Tough year ends, tougher times ahead?

By Charlene Muhammad, Askia Muhammad and Starla Muhammad -Staff Writers- | Last updated: Dec 29, 2010 - 4:58:30 PM

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(L-R)Tea Party protest in Washington, DC.; President Obama during a meeting with
progressive leaders at the White House; Home in Springfi eld, Mass., under public
auction foreclosure sale.

( - Blacks in America entered 2010 with a sense of promise and hope that going into his second year in office; the country's first Black president might address more of their issues, such as chronic unemployment, nagging racism, and police brutality.

But hope turned to despair as unemployment rates and home foreclosures continued to rise, the country fell deeper into recession, and right wing conservatives attempted to block just about any effort pushed by the president to correct problems.


‘Look, we have to be entrepreneurs, we have to start thinking about how do we cultivate our own money, cultivate our own food, cultivate our own positioning because once we start doing that then we realize that you know what, we don't need the government to save us.’
–Warren Ballentine,attorney and nationally syndicated Radio One talk show host

Challenges Blacks faced in 2010 were similar to other Americans but as usually happens Blacks were harder hit by job losses, home losses, and other problems.

“The Black community continues to have unemployment and poverty rates two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half times the rates for White folks in the midst of a recession that's hitting everybody very hard. Folks of color, and particularly Black folks, are being hit the hardest and that's not all that unusual,” said anti-racism activist and author Tim Wise., who is based in Nashville, Tenn.

“But what makes it more complicated is that in this particular situation with a Black president, there's a real question as to whether or not he feels politically as though he can do anything about that.It's almost as if the problem of Black unemployment and Black economic depression is more off the table than ever,” added Mr. Wise, who is Caucasian.

The Black unemployment rate was 16 percent in November 2010, despite a national average of 9.8 percent, and in 2009 the Black poverty rate was 25.8 percent, compared to the 14.3 percent national rate. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, between 2009 and 2012, 1.3 million Latinos and 1.1 million Blacks will lose their homes, and the indirect loss in wealth attributed for neighborhoods with vacant homes will be $194 billion and $177 billion respectively from Black and Latino communities.

But how do you raise the profile of Black America's economic depression when the political climate has pushed discussingBlack issues almost completely off the table? asked Mr. Wise.

“The danger is that if President Obama is unable or unwilling to address these issues, whoever comes next, whether it's a Democrat or a Republican—whoever the next president is—is going to have an easier time ignoring those issues. ... Generally people won't be thinking about it and the attitude will be ‘if the Black guy didn't talk about it, why should we'. ... If the president of color is not going to address the issue of racism, it almost makes it seem as though racism can't really be a problem,” Mr. Wise told The Final Call.

White backlash follows social progress

On one hand, noted Dr. Wilmer Leon, a Howard University professor and talk radio host, the year 2010 showed Blacks continue to make social and economic progress—like President Obama's election and NBA player LeBron James' multi-million dollar deal as a free agent.


‘‘Folks of color, and particularly Black folks, are being hit the hardest and that’s not all that unusual. ... But what makes it more complicated is that in this particular situation with a Black president, there’s a real question as to whether or not he feels politically as though he can do anything about that. It’s almost as if the problem of Black unemployment and Black economic depression is more off the table than ever.’
–Tim Wise, anti-racism activist and author

But the negative reaction to both men and their success show racism is alive and well in America, he said.

“Basically the ideological opposition, the just downright unwillingness of the Conservatives to work at all with this president has a lot to do with ideology but I think the additional hatred has to do with race,” he said.

“Then, LeBron James fulfills his seven year commitment with Cleveland, becomes a free agent, and then is vilified in Cleveland for making a business decision that's in his best interest.So that raises the question in my mind, when is a free agent not free?When he's African American,” Dr. Leon said.

Although President Obama really doesn't address race, Mr. Wise said, the president's opponents try to portray his every step as racial pay back. If the president is going to get attacked on race, he might as well speak about and address the issues, Mr. Wise argued.

Glenn Beck, conservative Fox TV talk show host, has charged President Obama set up universal healthcare, college opportunity, green jobs and payments to Black farmers for past discrimination as back-door reparations, and Rush Limbaugh, right wing talk radio host, called the president's economic program “reparations.”

“The general population and population of social justice activists led by people of color, led by Black folks are going to have to keep demanding these issues be kept on the table.I think that at this point there's very little to be lost from elevating these issues,” said Mr. Wise.

“If the base feels taken for granted, as I think many people do and understandably so, then this president isn't going to win re-election,” and that would have a rippling effect, Mr. Wise said.

Obama wins shouldn't be forgotten

According to Dr. Anthony Samad, an author and syndicated columnist, President Obama brought some positives like healthcare reform in 2010 and people should not let the right wing nor his other detractors bury such accomplishments.

Dr. Samad feels that a priority for Blacks should be the disappearance of work and failing education. In urban cities, he said, Black male unemployment ranks between 40-50 percent so Blacks will have to make work to sustain themselves.

“I also think that with education, this president has put more money in alternative education models than any other president in America, yet, it won't affect our children because the majority of them are still stuck in public education systems that are failing them significantly,” Dr. Samad said.

But since the majority of children receive public education, Blacks can't allow it to be disbanded, but must force education to be competitive, Dr. Samad said.

“Public education is going to get its money whether it produces an efficient outcome or not. For instance if you were to produce an inefficient outcome on your job, you wouldn't get paid because you would be producing an inferior product that no one would buy or you wouldn't be able to pass it off as best in its market. Yet we continually allow the majority of children in public education to fail,” he said.

In addition to improving education, said Ronald Hampton, former executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Black Police Association, the country must put a greater emphasis on police reform and police brutality in the next year.

2010 was like a tale of two cities, he said. “An off duty African American police officer was shot by White colleagues in Westchester County, N.Y. There were several cases in Mississippi, Florida, Atlanta, in Prince Georges County, Md., the student at Pace University, and of course, Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif.All of these things tend to keep coming up and I guess there's some expectation on our community's part that because we have an African American attorney general, and a new Justice Department, there's going to be much more aggressive enforcement in that area. But it's been very slow in terms of getting results,” Mr. Hampton said.

If 2011 is going to be a good year, then the country has to stem the tide of police abuse but it's not just enough to have a strong federal Department of Justice, he added. Local police departments have to hold rogue cops accountable, said Mr. Hampton.

“The other thing people have to remember is that entry into the criminal justice system is still arrests; and if we incarcerate more people than any other country, then we must be arresting more people too but what are the components? Why are we doing that? We prison reform activists are looking into the answers to these questions,” Mr. Hampton said.

The Democratic Party has received near unanimous support from Black voters but Blacks haven't gotten a good return and the party may have lost the will to fight. Dr. Greg Carr, chair of the Howard University Department of African American Studies, said, “What appears to be the unilateral disarmament of the Democratic Party at this year's end, really speaks to in some ways, the fact that 2010 may be less significant as a single year and more significant in terms of the arc of the last couple of years.

“The extension of the Bush tax cuts for example, really reveals that in many ways, the Obama administration, for all its relatively progressive work as it relates to healthcare, as it relates reform, still in many ways is following the arc of the previous administration, the Bush administration. In a lot of ways, 2010 has been an extension of a long descent into a kind of neo-liberal, corporation-run state that began in the late 1970s,” he said.

“Some of the things we saw for example this year, beginning of course in January with the tragedy in Haiti and the immediate deployment of finance capital to that island nation to ‘seize the opportunity'—in the words of Naomi Klein; to the campaign finance law that the Supreme Court decided on a Court that is decidedly tilted toward the kind of neo-liberal, if not conservative agenda, that opened up the way for the election results that we saw in November. What we saw was a continuing reiteration of the corporate state,” he said.

Though corporations had record profits massive unemployment remains, said the political scientist. “In fact, unemployment now, certainly the soaring unemployment, combined with the rise in income inequality, marked 2010 simply as the continuation of a long cycle of the concentration of wealth in this country in the hands of the super-rich, the ultra-rich.

“I think what we have to look forward to in 2011, however, is a real opportunity for people to organize and to come together as communities, to press, certainly the president, who now begins his campaign for re-election, to deal and address the fundamental questions of institutional authority,” said Dr. Leon.

“So I think that's what we've got to look forward to in 2011, organizing locally and in communities, to transform our communities and not really waiting on politicians. That is the lesson of Obama.”

Dr. Clarence Lusane, associate professor of International Studies at American University, gave the president a “B” grade for effort, but probably a “C” for achievement.

“I think that the Democrats in Congress, pushed by the president, were able to push through a large number of pieces of legislation. But on a number of areas, there were too many compromises, and I think there was too much timidity on the part of the White House, so it created the space for the extremism of the Republicans to push back. And I think the administration is going to have to use a much more aggressive kind of strategies for the next two years, because they're simply not going to get what they want by compromising,” he said.

“There's certainly a great deal of frustration by many of the people who supported the president. There were a number of promises that were made, big promises that have not been fulfilled. From closing Guantanamo, to ending the war in Afghanistan, to passing the kind of healthcare policies that the people who supported him wanted.

“I think there's going to be a great deal of work that has to be done to bring that constituency back into the fold, particularly among young people and among independents. I think those were the constituencies that disappeared in the 2010 elections.

“My biggest frustration, I think, is with the tone of the political discourse and that to me, seems to have been surrendered to the conservative side of the aisle. Discussions on poverty, on the poor, on interests of working people, on environmental health, all of these discussions have shifted to the right. And when there is a call for Obama to move to the center, the center itself is moving to the right,” said Dr. Lusane.

For some prominent members of the community, 2010 served as a wakeup call to Black America that economic independence is a necessary solution to address societal ills that have been hindrances for too long.

Nestled within the dark cloud of financial and economic despair and massive unemployment lays a silver lining, which is the growing realization that the “Do For Self” economic program and blueprint of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad is not only necessary, but is crucial for Black revitalization and community development, say many.

“Look, we have to be entrepreneurs, we have to start thinking about how do we cultivate our own money, cultivate our own food, cultivate our own positioning because once we start doing that then we realize that you know what, we don't need the government to save us,” said attorney and nationally syndicated Radio One talk show host Warren Ballentine. The popular media personality known as “the people's attorney,” a Chicago native, spent much of 2010 on the airwaves encouraging his listeners not only to pool their monetary resources, but to invest with one another as well.

“We don't need the approval of anybody else because we have enough educated and talented people in our own community to be able to provide for everything that we may want or need,” he told The Final Call in a telephone interview.

Through his encouragement, Mr. Ballentine's listening audience deposited over $800,000 in a Black-owned bank during the latter part of 2010. Unemployment, he said, has forced Blacks to come together and do business with one another.

Businessman and author George Fraser warned the economic situation is going to get worse before it gets better. So it is imperative that Blacks develop multiple streams of income, develop marketable skills and attend business conferences and workshops to develop business acumen, he advised. “This is the worst economic depression of our generation. I'm 65 years old, I've not seen it like this in my lifetime,” said Mr. Fraser, whose business network includes thousands of Black businesses and professionals. “You better have not only a plan A but you better have a plan B … You've got to think outside of the box and you've got to try new things.”

Dr. Na'im Akbar, clinical psychologist, said one of the realities that should have been learned in 2010 is Blacks cannot depend on outer society to solve problems. “We can't depend on the government, we can't depend on the president, be he Black or White, Republican or Democrat. We can't depend on anybody outside of our own selves to solve our issues as a people,” said Dr. Akbar to The Final Call.

By constantly trying to look for someone else to solve the problems that we have on a personal, economic or collective level we are going to always run into disappointment, he said.

“We are witnessing the manifestation and the unfolding of the proof of the prophesies of the truth brought to us by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad now through the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan that we must ‘Do For Self,' ” said attorney and general counsel for the Nation of Islam Abdul Arif Muhammad.

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X-MAS Comes with heavy price

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Dec 22, 2010 - 10:10:46 AM

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Shoppers make a frantic rush for the doors before sunrise on Black Friday at Wal Mart. Photo: MGN Online Courtesy: Gerry Mery
How high is the price to be paid for this spending and quite possibly going into debt under the guise of observing and celebrating the birth of Jesus, a divine and noble man, who according to biblical and historical scholars alike, was not even born in December?
( - Tis' the season to be broke. The so-called holiday season is once again upon us and despite a deep recession, continuing job losses and families struggling while living paycheck to paycheck, millions of Americans are preparing to deck the halls and empty their wallets, making retailers happy and credit card companies ecstatic.

While the 2010 overall sales for the “official kick off” to the holiday shopping season increased only 0.3 percent from 2009, retailers still raked in an estimated $10.69 billion, according to Chicago-based research firm Last year's sales totaled $10.66 billion. Sleigh bells and cash registers rang this year during “Black Friday Weekend” which included Thanksgiving Day through Sunday Nov. 28 that saw totals reach approximately $45 billion in sales.

An estimated 212 million shoppers visited stores or shopped online during the weekend, up from 195 million the previous year. “Some studies have shown that families spend about $1,300 on Christmas gifts, and over half of these generous families are still paying the bills months later,” noted one consumer website.

However, how high is the price to be paid for this spending and quite possibly going into debt under the guise of observing and celebrating the birth of Jesus, a divine and noble man, who according to biblical and historical scholars alike, was not even born in December?

And, while bestowing tokens of appreciation on friends and family is indeed a kind gesture, is the undue mental and emotional anxiety of not being able to afford presents, plus excess spending, adding more stress?

As joyous as this time of year is for many, to others, it can be disappointing, melancholy and even depressing. “For many people, the holidays bring on feelings of sadness and anxiety that can be hard to shake,” notes the University of Maryland Medical Center on its website. According to the National Mental Health Association, reasons for feeling blue around the holidays are numerous and include stress, fatigue, over-commercialization of the holiday, unrealistic expectations, financial constraints and the inability to be with family.

So if “the most wonderful time of the year” leaves people financially strapped and suffering from anxiety while celebrating an event that is historically and religiously inaccurate, then as both the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan so poignantly asked, “Whose Christmas” is it?

The so-called birthday of Jesus has been turned into a “commercial feast of foolishness,” said Min. Farrakhan. “Santa Claus has knocked Jesus out of the top spot and the merchants who don't even believe in Jesus are busy selling you foolishness, making themselves rich and you poor on the basis of a lie and that's why they call it X-mas because you don't know who it is that you are worshipping,” said Min. Farrakhan in one of his many historic lectures on this subject matter.

Jingle bells, retailers sell

“The Grinch” may be alive and well nationwide as payday lenders prey upon guilt-ridden parents by suggesting they take out loans for extra cash to pay for Christmas gifts. Online marketing campaigns are in full force, bombarding shoppers with ads touting: “With the Christmas season upon us, do you worry about having enough money to cope with the expenses from buying Christmas gifts for children and friends?” “Where can I find a loan for this Christmas to buy presents for my children?” and “Quick loans for the unemployed.” One site even suggests obtaining a loan to “contribute to your favorite Christmas charity,” while yet another boasts, “Clear your Christmas debt with a payday loan.”

However, as those who fall victim to these ploys are drinking eggnog and hanging stockings near the fireplace by the chimney with care, the payday companies are charging interest rates upward to 400 percent on these loans. “We go into hoc for presents as opposed to living below our means and investing the rest,” says George Fraser chairman and CEO of FraserNet Inc., a global leadership network dedicated to the economic and business training, empowerment and development of Black businesses.

“Keeping up with the Joneses,” and succumbing to the intense media driven machines, like television, have intensified the pressure to make unwise financial decisions during Christmas which is a way for us to assuage whatever pain we might be feeling, he adds. “It is very difficult to escape the messages, overt and covert of consuming and buying and here's what you must have,” Mr. Fraser told The Final Call.

“As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can't pass up,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation in a Nov. 28 press release. For many retailers, Christmas sales can account for as much as 40 to 50 percent of their annual sales and revenue and upwards to 80 percent of their overall profits.

Indeed, consumers with shopping lists in hand braved all kinds of weather to arrive at stores the day after Thanksgiving. According to many accounts, retailers opened earlier than in past years or were even open round-the clock as an enticement to those wanting to get a jump on “Black Friday” sales. Macy's, a national upscale retailer opened its doors at 4 a.m. at over 800 of their nationwide locations. The day after Black Friday weekend, known as “Cyber-Monday” was the biggest one-day online shopping day in history with consumers spending over $1.3 billion, up 16 percent from last year, say analysts.

And, while evidence shows many are cutting spending due to the weakened economy, the fact remains that people are still spending in many cases, what they do not have.

Photo: MGN Online
‘Most people never stop to ask themselves what the major symbols of Christmas—Santa Claus, reindeer, decorated trees, holly, mistletoe and the like—have to do with the birth of the Savior of mankind.’
—Online commentary by Jerold Aust

All I want for X-mas is sanity

Deep psychological wounds that Black people are dealing with because of lack of self-esteem make us look for material ways to satisfy what we feel is lacking during this time of year, observed Mr. Fraser. Noted clinical psychologist and author Dr. Na'im Akbar agrees and said the added stress manifests itself in destructive ways.

Christmas is one of the times of the year where the evidence of addiction to materialism becomes most evident and somehow as a society people are pathologically addicted to material ways of communicating what is felt and what we care about, said the acclaimed lecturer. “It's almost like we have to get a fix, it's almost like having to get a drug and the drug becomes being able to shop, being able to get gifts,” Dr. Akbar said in an interview with The Final Call. The stress to get that fix taken care of, he continued, is at its peak during this particular season.

There are psychological repercussions from the over-consumption and over-indulgence in the commercial aspects of Christmas, notes Dr. Akbar. “It's a compulsive or driven kind of thing, it isn't dealt with rationally so people will go out and spend more money than they have or will be getting anytime soon.”

As a result, people engage in behaviors that are completely irrational and self-destructive like continuing to put themselves in debt, said Dr. Akbar. “If there is something that stands in the way of this self-destructive behavior, we start feeling that we are not as good as other people; we begin to doubt our very integrity, which leads to depression,” he notes.

The added strain of the downward economy can lead some to engage in acts that under “normal” circumstances, one might avoid. On Dec. 16, reported a woman was arrested and is facing criminal charges for robbing a K-Mart to get gifts for her children. “During an interview, the woman admitted that she was having financial problems and stole the items to give to her children as Christmas presents,” reported the article.

People have to understand that money does not equal love, said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, economist and president of Bennett College for Women in a Final Call interview. Spending hundreds or thousands of dollars now and then in February when a bill is due, not being able to pay it is a consequence for not sticking with a budget, she explained.

People have bought into the self-indulgent commercialized aspect of Christmas so in some cases, basic common sense takes a backseat, says Dr. Akbar. “This is a period of frenetic activity, a time when people are trying to juggle work, an increase in social obligations, shopping, decorating, wrapping, entertaining and staying on budget and all this leads to a rise in both physical and emotional stress,” says

No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus

In a 2005 online commentary written by Jerold Aust, entitled “Why Some Christians Don't Celebrate Christmas,” he writes: “Most people never stop to ask themselves what the major symbols of Christmas—Santa Claus, reindeer, decorated trees, holly, mistletoe and the like—have to do with the birth of the Savior of mankind.” Mr. Aust, a Christian, goes on to say, “The fact is, and you can verify this in any number of books and encyclopedias that all these trappings came from ancient pagan festivals.”

Religious and secular scholars of various races and ethnicities are echoing the sentiment and facts brought to light decades ago by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad regarding the origins and truth of Christmas. Meanwhile, money hungry merchants continue tapping into the psyche of unsuspecting consumers who mean well, but continue perpetuating the Christmas myth of “Jolly Ole' Saint Nick.”

In his book, “Our Saviour Has Arrived,” Mr. Muhammad writes: “Jesus is garbed up and commercialized on by a world of evil and sin and you like this, my people—you love this now. You defy anyone, even God Himself, to try and remove your love of what is false.”


Blacks doubt death in small Southern town is a suicide--they want answers now

By Jesse Muhammad -Staff writer- | Last updated: Dec 14, 2010 - 2:57:58 PM

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Family, political leaders, activists want further investigation into hanging death of young man

The body of Frederick Jermaine Carter was found hanging from a tree and local authorities ruled the death a suicide. His family and Blacks, however, don't believe the young man took his own life.
( - The idea of a so-called post-racial America was widely discussed, debated and even seen as an achievement by some with Barack Obama's inauguration as president of the United States.

For Blacks in Greenwood, Mississippi, the notion that America has gotten beyond race isn't popular today. Many are angry over the recent mysterious hanging death of Frederick Jermaine Carter.

“This is 2010 and we still have Black people hanging from trees? They're saying he hung himself but I have doubt in my mind that he actually did that. That wasn't his character. This wasn't a suicide, this was a homicide,” said Sunflower, Miss., Mayor Michael Pembleton, Jr. to The Final Call.

The body of Mr. Carter, 26, was found Dec. 3 hanging from an oak tree in the predominately White North Greenwood area of Leflore County. The young man lived in neighboring Sunflower County, located several miles away.

Mr. Carter's stepfather told law enforcement that he was working in the area with his stepson when Mr. Carter wandered off.

County Sheriff Ricky Banks reportedly told the media the young man had a “mental condition and a history of wandering off.” He also publicly stated that he saw no signs at the scene pointing towards it being a crime or murder.

Mr. Banks said evidence shows Mr. Carter dragged an old frame of a nearby table, leaned it against the trunk of the tree and commenced to tying himself to the tree limb.

(L)Photos from the scene of the death, show the deceased and the area around where the body was found. (R) Some Blacks say police did not properly mark off the place where the 26-year-old died and may have allowed for contamination of the scene if foul play occurred.
“The frame probably broke, possibly because Carter kicked it out from under himself,” Mr. Banks told reporters.

The preliminary autopsy results by the Leflore County Coroner's Office declared it a suicide.

The deceased man's family and community leaders don't accept the official explanations and are calling for further investigation.

“Because there has been no investigation on the part of the local officials into this as a crime, we're calling on the federal government to conduct an independent investigation. We want the U.S. Justice department to look into this,” attorney Valerie Hicks Powe told The Final Call in a phone interview on Dec. 13.

Ms. Powe, who is based in Birmingham, Ala., is the spokesperson for the victim's family. “A crime scene was never established. They never roped the scene off and this has not been treated as a crime. There is no reason to believe that he would commit suicide. We appreciate attention being brought to this because we need an outcry from the people,” she said.

Funeral services for Mr. Carter were scheduled for Dec. 18 at Ark of The Covenant Church in Moorhead, Miss.

One of the most gruesome lynchings in U.S history took place in Money, Miss., which approximately 10 miles north of Greenwood. In August 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten, shot in the head, his eyes gouged out, and thrown into theTallahatchie Riverwith acotton ginfan tied around his neck with barbed wire after accusations of whistling a White woman. Two White males were acquitted in the case while the boy's mother held an open casket funeral that made national deadlines. It was also a watershed moment for the civil rights movement as the horror the Southern violence and brutality was put before the world.

Unanswered questions and appeals for outside help

Loved one and relatives want answers to questions about the death of Mr. Carter and the story thus far does not ring true, they say.“He didn't have a mental problem. His problem was he tended to not defend himself against others in conflict but he wouldn't kill himself. The family is requesting a second autopsy and want to also have an autopsy done by someone out of the state of Mississippi,” says Mr. Pembleton, who is also a cousin of the victim.

State Senator David Jordan was able to obtain gruesome photos of Mr. Carter's body hanging from the tree. He went to the scene himself and is also skeptical of what is being reported.

Photos of the tree and location where Frederick Jermaine Carter was found hung in Greenwood, Miss.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions. He reportedly had rope in his pocket but didn't have anything to cut it with? Why wasn't the scene of the crime blocked off? That tree limb is nearly 12 feet high. I'm 6'2 and I can't see how I could maneuver to do that so how could a boy his height hang himself like that?” asks Mr. Jordan, who is also a Greenwood City Councilman.

Mr. Jordan met with the victim's mother, Brenda Carter, when he obtained the photos of her son. “She told me her son loved life too much to take his life. We want another autopsy now,” he said.

Wendol Lee, president of the Memphis-based Operation Help Civil Rights Group, said some 300 residents petitioned his group to get involved because of “paranoia related to the history of lynching.”

“The area where he was found hanging is an area that Black people do not go into according to what residents have told us. Blacks get harassed and stopped by the police in that area so why would this young man go way over there to kill himself? We believe someone took him over there and killed him,” said Mr. Lee, who also works with the National Action Network.

Mr. Lee's group has been on the ground interviewing residents, who he also says do not believe Mr. Carter would take his own life. “He was a good young man who was seen always helping the children,” he added.

On Dec. 9, Mr. Lee's group led a press conference with the family in Greenwood to express dissatisfaction with the investigation and issue his group's call for a national federal probe.

“We know Whites that are in power in Mississippi have never shown favor to Blacks. We're reaching out to Attorney General Eric Holder to order an investigation on the federal level because we're getting conflicting statements from the police,” said Mr. Lee.

Following the press conference, Mr. Lee said they went back to the scene and found what could possibly be “an extra set of footprints. We're leaning towards that this was a killing because everyone we talked to has never seen Frederick in that area before until his body was found,” he noted.

Ground photo of high tree where Frederick's body was found.
“How did he (Mr. Carter) get out there so far? That's a serious question. I'm concerned about the way the knot was tied around his neck. That's a very particular type of knot that you don't see Black people walking around with,” said Larry Muhammad, Nation of Islam representative in Greenville, Miss.

A major protest in Greenwood maybe brewing, according to Mr. Lee. “This is not the old days. You can't just hang Black people today and think nothing is going to happen. If need be, we're going to invite Al Sharpton to get involved. We going to get ready to shake up this town!” vowed Mr. Lee.

Leflore County Supervisor Preston Ratliff is questioning the reported suicide as well. “I have not made many public statements because I'm still waiting for more information but I do think it is strange that he would hang himself in such a remote area. The mere fact that a Black man is found hanging in a White neighborhood is disturbing based on the history of the Delta,” he said.

According to Mr. Ratliff, Leflore County is approximately 65 percent Black and 35 percent White in population. He doesn't deny the racial problems in his area but points out that it's not as bad as it used to be.

“It's better than people think, but we still have a long way to go. I simply want the truth to come out in this hanging. If it is proven that this is the result of foul play, then those who are responsible need to be found,” said Mr. Ratliff.

“What attracted my attention was that it took place in this big field in a White community. I went to the scene and I didn't see any evidence that a struggle took place. The first autopsy says suicide but nobody believes that is the case,” said Dr. Eddie Carthan, who heads Good Samaritan Ecumenical Church in Tchula, Miss.

“I'm striving to look at this objectively. Right now we're not sure and we're still investigating,” he said.

“There is no sign that we could find whatsoever that anyone else was involved. I haven't seen anything to change my mind, and I'm looking really hard,” said Sheriff Banks to the media.

Blacks in the area don't see it the same way. “We can't have a young, Black man hanging and we just go back to business as usual. We can't sit by and let this go (on). People want stuff like this to get swept under the rug,” countered Mr. Jordan.


Food, urban farms and our survival

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Dec 7, 2010 - 11:46:55 AM

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With Blacks caught between no food and bad food, movement seeks to save lives

Participants at a Growing Power workshop. Photos: Courtesy of Growing Power
( - People tend to eat where it is easy and convenient to get food—regardless of the nutritional benefits—contributing to high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, certain cancers and other maladies striking Blacks at alarming rates.

Studies show in poor and predominately Black neighborhoods, there is often greater access to “convenience” stores and fast food chains than to full service grocery stores.

“Anyone who has shopped for food in a poor urban neighborhood, in Oakland or elsewhere, knows how it goes: Twenty varieties of malt liquor, potato chips, and frozen burritos and one bruised-up, waxy apple,” noted an article on A 2009 study conducted by Hope Collaborative, found in a poor Oakland community one run-down supermarket but 32 liquor stores in one zip code.

Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, Inc.
“To see our people in all of the convenience stores in our community, all of them have a bunch of garbage, there's no fresh fruit, no fresh vegetables,” Chicago resident and community activist Derek Covington told The Final Call.

Lack of availability and access to healthy and nutritious foods, an overall food shortage and its correlation to sickness, disease and even death has sparked a need for a united effort to address these critical issues.

Activists, educators, religious institutions, non-profit organizations and ordinary citizens are tackling what has been deemed America's “urban food and health crisis” head-on by planting community gardens block by block in backyards, vacant lots, parks, front stoops, rooftops, windowsills or any available patch of open space.

Hoop house construction. (lower) Growing Power staff and volunteers install a garden.
Seeing children with bags of potato chips and hot Cheetos for breakfast as opposed to an apple or banana is one of the reasons Mr. Covington supports community gardening. “And then we're constantly worried about our cost of living but it would take us maybe $2 to plant a year's worth of charred spinach or squash.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2007, 36.2 million U.S. households were considered food insecure, that number increased to 49.1 million in 2008. The USDA defines food insecurity as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. The national average of food insecure households in 2008 was 14.6 percent and the numbers vary by household type with Black and Latino households at 25.7 and 26.9 percent respectively.

Growing tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and fresh herbs in the midst of bricks and concrete of a bustling metropolis, is not only feasible, but according to urban agriculturalists, this sustainable agriculture movement is the only way to combat a growing food and health crisis in this country.

Poor communities not only lack access to healthy food but in many cases there is little to no food available.

“There has never been a greater social and environmental need for community gardening,” shared Vicki Garrett, an organic gardener and projects coordinator of the American Community Gardening Association, based in Columbus, Ohio. The economic situation is leading to more hungry people. Food pantries and homeless shelters are struggling to keep up, said Ms. Garrett in an e-mail to The Final Call.

Urban food deserts and food injustice

“Food is the next frontier of the civil rights movement,” said Erika Allen of Growing Power Inc., in a recent online interview. Growing Power, a national non-profit organization headquartered in Milwaukee, is helping communities develop food centers and systems nationally and internationally through alternative growing methods.

Nationwide, in many poor, predominately-Black neighborhoods the nearest grocery store can be blocks or miles away, leaving few or no options for decent food. The phrase “food deserts” has been coined to describe these areas.

“Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago,” a 2006 report published by the Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group defines a food desert as a large geographic area with no or distant grocery stores.

In examining Chicago, the report found over 600,000 people, mostly Black, lived in these food deserts and on average travelled the farthest distance to any type of grocery store. “Chicago's food deserts, for the most part, are exclusively African-American,” said the report.

A similar study done for Detroit in 2007, noted “over half a million Detroit residents live in areas that have an imbalance of health food options.” Detroit is nearly 82 percent Black. In Birmingham, Ala., which is over 73 percent Black, 88,000 people lived in food deserts.

The Gallagher report stated that in a typical predominately Black block in Chicago, the nearest grocery store is nearly twice the distance as the nearest fast food restaurant. “This means that, for African-Americans, it is much easier to access fast food than other types of food. Following a doctor's dietary recommendation is likely very difficult for the half million plus African-Americans who live in the 287 worst grocery-store-access tracts,” continued the report.

A follow-up report released in September said the number of people residing in Chicago area food deserts had decreased but that they remained large, affecting roughly 550,000 people today. Ms. Gallagher explains there are lessons to be learned from the food desert studies that in turn, can help formulate solutions.

There is not one single problem creating food deserts and therefore not one single solution, which is good news, because it means everybody can work toward a solution, said Ms. Gallagher to The Final Call. “It's not all about plopping in a big grocery store or chain store and besides those projects take a long time, so we want to make sure there are a myriad of solutions including non-traditional solutions being advanced.”

However, while Ms. Gallagher calls community gardens “important” she says they are not a year round grocery store solution. However, Dallas-based Gardeners In Community Development on its website notes that urban agriculture is three to five times more productive per acre than traditional large-scale farming and community gardens donate thousands of pounds of fresh produce to food pantries and involve people in processes that provide food security and alleviate hunger.

Residents of food deserts suffer the worst diet related problems say experts, therefore people must begin to take their health seriously and take steps to grow foods on their own, or through collaborative community efforts.

Poor diet, inferior foods equal sickness, increased care costs

People living in neighborhoods crowded with fast food and convenience stores but relatively few grocery or produce outlets are at significantly higher risk of suffering from obesity and diabetes, says the UCLA Center For Health Policy Research.

For Blacks in America, it is cause for greater alarm as statistics reflect that although making up only 13 percent of the population, Black adults are twice as likely to be diagnosed and suffer from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity, all of which can be reduced dramatically by healthier eating and lifestyle change.

In 2008 obesity-related healthcare costs were approximately $147 billion. According to some estimates, that number could potentially escalate to $344 billion per year by 2018, or roughly 21 percent of total U.S. health costs. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control suggests that in adults, Blacks have a 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity than Whites. For youth, the prevalence for obesity among Blacks ages 12 to 19 increased from 38.7 percent in 2001-2002 to 49 percent in 2008-2009.

Let's Move, the national campaign to combat childhood obesity, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama has become her personal crusade to address this issue. “Most folks don't grow their own food the way many of our parents and grandparents did.A lot of folks also just don't have the time to cook at home on a regular basis.So instead, they wind up grabbing fast food or something from the corner store or the mini-mart—places that have few, if any, healthy options,” said Mrs. Obama to the NAACP National Convention in Kansas City, Mo., earlier this year.

Among the several recommendations the Let's Move task force endorses is the planting of community gardens. Mrs. Obama, leading by example, helped plant a vegetable garden with D.C. area youth on the grounds of the White House in 2009.

Back to nature and better health

“I look at gardening as a way to help save our people, point blank,” notes Nathan Muhammad, a self-described agricultural engineer whose company specializes in the design and installation of gardens for corporate and residential clients.

Urban gardening or sustainable agriculture is becoming increasingly important because our reliance on outside interests and conglomerate retailers put a very vital need in jeopardy, he explained.

“There is a need for environmentally-conscious community members to become involved in sustainable gardening or agriculture projects in their neighborhoods,” Mr. Muhammad told The Final Call. The interest and popularity of gardening is also on the rise observe some.

According to Vicki Garrett, new membership in the American Community Gardening Association, has almost doubled over the last year and e-mails and phone calls have increased around 20 percent. “Web hits in 2008 were listed as 17,000 per month and they've been around 350,000 per month recently,” said Ms. Garrett.

Fifteen percent of the world's food is now grown in urban areas, said the United States Department of Agriculture. According to one source, there are as many as 18,000 community gardens in the U.S. and Canada alone, which can yield $500 to $1,200 worth of produce per year for a single family.

A personal or community garden is a way for people, especially the poor, to become more self-sufficient said Mr. Muhammad and though it takes work, the benefits are well worth it. People can begin with a small container garden or planting herbs and even vegetables in small pots. Neither option takes up much space and “it's no harder than maintaining a flower bed,” Mr. Muhammad explained.

Those who grow their own food have an added sense of security about what is going into their body for optimum health, say community garden advocates.

“Even before the economy became so bad, poor quality food from anonymous producers led to consumer concern about the sources of their food,” noted Ms. Garrett.

In volume 2 of his groundbreaking book, “How To Eat To Live,” the Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes, “There is no question. If we eat right, we live. If we eat the wrong foods, it shortens our lives,” said the patriarch of the Nation Of Islam. Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan is deeply concerned about the lack of access to healthy food and poor health in the Black community and recently declared 2011 the “year of the farm.” The Nation of Islam will focus on developing an independent sustainable way of providing healthy food through farming and gardening.

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Bus tour exposes extreme poverty in Mississippi

By Alisha Tillery | Last updated: Dec 3, 2010 - 8:54:11 AM

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This is a house in Mississippi that was formerly inhabited where the residents lived in extreme poverty. Photos: Ansar El
LAMBART, Miss. ( - A colorful backpack and toy truck lay on the floor of a vacant dilapidated house, proof that a young child once lived there.

The house had no gas or electricity, nor windows to keep the cold air out. Much of the roof had caved in; spilling into the inside of the home, and the front door was hanging off of the hinges. The floors were pulled up, with visible signs of mold on the walls.

The home looked no different when the Browns, a family of four, were living there just a year ago.

These were just some of the conditions exposed during the second annual Poverty Awareness Tour, sponsored by the Nation of Islam Southaven Study Group in Southaven, Miss. and non-profit, Gathering of Hearts. The tour enables the public to see poverty firsthand throughout the Mississippi Delta. The Delta lies in northwest region of the state between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers, and is known for its deep southern culture, historical value and poverty.

This year's tour stops included the towns of Lambert, Webb and Glendora. In addition to seeing the towns, participants had the opportunity to give back to individuals and families in need. Over 60 people attended, including Muslims from Atlanta, Ga., Memphis, Tenn. and Chicago, Ill.

Gathering of Hearts' mission is to raise awareness about poverty in the Mississippi Delta. It was founded by genealogist Antoinette Harrell, known for research and advocacy against neo-slavery and desolate living conditions in Mississippi and rural Louisiana. For nearly 10 years, she has educated people on the ills of the Deep South through tours, YouTube videos and most recently, a DVD titled “The Untold Story: Slavery in the 20th Century.”

According to Ms. Harrell's research, peonage documents in the National Archives and Records Administration indicate that historical slavery was being reported up to 1973, over a century after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. “The Freedmen's Labor Contract came in 1866. These children who were bound by those contracts by making an ‘x' in 1866, for 40 years their children were born on these plantations.”

Historical involuntary servitude could be an indirect cause of poverty in Mississippi. A September 2010 Census Bureau report indicates that Mississippi's poverty rate is the highest in the country, with 21.9 percent of its residents living below the poverty level. The figures are up from 18.1 percent in 2008. The poverty rate for Mississippi children is 31.9 percent, up from 23.5 percent the previous year.

“The people of the Mississippi Delta have suffered for a long time. Many of them are former sharecroppers themselves and descendents of sharecroppers,” says Ms. Harrell. “They may be poor in material things, but they are rich in love for one another. The Father says the greatest commandment is to love one another, and we're here to bear witness to that love that He speaks of,” says Ms. Harrell.

Sis. Betsy Jean Farrakhan embraces resident Wade Brown, who used to live in the house pictured on the left.
Wade Brown, husband and father of two young daughters, is just one of many Ms. Harrell, along with the Muslims in the Southaven Study Group, has helped. His family lived in their home for 10 years without consistent utilities and proper insulation. “It rained in every room in the house,” he says. “We usually used a hot plate to cook. We survived, we struggled, but we made it through that.”

Ms. Harrell attributes people still living in extreme impoverished areas to families left behind during the Great Migration, and political and economic corruption.

“When I started peonage research 10 years ago, I found generations of families that didn't migrate to the north. They couldn't go,” she says. “You can't help but feel emotional about the corruption, the criminal injustice of those who made their money and wealth off those who couldn't read, couldn't write and didn't have any way out.

She adds, “It was a clever plan by the powers that be—political forces, business people, a combination—that made sure that this best kept secret in America was just that.”

Last year Gathering of Hearts and the Southaven Study Group partnered to raise funds for the Browns' housing. Currently, the Browns are living with a family member. During the tour, Lambert's mayor, Cornelius Conley, agreed to clear the vacant home, a longtime eyesore in the town, within a month.

The Nation of Islam's involvement in poverty awareness stretches beyond the tour. The Southaven Study Group took part in the Poor People's Campaign 2009 in Lambert. As a result, the delegation has continued to reach out to families, visiting them and providing them with necessities several times over the last year.

Abdullah Yasin Muhammad, a son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad attended the tour. He says, “The core mission of the Nation of Islam is to lift up the poor.”

He adds, “However the term ‘poor' can refer to those who have money or means, but an impoverished heart can render us as the poorest of the poor that the scripture refers to as ‘dead.' ”

Making a Difference

On a dirt road in Webb, Miss., Calvinisha Greer, 12, modeled a new coat sure to keep her warm this winter, one of many items donated during the tour.

In addition to advocating on behalf of impoverished families, the two organizations provide assistance, distributing turkeys, clothing and school supplies to them.

Dorothy Jean Fultz is a part of one of the six families who live on the dirt road in tiny wooden rental houses, similar to shacks, for $135 a month. The water use is sometimes limited, and there is only a small gas generator to warm her home. She has been living there for nearly 10 years, but fears she will have to find alternate housing soon. She expressed her gratitude for the food and personal items, “I'm glad someone's taking interest in helping us.”

Ms. Fultz could thank Louis Ross of Washington, D.C. After reading about Ms. Harrell's research on poverty in The Final Call, Mr. Ross contacted her about outreach, but a picture of a young girl living in poverty really prompted him to act.

“I didn't want to get involved from a public standpoint, just hide behind the scenes,” he says. “I sent an email and said, ‘We don't have a lot of time to procrastinate.' ” Mr. Ross solicited donations, filled a U-Haul truck with blankets, shoes, books and clothing items and drove to Mississippi to attend the tour.

Betsy Jean Farrakhan, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's eldest daughter, also attended the tour. She and Abdullah Yasin Muhammad were both hands-on, helping to distribute supplies to families. “I saw more love and unity among those people in that inhuman condition than I do in the streets of Chicago, New York or Los Angeles,” says Mr. Muhammad.

Light in Darkness

The Glendora Cyber Mall was empty, but soon filled with residents awaiting early holiday gifts. Thirty families received turkeys for holiday dinners, as well as school supplies for their children and copies of “A Message to the Black Man,” written by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad as a tool of enlightenment and upliftment.

The donations received served as a bright spot on the town, nationally noted as the place of Emmet Till's shocking death in 1955.

Glendora mayor Johnny Thomas described his town as “humble,” with a population of only 285, a skyrocketing unemployment rate and no current profitable industry to benefit their economy. As of September 2010, the unemployment rate in Tallahatchie County was 10 percent, reaching a year high of 13.5 percent in July, according to the U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics via the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Courtney Wills, a 24-year-old native and resident agrees with the numbers. He's a father of two children, and like hundreds of others in Glendora, experienced an extended stint of unemployment. “It was hard for me to buy food, clothes and feed the whole family. I cried for a long time.”

Mr. Wills eventually obtained a job and is now a freshman business major at Mississippi Valley State University. In addition, Mayor Thomas revealed plans for expansion of the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center in hopes of capitalizing on tourism and sharing the true story of the heinous hate crime.

Continuing the Activism

After the tour was completed, hearts were heavy, yet full from service. “It served as a powerful reminder to how much harder we have to work to free a slave and feed those who are hungry, as well as teach those who are destroyed from a lack of knowledge,” says Abdullah Yasin Muhammad.

Southaven Study Group coordinator Tedarrell Muhammad says even though relationships have been built with families in the Mississippi Delta, more work will be done. The Study Group's long-term goal is to continue the annual poverty tours to attract more supporters and identify eight to 20 needy families and renovate or provide housing.

“Our goal is to make that tour bus a classroom,” he says. “The more people who know, the more help we can get.”

He adds, “Our goal is make them aware of what's really happening to our people right now in America, who are still living in third world conditions and still in a plantation mentality.”

Tedarrell Muhammad says the Muslims in the Southaven Study Group plan to return to Mississippi, as early as Christmas to donate more food. “We can always give; we can help others.”

Related news:

Poverty on the rise in America (FCN, 12-03-2010)