Newswire : Diverse rural farmer and community groups praise bipartisan Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill

Two national organizations representing thousands of rural farmers and communities today commended the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 released by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Friday. The Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) applaud the Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts, and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow for the bipartisan bill. While the bill stops short of fundamental changes to provide a fair price to all producers, it contains important provisions to address the dairy crisis; protects and expands equity for tribal, historically underserved, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers; and preserves the integrity of nutrition programs. The bill also makes two critical updates to farm credit programs to benefit family farmers.

At a moment when dairy farmers are receiving prices as low as 30 percent below the cost of production, the Senate farm bill takes an important first step towards improving those prices for by establishing a Class 1 Fluid Milk donation program. The program will provide $5 billion per year to reimburse dairy farmers who make donations to non-profit feeding programs.

Wisconsin dairy farmer and NFFC board president Jim Goodman noted, “The inclusion of a fluid milk donation program in the Senate farm bill will help two groups of people in need: dairy farmers who have been trying to survive on milk prices that are well below cost of production and people who cannot afford to put food on the table. Many people struggling with food insecurity are working, many are children – and some are farmers themselves. The dairy donation program will provide significant relief to all of these populations.”

Two credit provisions in the Senate bill will bring further relief to farmers facing today’s credit crisis. The provisions offer new favorable loan servicing options to help farm families preserve farmland and avoid foreclosure, as well as expanding eligibility for emergency loans following a catastrophe such as a drought or flood.

“NFFC and Rural Coalition have fought for equitable farm credit since our work on the 1987 Agricultural Credit Act, which slowed the 1980s farm crisis,” said Savonala Horne, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Black Farmers Land Loss Prevention Project, a board member of both organizations. “These critical but common sense changes to the law will keep more family farmers on the land through the challenges rural America is again facing today.”

The bill also strengthens equity for tribal farmers and food systems and invests in programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers. It is notable for measures to strengthen and fund programs to assist small farmers and grow local food and farm systems. Among these is the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (OASDVFR), which has struggled for funding since it was first authorized in 1990, and since military veteran farmers and ranchers were added in 2014. The Senate bill links OASDVFR with the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program and strengthens and provides permanent authority to both programs. Under the new bill, the programs would equally share permanent direct funding of $50 million.

“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” said Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert, based in rural Alabama.

Rural Coalition and NFFC further commend Senators Roberts and Stabenow for a farm bill package that, unlike its counterpart in the House of Representatives, takes a strong bipartisan stance on ensuring food access for all communities, by retaining funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It also increases support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiative to strengthen local food systems.

For additional commentary and analysis on the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, visit www.nffc.net and https://www.ruralco.org/.

The Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural is an alliance of farmers, farmworkers, indigenous, migrant, and working people from the United States, Mexico, Canada, and beyond working together toward a new society that values unity, hope, people, and land.

NFFC unites and strengthens the voices and actions of its diverse grassroots member organizations in 30 states to demand viable livelihoods for family farmers, safe and healthy food for everyone, and economically and environmentally sound rural communities.

School board presents report on Stakeholders Survey regarding superintendent’s search

At its monthly meeting, held Monday, April 15, 2019, the Greene County Board of Education received an initial report from Alabama Association of School Boards consultant Dr. Linda Ingram, on the surveys conducted regarding the board’s superintendent search. Dr. Ingram reported that the 90+ respondents of students, board employees, parents and general community who completed the Stakeholders Survey focused on student achievement as a primary expectation of the new school superintendent. The survey results also indicated that a high majority of all respondents preferred that the board select a qualified person not currently employed with the Greene County School System; a high majority felt that the superintendent did not have to hold a doctorate degree but should have previous administrative experience; and that the superintendent should be articulate and able to communicate with different groups of people. The complete survey results of all the respondent categories will be made available to the public on the school system’s website. To access the website, go to greene.k12.al.us.
The dateline for applying for the superintendent’s position with the Greene County Schools is Friday, April 19. The applicants will be screened, with qualification, background and reference checks by AASB. The finalists will be submitted to the board by April 30. Individual interviews will be arranged beginning May 6. The board will conduct public interviews of the candidates and make the final decision.
Among the administrative items acted on, the board approved the sale of the former Paramount Jr. High School with specific acreage to the Town of Boligee. Action on the sale of Mt. Hebron Pre-school to the Mt. Hebron Community Coalition was postponed pending additional information.
The board acted on the following personnel items:

  • Approved resignations of Mary Henderson, as Part-time Secretary, Greene County Career Center, effective April 26, 2019; Elroy Skinner, as Math Teacher, Greene County High School, effective May 24, 2019.
    *Approved retirement of Lillian Lewis, as Librarian, Greene County High School, effective May 24, 2019.
  • Approved employment of Twelia Morris, as Part-time Secretary at Greene County Career Center, and Part-time Secretary at Robert Brown Middle School.
  • Approved re-hiring Latoya Consentine, as School Bus Driver, Department of Transportation.
  • Approved Family Medical Leaves for Sigfried Williams, Music Teacher, Greene County High School, beginning April 8, 2019, through April 29, 2019; Michael Bolton, Bus Driver, Department of Transportation, beginning March 29, 2019 through May 6, 2019.
  • Approved supplemental contract for Siegfried Williams for duties performed outside regular contract.
    In other business the board approved health policies; declared an emergency for boiler replacement at Robert Brown Middle School; approved request by Mr. Fredrick Square to attend National Conference on School Safety; approved payment of all bills, claims and payroll; approved implementing a computer science course as a requirement for all students graduating from Greene County High School, commencing with 2019-2020 School year.

SOS plans rally at Statehouse in Montgomery on April 30th to push for Medicaid Expansion in Alabama

State Senator Malika Sanders Fortier address press conference. Others present on stage (L to R) are: Robyn Hyden, Karen Jones, John Zippert, Mayor Johnny Ford, Jeanette Thomas, Martha Morgan, Jeffrey Jones and Shelley Fearson.

Montgomery, AL – Members of Alabama SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, held a news conference today, Thursday, April 11, at 12:00 p.m. the 3rd Floor Press Room of the Alabama State House to address the dire need for expansion of Medicaid in Alabama.
John Zippert, Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee said: “We are planning a rally at the Alabama State House for Tuesday, April 30, 2019 to alert the Governor, the Legislature and the public to the importance of acting to expand Medicaid immediately.”
He went on to say, “We have to do more to bring about Medicaid expansion in Alabama. Lives literally are depending upon it. Whatever it is required, we have to do it because citizens are dying, hospitals are closing, and access to medical care is diminishing. It is not enough to talk anymore. We have to do more, and SOS will do more.”
“Expanding Medicaid to reach the working poor will help 300,000 people who are currently uninsured to gain coverage. Currently, these folks fall in a gap between being not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid and not rich enough to qualify for insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Expanding Medicaid to serve this group will also be an economic development program to provide 30,000 new jobs in health care and related fields. It will touch every county in the state,” said Zippert.
Johnny Ford, Co-Chair of the SOS Health Committee and Founder and Leader of the World Conference of Mayors said: “We have given the Governor and the Legislature every opportunity to expand Medicaid. They not only have failed. They never tried. In the meantime, people keep dying and hospitals keep closing.
“We have to do everything in our power to move the Governor and everyone who is involved to implement Medicaid expansion in our state,” said Ford, who is also Board Chair of the National Black Leadership Commission on Health.
Robyn Hyden, Director of Alabama Arise, said: “There are several options to fund Medicaid expansion. Removing the federal income tax deduction for Alabama taxpayers, for example, would generate $719 million in new income tax revenue. This deduction primarily benefits people in the top 20 percent of taxpayers. This would allow the state to not only fund Medicaid expansion, but would also allow the state to remove the sales tax on groceries.”
Senator Malika Sanders Fortier said: “Health care is even more important than public education. Education helps us to live better. Health care helps us to live. I am calling upon everyone in a leadership position to move to implement Medicaid expansion right now. It is a matter of life or death in Alabama.”
SOS is comprised of more than 40 statewide Alabama organizations committed to justice and democracy. Other SOS members who spoke at the press conference included Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan of Tuscaloosa County, Karen Jones of Montgomery, Faya Toure of Selma and Jeffrey Jones of Mobile.
Persons interested in participating in the rally should contact the SOS office through: alabamanewsouth.org or by calling 334-262-0933.

Newswire : Sudanese demands for a civilian government remain firm

Sudanese women celebrate the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir

Apr. 15, 2019 (GIN) – Protests that began over the skyrocketing price of bread and shortages of food and fuel have accomplished what few people believed was possible in a country ruled by a leader with an iron fist.

A Sudanese people’s movement was born on the streets of Khartoum. Hundreds of thousands of women and men hunkered down and braved attacks by anti-riot police.

“The scale of the protests is unprecedented,” Shawgi Mahadi Mustafa, a Sudanese journalist based in Qatar, marveled. Troops that once turned back opponents with ease were unable to clear a sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum.

This month, the hardline president, Omar al-Bashir, was forced to step down after three decades in power but a tough military man was put in his place. Demonstrators held the line, saying they would continue the rallies until a civilian leadership was installed.

The protesters are demanding a quicker move than the military’s announced two-year transition to an elected government.

One demonstrator, Ala’a Salah, told the Voice of America she was skeptical that the military would hand over power.

When Bashir’s regime came to power, she recalled, it was under similar circumstances. “They gave promises that they didn’t fulfill,” she said. “We need proof, not only talk, and we’re staying until our demands are fulfilled.”

The military’s transitional leadership has changed twice since it said Bashir had been placed under house arrest. Among those detained are his former interior minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, and former head of the ruling party Ahmed Haroun. The three men are all wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes related to atrocities in Darfur.

Last week, the military council appointed Hashem Abdel Muttalib as army chief of staff, and said the move was aimed at changing the military. Hashem was appointed by Bashir in February as vice-chief of army staff.

But the protesters appear determined to remain in the streets, unconvinced that the military is fully on their side.

The main protest organizer, the Sudanese Professionals Association, has called for more people to join the demonstrations and the demands for civilian rule.

Newswire : Senator Doug Jones asks IRS to explain disproportionate targeting of minorities for tax audits

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) has sent a letter to Commissioner Charles Rettig of the Internal Revenue Service calling for answers about a recent report that revealed that African Americans are audited by the IRS more than any other group.Jones also noted a report that showed people in more rural, low-income areas of the country were being audited at disproportionately high rates.

Further, a study of recent audit data suggested that taxpayers in nearly every county in Alabama were audited at a rate higher than the national average, and the rate was even higher in areas of the Black Belt.
“To concentrate so exclusively on this subset of taxpayers defies explanation,” Jones wrote in the April 4 letter to the IRS.
“For example, in Greene County, Alabama (population, 8,330), with a median household income of less than $21,000, it appears that taxpayers are audited over 40 percent more often than the national average, including areas that are much more urban and wealthy,” he said.
“For comparison, Bergen County, New Jersey, with a median population of nearly 1 million residents, and a median household income of over $90,000, has an audit rate that matches the national average,” Jones said.
In his letter, Jones called it no anomaly. The chances of an IRS audit seem to correlate nearly exactly with the taxpayer’s proximity to either the rural Southeast or, in several stark cases, to Native American reservations.
According to IRS statistics, the annual “tax gap,” or the gross gap between total taxes owed and total taxes paid on time was over $450 billion.
“To take such a large portion of limited IRS resources and to focus them so intensely on rural communities in Alabama and the Southeast makes little fiscal sense. Moreover, the practice appears to be blatantly discriminatory,” he said.
In an effort to focus its resources and ensure fair treatment of all taxpayers, Jones said he believes the IRS should undertake a full and thorough review of the policies and practices that led to such a disparate geographic impact of its annual audits.
“Given the overwhelming focus on my constituents in the state of Alabama, I would request you respond to the following questions:
· Does the IRS have any official policy dictating that low-income or rural geographic areas be subjected to increased audit rates?
· Does the IRS, in any manner, consider the taxpayer’s address in determining whether to conduct an audit?
· Has the IRS conducted a study or analysis on the fiscal impact of its current practice of geographically concentrating audits versus the fiscal impact of a system that resulted in more evenly dispersed audits?
· Similarly, has the IRS conducted a study or analysis on the fiscal impact of its current practice concentrating audits in low-income and rural communities versus the fiscal impact of a system that resulted in audits being conducted in geographic proportion to the amount of expected tax revenue?
· Has the IRS conducted a study or analysis on the impact of increasing pre-filing education or tax filing assistance in the communities currently oversampled for tax audits, and the effect this education or filing assistance may have on reducing employee hours spent on subsequent audits?

Newswire : Suspect arrested in case of three church fires in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Louisiana Black church burning

A man arrested in connection with the Louisiana Black church fires is a law enforcement official’s son, reports say. When he was arraigned this past week, the judge denied his request for bail based on the severity and impact of his crimes.
A 21-year-old named Holden Matthews has been arrested in connection with fires at three predominantly Black churches in Louisiana. All three churches were destroyed. Matthews’ social media accounts evidenced loose connections with white supremacy.
St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre burned down on March 26. On April 2, the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana was burned down. Two days after that fire on April 4, the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church was also burned in the same town. Authorities are confident that the fires were all intentionally set.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus asked for the FBI to investigate the arsons as a hate crime.
“Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, and Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana’s Second Congressional District call on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and all federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the possible hate crime that resulted in the recent burning of the three historically Black churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. All three fires may be the product of domestic terrorism, and places of worship should be protected and safe at all times. It is our expectation that the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies work expeditiously to resolve this matter to restore faith and normalcy among the residents of St. Landry Parish,” the CBC members stated in a statement on April 11.
On April 9, NAACP President Derrick Johnson commented on the church fires saying, “What is happening in Tennessee and Louisiana is domestic terrorism and we must not turn a blind eye to any incident where people are targeted because of the color of their skin and their faith.”
“The spike in church burnings in the Southern states is a reflection of emboldened racial rhetoric and tension spreading across the country,” Johnson added.
Johnson and other civil rights leaders have pointed out that President Trump has been silent on these Louisiana church burnings and other ‘hate crimes’.
Several black churches were burned in 2015 after the nine people were murdered by Dylan Roof at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1995, three Black churches in Greene County, Alabama were burned and subsequently rebuilt.
Holden Matthews was taken into custody on the evening of April 10, according to Louisiana TV station KATC. The station also reported that Matthews is the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy but did not name who the deputy was.
At the time the fires were set at the churches they were empty.
Matthews’ social media indicated an interest in heavy metal music and that he is the lead singer of a band called Vodka Vultures. Reports from local news reveal Matthews lives in Saint Landry Parish.

Newswire : The 2019 Masters: Tiger’s incredible improbable comeback to win

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Tiger Woods celebrates win at Masters


After 11 years, multiple surgeries and a myriad of personal drama, Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters Championship and his 15th career major on a sun-soaked Sunday at Augusta National.
It was the first time Woods had won at Augusta after he was trailing after 54 holes.
The victory also came following years of doubting whether he would ever be able to play at a high level.
“It’s overwhelming because of what has transpired,” Woods told reporters after he shot a -2 under 72 for -13 under overall to seal the victory. “It’s unreal for me to be experiencing this. I’m kind of at a loss for words really,” he said.
The victory, one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, had social media abuzz.
“The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) congratulates and salutes Tiger Woods as he wins the Masters Golf Tournament for the fifth time,” NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., tweeted.
Chavis also noted the tough road Woods had to take to re-emerge as Golf’s biggest star. “Resilience is in our DNA,” Chavis said, referring to African American and other minorities and certainly acknowledging the challenges overcome by Woods.
Golden State Warriors superstar guard Stephen Curry called Woods’ victory, “the greatest comeback story in sports. “Congrats Tiger Woods, let me hold one of those 5 jackets one time,” Curry wrote on Twitter.
Tennis great Serena Williams said the win moved her to tears. “I’m literally in tears watching Tiger Woods. This is greatness like no other,” Williams Tweeted. “Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow. Congrats a million times. I am so inspired. Than you buddy,” Williams said.
Former President Barack Obama also offered his congratulations via Twitter. “Tiger! To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination,” Obama said.
Fellow golfers like Phil Mickleson, Luke Donaldson, Gary Player and Bubba Watson also tweeted out their respects and congratulations to the 43-year-old Woods.
And, the “Golden Bear,” Jack Nicklaus also expressed his appreciation and awe of Woods. “A big ‘well done’ from me to Tiger Woods,” wrote Nicklaus, whose all-time record of 18 Major Championships is certainly within the reach of Woods, who now has 15. “I am so happy for him and for the game of golf,” Nicklaus wrote on Twitter. “This is just fantastic.”

Probate Judge declares April as Child Abuse Prevention Month

Shown above Probate Judge Rolonda Wedgeworth signs proclamation for National Child Abuse Prevention Month with Greene County DHR service staff Wilson Morgan, Director; Jacqueline Hughes, Family & Children Services Supervisor; Beverly Vester, Q.A. Coordinator; Latonya Wooley, Foster Care Worker; and Kimberly Tyree, CA/N Investigator.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019, Greene County Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth signed a proclamation declaring April National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The proclamation reads as follows:
Whereas, National Child Abuse Prevention Month will be recognized throughout the United States, as well as in the Commonwealth of Alabama during the month of April, 2019; and Whereas, the Greene County Department of Human Resources, other human services, Greene County Public Schools and community partners work together to strengthen and support families and protect children from abuse and neglect, and; Whereas Greene County’s Child Protective Services’ 24-hour hotline received hundreds of calls in Fiscal  Year 2018, many from people seeking help, guidance and referrals to parenting programs and supportive services; and Whereas, assisting children and families early makes common sense as well as fiscal sense.  In addition to saving people the trauma of more intensive services later, prevention and early intervention services save money; and Whereas, the focus for the 2019 Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Campaign is to raise public awareness about child supervision and keeping children safe; and Whereas, all Greene County residents, community agencies, faith groups, and businesses are encouraged to renew their commitment to preventing child abuse and promoting the safety and well-being of children; and
Now, therefore I, honorable Judge Roland Wedgeworth do hereby proclaim the month of April 2019 as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Greene County and urge all citizen to increase their participations in our efforts to prevent child abuse and strengthen our community.

Judge
Rolonda Wedgeworth
Probate Judge of
Greene County, AL

Greene County Commission clarifies renewal of sales tax for education until 2040

At their regular meeting on Monday April 8, 2019, the Greene County Commission took action to clarify the renewals of two one-cent sales taxes for the Board of Education to 2040.
The County Commission approved two one cent sales taxes for education, one in 1986 and 1993, for a total of two cents out of the three cents of sales tax that comes to the Greene County Commission. One of these taxes was extended for thirty years in 2009 but it was unclear which tax had been extended.
Monday’s action by the Commission, extended both one-cent taxes, for a total of two cents, to 2040 for education of Greene County students. This is not a change or an increase just a change in the confirmation that both education taxes will run together until 2040.
The remaining one-cent of the three-cent sales tax goes to the Greene County Hospital. That tax runs through 2027 and is pledged to pay for a bond issue that the facility used to pay debts and continue operations.
Paula Bird, CFO of the County gave the monthly financial report for March 31, 2019, the half way point of the fiscal year. She indicated that the Commission had $5,661,662 in various funds in local banks and an additional $1.3 million in banks to cover bond issues.
She also reported that revenues and expenditures for the various funds were in line with the budget and were at or close to the 50% mark puts them in comp-liance with the half-year mark of the budget.
The Commission approved payment of $657,000 of claims for the month, including $212,300 from the General Fund. $102,700 in amendments to the budget were approved. These changes were internal rearrangements of funds not an increase.
In other actions, the Greene County Commission:
• Approved a Sales Tax Holiday for back-to-school supplies and clothing scheduled for July 19-21, 2019
• Approved liquor licenses for DOCS Bar and Lounge on the Lower Gainesville Road
• Approved advertising to hire a Clerk for the Judge of Probate; and a Van Driver for the senior nutrition sites.
After an Executive Session to consider legal matters, the Commission returned and voted to support the Sheriff in settling a claim with Great Western Development Corporation.
More details on this legal settlement will be available once the full settlement is reached with all involved parties.

‘Newswire: Suspicious fires’ fires burn three churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana

From CNN and KLFY-TV in Lafayette reports

Three historically Black churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana were burned between March 26 and April 4, 2019. State Fire marshals 

and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the cause of the fires.

The fires destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church in the community of Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, the parish seat.

   The churches in rural St. Landry Parish -- about 30 miles north of Lafayette -- have burned since March 26 in what officials have described as "suspicious circumstances."

"There is clearly something happening in this community," State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement.

Standing outside the charred remains of the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas — which burned on Tuesday — Pastor Harry Richard said he looked forward to meeting elsewhere with his congregation on Sunday.

"Quite naturally, something like this would shake us up," he told CNN affiliate KLFY. "I'm very concerned but I'm very optimistic because of our faith in God and, no matter what happens, I feel like this is his plan," Richard said. "He's going to bring me through this."

The first fire occurred March 26 at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. Greater Union burned on Tuesday and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas, suffered a fire on Thursday.

"We believe these three fires are suspicious," Browning said. "We are falling short of talking about what caused the fires, falling short of saying they are related, however cognizant that there is a problem and no coincidence that there are three fires."

Officials were also investigating a fourth, smaller fire last Sunday at the predominantly white Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish more than 200 miles north of St. Landry. The blaze was intentionally set
"The three fires in St. Landry Parish contain suspicious elements, but we have not yet classified them," said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal.

Gov. John Bell Edwards this week appealed for the public's help with the investigations. "Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship, " he said in a statement. "We do not know the cause of these fires in St. Landry and Caddo parishes, but my heart goes out to each of the congregations and all of those who call these churches home."

Law enforcement presence increases at houses of worship

Browning said the remains of the three historically black churches in St. Landry Parish are considered crime scenes.

“Investigating a fire is a very lengthy process,” he said. “It’s one of the most complicated and unconventional crime scenes you’ll ever enter because most of the evidence is burned away.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting in the investigations. “It’s imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is,” Browning said.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said authorities were "doing everything we can" to protect churches and determine the cause of the fires. Law enforcement presence at houses of worship has increased.

"You got to have a certain degree of anger because there's no reason for this," Deacon Earnest Hines of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas told CNN affiliate WBRZ.

"You know the history of our country. During the civil rights struggle, they had all these incidents that would happen and sometimes that happens again," he said.

Richard told CNN affiliate KATC Greater Union Baptist Church embodied more than 100 years of history. "Our parents, grandparents went here," he said. "Buried in the back there, some of them are."

On Sunday, he told KLFY he planned to preach about God’s grace to his displaced congregation.

This incident of burning Black churches reminds people in Greene County, Alabama of 1995 when five Black churches in rural parts of the county were burned.  

Newswire: Over 100 kidnapped girls in Nigeria reach five years in captivity


Demonstrations in Nigeria in support of girls

Apr. 8, 2019 (GIN) – The 112 girls kidnapped from a boarding school in Nigeria and still being held by Boko Haram will have spent five years in captivity if they are not released by next Sunday.

That was the sad message released by members of the Bring Back Our Girls movement who have been urging more action by the Nigerian government to locate and free the girls.

Over 200 students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State were abducted by the terrorists on the night of April 14, 2014.

Over a hundred of them were released following pressure from the federal government, the intervention of activist Nigerians and the International Red Cross.

The girls have already spent 1,819 days in Boko Haram captivity. “This is not a date we ever imagined we would come to”, they wrote on a social media platform.

Four of the young women who managed to escape from the kidnappers now study at Dickenson College in Pennsylvania. The students are all on full scholarship funded by the Nigerian government’s Victim Support Fund and the Murtala Mohammed Foundation.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, a drama entitled “The Chibok Girls: Our Story” will be presented at the CrossCurrents festival on selected dates in April and May. Nigerian poet-dramatist Soyinka, now 84, will appear alongside Nigeria’s Renegade Theatre for the performance.

“Chibok Girls” was written and directed by Wole Oguntokun, Artistic Director of Renegade Theatre and Founder of Theatre Republic.

In a related development, the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa program, documents and maps violence in Nigeria that is motivated by political, economic, or social grievances. The tracker can be viewed at the website: https://www.cfr.org/nigeria/nigeria-security-tracker/p29483