Newswire: U.N. urges Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to recommit to dam talks

Grand Ethopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River in Africa

By: Doyinsola Oladipo

July 6 (Reuters) – The United Nations called on Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on Tuesday to recommit to talks on the operation of a giant hydropower dam, urging them to avoid any unilateral action, a day after Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir. The U.N. Security Council will likely discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this week after Arab states requested the 15-member body address the issue. Ethiopia says the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and to provide power. But Egypt views it as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, another downstream country, has expressed concern about the dam’s safety and the impact on its own dams and water stations. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backs the role of the African Union in mediating between the countries, Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. Report ad “What is also important, that there be no unilateral action that would undermine any search for solutions. So, it’s important that people recommit themselves to engage in good faith in a genuine process,” Dujarric said on Tuesday. Egypt’s irrigation minister said on Monday he had received official notice from Ethiopia that it had begun filling the reservoir behind the dam for a second year. Egypt said it rejected the measure as a threat to regional stability. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said Ethiopia’s filling of the GERD had the potential to raise tensions, as it also urged all parties to refrain from unilateral actions on the dam. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States called for all parties to commit themselves to a negotiated solution acceptable to all sides. Report ad Solutions needed to be guided by example, said Dujarric. “Solutions… have been found for others who share waterways, who share rivers, and that is based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause significant harm,” he said.

Newswires: President Biden signs bipartisan bill to curb predatory lending 

By Charlene Crowell  

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In recent years, consumer finance protections withered through a series of harsh attacks that either outright rejected or significantly diminished financial guard rails in the marketplace. But a new consumer victory, urged by a groundswell of support from everyday people, academicians, and bicameral legislators signals an important step toward fair financial rules.   On June 30, President Joe Biden’s signature ended an ill-advised rule that favored predatory loans instead of America’s consumers. Predatory loans, such as payday loans, disparately impact African-Americans and other people of color.    “These are so called ‘rent-a-bank’ schemes”, said President Biden at the June 30 signing ceremony.  “And they allow lenders to prey on veterans, seniors, and other unsuspecting borrowers tapping in the — trapping them into a cycle of debt.  And the last administration let it happened, but we won’t.”   Days earlier on June 24, a bipartisan vote of 218-208 in the U.S. House of Representatives sent a key financial rule change to the President’s desk. Just a few weeks earlier the Senate had passed the same bill with a bipartisan vote. Using authority from the Congressional Review Act, the votes sought to eliminate a recently passed regulation. In this case, the goal was to nix the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) “fake lender” rule issued late in the Trump Administration.   As the nation’s seat of government, Capitol Hill is a place where an array of interests vies for both attention and influence.  Lean-budgeted but principled public interest organizations can often find themselves disadvantaged by deep pocketed interests.   That’s why it’s important to acknowledge and celebrate overcoming stacked odds to forge changes that result in real life benefits for everyday people and small businesses alike.  Especially for Black America and other communities of color, solid steps toward ending billion-dollar financial exploitation are particularly deserving of attention. Historically, we have already borne the brunt of predatory greed.   “Eliminating this harmful OCC rule will prevent more people from being exposed to high-interest loans that pull borrowers down deep into debt and despair,” said Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Director of Federal Campaigns Graciela Aponte-Diaz.“Nixing the rule will curb the spread of predatory loans that target Black, Latinx, and low-income individuals – many of whom are struggling from the economic downturn. This action will allow states to protect their residents by enforcing their state interest rate laws.”   As reported previously in this column, OCC’s “True Lender” rule gave a green light to predatory lenders. By effectively overriding a string of state laws in almost every state enacted to prevent abusive payday, car-title, and installment loans with explosive interest rates of more than 100 percent took effect in late December 2020. Payday and high-cost installment lenders paid fees to banks for use of their name and charter to dodge state interest rate laws by claiming the bank’s exemption from those laws for itself.   Consumer advocates referred to the rule change as a ‘Fake Lender’ as the real lender is the predatory non-bank lender – not a bank.   Reactions to the successful consumer challenge soon followed.  One of the first public comments came as a joint statement from two key U.S. Senators.   “Striking down the Trump ‘Rent-a-Bank’ rule will help prevent predatory lenders from ripping off consumers and charging loan-shark rates under deceptive terms”, noted Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and co-sponsor of the resolution.   “The OCC, when it allowed banks to evade state interest rate caps, betrayed hard-working families and attacked states’ ability to protect their citizens from predatory loans,” added Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee’s chair. “Congress showed the people we serve that we’re on their side.”   For California’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, the resolution rids the nation of financial rubbish. “The Trump-era ‘True Lender’ rule is a back-door way for nonbanks to charge triple-digit interest rates on loans at the expense of consumers in states where voters turned out to pass interest rate cap laws,” said Waters. “No wonder some call this the ‘fake lender’ rule.”   Just how much financial harm resulted from the ill-advised rule has been documented by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), a member of a diverse coalition that advocated repeal.   According to NCLC, predatory small business lenders are using the fake lender rule to defend a 268% annual percentage rate (APR) rate on loans totaling $67,000 to a Black restaurant owner in New York, where the criminal usury rate is 25%, and secured by property in New Jersey, where the legal limit is 30%. The lender pretended that the nominal participation of a bank based in Nevada justified its astronomical rate. Nevada has no interest limits on loans.   In another example, OppLoans (also known as OppFi), an online lender offers 160 percent APR loans in  26 states that prohibit triple-digit rate loans. This lender has also cited the OCC’s fake lender rule to defend its loan to a disabled veteran in California, where the usury rate on the loan is 24 percent. OppLoans is also evading state rate cap laws supported by broad majorities of voters in Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Even in states where legislatures have enacted rate caps, the fake lender rule would have essentially negated those rate cap protections.   For consumer advocates, along with their partners in the civil rights, faith, and veterans’ communities, revoking the fake lender rule is a step towards a national loan rate cap of no more than 36 percent.   Years ago, bipartisan enactment of the Military Lending Act awarded double-digit rate cap protections for men and women in uniform. It’s time for all of America to have the same financial protection.  

Charlene Crowell is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached A tCharlene.crowell@responsiblelending.org.

Newswpaper: Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates join Howard University’s Journalism School

Nikole Hannah Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates

After a battle with UNC, Hannah-Jones will be tenured professor at Howard University’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications.

By Bruce C.T. Wright, NewsOne Howard University just added two more notches to its HBCU championship belt when it caught everyone off-guard Tuesday morning with its latest high-profile hires. Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose public dispute over tenure at the University of North Carolina may have prompted Howard to make her an offer, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, an award-winning writer in his own right, are joining the Cathy Hughes School of Communications as professors effective immediately, the school announced. Jones who is known for her work on the New York Times “1619 Project” illuminating the impact of the enslavement of Black people on American history, was selected for the position at the University of North Carolina, her alma mater, but not given tenure because of conservative opposition to her appointment. Hannah-Jones will serve as the newly created Knight Chair in Race and Journalism at Howard University — a tenured position — and Coates will be a faculty member in Howard’s College of Arts and Sciences. Together, they will work to establish the Center for Journalism and Democracy. Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said the appointments of “two of today’s most respected and influential journalists” who are also experts on race and culture is a necessity for the future generation of journalists. “At such a critical time for race relations in our country, it is vital that we understand the role of journalism in steering our national conversation and social progress,” Frederick said in a statement. “Not only must our newsrooms reflect the communities where they are reporting, but we need to infuse the profession with diverse talent. We are thrilled that they will bring their insights and research to what is already a world-class, highly accomplished team of professors.” The positions are being funded by a donation of nearly $20 million from the Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation and one anonymous donor. The announcement about Hannah-Jones was especially a surprise given her public battle after her offer to be the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism for the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media did not include tenure. After pressure from Black faculty and the community, the UNC board of trustees finally voted, 9 to 4 last week, to grant Hannah-Jones tenure. Hannah-Jones, who is a graduate of UNC’s journalism school, explained why she decided against accepting UNC’s amended offer. “Historically Black colleges and universities have long punched above their weight, producing a disproportionate number of Black professionals while working with disproportionately low resources,” Hannah-Jones said Tuesday in a statement e-mailed to NewsOne. “It is my great honor to help usher to this storied institution these significant resources that will help support the illustrious, hardworking, and innovative faculty at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the brilliant students it draws.” She added: “Many people, all with the best of intentions, have said that if I walk away from UNC, I will have let those who opposed me win. But I do not want to win someone else’s game.” Coates, for his part, is no slouch, either. The Howard graduate made a name for himself as a music and culture journalist before being recognized for his historic work at the Atlantic, including a seminal piece in 2014 making the case for reparations. The author of three books has also won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2015 for “Between the World and Me,” which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

COVID-19

As of June 30, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 550,983 confirmed cases of coronavirus,(1,609) more than last week with 11,352 deaths (24) more than last week)

Greene County had 937 confirmed cases, (3 more cases than last week), with 34 deaths

Sumter Co. had 1,062 cases with 32 deaths

Hale Co. had 2,266 cases with 78 deaths

Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

Board submits plan for ESSER II funds Greene County School Board approves new contracts for Superintendent Jones and CSFO Blair

The Greene County Board of Education, at its June 28, 2021 meeting, approved the renewal of the Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones’ contract for an additional three years, beginning July 1, 2022. Dr. Jones’ current contract contains a provision that required the board to inform him one year in advance on whether his contract would be renewed, including the terms and conditions. Jones was hired July 1, 2019. The board also approved a three year contract for CSFO LaVonda Blair beginning July 1, 2021. She was hired August 1, 2018. Both contracts were approved on a three-two vote of board members, in spite of the fact that Superintendent Jones and CSFO Blair had received composite average scores, in their evaluations by the board, indicating that their performances Exceeded Expectations. The superintendent’s report to the board included a summary of the ESSER II Plan (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) that was submitted to the Alabama State Department of Education. According to Dr. Jones, the system’s $3,319,901 ESSER II allocation will focus on the following four components: High Quality Instructional Materials, budgeted at $476,450; High Quality Professional Development, budgeted at $81,780; Unfinished Learning Supports, budgeted at $1,561,889 and Facilities, budgeted at $1,200,000. In the ESSER II Plan each component is specifically detailed with proposed activities and follow-up as well as related costs. ESSER II funds must be expended by September 30, 2023 Dr. Jones also announced that the 2021-2022 school year will open with full face-to-face learning, baring any public health order warranting the school system to return to virtual learning approaches. “Our main concern is the safety of all school personnel, as well as our community, and utilizing every means available to provide the best learning opportunities for our students,” he stated. Jones gave updates on the renovations to the central office. He noted that the second phase will include painting and carpeting inside the facility. CSFO LaVanda Blair presented the following Financial Snapshot as of April 30, 2021: General Fund Balance – $2,886,119.30; Accounts Payable Check Register – $258,470.35; Payroll Register – $815,310.53; Combined Fund Balance – $5,777,622.22; Total Local Revenue – $1,782,544.14, including property and sales taxes and bingo revenue. Blair noted the budget amendments relative to the ESSER II – CRRSA (Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act). The CSFO also presented an overview of the streamlining process in various components in the central office, including implementation of the Follet Inventory System, technological advances, ClassWallet, KissFlow, and MySchoolBucks. Blair stated that the financial department works closely with Superintendent Jones to maintain the operating reserve; eliminate any unnecessary spending and reduce and/or refinance debt. In other business, the board ratified the listing of summer school personnel, the superintendent had been authorized to employ in the program. On the superintendent’s recommendation, the board approved the following personnel recalled for the 2021-2022 school term: •Eutaw Primary School: Gwendolyn Webb, Trakayla Brown, Tara Thomas, Danielle Sanders-Williams, Quenterica White, Domonique McDaniels, Sherita Pickens, Chandra Toney, Valarie Moore, Hillary Bruner. •Robert Brown Middle School: Alisa Allen, Brandi Eubanks, Tammy Barber, Leanita Hunt, Alison Newton, Kalyn Gray, Quentin Walton, Nkenge Reynold, Demelia Snyder, Ashley Moody. •Greene County High School: Tyler Mitchell, Elroy Skinner, Josef Stander, Clifford Reynolds. The board approved employment of the following: Monquell Wigfall, Special Education Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School, for the 2021-2022 school year; Whitney Hampton-Finch, 4th Grade teacher, Robert Brown Middle School; Gloria Watkins McGhee, Pre-K Teacher, Eutaw Primary School; Paula Calligan, Cosmetology Instructor, Greene County Career Center. The board approved Catastrophic / FMLA Leave for Larry Burnette from April 27, 2021 – August 1, 2021; Resignations of Jacob Sullivan, Robert Brown Middle School, effective June 3, 2021 and Lurena Smith, Kindergarten Teacher, Eutaw Primary School, effective June 25, 2021. The board approved the following administrative service items: * Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll. * Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. LaVonda Blair, CSFO. * Contract agreement between Greene County Board of Education and Albireo Energy Control * System Maintenance Program. * 4-day work week for all extended employees beginning June 7 – July 30, 2021. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Behavior Aide Eleanor Smalls. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Behavior Aide, Denise Horton. * Approval of Follett School Solutions Software. •Approval of unused school buses to be sold for scrap. The following are the board agenda items which do not require a recommendation of the superintendent. * Approval of Contract for Chief School Finance Officer. * Approval of Notice to Superintendent as Required by Superintendent Contract.

More than 25 organization file Amicus brief to release Wisconsin order halting $4 billion loan forgiveness for BIPOC farmers

MADISON, Wis. –– On behalf of the Rural Coalition, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project and 23 additional farm, rural, environmental, health and civil rights groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed an amicus brief last week asking a federal court in Wisconsin to allow the distribution of $4 billion in loan forgiveness set aside by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to correct decades of injustice, systemic racism and admitted discriminatory behavior by the federal government.The assistance package was part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. On June 10, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) subverting the will of Congress and stopping relief to over 17,000 Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color who have suffered historic, systemic and ongoing discrimination in USDA lending programs. “Debt relief is something that minority farmers desperately need as they try to recover from the damage that COVID-19 has disproportionately inflicted on their businesses and families,” said Keisha Stokes-Hough, senior supervising attorney for the Economic Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Congress granted this relief because farmers of color have borne the brunt of the economic downturn due to systemic and current discrimination. As a result, farmers of color are at the greatest risk of failure. The American Rescue Plan is an important first step in addressing decades of lending and aid discrimination in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the will of Congress must not be subverted.” The USDA has a decades-long track record of discriminating against Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color. For example, USDA distributed $9.2 billion in aid to farmers in 2020 under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Less than 3% of that relief went to a category of producers defined by the USDA as being underserved by federal farm programs and which includes farmers of color. With this loan forgiveness plan, Congress directed the USDA to provide relief to socially disadvantaged farmers. The groups supporting the brief say delaying the distribution of these funds puts more BIPOC farmers in danger of going out of business or falling even further behind their white counterparts. The brief includes statements from BIPOC farmers who will experience irreparable harm from this delay in federal support. Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued a preliminary injunction to further delay the relief to BIPOC provided by Congress in the ARPA. This decision and the additional lawsuits that are continuing to be filed only seek to further put our producers of color further in financial peril, take them off their lands, and inhibit their centuries long struggle for equity in agriculture. Our representative organizations will be exploring further action to protect our BIPOC producers’ rights, as well as their equity and inclusion to receive the relief they have long been denied.  More than 200 groups have signed a statement in support of immediately distributing the relief, saying that this landmark piece of legislation is desperately needed to correct ongoing systemic discrimination and to restore the rights of BIPOC farmers to pursue landownership and agriculture on an equal playing field. Organizations joining the Rural Coalition, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project on the brief include: •NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) •Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund •National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association •American Indian Mothers, Inc. •Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation •Cottage House Incorporation •Family Farm Defenders •Kansas Black Farmers Association •Land Stewardship Project •National Young Farmers Coalition • Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc. •Operation Spring Plant, Inc. •Texas Coalition of Rural Landowners •World Farmers •Farm Aid •The Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance •National Family Farm Coalition •The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition •The Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA •California Farm Link •Community Farm Alliance •Women, Food and Agriculture Network •Steward Holdings These groups will continue to work together to assist USDA in fighting these lawsuits now being filed in as many as ten states. “We plan to file this amicus brief or a stronger amended brief, as well as possibly intervening in the cases as they move along through the Federal court system,” said Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition Executive Director. Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund said, “We support this amicus brief effort but we wanted to hold the option to intervene in the case to represent our members.” The USDA is continuing to send letters about the loan forgiveness program to farmers and encouraging farmers to respond so that when the injunction is lifted the government will proceed with the payments to end the indebtedness. Persons who need more information on the brief may contact the http://www.ruralco.org website for more information.

Voting rights coalition meets in Shelby County on 8th anniversary of Shelby vs Holder decision to call for an end to voter suppression

A coalition of Alabama voting rights advocates held a press conference in front of the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana,  Alabama to decry the lack of progress on voting rights on the eighth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Shelby County vs. Holder case. The Supreme Court’s decision gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided for pre-clearance by the U. S. Department of Justice of changes in voting laws, rules and regulations by state and local jurisdictions in the Southern statesThis decision unleashed a torrent of laws and regulations which made it more difficult for Black, Brown, poor and young people to vote around our nation. Benard Simelton, State President of the NAACP said, “We are here today in Shelby County on the 8th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s putting a knife in the back of the VRA, to call for unfettered access to the polls for all people and an end to voter suppression which is designed to depress the votes of Black, Brown and other disadvantaged people. We are not sitting back. We are actively working to fight voter suppression in all of its ways. “Laws like the one passed in Georgia to prohibit people from giving snacks and water to people on line to vote. The curbs on drop-boxes and curbside voting must be changed. The changes that affect how votes are counted. The purging of voters must all be changed,” said Simelton. Jessica Barker, Coordinator of Lift Our Vote from Huntsville, said, “We are demanding a change to end voter suppression and support our voting rights. We are here today to support the national efforts to support voting rights by passing HR 1 and S1 – The For the People Act and HR-4 The John Lewis Voter Advancement Act, in the United States Congress.” Pastor McMillan of Shelby County, said, “We are here today to try to rescue democracy for all people in Alabama and the nation. Access to the vote is not just reserved for the rich and powerful but for all of us.” Dr. Adia Winfrey of Transform Alabama spoke on her efforts to marshal the power of hip-hop culture to involve young people in the fight for voting rights and civil rights. John Zippert, SaveOurselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy linked the struggle for voting rights with other social change campaigns that SOS is working on including Medicaid Expansion, Criminal Justice Reform, Economic Justice and Worker’s Rights. Rachel Knowles, a white staff member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said she was a native of Shelby County, grew up there and went to public schools, however, “Now I am ashamed and disappointed to be from a place that is opposed to voting rights for all people.” Rev. Carolyn Foster of the Alabama Poor People’s Campaign said, “Voting rights is a moral and systemic justice issue. We are concerned with restrictive voter ID laws, redistricting problems and the myth of voter fraud. The only way to change things and get what you want is to organize to take it.” After the Courthouse Rally, the groups moved to Orr Park in Montevalo, Alabama and held a ‘voting rights fair” with booths to register people, including the previously incarcerated, get vaccine for the coronavirus, music, food, and fellowship.

Judge John H. England, Jr. receives SCLC’s Drum Major for Justice Lifetime Achievement Award

Judge England and his grandson Christopher John England, Jr.

Shown above: Rev. Ricky McKinney, Tuscaloosa Municipal Court Judge; Judge England; State Rep. Chris England; Donna Foster; and State Senator Bobby Singleton.

 

On the grounds of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse where he served as Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge before his retirement earlier this year, Judge John H. England, Jr. was presented the Drum Major for Justice Lifetime Achievement Award by the Tuscaloosa County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Sunday, June 27, 2021. The Plaque was presented by SCLC Chapter President, Rev. James Williams and England’s son State Representative Christopher John England, Sr. Of all the presenters at the ceremony, Judge England’s seemingly greatest pride fell upon his grandson Christopher John England, Jr., who read his grandfather’s biographical sketch. England’s Pastor, the Rev. Anderson T. Graves, II, of Bailey Tabernacle C.M.E. Church in Tuscaloosa, was the keynote speaker. In lifting England’s undergraduate studies in Chemistry at Tuskegee University, Rev. Graves noted that a key feature of scientific equations is balance, and attributed that same characteristic of balance to Judge’s England life of service and contributions toward the wellbeing of others. Each presenter lauded England as a living legend and a trailblazer for his contributions to civil rights and generally for securing and protecting human rights. Representative Chris England delivered warm platitudes toward his Dad, also noting that the elder was known for embarrassing him as well as many others. Chris clarified that in that scenario of embarrassment, “…there was always a lesson and today I am very grateful for that.” The ceremony for Judge England included Donna Foster as Mistress of Ceremony; Welcome by Commissioner Reginald Murray (Tuscaloosa County District 4); Song by Reuben Harris, Jr. A reception followed at The Willie Clyde and Kay Rice Jones Education Building at Bailey Tabernacle C.M.E. Church. Judge H. England, Jr., who proudly claims his birthplace in the Alabama Black Belt, was born in Perry County (Uniontown) and attended public schools in Birmingham, AL.  He is a 1969 graduate of Tuskegee Institute (University) with a BS Degree in Chemistry. In 1999, Tuskegee bestowed him with an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree.   England served two years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman and later graduated from the University of Alabama Law School in 1974, and began his law practice. He and SCLC President, Charles Steele, were the first African Americans elected to the Tuscaloosa City Council in 1985.  England served two terms and was Chairman of the Finance and Community Development Committee.  When he was appointed to the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court in 1993 by Governor Jim Folsom, England became the first African American to hold a county-wide political office.  He was re-elected to a full term in that office in 1994, where he served until he was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court by Governor Don Siegelman in 1999, the third African American to hold such a seat. England returned to the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County in 2001 and served continuously through his current retirement. Judge England currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama and in 2019 was the first African American to have a dormitory on the University’s campus named for him (John H. England, Jr. Hall). He takes a father’s pride and joy in the fact that he is the first African American UA Law School graduate to witness his three children graduate from the UA Law School: John H. England, III, U.S. is a Magistrate Judge for the Northern District in Alabama, April England Albright, is a Civil Rights Attorney in Atlanta and Chris England is an Alabama State Representative and Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Newswire : Falsely accused brothers awarded $75M after 30 years in prison

Brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown spent 30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

The two brothers were convicted at 19 and 15 and were sentenced to be executed. The two had been wrongfully convicted of a 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.  At 16, Brown became the youngest individual to be on death row in North Carolina’s history. Both McCollum and Brown claimed for years their confessions at the time of the crime were coerced. In 2014, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission found that DNA testing verified a match to the next-door neighbor of the murder victim — the convictions of McCollum and Brown were on the road to being overturned. In September 2014, a judge ruled McCollum and Brown were, in fact, innocent. Six years after their exonerations, a $75 million judgement has now been awarded to the two brothers.  The May 14 ruling by a jury mandated that the two should be awarded $1 million each for every year in prison and an additional $13 million in punitive damages. In 2018, the state of North Carolina only paid $750,000 to Henry McCollum to compensate him for the 30 years that he, an innocent man, spent on death row. The jury compensated them further. “The first jury to hear all of the evidence — including the wrongly suppressed evidence — found Henry and Leon to be innocent, found them to have been demonstrably and excruciatingly wronged, and has done what the law can do to make it right at this late date,” North Carolina attorney Elliot Abrams said after the trial ended. The settlement ends the decades-long wait for justice to be fully served for the two,” Abrams added. “A jury has finally given Henry and Leon the ability to close this horrific chapter of their lives. They look forward to a brighter future surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones.” Wrongful convictions in the U.S. justice system are not new. The national Innocence Project has had 235 exonerations since their founding in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

Newswire: The bullet has unseen collateral impact on the Black community 

 Charmion Kinder, a social impact consultant, pictured here walking through Harlem, N. Y., says gun violence in the Black community is a “cancerous epidemic.”

By Virgil Parker

  (TriceEdneyWire.com) – Gun violence has had an adverse impact on the Black community, part of which is actually invisible. That’s because the impact has been both physical and psychological, according to experts. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization, reports that Black Americans experience nearly 10 times the gun homicides, 15 times the gun assaults and three times the fatal police shootings of White Americans. The organization also shares that a daily average of 26 Black Americans are killed by guns and 104 experience non-fatal injuries. The police force also shoots and kills at least one Black person every other day. The statistics worsen in large cities, where Black Americans make up 68 percent of homicide victims. “Gun violence in the Black community is a cancerous epidemic that has crippled our senses, compromised our connectivity within the community and robbed our young people of the potential of leading full lives for far too long,” said Charmion Kinder, Founder and Chief Impact Officer of CNKinder, Inc.: a social impact consultancy. “We must stand together to continue to develop innovative solutions for the developing young minds that remain under our care — no matter their family structure, background or zip code. It is unacceptable that scores of young men, and women, in American towns and cities see only one pathway to economic advancement, including falling prey to circumstances that do not serve them or society well. The cost of crime, lack of access, and lack of opportunity is leading to fast journeys to death. And it is high time, that together, we find ways to choose more life,” said Kinder, a Black woman from New Haven, Conn. President Biden recently announced a strategy to tackle gun violence. According to the New York Times, the president’s new strategy will allow state and local governments to pull from $350 billion of resources to invest in police departments and support community-based anti-violence groups. The funds can also be used for summer jobs for young people and organizations that aim to intervene with at-risk youths before they commit violence. The provision addresses criminal justice advocates who have called for political leaders to address the societal factors that drive crime. Some individuals struggle with seeking psychological support to heal from the impact of gun violence. “My immediate family has suffered a direct loss to gun violence on multiple occasions,” said Brett Williams, a Black man who chairs the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia. “I’ve personally experienced it four times directly since I was 5. But I’d say the most impactful losses occurred exactly 20 years apart – my father who was shot and killed on March 2, 1996. I was 11 years old. And 20 years later my older brother on October 27, 2016. I was 31. Williams continued, “My family never considered any form of grief counseling or therapy. There’s a stigma in Black and brown communities where mental health is ignored… Now that I’m five years in my healing journey and have gone to therapy regularly, I see the benefits of therapy and am now an advocate for grief counseling.” Gun violence has had a stronger adverse psychological impact on some individuals more than others. “I believe that gun violence in African-American communities has had an immense psychological and physical impact on us,” said MaKenzie Smith. Smith, a Black woman from Saginaw, Michigan. “Not only is this one of the main issues currently plaguing our communities, but it’s a long-standing issue for us historically. I think it has become even more difficult for us to find the resources and the mental capacity to begin to deal with the effects of gun violence because it’s on social media, around us, and regularly right in front of us. Therefore, as we are forced to deal with and fight against every other issue we’re facing as Black people, we subconsciously become immune to the emotional aspects of that trauma – seeing or hearing about our brothers and sisters and children being shot down.” Members of the Black community are seeking and fighting for an end to gun violence. “The impact of gun violence in the African-American community has proven nothing short of pure devastation, said Dana Lintz, a Black male who resides in Bowie, Md. “Yes, police brutality and police killings of unarmed Black Americans is horrible and infuriating, but we don’t seem to show the same outrage for what is an even more heinous crime, which is shooting and killing us! And what’s worse, we appear almost immune to the killing.”