their slaves, and worked to provide public education to freedmen. “John Wilkes Booth might have rode past Salubria, and went on down to where there was a sympathizer,” for his assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Ms. Bick pointed out. “Southern Prince George’s County was extremely (sympathetic to the Confederacy),” she said.

The Jan. 12 vote by the P.G. County planning board means all the archeological artifacts at Salubria will be taken out of the ground in order to “prepare it for economic development opportunity that is very poorly located,” said Ms. Bick.

In its findings, county Park and Planning staff concluded that protection of the 2.7 acres should be removed because the site has few remaining physical structures that can be restored or preserved, and the best way for the site to be preserved is through archaeological removal.

The Peterson Co., the developer of the glitzy, nearby National Harbor in Prince George’s County, has now received permission to remove all the archeology from the ground at Salubria, and has had the site’s historic designation removed.

William Shipp, a lawyer representing the Peterson Co., said that had the original structures on the property not been destroyed, the site proposal would have been “a different design than what we have today.” Black residents in the area are angry.

“I’m an African-American woman, and I’m sick of my history being obliterated. Nothing that matters to African Americans has been preserved,” Joyce Hawkins, a 69-year-old Tantallon, Md. resident told Gazette.net last summer when residents first organized to oppose commercial development of the property.

At that time The Washington Business Journal referred to the site in a headline as “Hallowed African American Ground.” But after the vote, Commissioner Robert H. Schnabel said it was “unfortunate” that the structures on the land had not been maintained properly. In 2003, a historic permit was approved that allowed for the demolition of remaining structures on the property. “What was done was inadequate, and it’s completely gone now,” Mr. Schnabel said, according to Gazette.net.

“What really gets me is that Milt Peterson—the developer—he purchased National Harbor property for $10.3 million, and he’s already gotten $500 million subsidy for his entrances and exits from the taxpayer,” Ms. Bick said. “So, it just seems so wrong for them” to take away the Black history, and subsidize it with taxpayer money. “As many as possible of the costs of this development are being externalized to the taxpayers,” she said.

Even the road leading to the projected outlet mall is being widened to four lanes by the county. The developer is proposing to put statues of select individuals in poses telling the story of Salubria, commemorative plaques, an interactive video, and floral and plant arrangements representing Dr. Bayne’s work as a horticulturalist at the site to designate its historical importance.

“It would have a tremendously negative impact on a Black neighborhood,” Ms. Bick argued. “The story has national significance and should be interpreted on the site,” and not removed for study.

A 140 page Phase II Archeological Evaluation prepared in Oct. 2011 by the firm Thunderbird Archeology for the P.G. County Historic Preservation Commission agreed with the preservationists. “It is our opinion that the historic component of (the) site is eligible for listing,” under three of the five criteria of the National Register of Historic Places, the report stated. Any one of these three could be adequate for the site’s qualification for national listing, and its preservation, its supporters insist.

“The location and boundaries of the site (are) considered to have significant research potential … Few National period farms or plantations have been studied at the Phase III level in Prince George’s County, Maryland and the lives of enslaved African Americans in the mid-19th century remains a neglected area of archeological inquiry throughout the region. Expansive and comprehensive data recovery at (the) site would create a valuable record of this significant site,” the report concludes.

“It is so wrong to have the county executive (Rushern Baker) supporting this,” said Ms. Bick. “It’s being promoted as a place for the community to shop, but there are alternatives where it wouldn’t be destroying a residential community that Peterson owns, but he’s not investing there” because he is continuing to buy property at alternative sites at “fire sale prices because of the public safety problems there. It’s very unjust.”

Prince Georges County, Md., is a majority Black county, which ranks as the most educated and affluent Black county in America. The county executive is Black and the majority of the county council is also Black.

The bottom line, Ms. Bick maintains is the negative impact the outlet mall development will have on the community, after the important historic site is destroyed. “Is this going to widen the gap between the economic barriers in the Washington region?” She insists the outlet mall will widen, not narrow the economic barriers.

Morehouse Launching Search for New Leader

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By Bekitembe Eric Taylor, Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily Voice –

Morehouse College officials launched a national search for a new chief executive Tuesday, a day after school president Robert M. Franklin announced that he is stepping down from his leadership post when his contract ends June 30.

Board of Trustees president Robert Davidson said Tuesday that no names have yet surfaced to succeed Franklin, who has headed the all-male institution for the last five years.

“We are in the process of forming a search committee to perform a rigorous search for someone who embodies the core values of Morehouse,” said Davidson, a 1967 graduate of the college.

“In the evolution of Morehouse, we want to remain one of the premier institutions in the country,” he added.

Davidson and other college officials praised Franklin for helping to renew the college’s commitment to academic vigor, for doubling alumni donations and for generating more than $90 million in support of the college.

“Robert has led by example, dedicating a substantial portion of his time to community service, which is one of the core values that Morehouse seeks to instill in each and every one of its students,” Davidson said. “We will miss him as the board endeavors to find a replacement who will help to usher the college into a new era.”

While officials were publicly praising Franklin for his leadership, however, college insiders say Franklin was coming under increased scrutiny from board members and influential alumni for poor management decisions that led to a series of fiscal challenges – some say fiascos – at the school.

In an interview with The Atlanta Voice this week, Franklin and Davidson declined to comment about speculation that board members – weary of poor leadership decisions – forced Franklin to step down.

“We have a strict policy that we cannot talk about the financial matters of our staff or the college,” Franklin said. “But I can assure you that Morehouse is operating strongly at this time.”

Franklin, who turns 58 this month, circulated a Jan. 30 letter to college alumni on Monday, announcing that he would not seek another term as the school’s 10th president.

“After much thought and prayer reflection, I have decided to step down as president,” Franklin wrote. “Although I have enjoyed the privilege of serving this great college, and we have witnessed many great successes, I am looking forward to the next chapter of my professional life.”

A 1975 Morehouse graduate, Franklin said he will “pursue my passion for teaching” in various posts around the nation, including as a scholar-in-residence at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Institute and as president emeritus and distinguished professor of social ethics at Morehouse.

“I look forward to a sabbatical during which I intend to travel, write, speak and interview leaders about the condition of boys and men in the U.S. and around the globe.”

Morehouse’s board of trustees named him President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor, the college’s highest honor.

“Dr. Franklin has served an integral role leading the renaissance of Morehouse, and his dedication is greatly appreciated,” Davidson said in a statement released by the college.

Franklin said wants his tenure to be remembered as one of scholarship and direct outreach to the student body.

“What I will miss about being president are the students,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to mentor to them, and know them to be the best and brightest of America’s treasures.”

HBCU 'Equality' Lawsuit: Black Notables, Former HBCU Presidents and Students Pack Courtroom

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By Alexis Taylor, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

Dr. Samuel Myers said it “hurt his heart” as he listened to testimony at the ongoing HBCU Equality trial, Jan. 31. The president emeritus of Bowie State College, one of Maryland’s four HBCUs, said he’s spent his life working in higher education. “And I’ve seen the disparities that exist between funding for Blacks in higher education and those generally,” he said. “And I know that the courts have long since ruled that the disparity be eliminated.”

He had no problem declaring, “But it still exists.”

Which is most likely the reason he was joined in the Garmatz Courtroom by other former educators and administrators including Dr. Andrew Billingsley, former president of Morgan State University; Dr. Arthur Thomas, former president Central State University; Dr. Wilma J. Roscoe, retired vice president of National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) and Raymond Pierce, dean, North Carolina Central State Law School and who also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton Administration.

Pierce was angered by the visible absence of anyone from the Obama Administration. “It is a shame that the Office for Civil Rights has had no presence in this trial,” Pierce said. “I find it very troubling.”

The absence, he said, raised serious questions about the Obama Administration’s commitment to civil rights and educational equality. Myers was incensed that anyone could say HBCUs need to become more competitive with other schools.

“I know each institution needs to and wants to survive in its own right, but this inequitable funding hurts the entire nation. When you have a high unemployment rate among young Black males, education is needed to get them into the workforce,” he said, indicating that his work with national and international organizations gives him a broader perspective.

“It’s not a matter of largesse, not charity, not goodwill to provide equitable treatment for Blacks.”

Claiming that Maryland has perpetuated a system of segregation by underfunding and allowing program duplication by nearby traditionally white schools (TWIs) the presidents were also joined this week by the very students they’re fighting for.

Following the precedent set by Black clergy members who gathered in the courtroom last week to maintain support, students could be seen lining the front row in their business attire, silently making their voices and their presence known. The case, which was filed by The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education in October 2006, drew a crowd of more than 40, made up of university presidents, faculty, students, and concerned citizens.

As students return to classes at Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the case continues to unfold in courtroom 7D of the Garmatz Federal Courthouse building. Testimony from Joseph Vivona, chief operating officer and vice chancellor for administration and finance for the University System of Maryland (USM) could be heard along with that of former Towson University president, Dr. Robert Caret.

“When the investment made by the state in white institutions is compared to the state’s investment in historically Black colleges, there is little comparison,” said Dr. Earl S. Richardson, president of Morgan State University from 1984 to 2010. “If one were to look at the investments made in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and then at Morgan- one can see that there is a stark difference,” said Dr. Richardson in response to Vivona’s testimony, which gave the impression that the state of Maryland has gone out of its way to fund historical Black institutions (HBIs).

“The whole idea of the lawsuit by the Coalition is now to ensure that there is equity in the investment made by the state in Black institutions versus white institutions.”

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) president and CEO, Lezli Baskerville, said “This case will directly impact the shape of the higher education debate in 2012 and beyond in the 25 states that have HBCUs and TWIs, as well as the work of NAFEO.” The organization, which was founded in 1969, is the sole association that represents the chancellors and presidents of HBCUs. “What this court decides will determine whether public higher education in America remains separate and unequal, or whether the nation moves toward a more excellence, equitable and just higher education system…” said Baskerville.

Giving students special incentive to make their way down to the courtroom, some classes are even giving students extra time and credit for sitting on the proceedings. “I would definitely come down and support even if it wasn’t for class credit because I am pursuing my master’s degree in higher education administration and this is an issue in higher education,” said Bera Cotten, of Morgan State University. Encouraging students who are might be sleeping in or hanging out during their spare time before and after class, Cotton says the case allows you to “get an understanding of what’s going on” and “provides you with information dealing with your historical Black institution.”

An alumnus of Coppin University, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham said he was “elated to see the students” who came out and “hoping that more will come.” A staple in the Baltimore community and beyond through his civil rights work with the National Action Network and the NAACP, Cheatham says the case is not only important to Maryland’s historical Black institutions but to those across the country as well who are dealing with issues of underfunding and program duplication.

Eddie Long Apologizes to Jewish Leaders for Torah Use in 'Crowning' Ceremony

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Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American –

Eddie Long has apologized for a church service in which he was wrapped in a Torah scroll and called a king.

Last week during a service at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., Ralph Messer, a Messianic Jew and self-described rabbi, ordered congregants to wrap Long in a Torah scroll and then lift him up on a chair bar mitzvah-style while he held the Torah scroll, which was identified as being rescued from Auschwitz.

“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community,” Long wrote in a letter sent Saturday to Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Nigut released the letter on Sunday.

In an article in the newspaper last week, Nigut was critical of the ceremony, saying it “in no way represents any Jewish ritual that I’m familiar with. We do not proclaim individuals to be kings.”

In the letter sent to the ADL, Long also said “I sincerely denounce any action that depicts me as a King, for I am merely just a servant of the Lord.”

Nigut told CNN that he thought the apology was “very heartfelt, sincere.”

“I was very gratified by Bishop Long apparently recognizing what our concern was,” Nigut also said.

Information from CNN.com and JTA contributed to this report.

The Fight Against HIV/AIDS…Why Sitting at the Table Matters

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By Michael Hinson and Lisa Fager Bediako
Special to the NNPA from the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative –

After 30 years of the HIV pandemic, one might think that terms such as “community collaboration” and “community participation” would be commonplace among those fighting the disease. But in many communities across the country, this is not the case. In fact, the clock seems to be rolling back to the early days, when the opinions and actions of a small minority marginalized the voices of those who were most impacted by the global pandemic.

Make no mistake: many people are indeed living longer with HIV disease as a result of improved treatments. But with all of the dynamic shifts in HIV treatment, prevention, and policy, it is especially disheartening – and, we would say, dangerous – that women, Black gay men, people of color, heterosexual men, transgender individuals and, most notably, Black organizations still must fight to be heard by the decision makers who develop, implement, and allocate funding for HIV-related policies and programs.

We all know the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Blacks represent approximately 14% of the US population, but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2009. Over the same period, the rate of new HIV infections among Black women was 15 times that of White women, and over 3 times the rate of Hispanic/Latina women. At some point in their lives, approximately 1 in 16 Black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection, many of whom will be Black gay men, as will 1 in 32 Black women.

Furthermore, Latinos represented 16% of the population but accounted for 20% of new HIV infections in 2009. In 2009, the estimated rate of new HIV infections among Latinos was 2.5 times that for White men; for Latinas, the rate was 4.5 times that for white women.

Black transgender women are more likely to become newly infected with HIV and studies have shown that infection rates for transgender women of all races range from 11.8% to 27.7%.

Given these statistics, why are there not more Blacks, Latino/as, or transgender individuals involved in decision-making processes about HIV-related policies and programs? Does it even matter? We contend that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

When the Philadelphia Health Department recently decided to cut much of its HIV/AIDS prevention programs, organizations serving people of color were hardest hit. As a letter to the Philadelphia Health Commissioner sent by the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council indicated, the decision failed to appreciate the cultural capital that community-based organizations bring to the health milieu in order to create change. Had people from those communities been at the table, perhaps a different decision might have been reached – especially one without negative repercussions for those most affected.

There are, perhaps, many reasons why this marginalization occurs, but the primary question remains “where are our voices?” If we, decision makers, communities members, elected/appointed officials, organizations, individuals and communities are ever going to end this disease we must revisit the issues of representation, inclusion and parity among decision makers. We must answer the question, “who is not at the table, and if they are at the table are their voices being heard and experiences being honored.”

However, we can’t arrive at the table empty-handed. The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), a partnership of more than 25 national and local organizations, recommends the following as part of a comprehensive strategy for reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS: expanding the availability of HIV testing; implementing a national media outreach campaign focusing on people of color; directing HIV prevention and testing activities to those at highest risk; providing adequate funding, technical assistance, capacity building, and infrastructure development to Black and other minority-led organizations; prioritizing effective and evidence-based programs and interventions; and combining prevention approaches.

As we commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Day on February 7th, we should remember that any significant, long-lasting progress that will be made towards stemming the impact of this disease is intricately tied to our ability to have seats at the decision-making table.

Michael Hinson is the Director of Policy and Programs for the International Federation of Black Prides in Washington, DC and directs its Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative Project.

Lisa Fager Bediako is Project Director, Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.

The Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, is a $16 million, six-year partnership between CDC and 19 of nation’s leading civil rights and social justice organizations formed to conduct a wide range of communication, mobilization, action and educational activities among communities hardest hit by HIV/AIDS.

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