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Reparations for North Carolina Sterilization Victims

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Victims who were sterilized in North Carolina between 1929 and 1974 – approximately 7,600 people – have until the end of June to file a claim with the state, according to government officials.

This month marks the final push to identify victims and their families, who will receive reparations in June 2015 from a $10 million fund. North Carolina is not the first state to publicly acknowledge this practice, but it will be the first state to offer compensation for it.

Currently, the state estimates that close to 3,000 victims, born in or before 1961, may still be alive.

“We honestly don’t know how many [Black Americans] were victims, we’re still subpoenaing records, talking to people, and sharing with others as the data comes in,” says Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau director and senior vice president for Advocacy and Policy. “But, we’re very clear that for the victims, and families of the victims, justice needs to be served.”

North Carolina’s state legislature established the North Carolina Eugenics Board in 1933 to oversee sterilizations of inmates and mental patients at public institutions. It was the only state to allow social workers to petition the board to have their clients sterilized. Additionally, more than 70 percent of North Carolina’s sterilizations occurred after 1945, unlike most programs, which distanced themselves from eugenics after World War II.

“The first publicly-funded birth control was in the South, and it was intended to reduce the Black birth rate,” says Dorothy Roberts, reproductive rights scholar and professor of African American studies, law, and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. “In North Carolina…initially most of those sterilized on orders of the Board were [mentally disabled] White people, but eventually it targeted predominantly Black women receiving public assistance.”

According to Roberts, Black women went into state-run hospitals and clinics for routine procedures or births, and unknowingly signed documents authorizing their sterilization (sometimes during labor); gave consent after being deliberately misinformed; consented under the threat of losing social services; or were simply sterilized without their knowledge, in addition to the intended procedure. Doctors were compensated for the procedures through state funding (i.e., taxpayer money).

“During slavery, Black women were coerced into having children who were mere property of White men. So their own reproductive decisions have been devalued and regulated since times of slavery,” Roberts says. “This preceded eugenics, but I argue that that familiarity…provided fertile ground for eugenics in the United States.”

The practice of compulsory sterilization was part of a global eugenics movement which the United States pioneered (and from which the Nazis drew inspiration). The theory was that people considered irreparably inferior – such as disabled people, people of color, poor women who already had children, and some convicts – should be barred from having children for the good of society.

The U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the practice in 1927 with its Buck v. Bell ruling. According to the court’s majority opinion, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

There were 33 states that had eugenic boards and/or compulsory sterilization laws on the books. In some states, these laws and government bodies still existed until recently. Oregon, for example, abolished its eugenics board (which was largely concerned with the mentally disabled) in 1983. North Carolina’s General Assembly formally repealed its last remaining involuntary sterilization law in 2003.

“It’s still part of public policy, even though they don’t expressly say that,” says Roberts. As an example, she points to the policy that welfare recipients are denied additional benefits if they have additional children. “To me, that’s based in the eugenics ideology that certain people’s childbearing causes social problems, therefore the state should deter them from having babies.”

Another example resurfaced this month when California’s Senate approved a bill to ban its prisons and jails from sterilizing inmates (except in life-threatening situations, or as necessary treatment for another physical condition, with inmate consent). The legislation was in response to an investigation conducted last year, which found that nearly 150 women had been sterilized in two California prisons without state approval, often under coercion or deception. Most of the surgeries, which occurred between 2006 and 2010, were attributed to one physician, Dr. James Heinrich, who has a long list of violations.

“I do believe most Americans are not aware this even happened. Most people who truly believe in the promise of America could not conceive of our government and government officials being involved in something like this,” Shelton says, adding that he is aware of similar investigations beginning in Alabama, and other states. “I think most people will support the victims. As more people learn about this, we will see more outrage.”

(The deadline for filing a claim with the North Carolina Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims for compensation is June 30.

The Charlotte-Mecklenberg County chapter of the NAACP is offering free help filing claims on Thursday, June 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Little Rock AME Zion Church, (located at 401 N McDowell St. in downtown Charlotte); and again on Thursday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at New Ahoskie Baptist Church (located at 401 Hayes St. E in Ahoskie, NC).

If you believe you or a relative may have been sterilized in accordance with North Carolina Eugenics Board policies, call the information line at 1-877-550-6013 (toll free in North Carolina) or 919-807-4270. You can also file a claim and view additional information online at www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov.)

Hope and Skepticism in the Pursuit of the Abducted Nigeria Girls

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By Nayaba Arinde
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Hope tempered with trepidation has followed the news that the almost 300 girls have been located. Many are skeptic but also hope the claim is true. The world anxiously waits for positive news of the teenage girls who were abducted on April 14 from their school in the northeastern Nigeria town of Chibok, Borno State.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, co-founder of the Interfaith Religious Leaders to Save the Abducted Nigerian Children, said, “I am hope that the news from the government of Nigeria that they have located the girls is factual. At least some progress is made, but I am not satisfied until the girls are home.”

While according to the Associated Press, the U.S. Defense Department has stated that it not been able to confirm the reports, Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, said that the Nigerian troops can locate the girls. “We can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back,” he said, speaking to a disgruntled crowd of thousands who marched to Defense Ministry headquarters in Abuja.

He said, “We want our girls back. I can tell you we can do it. Our military can do it. But where they are held? Can we go with force?” The people yelled, “No!”

“If we go with force what will happen?” Badeh responded.

“They will die,” replied the disillusioned people, acknowledging the fear that Boko Haram would use the girls as human shields or just murder them if they were confronted.

Even though the Nigeria government has said that it will not negotiate with Boko Haram, the fundamentalist Islamic group, which has caused murderous havoc in the country since 2010, observers say that the government may have to consider the group’s request to swap the girls for some of their captured colleagues.

Reportedly, President Goodluck Jonathan struck down such a deal last week with Boko Haram and would have had at least some of the girls released.

It was reported on Tuesday that in a possible prisoner-for-hostage swap deal, former President Olusegun Obasanjo met with associates of Boko Haram at his farm in southern Ogun State. However, it is unclear if Obasanjo has the power to conduct such a negotiation, as he is now as a private citizen.

The girls are suspected to be in neighboring nations Cameroon or Chad, so 80 U.S. Air Force personnel have landed in the latter. President Barack Obama claimed that the military personnel intend to gather intelligence and surveillance with, among other things, flying reconnaissance missions over northern Nigeria and surrounding areas.

The U.S. also noted that it would be using a Predator drone and “unarmed” Global Hawks.

Fears loom large in certain quarters, however, that this is leading to an increased Western militarization of the continent.

Writer and activist Ajamu Baraka has spoken about how NATO and the U.S. was warned way ahead of time that weapons they sent to Libya in their effort to topple the President Muammar Gaddafi would end up being dispersed in many unknown hands in Africa. Some claim that this is exactly what has happened. Baraka cites such an outcome in his piece “U.S. War Against Libya Boosted Boko Haram” at ‪blackagendareport.com.

Ease Up on Deportations May Be on President Obama's Drawing Boards

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

With the outcome of the mid-term Congressional elections hanging in balance, the contentious immigration deportation issue which involves millions of people from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere may be revised in a matter of weeks or months.

And the President Barack Obama who has presided over the largest number of deportations by any administration in the nation’s history seems ready to cut deportations of undocumented immigrants. Facing stinging criticisms from Hispanic, Caribbean, Asian and other immigrant groups of color who complain loudly that Obama wasn’t doing enough to keep families together and was far too aggressive in deporting people for minor offences, correction action seems in the wings The policy has resulted in hundreds of thousands of foreigners being forced out of the country for doing nothing more than shoplifting a bag of peanuts, driving with an expired license, getting on a bus or subway without paying the fare.

The Administration has hinted that it would weaken the secure communities program that’s at the root of the flood of deportations.

“A fresh start” was what was needed for the highly controversial and hated secure communities program that led to the deportation of so many immigrants and split up families across the nation, said Jeb Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary in a television interview.

While hinting that the White House may revamp its deportation strategy, Johnson said the Secure Communities effort was the place to begin in order to make it “an efficient way to work with state and local law enforcement to reach the removal priorities we have, those who are convicted of something.”

Democratic federal, state and local lawmakers in New York have vigorously criticized secure communities for targeting undocumented immigrants who were arrested for minor offences. They have bitterly complained about federal officials going into Riker’s Island jail to nab people, especially fathers who were arrested but not convicted of criminal offences.

U.S. Congressional representatives Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblymen Karim Camara and Nick Perry, have frequently taken the White House to task over its deportation strategy.

Interestingly, the President last week joined the deportation debate by indicating that he might act unilaterally to ease the threat of deportation that hangs over the heads of millions of immigrants.

“You know, these are folks who are woven into the fabrics of our communities,” the President told law enforcement official assembled at the White House. “Their kids are going to school with our kids. Most of them are not making trouble.”

Legal experts charge that Obama hasn’t used his executive powers to slowdown deportations. He has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to review its strategy and Johnson is expected to announce changes in a matter of weeks.

“Presidents have pretty much complete discretion when it comes to enforcing criminal and other statutory regimes,” Peter Spiro, a professor of immigration law at Temple University. “President Obama can’t start handing out green cards. Short of that, from a legal perspective, there are no serious constitutional or legal constraints that apply here.”

But U.S. senator Charles “Chuck” Schumer, Democrat of New York, has issued a word of caution to President Obama, saying that modest changes to deportation regulations could imperil current immigration negotiations to get comprehensive immigration reform through the House of Representatives.

He wants the administration should give the Republicans who control the House until the end of the summer to approve immigration reform before taking unilateral action.

NAACP Legal Team Blasts Alabama Voting Rules

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By James Wright
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is protesting Alabama election rules that require voters without photo identification to either prove their identities or have election officials vouch for them.

The Alabama legislature has ratified a photo-identification and voucher law that will hinder about 500,000 registered voters, most of whom are people of color, because they lack a state-issued identification such as a driver’s license, identification card issued by the motor vehicle department, or passport.

“It is deeply problematic that Alabama’s secretary of state is trying to resurrect an unconstitutional and illegal relic of the Jim Crow South,” said Ryan P. Haygood, director of the defense fund’s political participation group. “Discriminatory voucher tests, which Congress explicitly banned along with literacy tests when it passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, has no place in modern-day Alabama.”

The fund sent a letter to Jean Brown, the chief legal adviser to the secretary of state, citing a Reuters poll stating that 37 percent of white people in Alabama have no acquaintances of a different race. Therefore, it is logical to assume that many white officials will not be able to vouch for large number of people of color who do not have photo identification, the letter states.

Deuel Ross, the Fried Frank Fellow at the defense fund, said that Alabama needs to act quickly before the June 3 primary.

“This voucher test is exactly the kind of discriminatory device that the Voting Rights Act was designed to stop and that Section 5 would have prevented were it not for the United States Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Shelby County vs. Holder,” Ross said.

Malawi’s First Woman President Faces Ouster in Disputed Vote

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

May 26 (GIN) – President Joyce Banda’s legacy may be cut short if a court fails to uphold her annulment of last week’s poll and schedule a new election in 90 days.

Banda, the second woman leader on the continent after Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, said the election was so deeply flawed she would not inflict its results on the Malawian people.

Banda, with 30% of the vote, is reportedly trailing two opposition candidates, according to preliminary results.

“I have done this to allow that Malawians are given an opportunity to freely and fairly express their will in choosing their leaders in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner,” she said.

Simon Allison, writing for the Daily Maverick of South Africa, affirmed: “Yes, the elections were flawed. Even the Malawi Electoral Commission acknowledges this: they have ordered a manual recount, citing voter irregularities in some parts of the country. Particularly troubling were reports of votes counted significantly exceeding registered voters in some areas.”

Steve Dakalira, head of news for Capital Radio Malawi, told the Daily Maverick that there was “mayhem” in several polling stations in major cities, prompting the electoral body to extend voting by two days. This extension was itself an irregularity, and left the process open to potential manipulation.

The African Union election observer team, however, commended Malawi on a “transparent electoral process”.

Leading in votes is Peter Mutharika, brother of former president Bingu wa Matharika. A lawyer, adviser and consultant in international economic law who received law degrees from the University of London and Yale University, he held teaching positions at the University Dr es Salaam, Haile Selassie University, Rutgers University, and the U.N. Institute for Training and Research Program for Foreign Service Officers, among others.

In 2013, Peter Mutharika was charged with treason for attempting to conceal his brother’s death in office two years ago, as part of an alleged plot to stop Banda — then vice-president — from assuming power as directed by the constitution. This past January, the case was adjourned by a High Court Judge until an undisclosed date.

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