From 15 Million Acres to 1 Million: How Black People Lost Their Land?

Plantation slave houses South Carolina Low Country (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

At its height, Black land ownership was impressive. At the turn of the 20th century, formerly enslaved Black people and their heirs owned 15 million acres of land, primarily in the South, mostly used for farming. In 1920, the 925,000 African-American farms represented 14 percent of the farms in America. Sadly, things turned for the worse, as 600,000 Black farmers were forced off their land, with only 45,000 Black farms remaining in 1975. Now, Black folks are only 1 percent of rural landowners in the U.S., and under 2 percent of farmers. Of the 1 billion acres of arable land in America, Black people today own a little more than 1 million acres, according to AP.

During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture settled with Black farmers for $2.3 billion for their longstanding claims of discrimination in farm loans and other government programs.

Over the years, Black people have lost their land through a number of circumstances, including government action, deception and a reign of domestic terror in the South that forced Black people from their homes through threats of violence and lynching. That terror and economic exploitation precipitated the Great Migration, which resulted in the uprooting of over 6 million Black people from the South and their relocation to the North, Midwest and West between 1916 and 1970.

How we lost the land is an untold story. An investigation by AP documented the process by which people were tricked or intimated out of their property. In this study of 107 land takings in 13 Southern and border states, 406 landowners lost over 24,000 acres of farm and timber land and 85 properties such as city lots and stores. The property, which today is owned by white people and corporations, is valued in the tens of millions of dollars. In recent years, groups such as the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Atlanta and the Land Loss Prevention Project in Durham, N.C., receive new reports of land takings on a regular basis, while the Penn Center in St. Helena Island, S.C., has gathered 2,000 such cases. One story from the AP provides the context by which families lost their land to thievery and violence:

After midnight on Oct. 4, 1908, 50 hooded white men surrounded the home of a black farmer in Hickman, Ky., and ordered him to come out for a whipping. When David Walker refused and shot at them instead, the mob poured coal oil on his house and set it afire, according to contemporary newspaper accounts. Pleading for mercy, Walker ran out the front door, followed by four screaming children and his wife, carrying a baby in her arms. The mob shot them all, wounding three children and killing the others. Walker’s oldest son never escaped the burning house. No one was ever charged with the killings, and the surviving children were deprived of the farm their father died defending. Land records show that Walker’s 2 1/2-acre farm was simply folded into the property of a white neighbor. The neighbor soon sold it to another man, whose daughter owns the undeveloped land today.

Land is among the most important assets people can own. Certainly, for the rural society in which many African Americans traditionally have lived, land represented prosperity, intergenerational wealth, family and community. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), land can be “a vital part of cultural and social identities, a valuable asset to stimulate economic growth and a central component to preserving natural resources and building societies that are inclusive, resilient and sustainable.”

“It’s more about land as a home, it’s about economics and culture, all rolled up into one,” Jennie L. Stephens, executive director of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation said. Based in Charleston, S.C., the organization serves 15 counties in the Palmetto State, including the Lowcountry, where Gullah-Geechee have struggled to hold onto their ancestral homelands on the Sea Islands in the face of development, gentrification and corporate intrusion. For generations, families have had the land, procured through the blood, sweat and tears of their ancestors, until many are forced to sell it.

The Center promotes sustainable land use to help historically underserved families realize the wealth-building asset of their land, and prevents heirs’ property owners from losing their land. Under the concept of heirs’ property, a form of communal land ownership found among rural communities of the South, both Black and white, numerous heirs of the original landowner are co-owners of the land, each owning a percentage share. They may be 20, 30, 40 or more people scattered around the country, and in some cases, have never visited the land and may not even know they are co-owners. The problem arises when corporations and developers entice family members to sell their share, becoming family members themselves and forcing a partition sale, a court-mandated auction sale of the land, all without notice to the other family members.

“It is a real issue,” said Tish Lynn, director of communications at the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation.  Lynn said that across the Southeast and throughout the country, land has been in the hands of African-American families through heirs’ titles, passed from generation to generation without a clear title to the land. Rather, land was passed through oral tradition, without access to the judicial system or the ability to hire a lawyer. Although heirs’ property is a rural characteristic rather than a racial one, for Black people who have had more than their share of exploitation, the suffering is compounded. “I talk about it as an injustice. We call it legalized theft. We’re trying to level the playing field by clearing the title,” Lynn said.

Jennie Stephens noted that while the issue of land loss is not new, it is receiving more attention these days. Indigenous Black landowners now find themselves grappling with the same land loss issues facing Native Americans. Once thought to be the most unproductive land, now everyone wants to live in the Sea Islands area. Lynn calls the Charleston coastal area a magnet, with “40 new people coming every day, and the attraction of industry, Boeing, Volvo and the desirability of living here has logarithmically increased the pressure of development.” Hurricane Hugo helped shine a light on issues facing the coast as forests amid these heirs’ properties were destroyed. With few laws on the books to protect landowners, it is easily lost and families torn apart.

“We started to look at the tax-assessed value of the land of all the individuals we provide legal advice and counsel,” Stephens said of the clients whose land her organization seeks to protect, which is roughly 300 people each year. “Over the last year, the tax-assessed value is $38.4 million,” she noted.

Hilton Head Island is a most salient example of once-predominantly Black-owned land that is now in majority white hands, due in no small measure to partition sales. Beaufort County, S.C., which includes Hilton Head, was 57 percent Black in 1950 but is now 77 percent white, as The Nation reported, with Black farmers falling from half of all farmers throughout the state to only 7 percent today.

For heirs’ property owners, clearing the title to the land is a key to helping them use it as an economic engine. “When natural disasters occur, they cannot access FEMA funds because they don’t have clear title. You can’t apply for any other housing rehab programs that require clear title. Where does that leave you? You need a bucket or you have to move,” Stephens said.  “Oftentimes, landowners don’t come and ask for help until there is an emergency or there has been an increase in the [tax] assessment of the property. … If people don’t receive help in title issues, the land will be lost. The land will become a gated community. Boeing is expanding, Volvo is expanding. Some of our folk are already being asked, ‘Do you want to sell your land?’”

The land loss these Black populations are experiencing is a gentrification issue transposed onto rural communities, as Lynn noted. While it is an economic issue, it is also an environmental one, as Stephens emphasized: “Once the land is lost, it is not left green anymore. Now, you see these condos with asphalt. It does not only impact the landowner but entire communities,” she noted, adding that people who moved there because they loved the way the land looks are themselves changing the way the land originally looked.

There is some relief in sight for heirs’ property owners in South Carolina, in what could signal a trend for the rest of the South. In 2016, then-Gov. Nikki Haley signed the Clementa C. Pinckney Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act, named in honor of the state lawmaker among the eight murdered in an act of racial terror at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015. The law allows co-tenants to buy out the shares of land speculators — making it difficult for land to be sold through the courts — and allows judges to consider factors such as the sentimental, ancestral and fair market value of the property.

While the Pinckney Act is one example in the right direction, throughout the nation, Black wealth is continuously undercut. For example, the Great Recession, and the attendant subprime mortgage crisis that preyed upon Black and Latino homeowners through institutional racism and discriminatory lending, was a period of historic losses of wealth. According to the Urban Institute, Black families lost 31 percent of their wealth between 2007 and 2010, Hispanics 44 percent. As a result, the racial wealth gap continues and Black folks find themselves hamstrung, unable to build for the future and pass down their legacy to successive generations.

“If you can get people to maximize their potential through land, they don’t need a handout,” Jennie Stephens said, underscoring the importance of owning the land and building family wealth. “It is time for your child to go off to college. Maybe you have had trees growing for awhile. One person who has clear title, they had the trees cut off their land and were able to send their children to college without student loans. That money was not a loss to their family, literally that wealth was passed to their family,” she added. “That’s a very simple example of wealth building, the fact these children can come out of college without a student loan. You’re starting out and not in the negative. And if your parents managed that land, you get to go back and cut the trees again. If you have clear title, you can get a mortgage and a home equity line of credit.”

Source: From 15 Million Acres to 1 Million: How Black People Lost Their Land?
 

 

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A Potent Symbol of Domestic Terror, the Noose Has Made a Comeback

The noose — that all-too-familiar symbol of hate, violence and death for Black people in the United States — never left the American landscape, but it is certainly experiencing a surge in popularity. New reports of noose-related incidents are coming with alarmingly greater frequency. One of the most recent took place at the United States Mint in Philadelphia, where a white coin maker, hangman’s noose in hand, walked across the factory floor and left the noose at the workstation of a Black colleague, as The New York Times reported. 

“I don’t know if the intent was for him to see it or for everyone to see it or if it was a prank,” said Barry Nickson, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1023 told WHYY. “But coming into work the next day, a lot of employees were highly disturbed by what they witnessed.” Once Black employees informed Nickson about the incident, the U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general launched an internal investigation. “He was removed from the shop floor and was taken upstairs to the mint police and the mint superintendent for questioning,” Nickson said of the offending employee.  The white employee, who has not been identified, was placed on administrative leave.

In April in New York City, a butcher was accused of handing a Black deliveryman a noose. Joe Ottomanelli, of Ottomanelli & Sons Meat Market, gave Victor Sheppard a noose made of yellow rope, according to the New York Daily News. “If you ever have any stress, just put it around your neck and pull it. I could even help you with it,” Sheppard, 36, said Ottomanelli told him.

Last week in New Orleans, a Black man resigned from his job after a coworker alerted him to a hangman’s noose after arriving at 7 a.m. “Disbelief. Amazement. Shock. Awe. Anger. Resentment. And then you start thinking about your ancestral history. And what they went through,” Jason Allen said, as reported by WWLTV. According to Allen, when he told the general manager, the man laughed and said someone has a “sick sense of humor.” Allen replied, “You’re laughing at a symbolic symbol that represents Black people being hung, intimidation and everything else that goes along with it.”

After his employer took no action to address the issue, Allen resigned the following day. “Our conscience is shocked and hearts are deeply saddened. We find it mortally reprehensible that anyone can find it acceptable to commit domestic terrorism in the workplace by hanging a noose. It is even more despicable that a supervisor trivialized it and found it laughable,” the NAACP-NOLA said in a statement.

Perhaps nowhere is the problem of noose hangings more evident than in Washington, D.C., the place from which racial hatred emanates since the rise of President Trump, who has facilitated an environment of racial violence. Nooses were found hanging from the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall, and bananas were found hanging with nooses and racist messages at American University, where the first Black woman was elected president of the student government. A noose also was found hanging from a house under construction across from an elementary school in a residential neighborhood, and a length of rope was found at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, according to The Washington Post.

In states such as Florida, Maryland and North Carolina, nooses have been found hanging at middle schools, high schools and college fraternity houses, as The New York Times reported. This, as the Ku Klux Klan has made more public appearances throughout the country.

Black elected officials are not immune, including Aramis Ayala, Florida’s first Black state attorney and the chief prosecutor in Orlando. Someone mailed a noose to Ayala’s office. The prosecutor attracted attention and hostility from white reactionary politicians due to her opposition to the death penalty.

Nor has the U.S. military — with its long history of racial discrimination and hostility towards African-Americans — escaped the controversy. The Navy Times reported in June that in a Mississippi shipyard, a worker discovered a hangman’s noose on board the Norfolk-based destroyer Ramage as the Navy ship was undergoing an overhaul. Three months after the discovery, the incident remains a mystery to the command’s leadership.

Unknown photographer, 1906, Lynching of Dick Robinson & Thompson, Alabama (Source: Pinterest)

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 1,863 documented bias incidents from the day after Election Day to March 31. Of these, 292 were anti-Black incidents, which most commonly involved nooses.

“Perhaps no other symbol — even a burning cross — depicts the horrors of racial violence perpetrated against African-Americans and others more than the noxious hangman’s noose,” said the SPLC in its 2008 Winter Issue of the Intelligence Report. The report noted that that nooses show support for the days of segregation and subjugation, symbolizing not only racism, but serving as “the actual murder implement for the lynching of people” because of their skin color. “The hangman’s noose is a symbol of the racist, segregation-era violence enacted on Blacks. … [It is] an unmistakable symbol of violence and terror that whites used to demonstrate their hatred for Blacks,” the NAACP said in its 2007 State of Emergency report.

In addition to the proliferation of hangman’s nooses, there have been the threats of lynching, such as the University of Oklahoma student who created a “N-gger Lynching List”targeting Black University of Pennsylvania freshmen.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The backdrop to the hanging of nooses in the 21st century is a legacy of lynching in the 19th and 20th centuries, the scourge of white terror that brutalized Black bodies. The Equal Justice Initiative based in Montgomery, Ala., has found that 4,075 Black people were lynched between 1877 and 1950. Many were hanged from trees and telephone poles via the hangman’s noose as a means of oppression, intimidation and social control — and as a source of family entertainment for those whites who, along with their children, watched the gruesome spectacle over a picnic, took photographs and kept Black body parts as souvenirs.

Despite this horrid legacy of racial terror and genocide, or perhaps because of it, society has chosen to perpetuate the terrorist symbolism of the noose rather than seek to eradicate it. In the process, America signals to Black people that it is quite comfortable with this timeworn tool of racial terror, as the noose — this potent symbol of lynching and racial violence — remains an acceptable form of expression on the resurgence. This comes at a time when white political leaders — all the way up to the White House — openly espouse racial and and political violence.

Source: A Potent Symbol of Domestic Terror, the Noose Has Made a Comeback

Marilyn Mosby Treated Baltimore Cops the Way Cops Treat Everyone Else; Now They’re Coming for Her

Marilyn Mosby is under fire. On May 17, a coalition of law-enforcement officers, attorneys and community officials formed a super PAC dedicated to ousting Mosby from her position as Baltimore City state’s attorney, according to the Baltimore Sun.
While the position is not typically the focus of a highly funded political race, the June 2018 Democratic primary is shaping up to be a heated contest. In Maryland, a super PAC can accept unlimited funds from corporations, unions and individuals, and the group has already released an attack ad against Mosby—even though she has no opponent.
Also, in May, a federal appeals court put on hold a lawsuit accusing Mosby of malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy against three of the officers who faced charges in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, whose demise sparked riots throughout the city.
In early June, a U.S. District Court unsealed a lawsuit by two more officers in the case who charge that they were arrested illegally for the death of Gray.

Mosby’s critics allege that she was overzealous in prosecuting the police officers who faced trial on charges of killing Gray, who died after being found badly injured in the back of a police vehicle following a 2015 arrest. They accuse her of defaming their names and conducting a secret investigation. They even say that Mosby filed charges that were harsher than the crimes committed.
Go back and read the previous paragraph and replace the word “police” with any black-sounding name and notice how unremarkable that statement seems. In other words, they are angry at Mosby for treating cops with the same biased, heavy-handed one-sidedness with which police officers treat black suspects every day.
One of the reasons only five white police officers have been convicted of killing a black man in the last 13 years is that the law is technically on their side. The city, district and state’s attorneys responsible for prosecuting officers charged with crimes are the same lawyers who work hand in hand with the police on a daily basis. They depend on cops to gather evidence, investigate crimes and testify in court cases against criminals. They support the police unions. Cops and state’s attorneys work under the umbrella of the same employers and are essentially teammates, so it is naive to expect prosecutors to pursue justice against police officers with any impartial vigor.
But Mosby bucked that system wh

en she filed 28 charges, ranging from false imprisonment to second-degree murder, against six officers whose actions she believed led to Gray’s demise. Since then, she’s been a target for the people who believe that police are infallible and suggest that anyone who says otherwise in an un-American criminal.
In a question-and-answer session with The Atlantic, David Jaros, an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, suggested that Mosby’s actions were consistent with how the justice system routinely treats most suspects, saying:
“I love how surprised people are by the fact that a prosecutor may have overcharged. This is something prosecutors do all the time, as a strategic choice, for various reasons, and it’s ironic that suddenly the [Fraternal Order of Police] is up in arms over this. What’s surprising is that we see a criminal-justice system moving rapidly to respond to allegations of police misconduct…

If anything, the overwhelming concern is that prosecutors and the police work together every day. There was considerable concern about whether the prosecutor in Ferguson [Mo.] was vigorously pursuing the police officer in that case and whether there were divided loyalties. In cases where the process seems to have moved more slowly, I think the question has to come up of why are those cases moving much slower than other cases that the prosecutor’s office takes on. But certainly there are reasons for us to think that we need institutions other than the police to be investigating and policing the police.”

Part of the cops’ lawsuit against Mosby is that she conducted her own investigation outside of the Baltimore Police Department instead of letting the police look into Gray’s death, which would have been as unthinkably stupid as asking Republican senators to investigate whether a Republican senator and a Republican president are guilty of colluding with … wait. That’s probably a bad example. They actually did that.
One of the grievances the super PAC leveled against Mosby is Baltimore’s rising crime rate. Yes, you heard that right—a group that includes police officers and the police union is trying to blame the crime rate on the state’s attorney. This, in spite of a Justice Department probe that shows Baltimore police officers target blacks, arrest people without probable cause and sometimes don’t even show up to court. They blame her despite the numerous studies here and here (pdf) that show conviction rates have little to no effect on crime.
Officers William Porter, Alicia White and Brian Rice are suing for malicious prosecution—the theory that Mosby went after them without probable cause for reasons other than justice. They are also suing for defamation, invasion of privacy and violations of their civil rights—a list of charges that sounds exactly like what was done to Gray when law-enforcement officials violated his civil rights, chasing him down and arresting him without probable cause.
The officers’ defamation claim mirrors what police did to Michael Brown—creating the narrative of the hulking convenience store robber minutes after Officer Darren Wilson felled him in Ferguson, Mo. The cops do not think Mosby should have secretly obtained warrants to search their cellphone records, as the Minnesota police officers did to Diamond Reynolds the day after she watched an officer kill Philando Castile in her car in Falcon Heights, Minn.
Officers Edward Nero and Garnett Miller say they “lost their freedom and dignity and suffered physical and psychological harm from being arrested and detained without cause,” and therefore they are entitled to damages, according to their recently unsealed lawsuit.
Wait … you can do that?
To be fair, being arrested and detained without cause can cause one to lose one’s freedom and dignity and suffer “psychological harm.”
On the other hand, Freddie Gray, who was arrested and detained without cause, would only wish that freedom and dignity were the only things he lost. Go ahead and ask him. I’ll wait.
It is clear that Marilyn Mosby is being attacked from all sides because Mosby treated Baltimore cops the way Baltimore cops treat everyone else—and Mosby should know. Her mother was on the police force, as were her father and her uncle next door to her childhood home.
Before the Justice Department even released its report on the Baltimore Police Department, Mosby probably knew from working with them every day that:

  • Between 2010 and 2015, prosecutors and booking officers declined to book more than 11,000 arrests—usually because the arrest was unjustified or without probable cause.
  • Ninety-five percent of Baltimoreans stopped more than 10 times by the police during that time period were black.
  • The BPD regularly failed to investigate or respond to sexual assault.
  • The department regularly used excessive force.

Maybe Mosby’s detractors will win. Perhaps a judge will somehow allow the plaintiffs to sue a prosecutor for performing her job of prosecuting. Maybe she really is a little too caught up in the “justice” part of the criminal-justice system and too willing to disregard the color of the uniforms when it comes to pursuing criminals.
In the old Looney Tunes cartoons, Bugs Bunny was always the hunted. He spent most of his time evading the devilish, gun-slinging Yosemite Sam and the bumbling, shotgun-toting Elmer Fudd. But whenever the tables turned—as they always did—instead of being repentant, Bugs’ archenemies instead would try to weasel their way out of trouble. Yosemite Sam would get so mad, puffs of smoke came out of his ears. Fudd’s stutter would become even worse in his anger.
The people coming for Marilyn Mosby have been unapologetically hunting the citizens of Baltimore since long before Mosby ever appeared on the radar. But ever since she decided that she wouldn’t give cops a free pass to do whatever they want to whomever they want with impunity, you can see the smoke coming out of the cartoon villains’ earsvears and hear them stuttering at the top of their lungs because now they know:
It ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun.

Source: Marilyn Mosby Treated Baltimore Cops the Way Cops Treat Everyone Else; Now They’re Coming for Her

Venus Williams Believed to be ‘at Fault’ for Fatal Car Accident

Venus Williams hasn’t commented on reports she is “at fault” for fatal car accident. (Wikimedia Commons)

Venus Williams has reportedly been blamed for the collision that resulted in the death of a 78-year-old man.

“[Venus] is at fault for violating the right of way of [the other driver],” a police report obtained by TMZ allegedly states.

The tennis star was involved in a car wreck Friday, June 9, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., when she attempted to make it through an intersection in her SUV. The report allegedly says Williams was traveling northbound and she told officers a traffic backup caused her to slow down in the intersection. Jerome Barson, the victim of the crash, suffered head trauma when his wife T-boned the SUV when she says it darted out into the intersection. Barson’s wife said she had no time to stop at that moment.

Barson was transported to the hospital and placed in the intensive care unit while his spouse was treated for injuries including broken bones, her attorney Michael Steinger told the website. She survived but her husband did not, dying from his injury on Sunday, June 25.

Police say there is no evidence that Williams, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, was using an electronic device while behind the wheel nor under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Williams has not yet publicly commented on the matter.

Source: Venus Williams Believed to be ‘at Fault’ for Fatal Car Accident 

Lead Astray: New Evidence Links Children with Higher Lead Exposure to School Suspensions and Juvenile Detention

FLINT, MI – JANUARY 26: Tears stream down the face of Morgan Walker, age 5 of Flint, as she gets her finger pricked for a lead screening on January 26, 2016 at Eisenhower Elementary School in Flint, Michigan. Free lead screenings are performed for Flint children 6-years-old and younger, one of several events sponsored by Molina Healthcare following the city’s water contamination and federal state of emergency. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

When people are in pain or suffering from illness, they are more likely to act in destructive ways that carry negative consequences for both themselves and others. Children are particularly susceptible as they act out when agitated or unhealthy, a plight exacerbated by their common inability to articulate their feelings in a more constructive way.

recent report authored by economists Anna Aizer and Janet Currie and published in the National Bureau of Economic Research confirms this link between illness and negative outcomes for school children. The working paper, titled “Lead and Juvenile Delinquency: New Evidence from Linked Birth, School and Juvenile Detention Records,” covers new ground by tracking individual children over time to assess the relationship between lead exposure and juvenile behavior. Using relevant data for 120,000 children born 1990-2004 in Rhode Island, the study found strong evidence linking those with higher exposures to lead with a substantially increased probability of school suspensions and juvenile detention.

Given school discipline is commonly administered in a racially disparate manner— and poor and African-American children are more likely to reside in old houses with chipped lead-based paint and neighborhoods with compromised soil— the implications of the study are troubling.

“A huge percentage of the problem resides in populations that oftentimes are invisible,” says Dr. Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University. A prolific author commonly recognized as “the father of environmental justice,” Bullard says this lack of visibility represents how “the vast majority of this country really doesn’t have to deal with lead or address it on a daily basis” so it “tends to be minimized. But this does not detract from the fact that it’s real and very deadly for lots of children in this country.”

To drive home the racially skewed nature of the lead issue, Bullard draws an analogy with drugs in America. “For many years, drugs were in the African-American community and it was treated as a crime,” he says. “But as soon as white folks start overdosing and getting hooked on opioids, it then becomes a health problem. Lead is the same way.”

For those paying attention, what’s clear is the damage lead exposure causes in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “There is no known identified safe blood lead level.” Even at lower levels, the toxic metal can cause “damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems (e.g., reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior) and hearing and speech problems.”

Though some still believe lead poisoning is an issue that ended with the 20th century, Bullard notes how the Flint water crisis prompted “the rediscovery of this problem. And when they started reexamining what was happening not just in Flint, but across this country, it was revealed that Flint was not the only place that had problems.”

Bullard clarifies how such problems spawn others. Lead is not just an environmental and health problem, he contends, “It is also a societal problem in that it creates this challenge for children and young people to conform to the rules of our society. Anytime you have children of color that are disproportionately impacted by lead, and anytime you have behavior problems within these children, they are definitely going to be targeted for suspension and for the criminal justice system.”

This, he adds, “is not rocket science.”

Still, while such linkages between lead and poor behavior in children had been suspected for years, getting the actual data to nudge this strong hypothesis toward the realm of science was far from easy. The federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978 and phased out leaded gasoline soon after, so the vast majority of states, 40 altogether, don’t currently require blood-lead tests for children. For the ones that do, identification and compliance is an issue given most children exposed to lead reside in disadvantaged environments with poor services. And even when a child is tested, if the blood is not drawn at the right time or in the right manner, this can further compromise the process.”

Nonetheless, researchers Aizer and Currie not only documented the link between lead and school suspensions, they found the suspended children were also 10 times more likely to end up in juvenile detention. The implications are dire given recent studies reveal over 3000 water systems across the country with documented lead problems.

“At the same time, the EPA, with the current Trump budget, is cutting the lead prevention program’s budget by over $17 million,” laments Bullard. “It’s almost like the EPA is saying ‘We don’t have a problem, so we can cut that.’ That’s the kind of mentality that really makes it difficult to develop proactive policies to prevent children from being poisoned.”

The current administration’s stance becomes even more tragic upon considering, of all of the intractable and seemingly incurable problems facing government here in the 21stcentury, the lead problem is actually winnable.

“Lead poisoning is still the No. 1 environmental threat to children and it is preventable,” says Bullard, stressing “this is not something that has to happen.”

“So, it makes a whole lot of sense if we invest in prevention,” he continues, noting it will pay off “when it comes to kids succeeding in our educational systems and not being pushed into our criminal justice system, which is much more expensive and damaging to our society.”

Source: Lead Astray: New Evidence Links Children with Higher Lead Exposure to School Suspensions and Juvenile Detention 

Black Attorney Will Take His Fight Against Mississippi’s Confederate-Themed Flag to the Supreme Court

A Mississippi state flag is unfurled by Sons of Confederate Veterans and other groups on the grounds of the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss.(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Black Mississippi citizen is taking his case against the state’s Confederate-themed flag to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In papers filed Wednesday, attorneys for Carlos Moore said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms him and his young daughter by violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

His attorneys wrote that under the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against Moore, “a city could adopt ‘White Supremacy Forever’ as its official motto; or a county could incorporate an image of white hooded figures and a noose hanging from a tree into its county seal; or a state could incorporate a Nazi swastika, as an endorsement of Aryan/white supremacy, in its state flag.”

Mississippi’s is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. Voters kept it in a 2001 election.

However, several cities and towns and all eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying the flag amid concerns that it is offensive in a state where 38 percent of the population is Black. Many took action after the June 2015 massacre of nine Black worshippers at a church in Charleston, S.C., by an avowed white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online.

The fresh scrutiny has extended to other Old South symbols on public display; New Orleans recently removed statues of Confederate officers and a monument to white supremacy, and other cities are considering similar demotions.

The lawsuit Moore filed in February 2016 says the Mississippi flag is “state-sanctioned hate speech,” and seeks to have it declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed it in September without ruling on the merits, saying Moore lacked legal standing to sue because he failed to show the emblem caused an identifiable legal injury.

But despite ruling against Moore, Reeves devoted nine pages of his decision to historical context, noting the racial terror intended to maintain segregation and white supremacy in the Deep South in the years leading up to Mississippi’s adoption of the flag with the Confederate emblem.

Reeves specifically rejected an argument some flag supporters make outside the courtroom, that there is no connection between slavery and the Confederate battle emblem. The judge cited Mississippi’s 1861 secession declaration, which said: “‘Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.’”

Moore, himself an attorney, is now asking the Supreme Court to send the case back to Reeves’ federal courtroom for a full trial on the merits of his arguments. Ultimately, Moore wants the Confederate symbol removed from the flag.

“While acknowledging that the Establishment Clause prohibits a state from expressing the view that one religion is superior to, or preferred over, others, the court of appeals reached the remarkable and unwarranted conclusion that the Equal Protection Clause does not similarly prohibit a state from expressing the view that one race is superior to, or preferred over, another,” wrote Michael Scott and Kristen Ashe, who represent Moore.

It will be October, at the earliest, before the Supreme Court will say whether it will take the case. The Mississippi attorney general’s office, which has defended the state, declined to comment Wednesday, spokeswoman Margaret Ann Morgan said.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said if the flag design is to be reconsidered, it should be done in another statewide election. Legislators filed several bills in 2016 and this year, to either change the flag or financially punish universities that refuse to fly it. All failed because leaders said they couldn’t reach consensus.

Source: Black Attorney Will Take His Fight Against Mississippi’s Confederate-Themed Flag to the Supreme Court

Vandals obliterate info on Emmett Till marker in Mississippi

A civil rights historical marker in Mississippi has been vandalized, obliterating information about black teenager Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and lynched in 1955.

The slaying galvanized the civil rights movement when Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, had an open-casket funeral in Chicago to show how her 14-year-old son had been brutalized while he was visiting the Mississippi Delta.

Allan Hammons, whose public relations firm made the marker, said Monday that someone scratched the marker with a blunt tool in May. During the past week, a tour group discovered vinyl panels had been peeled off the back of the metal marker in Money, Mississippi. The panels contained photos and words about Till.

“Who knows what motivates people to do this?” Hammons said, noting that traffic signs are common targets for vandals and shooters in rural areas. “Vandals have been around since the beginning of time.”

The sign was erected in 2011 for the Mississippi Freedom Trail, a series of state-funded markers at significant civil rights sites.

The damaged sign is outside the long-closed Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market, where a 21-year-old white shopkeeper, Carolyn Bryant, said Till whistled at her in August 1955. The teenager was kidnapped, tortured and killed because of her accusation. An all-white jury acquitted Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half brother, J.W. Milam, in the killing, but the two men later confessed in a paid interview with Look magazine.

A separate Till marker, near the site where his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River several miles away, has been repeatedly shot. It was erected by a private group, and money has been raised to replace it.

Hammons said the Freedom Trail marker in Money cost more than $8,000, and repairs will cost at least $500.

Roy and Carolyn Bryant divorced. He and Milam have died. She remarried and became Carolyn Donham.

She told Timothy B. Tyson, a Duke University research scholar, in 2008 that she falsely testified, when jurors were outside the courtroom, that Till had physically and verbally threatened her. Tyson first revealed her interview in “The Blood of Emmett Till,” a book he published this year.

Source: Vandals obliterate info on Emmett Till marker in Mississippi 

Philando Castile’s family reaches $3M settlement in death

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, speaks with passion about her reaction to a not guity verdict for Officer Jeronimo Yanez at the Ramsey County Courthouse Friday, June 16, 2017 in St. Paul.

The settlement to be paid to alerie Castile, who is the family’s trustee, was announced Monday and comes less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges connected to her son’s death.

Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by Yanez during a traffic stop after Castile informed the officer he was armed. Castile had a permit for his gun. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook.

The acquittal of Yanez, who is Latino, prompted days of protests, including one in St. Paul that shut down Interstate 94 for hours and ended with 18 arrests.

The $2.995 million settlement for Valerie Castile will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. The plan for distribution of funds requires approval by a state court, which could take several weeks.

Robert Bennett, who along with attorney Glenda Hatchett is representing Valerie Castile, said a decision was made to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

“No amount of money could ever replace Philando,” a joint statement from the attorneys and city of St. Anthony said. “With resolution of the claims the family will continue to deal with their loss through the important work of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation.”

Bennett said the foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, grief counseling, scholarships and other help to individuals and families affected by gun violence and police violence.

Bennett said Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is not part of the settlement. Reynolds has also hired an attorney, but it’s not clear if she is still planning a lawsuit or has any standing for a federal claim. Reynolds’ attorney did not return messages Monday.

Darin Richardson, claims manager with the League of Minnesota Cities, said St. Anthony’s insurance coverage is $3 million per occurrence. If Reynolds were to file and win a claim, the city’s remaining $5,000 in coverage would be paid to her, and St. Anthony would have to cover any additional money awarded.

The settlement happened faster than others stemming from the killings of black men by police officers elsewhere. Last week, a $1.5 million settlement was reached in the case of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri. That settlement came nearly three years after the death of Brown, whose parents sued the city.

Bennett said his decades-long relationship with Joe Flynn, the attorney who represented St. Anthony in Castile’s case, helped bring a quick resolution. He also said the city of St. Anthony has a commitment to make positive changes to their police department.

The city is undergoing a voluntary review by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, with the goal of improving trust between the police department and the communities it serves.

During his trial, Yanez, 29, testified that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out his gun. The officer said he feared for his life. According to squad-car video that captured the shooting, Castile said: “I’m not pulling it out” before Yanez fired seven rapid shots. Castile’s last words after the shooting were “I wasn’t reaching …”

Reynolds later said Castile was reaching for his wallet.

The squad-car video shows the shooting, but does not show what happened inside the car or what Yanez saw, leaving room for reasonable doubt.

After Yanez’s acquittal, the city of St. Anthony said it was offering Yanez a “voluntary separation agreement” from the police department, and he would no longer be an on-duty officer. The department serves the cities of St. Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, where the shooting occurred.

The status of that separation is unknown. Messages left with the city were not immediately returned.

Monday’s joint statement said no taxpayer money will be used to fund Valerie Castile’s settlement. The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust is a cooperative in which Minnesota cities contribute premiums into a jointly owned risk pool that is used to pay claims.

Source: Philando Castile’s family reaches $3M settlement in death 

America’s ‘white alone’ population decreasing while all other ethnic groups grow – census data

The ‘white alone’ population in the US experienced a decrease between 2015 and 2016 while all other races saw an increase, according to newly-released census data. The numbers also showed that the overall population of the US is getting older.

The figures, released by the US Census Bureau on Thursday, found that while all other groups experienced a natural increase (having more births than deaths) during the time period, the ‘non-Hispanic white alone’ group saw a natural decrease of 163,300.

The decrease left the ‘white alone’ population remaining at 198 million of the nation’s 325 million people.

Meanwhile, the country’s Asian population saw the biggest surge, growing by 3 percent to 21.4 million. Those who identified as being of two or more races also grew by 3 percent, to 8.5 million.

The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million, while Hispanics grew by 2 percent, to 57.5 million.

Ageing population 

The census data also found that the US population has a “distinctly older age profile” than it did 16 years ago. The median age rose from 35.3 years in April 2000 to 37.9 years in July 2016.

“The baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend,”said Peter Borsella, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s population division.

“Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for many years to come,” he added, referring to the age a person can start using Medicare, which is government healthcare for seniors and those with disabilities.

Residents aged 65 and over grew from 35 million in 2000 to 49.2 million in 2016, growing to 15.2 percent of the overall population.

That figure comes amid ongoing concerns of the impact that the baby-boom generation will have on social services including Medicare. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, net Medicare spending is expected to nearly double over the next decade, from $592 billion to $1.2 trillion.

When the Census Bureau analyzed the data by state, it found that all 50 states experienced either an increase in median age or had the same median age as a year earlier.

The highest median age (44.6 years) is represented in Maine, while the lowest (30.8 years) is seen in Utah.

Source: America’s ‘white alone’ population decreasing while all other ethnic groups grow – census data 

9 of the Biggest Slave Owners in American History

Col. Joshua John Ward of Georgetown, South Carolina: 1,130 

Known as “King of the Rice Planters,” Ward had 1,130 enslaved Blacks on the Brookgreen plantation in South Carolina. In 1850, Ward controlled six large plantations and produced 3.9 million pounds of rice.

Dr. Stephen Duncan of Issaquena, Mississippi: 858
Duncan was a businessman who collectively enslaved more than 2,000 Blacks during his time as one of the best cotton producers. The most he enslaved at one time was 858 in Issaquena. Duncan owned more than 15 plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Houmas House Plantation  A.K.A.  “Sugar Palace”

John Burneside of Ascension, Louisiana: 753 

Burneside was the largest sugar producer in the country during his time at the Houmas Plantation. Before he died, he owned 10 different plantations.

Meredith Calhoun of Rapides, Louisiana: 709

Plantations belonging to Calhoun surrounded the riverboat landing that would one day become the town of Colfax. At the peak of production, the Calhoun plantations held more than 700 Blacks in slavery and produced more cotton than any other property in Louisiana. The Calhouns established one of the largest sugar mills in Louisiana, and the estate was valued in excess of $1 million in the 1860 census, a considerable holding at that time.

William Aiken of Colleton, South Carolina: 700 

Aiken was one of the state’s wealthiest citizens, owner of the largest rice plantation in the state — Jehossee Island — with over 700 enslaved Blacks on 1,500 acres under cultivation, almost twice the acreage of the next largest plantation. By 1860, Aiken owned the entire Jehossee Island, and the plantation produced 1.5 million pounds of rice in addition to sweet potatoes and corn — in the middle of the 19th century, rice was king in South Carolina — of the 10 largest cash crops in 1850, seven were rice, two cotton and one sugar. After the Civil War, the plantation regained its preeminence, producing 1.2 million pounds of rice. Today, descendants of the Aiken family, the Maybanks, still own part of the island, having sold the remainder in 1992 to the U.S. as part of the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.


Gov. John L. Manning of Ascension, Louisiana: 670

Manning owned at least two plantations holding 670 Blacks against their will. One in South Carolina and another in Louisiana. He was a major supporter of succeeding from the Union.


Col. Joseph A. S. Acklen of West Feliciana, Louisiana: 659

As the second husband to “the mistress of Belmont” Adelicia Acklen, Joseph Acklen tripled the value of his wife’s million-dollar estate. They had seven Louisiana cotton plantations; the 2,000-acre Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tennessee; more than 50,000 acres of undeveloped land in Texas; stocks and bonds; and 659 enslaved Blacks.


Gov. Robert Francis Withers Allston of Georgetown, South Carolina: 631 

His family was able to maintain two houses in Georgetown and several plantations, including the Allston ancestral home on the Pee Dee River, Chicora Wood — one of the five plantations Robert Allston owned, with over 900 acres and more than 600 enslaved Blacks.

Bonny Hall Plantation

Joseph Blake of Beaufort, South Carolina: 575 
The Blake family enslaved Black people for generations on a rice plantation in Beaufort (Prince William’s Parish). Joseph Blake had two plantations, one in Prince William’s Parish and another in St. Peter’s Parish. The former one was called Bonnie/Bonny Hall, on the Combahee River, south of the town of Yemassee, with 330 acres.

Source: 9 of the Biggest Slave Owners in American History