The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund held its fourth annual Heirs Property Bootcamp in Atlanta from December 1-3, 2022.
The program was open to Black farmers and landowners who have land in heirs property status and need assistance in clearing titles and making productive use of their land.
Heirs property is land that was passed down in families where the owner did not leave a will and the families own the land in common, based on their generational status in the family. State laws determine who is an heir to an undivided interest in the property.
In some cases, there are a few heirs but in other cases there could be as many as several hundred, scattered around the nation and the world. The ownership of land in this status makes it vulnerable to loss for non-payment of taxes, or sale by a partitioner from outside the family, or laying idle because none of the tenants can raise or invest money to make it productive.
Research suggests that 40% or more of the three million acres of farmland still owned by African American people in the South is held as heirs property, which means over one million of the three million acres remaining is held under these unclear joint titles. These one million acres of generational wealth, conservatively valued in the billions of dollars, is in danger of being lost, unless families come together to protect it.
The Federation’s Bootcamp brings 100 families with heir property problems together to learn about heir property and how to clear titles. Each participant is given a workbook and a schedule of activities like doing a family tree, contacting the heirs, bring heirs together to decide on a common strategy to retain and utilize the land.
Attorney Dania Davy, who heads the Federation’s Land Retention Department led the bootcamp. “We had 70 families represented this year; we were not able to have a virtual component which reduced attendance. We also had land practioners and attorneys from several states in the Southeast to participate. We are hoping to get families into the process to clear the titles and free the land for a productive use, including establishing family trusts and LLC’s to hold the land into the future for accumulating generational wealth,” said Davy.
Davy explained that the Federation has been funded by USDA for a multiyear, $5 million national cooperative agreement to provide technical assistance to heirs property owners. This agreement is liked to a USDA investment of $100 million in Heirs Property Relending Funds, which is available through intermediary lenders, most of them Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s). Shared Capital, a cooperative lender and CDFI out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the heirs property relending agent that is working with the Federation.
There were workshops at the Bootcamp on mediation available for families to work out disputes related to the land, clearing title on heirs property; estate planning for heirs property; how to get a UDA farm number for heirs property; ways the Federation assists heirs property owners to manage and get the most income from their land, including how to use USDA programs; and the heirs property relending programs.
There was also time on the program for families to meet with attorneys on their specific problems and also to get advice on wills and estate planning.
At the conclusion of the program, Cornelius Blanding thanked the program sponsors including USDA, John Deere, Nationwide Insurance, American Farmland Trust, CoBank, Farm Credit Council, the Farm Policy Center at Alcorn University. Crew, USDA Forest Service, National Cooperative Bank, Vermont Law School-Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and others for their support.
If you own heir property and need help and technical assistance, contact the Federation’s Land Retention Department at 404-765-0991 or through the website at: http://www.federation.coop.
On Friday, December 2, 2022, the City of Eutaw held a press conference to announce receipt of grant of $5.6 million, $2.6 for drinking water and $3 million for sewage, from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) State Revolving Loan Fund.
This will allow the City of Eutaw to proceed with water and wastewater system improvements for the unified Eutaw and Boligee water and wastewater systems.
This funding, which is a grant with no matching fund requirements, was made possible with funding from the Biden Administration initiatives,
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Congresswoman Terri Sewell was instrumental in urging the state to use these Federal funds to benefit projects in the rural Black Belt counties within her Congressional District. Sewell was the only member of the Alabama delegation that voted in favor of this legislation in the past year.
The $5.6 million is the first installment of additional funding to be provided over the next three to five years for improvement of the joint Eutaw and Boligee water and sewage systems. This system also provides services to the Crossroads of America Industrial Park at Boligee.
Mayor Latasha Johnson expressed thanks to the many persons and agencies that made the project possible including Congresswoman Terri Sewell, John Laney and Jim Graciano of ADEM and project engineer, Angela Henline of Cassidy Company in Tuscaloosa, who will be designing the project.
Corey Martin, City of Eutaw Water Operator, said, “The first part of the project will be to renovate and replace six lift stations which move sewage back to the lagoon in Eutaw. The second priority involves bringing the Boligee water tower back on line to relieve water quality and pressure issues. We do not know all the problems with the system and how they will be addressed until our engineer makes her official assessment and design plans for repairs.”
Mayor Hattie Samuels of Boligee, commented, “The Town of Boligee
Local funds were being drained to make constant repairs in the water and sewage systems. This is truly a blessing – to receive these grant funds to give our residents a better quality of life.”
Mayor Samuels read from a statement sent by Congresswoman Terri Sewell, which said,” This is GREAT news! For too long, Alabama’s rural communities have suffered from failing wastewater systems that have put the health and well-being of our residents at risk.
“Access to clean water and adequate wastewater infrastructure is a basic human right, and thus funding for the City of Eutaw will be instrumental as we work to end this crisis.
“I am proud to have voted I favor of both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the American Rescue Plan, which made these grants possible. I will continue to fight for more of these critical investments across Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.”
Governor Kay Ivey sent a message, which was read Greene County Commission Chair, Corey Cockrell, stating “In Alabama, we believe in helping our neighbors, and that exactly what the city of Eutaw and the city of Boligee are doing here. I’m proud to see both cities come together and strike a mutually beneficial compromise that will go a long way to improving the quality of life for the residents of each community.”
The annual Christmas Parade for Greene County, sponsored by the Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Eutaw, was held Thursday, December 1, 2022. Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson and Greene County Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. served as Grand Marshals. This year’s theme, A Small Town Christmas featured the Old Courthouse Square in the center of town beautifully adorned in Christmas and holiday decor. Many businesses also decorated their store fronts lifting the Spirit of Christmas.
The Stillman College Marching Band was a special highlight of the annual Christmas Parade.
Even Big AL, University of Alabama Mascot, marched in the local parade.
Other parade participants riding on beautifully decorated floats and vehicles, or walking in unison, included elected and appointed officials, representatives of churches, non-profit organizations, businesses, housing authorities, Girls Scout and Boy Scout Troops, local schools and homecoming courts, fire departments, ambulance service, Eutaw Garden Club, First Responders Committee, Debutantes sponsored by the Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and more.
Following the lighting of the Christmas tree on the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square, many joined in singing Christmas Carols led by the Greene County Community Choir.
It was noted by many that this was the longest Greene County Christmas Parade held in a long time, with diverse groups riding floats or decorated vehicles. The children enjoyed all the candy thrown from the floats.
An exceptionally large crowd was out to view the festivities and purchase snacks from the vendors.
Dec. 5, 2022 (GIN) – Stories abound of the majestic baobab tree – landmarks across Africa where they stand tall, adapted to arid landscapes, the basis of myths, the home of vultures and bees, and the giver of fruits that can feed families during drought.
Baobab, or ‘mbuyu’ in Kiswahili, is a gigantic fibrous leafy tree, common in the open semi-arid areas of eastern and coastal counties of Kenya and in 32 African countries. It is not uncommon to find a 5,000 year old tree, 100 feet tall, 40 feet in diameter – a prehistoric species which predates both mankind and the splitting of the continents over 200 million years
Fruit produced by the baobab contains high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, calcium, potassium and fiber. The bark has medicinal properties, and oil from the seeds is used in beauty products.
But their benefits were outweighed by the monies being offered to poor landowners for the trees. “Everybody was willing to sell,” Johna Kahindi, a real estate broker from the area told a reporter. “Many people in our community are very poor, so even $800 would be seen as a lot of money.”
Kenyan officials have now halted the export of baobabs to the former Russian republic of Georgia and ordered an investigation into how a foreign contractor received permission to transport the ancient trees out of the country.
Kenya’s president, William Ruto, ordered the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to investigate whether Georgy Gvasaliya, founder of Ariba Seaweed Co. had the proper license to take the trees out of Kenya under the Nagoya protocol, an international agreement that governs the export of genetic resources, which has been incorporated into Kenyan law.
Meanwhile, researchers, scientists and environmentalists are denouncing Ariba Seaweed Int’l for uprooting the trees and the environmental agency and the Kenya Forest Service for allowing the decimation of the iconic species.
Under a media spotlight, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry claimed that the environmental impact assessment license allowing the trees to be uprooted and exported was given “irregularly”.
However a local official disagreed, saying there was little they could do to halt the sales because the baobabs were on privately owned land. “The issue here is about ownership rights. This is a tree belonging to an individual. It’s not protected; it’s not on government land,” the local official said.
Kavaka Watai Mukonyi, former head of bioprospecting at the Kenya Wildlife Service, disagreed. “If there are no agreements, it does not matter whether [the land was privately owned] or not – that is an illegality.”
In a further investigation by the Guardian UK, it was learned that the cut baobab trees were being exported to Shekvetili Dendrological Park, owned by former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has been involved in other tree-uprooting activities along the Georgian coast.
According to Gvasalia, most of his customers are ambitious botanical gardens. In his home country Georgia, an 11-million-dollar greenhouse was to be built to exactly simulate the weather conditions and humidity of Kilifi area in Kenya.
Arabian countries, said Gavasia, are the most eager to get an original African Baobab as an exotic highlight in their desert surroundings.
Gus Le Breton, chair of the African Baobab Alliance, said: “It’s biopiracy. I cannot see any justification for taking a reproductive tree from some part of the world and moving it to another. “
A petition has been posted on Change.org called “Please Save our Baobab Trees from wanton Destruction.”
By: Char Adams, NBC News
Ashley Reeves, an Indiana school teacher, dreamed of getting her teaching license but could not afford the high price of certification. She settled for a renewable teaching permit, which allows educators to work for one year, to teach at George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academy, a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Indianapolis. However, Reeves’ aspirations were revitalized when she saw a flier for the Educate ME Foundation, an organization focused on helping Black people become teachers.
Reeves said she joined the program in August and got one-on-one support for test preparation and financial help to cover the costs of certification tests. Reeves received her license in November and returned to the classroom a certified teacher.
“It was like a relief. It was a blessing. It’s always been one of my goals,” Reeves, 31, said. “I’ve been in education for quite some time; it’s been six years. The program itself is just great for first-time teachers or teachers who’ve been in education for a long time.”
Blake Nathan launched the Educate ME Foundation in 2014 in Indianapolis to recruit and retain more Black teachers. Today, the foundation works to mentor and support high school and college students looking to pursue careers in education. It teaches Black students about the value of becoming teachers and helps existing teachers through training and certification programs. Reeves is one of dozens of Black people who have used the foundation’s programs to reach their career goals. Nathan said the work they do ultimately benefits students.
“If you are being educated by a same-race teacher, academically, emotionally, you perform better in the classroom,” Nathan said. “Having a Black teacher in the school building decreases school discipline rates. And if you can decrease school discipline rates, you can decrease the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Before Covid changed the education landscape, Black students were already at a disadvantage due to the dismal number of Black teachers in the classroom and other effects of systemic racism. Black people represented just 7% of teachers in the 2017-18 school year, with white teachers making up 79% of the field, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
This is a dire situation as research shows that when Black students have teachers who look like them, they’re less likely to be over-disciplined and more likely to finish high school and consider college. Therefore, experts say, hiring Black teachers is necessary to address the racial disparities that lead to poor educational outcomes and criminalization for Black children.
But there are many barriers to Black people entering the teaching field. Costly certification tests and exams, called Praxis tests, are a major roadblock for Black teachers trying to become certified, as Black people are more likely than whites to fail these tests, according to a Chalkbeat report. Meanwhile, for Black people who are able to enter the profession, failing these tests can get them booted from their teaching jobs.
Critics believe that these tests, first implemented decades ago, simply work to exclude Black teachers and don’t adequately measure a person’s teaching ability. And there’s little evidence that these tests predict teacher effectiveness at all. And research has shown that, in some cases, Black students perform better academically with a Black teacher who failed the Praxis exam than with a white teacher who passed.
Furthermore, advocates say that Black students who don’t have Black teachers are less likely to become teachers themselves, so commitments to diversifying the industry must start early on in the classroom.
The Educate Me Foundation is one of many programs across the country that aim to train and recruit more Black people into the teaching profession. The programs may use different methods, with some focusing on breaking down the field’s financial barriers and others prioritizing the need to remove implicit biases in credentialing processes (or promoting cultural inclusivity in schools). But they all ultimately aim to improve the educational experience for Black children.
Call Me MISTER, a Clemson University development program for Black men to become elementary school teachers, has produced some 367 educators since 2004, said program field coordinator Winston Holton. Participants are required to work at a South Carolina K-12 public school between one and four years after completing the program, which usually lasts four years, Holton said. Students from “socioeconomically disadvantaged and educationally at-risk communities” receive tuition assistance, mentorship and support for navigating the education industry, and help with job placement.
Founder Tom Parks decided to launch the program in 2000 after learning about the troubling incarceration rates and dismal educational opportunities for Black men. Holton joined the program in 2001 and now serves as a mentor to participants like Caleb Brown, a 20-year-old in his third year of the program, who hopes to become a middle school teacher.
“Representation in the classroom is important,” Brown said. “In the sense of the level of relationships and connections I’ve made, getting this experience early on, that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Call Me MISTER.”
Many of these development and recruitment programs cater to all genders, but some — like Call Me MISTER and Men of CHS Teach, a Charleston, South Carolina, program inspired by Call Me MISTER — focus on producing more Black male teachers. Just 2% of the country’s teachers are Black men.
That startling statistic, advocates say, is why programs offering different pathways to certification are important.
“Minority males face a lot of barriers in their K-12 experience,” said Eric Stallings, who works with Men of CHS Teach to recruit and support teachers. Men of CHS Teach, which prioritizes men of color, is a partnership between the University of South Carolina and the Charleston County School District.
“They may go into business or marketing, but something always tugs at your heart and you say, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I just don’t know,’” he said. “Us creating pathways for that to happen has allowed some of them to come back as educators and truly make a difference. I think that speaks a lot about alternative certification.”
Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development based in Philadelphia, said the center’s mission is to build a “national Black teacher pipeline” through policy and advocacy efforts, programs, and partnering with school districts, colleges and similar programs across the country. The center works with school districts to facilitate a course for high school students interested in teaching “but from a Black pedagogical framework, as opposed to what students typically get, all-white educational theory,” El-Mekki said.
“If you try to pursue and reform education without having a deep understanding of the racism that exists to create these disparities, you’re never going to achieve what you purport you want to achieve,” he said.
The center also provides training and mentorship programs for high school and college students, professional development for everyone from college professors to administrators, and consultation services for school districts across the country looking to retain Black teachers. Since its founding in 2019, the center has produced at least 30 teachers, who are now educators or in teacher residency programs.
While some groups focus on getting more Black teachers into classrooms, others focus on the cultural inclusivity that they believe is necessary for tearing down implicit bias in schools — whether in the classroom or the administration offices. The Black Teacher Project in Oakland, California, works with Black teachers to “reimagine schools as communities of liberated learning,” the Project’s website reads. The project offers an 18-month fellowship for Black teachers where they explore Black identity, wellness and culturally competent teaching (or “instruction rooted in Blackness,” according to the site). It also teaches educators how to implement restorative practices in their classrooms and invites them to retreats to foster community among Black teachers.
This, advocates say, will have a positive impact on Black students. “BTP’s vision is that every student will benefit from the diversity, excellence, and leadership of an empowered Black teaching force,” the website states. “Therefore, the Black Teacher Project’s motto is ‘Every child deserves a Black teacher.’”
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
America’s history-making vice president plans to swear in Los Angeles’ history-making mayor during an inaugural ceremony scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 11.
Kamala Harris, the United States’ first Black and first woman vice president, will do the honors for Karen Bass, the first woman to serve as mayor in the city of angels. Officials said holding the historic ceremony on Sunday makes it more convenient for the public to participate while allowing Bass to devote her first day in office to attending to city business.
“Angelenos are so frustrated,” Bass said in a CBS Mornings interview this week. “There is so much pent-up urgency to see something happen immediately. Part of my job is to communicate exactly what I’m doing with Angelenos and the timeline, so I manage expectations. But at the same time, I plan to deliver.”
A spokesperson for Harris said Bass asked the vice president to administer the oath of office “as a nod to their status as two of California’s most powerful Black women.”
Harris and President Biden endorsed Bass in August after she won the June primary by seven percentage points over her rival, billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso, CBS News reported. Former President Obama also threw his support behind Bass shortly before the November election.
Bass, 69, a six-term congresswoman and a finalist on President Joe Biden’s short list of potential running mates, drew more votes than any mayoral candidate in Los Angeles’ history.
The former Congressional Black Caucus Chair has prioritized tackling the city’s homeless crisis. She said she wants to work to eradicate the problem immediately. “Los Angeles has become unaffordable. You have to have a comprehensive approach. There’s no magic bullet,” Bass declared in a nationally televised interview late last month.
“So first and foremost, you have to prevent people from falling into homelessness. And clearly, affordability is key to that. But you know, people are on the streets for a variety of issues. And you have to address why they’re there.”
She continued: “Is it substance abuse? Is it mental illness? Is it just straight-up affordability? We have people who are in tents who actually work full-time. We have thousands of children who are in tents.
“Some with mothers who fled domestic violence, some who are teenagers who aged out of foster care. Some people who were formerly incarcerated because they were not able to find housing are in tents.
“So we have to have a comprehensive approach and address why people were unhoused. But first and foremost, we have to get people off the streets. People are literally dying on the streets in Los Angeles, and this has got to stop.”
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who earned the distinction of Nevada’s first African American State Senate Majority Leader, will lead the Congressional Black Caucus during the 118th Congress in January.
Horsford, who won reelection to Nevada’s fourth congressional district in November, was announced on Thursday as the CBC’s choice as its 28th chair.
“Over the last 50 years, the CBC has served as the ‘conscience of the Congress,’ helping guide the legislative priorities that have shaped our nation and helped improve the lives of African Americans and all our constituents,” Horsford, 49, said in a statement.
“As Chair, I will provide the leadership, strategic vision and execute on our plans to guide us on a path that will deliver positive socioeconomic outcomes for the communities and constituencies we serve.” Horsford’s selection as chair comes as the Democrats fall into the minority in the House.
Known for successfully working across party lines and being calm under the everyday pressures of Congress, has continued his work to ensure veterans and seniors citizens, receive needed benefits.
He authored and passed the Nevada Lands Bill to create jobs across the state and fought to protect a woman’s right to make healthcare decisions.
In addition to Horsford’s chairmanship, the CBC announced Rep. Yvette Clarke, 58, of New York as first vice chair; Rep. Troy Carter, 59, of Louisiana as second vice chair; Rep. Lucy McBath, 62, of Georgia as secretary; and Rep. Marilyn Strickland, 60, as whip.
“I am so honored to have been elected as the CBC Secretary for the 118th Congress. It is always necessary we continue to forge a path toward getting into Good Trouble and do the work to make life better for American families,” McBath asserted.
“Together, we must build a brighter, more just future for our communities, our caucus, and our country.”
Rev. Raphael Warnock won a narrow victory in the Georgia runoff for the U. S. Senate seat against Hershel Walker, former Georgia football star.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Warnock received 1,814,827 (51.4%) votes to 1,719, 376 (48.6%) for Walker, a margin of over 95,000 votes. Warnock improved his margins over Walker in urban areas and held down Walker’s winning percentage in Republican rural and suburban areas.
With his re-election to the U. S. Senate, Warnock gives the Democratic party 51 votes to 49 for Republicans. President Joe Biden and Senate Majority leader, Chuck Schumer, were quick to congratulate Warnock on his victory. Former President Donald Trump, who supported and endorsed Walker, was credited for another loss by a MAGA-Republican candidates for major offices in the 2022 mid-term election cycle.
During the midterm election, Democrats flipped one seat when Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. The win assured Democrats of at least 50 seats and the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris counted as the tie-breaking vote.
However, a 51-49 edge could allow Democrats freedom from conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who blocked some of President Joe Biden’s agenda during the administration’s first two years.
With 51 votes, Democrats can now afford to lose a member and still pass legislation (Although, with Republicans seizing control of the House, it’s unlikely any meaningful legislation will pass during the next two years).
“Democrats need to gain every seat they can from the 2022 election cycle. Holding the Senate this year is a massive achievement, but keeping it again in two years’ time will be a gargantuan task,” Political Analyst Chris Cillizza wrote.
“Democrats would much rather start the 2024 cycle with a bit of cushion provided by a Warnock win.”
An evenly divided Senate “slows everything down,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked. “So, it makes a big difference to us.”
Further, in a 50-50 Senate, committees are evenly split between the two parties, which causes additional steps when a vote is tied. That forces the party in the majority to hold votes on the Senate floor to move bills or nominees forward.
With a Warnock win, Democrats would stand in position to hold an extra seat on every committee, making it much easier to move nominees or legislation on party-line votes.
“It’s always better with 51 because we’re in a situation where you don’t have to have an even makeup of the committees,” Biden said after Fetterman’s victory. “And so that’s why it’s important, mostly. But it’s just simply better. The bigger the numbers, the better.”
With a 51-seat majority, Vice President Harris doesn’t have to remain close to Washington when the Senate votes. Harris already has broken 26 ties in two years in office, doubling what former Vice President Mike Pence did during his four-year term.
Earlier this year, Harris reminded everyone that the nation’s first vice president, John Adams, had cast 29 tie-breaking votes during his two terms from 1789 to 1797.
“So, as vice president, I’m also the president of the United States Senate. And in that role, I broke John Adams’s record of casting the most tie-breaking votes in a single term,” Harris said in September. “This kid who was born in Oakland, California, and graduated from an HBCU just broke the record of John Adams. We should all fully appreciate how history can take a turn.”
As of November 29, 2022, at 10:00 AM
(According to Alabama Political Reporter)
Alabama had 1,549,329 confirmed cases of coronavirus,
(6,051) more than last report, with 20,608 deaths (50) more
than last report.
Greene County had 2,151 confirmed cases, 2 more cases than last report), with 52 deaths
Sumter Co. had 3,002 cases with 55 deaths
Hale Co. had 5,406 cases with 109 deaths
Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has testing and vaccination for COVID-19;
Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 5 and up.