Newswire: Biden applauded for prioritizing civil rights amidst growing Artificial Intelligence Technology

By Hazel Trice Edney

( – President Joe Biden is receiving wide applause among Black leadership for his executive order that attempts to assure that artificial intelligence (AI) remains within boundaries that respect civil rights and adhere to principles of democracy. But the question remains whether the executive order goes far enough to protect Black people – particular from abusive law enforcement.
“We believe in the potential for AI to be a powerful tool to help advance our vision of opportunity and prosperity for Black and Brown people. But we cannot let the tools of the future reinforce the mistakes of the past. Guardrails must be implemented now to ensure that this emerging technology centers equity at every step of development and implementation,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR), in a statement issued following Biden’s signing of the executive order. “This executive order is a critical step to help guard against algorithmic bias and discrimination.  It can be the beginning of a pathway to a future where AI empowers instead of oppresses.”
Hewitt says the executive order prepares the federal government “to prevent and address bias and discrimination in new technologies; but more action is needed to fully address harmful AI used by law enforcement.”
Tech experts have pointed out that abusive AI tactics have been racially biased, especially against Black people.
An article titled, “Racial Discrimination in Face Recognition Technology,” written by Harvard University biotech consultant, Alex Najibi, points out that face recognition technology, a form of AI often used by police departments and in airport screening, as well as employment and housing decisions, has been known to involve “significant racial bias, particularly against Black Americans.”
Najibi adds, “Even if accurate, face recognition empowers a law enforcement system with a long history of racist and anti-activist surveillance and can widen pre-existing inequalities.”
He writes that “despite widespread adoption, face recognition was recently banned for use by police and local agencies in several cities, including Boston and San Francisco” because face recognition “is the least accurate” of all recognition technologies such as fingerprinting.
While applauding the Administration on its initial steps to direct agencies to determine how AI is used in criminal justice, the LCCR says Biden’s executive order does not go far enough to actually address “harmful uses of AI by law enforcement agencies, such as the discriminatory use of facial recognition technologies.”
President Barack Obama, who also released a statement, pointed out that he asked his staff seven years ago to study “how artificial intelligence could play a growing role in the future of the United States.”
He pointed out additional problems that could occur, including national security threats.
“We don’t want anyone with an internet connection to be able to create a new strain of smallpox, access nuclear codes, or attack our critical infrastructure. And we have to make sure this technology doesn’t fall into the hands of people who want to use it to turbocharge things like cybercrime and fraud,” Obama states.
He credited organizations such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn to the Alignment Research Center for “tackling these questions, and making sure more people feel like their concerns are being heard and addressed.”
The Leadership Conference, led by Maya Wiley, president, wrote a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on August 4, urging the Administration to focus Biden’s executive order on “protecting the American public from the current and potential harms of this technology— including threats to people’s rights, civil liberties, opportunities, jobs, economic well-being, and access to critical resources and services.” That letter was co-signed by LCCR, the NAACP, and the Center for American Progress among others.
The Executive Order directs the following requirements for organizations using AI:
Require that developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government. 
Develop standards, tools, and tests to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy. 
Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening.
Protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content.
Establish an advanced cybersecurity program to develop AI tools to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical software.
Order the development of a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security.
The focus of the executive order is primarily to assure a fair and safe future while using AI, Biden says. But the LCCR insists the order needs more work and vows to continue working with the Administration to that end.
Hewitt concluded, “To make that future a reality, civil rights-focused protections must apply to every aspect of our lives touched by AI technology, including the harmful use of AI by law enforcement. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration on how we can address the full scope of this challenge and fully leverage the opportunity before us.” 

Newswire : What Black women should know about hair relaxers and their health

By Claretta Bellamy NBC News

The damage chemical hair relaxers can have on Black women is coming under intense scrutiny. 
Several landmark studies have been published in the last year highlighting the link between chemical hair relaxers — which break down proteins in hair to straighten it — and increased rates of uterine cancer. And last week, after pressure from Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Shontel Brown of Ohio, the Food and Drug Administration proposed a ban on hair-smoothing and hair-straightening products containing formaldehyde, an ingredient known to cause cancer. 
As more research continues to reveal potential dangers, hundreds of Black people have filed lawsuits against big-name beauty and cosmetic retailers like L’Oreal and Revlon, blaming their chemical hair straighteners as causes of uterine cancer, fibroid tumors and infertility. 
The latest research on the effects of hair relaxers was published Oct. 10 by Boston University. According to the Black Women’s Health Study, or BWHS, postmenopausal Black women who have used chemical hair relaxers more than twice a year or for more than five years have an increased risk of developing uterine cancer.  
In following 44,798 Black women for up to 22 years, researchers found a higher rate of uterine cancer among postmenopausal Black women who reported having used chemical hair relaxers for at least 10 years, regardless of frequency. 
Better grasping Black health and the factors that contribute to racial disparities in cancer was the intent behind the 22-year study. 
“The idea here is that a renewed emphasis or attention to the potential dangers of these products, I hope, will spur policies, and that will sort of help reduce exposure in this population or even help us identify potentially safer alternatives to straighten hair,” said the lead author of the study, Kimberly Bertrand, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. Revealing the potential risks of hair relaxers, she said, can help spread awareness and encourage making safer choices.
To Rep. Pressley, oversight into these ingredients touches upon generational issue that Black women have long grappled with.
“For generations, systemic racism and anti-Black hair sentiment have forced Black women to navigate the extreme politicization of hair,” she said in a statement to NBC News on Wednesday. “We’ve seen this play out in schools and in the workplace, where Black folks have been criminalized, punished, or overlooked in personnel decisions just for how our hair grows out of our head. As a result, Black women have turned to straightened or relaxed hair as an attempt to advance socially and economically. But regardless of how we wear our hair, we should be able to show up in the world without putting our health at risk, and manufacturers should be prevented from making a profit at the expense of our health.”
NBC News spoke to Bertrand and other researchers to answer some questions Black people may have about chemical hair straighteners and the potential risks to their health
What has the research said about chemical hair relaxers and women’s health so far?
Several studies have found that chemical hair straighteners have harmful effects on the body. Last year, the National Institutes of Health published a major study linking chemical hair straighteners to a higher risk of uterine cancer. The study analyzed data from 33,497 U.S. women ages 35 to 74 who were followed for nearly 11 years. During that period, 378 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed.
According to this month’s BWHS, women who reported using hair relaxers more than twice a year or who used them for more than five years had a greater than 50% risk of developing uterine cancer compared to those who rarely or never used relaxers, additional data from the study shows. 
In 2021, the BWHS found that Black women who used hair products containing lye, an ingredient typically found in salon relaxers, at least seven times a year for more than 15 years had a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer. Among the 50,543 women who participated in the 25-year study, 2,311 participants had developed breast cancer, including 1,843 who developed invasive breast cancers, meaning the cancers spread into surrounding breast tissue. While Black women have a 4% lower incidence rate of breast cancer than white women, Black women have a 40% higher breast cancer death rate, according to the American Cancer Society.
Other studies have shown that hair relaxers can cause fibroids and an early onset of puberty in girls, Bertrand said. Early puberty can increase the risk for metabolic syndromes such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adulthood. 
Why are hair relaxers so harmful? 
Chemical hair relaxers contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can disrupt the functions of the endocrine system (which includes the thyroid, ovaries, pancreas and adrenal glands) and affect hormone levels. These chemicals include phthalates and parabens, which can be found in relaxers. People can be exposed to them by absorption through the skin or inhaling them in the air. 
Black women are often exposed to endocrine disruptors by using relaxers, which are applied on the scalp, said Jasmine Abrams, a research scientist at the Yale University School of Public Health.
“If you have ever gotten a relaxer, you know it usually sits on for a little bit, and most people sort of alert their hair stylist that it needs to be washed out once it starts tingling or burning — and at that point, you are running the risk of burns,” said Abrams, one of the authors of a study this year linking chemical hair straighteners to issues with fertility. 
“And if you’re running the risk of burns or any sort of injury with that type of chemical,” she added, “then you’re definitely increasing your risk for absorption. If you do that over time for many, many years, then it can, of course, become continuously problematic.”
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can also be found in some beauty products like lotions, body washes and perfumes, she added. 
Are all chemical hair relaxers dangerous, or are there safer alternatives?
Parabens, phthalates and other chemicals that are often found in chemical hair straighteners pose a greater risk than other products because of scalp exposure, Bertrand said. Even other chemical hair straighteners marketed as safer to use, including no-lye relaxers, still pose potential risks.
“In our study, women who reported using non-lye relaxers were pretty much just as likely to report scalp burns as those who use lye relaxer,” she said. 
Hair-straightening products are “very poorly regulated” by the federal government, Bertrand said, and many mask harmful chemicals under names such as “fragrance and preservatives, so women don’t really know what they’re being exposed to.”
U.S. law does not require the Food and Drug Administration to approve cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, before they go on the market, according to the FDA website. However, the FDA announced last week that it would propose a ban on hair-straightening and hair-smoothing products containing formaldehyde. The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stricter regulations of ingredients in cosmetic products and using alternative methods like heat straightening may help reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, Bertrand said.
In a statement to NBC News on Wednesday, Pressley applauded the FDA, saying the public health of Black women “is at stake.”

Newswire: Report reveals that racial disparities in incarceration persist, despite progress

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

A recent report from the Sentencing Project has revealed significant strides have been made in reducing racial inequities in incarceration over the past two decades. However, the study also warns that ongoing push back from policymakers threatens to impede further progress.

The report, titled “One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration,” highlights a notable decline in the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for Black men born in 2001 compared to those born in 1981. While one in three Black men born in 1981 faced the prospect of imprisonment, the figure has now dropped to one in five for those born in 2001.

The authors attribute the decline to reforms, particularly in drug law enforcement and sentencing for drug and property offenses. Urban areas, predominantly home to communities of color, have significantly reduced imprisonment rates.

Despite these positive trends, the report underscores that imprisonment levels remain alarmingly high nationwide, particularly for Black Americans. The authors caution that the U.S. remains entrenched in the era of mass incarceration, with a 25% reduction in the total prison population since 2009, following a nearly 700% surge in imprisonment since 1972.

The report further notes that the prison population in 2021 was nearly six times larger than it was half a century ago, before the mass incarceration era, and continued to expand in 2022. The U.S. also maintains a five to eight times higher prison and jail incarceration rate than France, Canada, and Germany. Notably, states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have incarceration rates nearly 50% above the national average.

“The reluctance to fully correct sentencing excesses, particularly for violent crimes as supported by criminological evidence, prolongs the harm and futility of mass incarceration,” the authors concluded, emphasizing that racial equity in incarceration remains an elusive goal.

The report also highlights persistent disparities among different racial and ethnic groups. The lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for Black men born in 2001, while reduced, remains four times that of their white counterparts. Black women face an imprisonment rate 1.6 times higher than white women in 2021.

The Sentencing Project stressed that addressing these disparities necessitates a dual approach, targeting the criminal legal system and the underlying socioeconomic conditions contributing to higher crime rates among people of color.

However, the momentum for continued progress remains precarious. Recent increases in specific crime categories, particularly homicides, during the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid overdose crisis have prompted lawmakers to reevaluate criminal justice reforms. This has resulted in a bipartisan backlash, including proposals to expand mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug offenses.

The Sentencing Project said it’s taking proactive measures to safeguard and build on the progress achieved thus far. They are producing four reports that delve into the persistence of racial injustice in the criminal legal system while highlighting promising reforms. The first installment provides an overview of prison and jail incarceration trends and community supervision, with subsequent reports focusing on police interactions, crime rates, and critical drivers of disparity within the criminal legal system. “These reports aim to contribute to ongoing efforts to achieve a more equitable and just criminal justice system for all Americans,” the authors wrote.

Despite recent changes that have decreased the number of people involved in the criminal justice system and have addressed racial and ethnic disparities, “we are still in a time where mass incarceration is a major issue,” the authors continued.

They affirmed that excessive control and punishment, especially targeting people of color, do not help achieve community safety goals and harm families and communities. While people of color face higher crime rates than whites, they tend to be less supportive of stringent crime control measures when compared to whites, the authors asserted.

To address the injustices outlined in this report, the authors said there remains a need for policies and practices changes that unfairly affect communities of color, and authorities should seek to reduce excessive punishment for all individuals. “The United States would still have an incarceration crisis,” University of Pennsylvania professor Marie Gottschalk wrote in the report, “even if it were locking up African Americans at ‘only’ the rate at which whites in the United States are currently incarcerated—or if it were not locking up any African Americans at all.”

Newswire: Social Security benefits to increase despite Republican calls for reform

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

In the face of increasing pressure from elected Republican officials to reform safety net programs, the Social Security Administration has announced a 3.2% increase in benefits for 2024. Starting December 29, recipients of Social Security will see an average boost of $50 per month in their retirement benefits, a change attributed to the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) calculated based on inflation readings from July, August, and September.
“Social Security and SSI benefits will increase in 2024, and this will help millions of people keep up with expenses,” stated Kilolo Kijakazi, acting commissioner of Social Security.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which showed increases of 2.6% in July, 3.4% in August, and 3.6% in September, is where the adjustment comes from.
Despite this positive news for Social Security beneficiaries, a political battle looms over the long-term fate of these crucial programs. During the 2022 campaign season, several Republican incumbents, and candidates, including Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, advocated for significant changes, including cuts and the need for annual funding reauthorization.
Scott’s 11-point legislative agenda included a provision proposing the expiration of all federal laws every five years, which he argued would best serve to “preserve those programs.” Johnson, who narrowly won reelection, called for transforming all mandatory spending into discretionary funds, asserting this would enable better evaluation and problem-solving for programs facing financial strain.
Unsuccessful GOP Senate candidates in various states also floated proposals to end at least one of the programs through privatization or significant cuts, highlighting a growing divide on the issue within the Republican Party.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security each constitute critical pillars of support for a significant portion of the American population, particularly seniors and those with limited means. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security alone accounts for most older Americans’ monthly income, with nearly a quarter relying on it for 90% of their income.
According to the Social Security Administration, over 67 million people received benefits in 2023, with nearly 90% of those over 65 relying on the program. Stanford University’s white paper on Social Security outlines its historical development, emphasizing its role in safeguarding retirees against financial insecurity.
While the program remains crucial for many, the same Stanford paper highlights that demographic and economic shifts pose challenges to its long-term financial stability. The authors contend that policymakers must confront the issue and explore potential reforms to ensure the program’s continued viability.
“Social Security is an essential program that provides critical support to millions of retirees, survivors, and disabled individuals,” the authors asserted. “While reforming Social Security is challenging, policymakers must act to address the program’s long-term funding shortfall and ensure that the program can continue to meet its important mission.”

Newswire: Hate crimes surge in 2022 leading to an urgent call for unity and action

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released its comprehensive Hate Crime Statistics for 2022, revealing a troubling surge in hate-fueled incidents across the United States. Recent attacks in New York and Chicago are stark reminders of the urgent need for increased awareness and action.

In 2022, the FBI transitioned to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for data collection, representing a significant step towards more accurate reporting. The new data reflects submissions from 13,293 law enforcement agencies employing NIBRS data, covering over 256 million U.S. inhabitants. Additionally, data from 2,431 non-transitioned agencies was accepted, representing 55,441,278 inhabitants, expanding the population coverage to 93.5%.
The Hate Crime Statistics 2022 report reveals that law enforcement agencies reported 11,634 criminal incidents involving 13,337 related offenses motivated by bias towards race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.
In New York, a Sikh man faced a vicious attack aboard an MTA bus in Queens this week. The assailant, allegedly expressing xenophobia, targeted the victim and attempted to remove his turban—a sacred religious symbol—forcibly. This incident is a stark reminder of the persistent hate plaguing American society.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, a horrific incident over the weekend resulted in the tragic murder of a six-year-old boy. Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother fell victim to a brutal attack, with the assailant singling them out due to their Muslim faith. The suspect, Joseph Czuba, now faces charges of murder and hate crimes. This shocking incident highlights the devastating consequences of hate-fueled violence.
In response to the surge in hate crimes, President Biden released a statement condemning the 25 percent increase in antisemitic incidents from 2021 to 2022. He stressed the imperative of unity in speaking out against hate and bigotry, pledging his administration’s dedication to combating antisemitism and Islamophobia.
While there was a positive 38 percent decrease in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, the overall levels remained stable, underscoring the need for sustained efforts to eradicate hate-fueled violence. Anti-LGBTQI+ hate crimes rose 16 percent, and Muslim and African Americans continue to be overrepresented among victims, Biden said.
“There’s more to do when it comes to ending hate-fueled violence,” the president insisted. “That means coming together and speaking out against hate and bigotry in all its forms. All Americans deserve to live their lives with dignity, respect, and safety.

Newswire : Humanitarian crisis deepens in Gaza as conflict escalates

Rockets fired from Gaza, during Israel-Hamas war

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

The conflict in Israel has triggered a cascade of far-reaching consequences, resonating globally. The strife has spurred widespread protests in major cities worldwide, with demonstrators advocating for peace and justice in the region. Concurrently, the United States has witnessed a surge in hate crimes, reflecting the heightened tensions and polarized sentiments surrounding the issue.
The enduring debate surrounding Israel’s perceived occupation of Palestine continues to be a focal point of discussion, with proponents and critics engaging in a fervent exchange of perspectives. The multifaceted developments underscore the intricate interplay of political, social, and international forces in the ongoing conflict.
As the conflict continues to escalate, up to 600 Americans find themselves stranded in Gaza, grappling with dwindling essential supplies and a dire humanitarian situation. The State Department has reported that access to clean water, food, fuel, and medical provisions has become increasingly scarce.
In retaliation for Hamas attacks on Israel, the Israeli government has enforced a blockade, leaving Gaza without electricity for several days. The toll of the conflict is stark: over 2,450 casualties and 9,200 injuries have been reported in Gaza, while in Israel, 1,400 individuals have lost their lives and 3,500 have been wounded.
Among the casualties are 30 Americans, victims of Hamas’ attack on Israel and the ensuing warfare, according to a State Department spokesperson. Automated emails and ambiguous phone calls from the State Department have hampered efforts to ensure the safety of Palestinian Americans, leaving families uncertain about evacuation prospects.

The Rafah crossing, a vital gateway, remains closed, further complicating exit strategies. Additionally, the hub has suffered physical damage from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
At home, protests have intensified as well as hate crimes. In a horrifying incident in Illinois, a 6-year-old boy was tragically stabbed to death, and his mother – both Lebanese – critically wounded in an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime. Joseph Czuba, 71, the landlord, is accused of the brutal attack, which authorities attribute to the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict. President Biden swiftly condemned the attack, categorizing it as a hate crime.
Biden has warned Israel sternly, cautioning against an occupation of Gaza during the planned major ground assault in response to the Hamas terror attack. Meanwhile, discussions are underway regarding a potential solidarity visit by Biden to Israel.
At press time, we learned that that President Biden will embark on a diplomatic mission to Israel and Jordan on Wednesday, October 18. The visit aims to reaffirm the United States’ “unwavering support for Israel” in the wake of a recent terrorist attack by Hamas and to strategize on future actions.
Following his visit to Israel, Biden will travel to Amman, Jordan, where he will hold discussions with key regional leaders. The itinerary includes meetings with King Abdullah, Egyptian President Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This visit with Arab leaders has been postponed due to the horrific bombing of the Ahli Arab Hospital in southern Gaza on Tuesday, October 17th., killing hundreds of Palestinian civilians, while Biden was enroute to the Middle East.
Israel has announced the evacuation of 28 northern communities along the Lebanon border amid escalating attacks in the region concurrent with the ongoing conflict against Hamas. This move has raised concerns about the potential for a second war between Israel and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon.
Amid escalating tensions, the U.S. reportedly has engaged in back-channel talks with Iran, cautioning against further escalation and potential intervention through Hezbollah. Israel’s emergency government, meanwhile, has mobilized 300,000 reservists in preparation for a major ground offensive.
Also, the international community continues to grapple with the potential for the conflict to extend beyond the region. U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urges Israel to minimize civilian casualties to prevent further escalation.
In the United States, reactions to the conflict vary, with Black Americans expressing various emotions. Many drew parallels between the struggles of Palestinians and African Americans in their fight against systemic racism, as highlighted through social media campaigns. Through those lenses, many were reminded of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s past comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where he emphasized his belief in “the illegal occupation of Palestine.” In a 2006 PBS-TV interview, Carter discussed his book, “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid,” regarding the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
“This apartheid, which is prevalent throughout the occupied territories, the subjection of the Palestinians to horrible abuse, is caused by a minority of Israelis — we’re not talking about racism, but talking about their desire to acquire, to occupy, to confiscate, and then to colonize Palestinian land,” Carter said. “So, the whole system is designed to separate through a ferocious system Israelis who live on Palestine territory and Palestinians who want to live on their own territory.”

The Heart Condition Hiding in Plain Sight




By Michele Wilson, Chairwoman
Mobile Area Black Chamber of Commerce

The health of a community is often about connecting. Connecting with our neighbors, friends, and family to recharge our souls. Connecting with information that empowers us to make positive change.
Now we need to get connected and work together to address a serious cause of heart failure called transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, or ATTR-CM.
Many of us may already be aware that when it comes to heart disease in the U.S., Black, African American, and Afro-Caribbean communities are disproportionately affected compared to other racial and ethnic groups.* But did you know about three to four percent of African Americans carry a mutation in the TTR gene (V122I) that makes it more likely that they may develop ATTR-CM, however not all carriers develop the disease. ATTR-CM gets worse over time, which is why early diagnosis and management are so important.
ATTR-CM hides in plain sight. That’s where community and connecting come in.
Getting diagnosed with ATTR-CM can often take years. Some signs of ATTR-CM, like carpal tunnel syndrome, extreme tiredness, and swelling in the lower legs and feet, can mimic other conditions. The signs of ATTR-CM may be difficult to connect with a heart condition. ATTR-CM, as a cause of heart failure can be missed. Family or friends can play an important role in helping you or your doctor determine health issues that you may not notice or talk about. Share all your health information with your doctor so that they can “connect the dots” and make sure health concerns aren’t overlooked.
We are connected by our health histories – sharing health information among relatives is important too. The hereditary type of ATTR-CM is passed down through relatives. If you have relatives with heart-related issues – tell your doctor. If a relative is diagnosed with hereditary ATTR-CM, a doctor may suggest genetic counseling and testing for relatives. Genetic testing can help relatives understand what potential steps to take.
Getting connected with information about ATTR-CM and learning from experts is also key. That’s why Mobile Area Black Chamber of Commerce is excited to partner with Pfizer, former NBA basketball player and coach Don Chaney, and Dr. Don Rowe on a Voices for the Heart event to increase awareness of ATTR-CM in our community. Don will share his personal diagnosis story and his experiences living with hereditary ATTR-CM. To register for this important event, click here or scan the QR code below.
Working together, we can raise awareness of hereditary ATTR-CM and help make sure that our community, friends, and family have the information they need to take charge of their health.
*A 7-year study in London, UK found a gene mutation (ATTR V122I) was the cause of heart failure in 211 out of 1392 Afro-Caribbean patients.

For additional resources on hereditary ATTR-CM, including a discussion guide to help conversations with your doctor or share with a loved one, you can visit

Federation holds weekly meetings to explain and help farmers fill out DFAP applications

Thursday briefing at the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes, Alabama on USDA DFAP process

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives is holding a weekly meeting,
on every Thursday at 10:30 AM, at its Rural Training and Research Center,
between Epes and Gainesville, Alabama on Sumter County Road 20, to assist farmers, who have been discriminated against by USDA in farm loans. to fill out applications for the USDA Discrimination Financial Assistance Program (DFAP).

After the initial explanation of the overall process, eligibility and other issues, the Federation has staff available to meet individually with farmers and other claimants to begin the 40-page DFAP application process. The Federation staff is also providing appointments with farmers to complete the process of filling out the lengthy application, which also requires the scanning and uploading of documents.

USDA announced this DFAP program in mid-July of this year, to implement Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides $2.2 Billion of assistance to farmers who were discriminated against in the farm loan process, prior to January 1, 2021. There is no minimum payment, but the maximum has been set at $500,000. The deadline for filing an application has been extended from the original date of October 31, 2023, to January 13, 2024.

“We welcome all farmers interested in this program to attend our weekly Thursday briefing on the DFAP program to learn the details of the program and documentation that will be required to prove discrimination, such as a land deed or lease, farm plans, farm receipts, correspondence with USDA, statements from non-blood relatives concerning the discrimination and other papers,” said John Zippert, Federation Program Director Emeritus, who has been brought back from retirement to help with the process.

The Federation is encouraging farmers and people who attempted to farm, by applying to USDA credit agencies – Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) and Farm Services Agency (FSA)- for a farm loan to go to the official USDA website at, to get more information on the program. This website also has the access to the text and on-line versions of the 40-page DFAP application, instructions, answers to frequently asked questions, and other valuable information about DFAP.

Zippert said, “The DFAP process is similar to but different from the prior Black farmer (Pigford) lawsuits, native American (Keepseagle) and Women and Hispanic Settlement processes. In this case, applications must be made for a live person, no estates, heirs, or deceased people are eligible to apply for this program. The standards of proof are similar but different and require more documentation than the lawsuits. If you participated in the lawsuits and were successful or unsuccessful, you are still eligible to participate in this process.”

Zippert continued, “We have found it takes two visits with our staff and five hours of consultation to fill out and complete the full application, including scanning in documents, after the initial two-hour Thursday briefing on the program. At the briefing, we will give you a shorter survey/screening form, which will raise the questions and issues that you will need to answer and seek documentation to be able to complete the full application. We advise farmers to do their “homework” to fill out this survey, to capture your story of USDA discrimination, which will help speed up filling out the 40-page application.”

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives has been contracted by USDA to provide technical assistance and help to farmers in filling out the DFAP applications. There is no charge for the Federation’s services. Other organizations and lawyers are providing application services for a fee.

“The Federation wants to submit a quality application for farmers, and we are going to add our name as technical assistance providers and preparers to your application. We want you to have a good chance of receiving some monetary assistance for your experience of discrimination in USDA credit programs, as specified by Congress in Section 22007 of the IRA,” explained Zippert.

For more information on the Thursday DFAP briefings and the process, Alabama farmers may call the Federation’s RTRC at 205-652-9676. The Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center is located at 575 Federation Road, Epes, AL 35460.

Farmers in other states may call the Federation’s DFAP call center at 1-888-533-3271 or email: for more information and assistance in filing DFAP applications.

USDA extends application deadline for Discrimination Financial Assistance Program to January 13, 2024

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture is extending the deadline for the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program to January 13, 2024, to give eligible farmers, ranchers and forest landowners more time to apply for assistance. The original deadline was October 31, 2023.
This deadline extension is responsive to feedback from potential applicants, nongovernmental program administrators and community-based organizations working closely with USDA to inform and assist eligible individuals. The new deadline will allow more time to reach and help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners through direct, no-cost technical assistance and training sessions. The extension will also ensure everyone has adequate time to apply, including producers whose harvest season falls during the original application period.
“USDA knows it must earn the trust of the farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who are eligible for this program. That makes transparency in the administration of the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program crucial,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In that spirit, after receiving feedback from organizations that have been supporting producers throughout the application process, we have made the decision to extend the deadline. We believe this is the appropriate action to take to ensure all eligible individuals wishing to apply are adequately informed about the program and have the opportunity to receive any necessary assistance.”
Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF , a cooperator organization that has been assisting with outreach and technical assistance on DFAP applications, said “ We are pleased that USDA has extended the deadline to January 13, 2024. This will give us a chance to reach the hundreds of farmers who have contacted our offices across the South seeking assistance in filling out their DFAP applications. We will be able to devote time to planning and preparing quality applications for each farmer instead of rushing to meet the October deadline.”
This program delivers on Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides financial assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs prior to January 2021. Congress provided a total of $2.2 billion for this program. The amount of money awarded to individuals through this program will depend on the number of eligible applicants and the consequences of the discrimination. Eligible individuals have the option to apply online or by submitting paper-based forms via mail or in-person delivery to local program offices. Applicants are not required to retain an attorney and should take precautions to protect themselves from potential scams.
In addition to the application deadline change, the deadline to request records from USDA’s Farm Service Agency for use in applications has been extended to Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. The application process was designed so that FSA records are not required, though relevant records may be attached to an application as additional evidence if they are available.
To learn more about the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program or receive assistance in English or Spanish, visit, email or contact the national call center at 1-800-721-0970 from 8 a.m. ET to 8 p.m. PT, every day except federal holidays. If you use sign language to communicate, you can use the 711 relay service to call. You may also email or contact the national call center if you have a disability and need another accommodation. Information about the program, resources, recent office openings and local events across the country is also available through a weekly e-newsletter.
Persons interested in contacting the Federation of Southern Cooperatives for technical assistance in filling out applications may call : 1-888-533-3271 or contact: to schedule an appointment for technical assistance in the application process.

Newswire : Remembering Hollis Watkins, Veteran of Mississippi Civil Rights Movement ,who died at 82 last week

Hollis Watkins Muhammed

Bio compiled by Mississippi Department of Archives and History

A native of Mississippi, Hollis Watkins, was born in 1941 and grew up on a small farm in Chisholm Mission and became one of the first young Mississippians to commit to full-time work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Watkins also served as founder and president of the Pike County Nonviolent Direct Action 

He was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and a county organizer in the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.
Inspired by civil rights leader Bob Moses, Watkins began organizing local voter registration drives within the Pike County community. He organized one of the first sit-ins in McComb at a Woolworth’s lunch counter with fellow activist Curtis Hayes and was arrested and jailed multiple times for participating in various demonstrations.
Watkins was known for his use of freedom songs as an inspiration to encourage others to join the movement. He traveled across the state and worked on voter registration campaigns with other civil rights leaders such as Vernon  Dahmer. Watkins was also involved in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that challenged the state’s 
all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“Hollis Watkins dedicated his entire life to improving the lives of Black Mississippians,” said Michael Morris, director of the Two Mississippi Museums. “He was heavily involved in the creation of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, lending his voice to the museum’s central gallery. Museum staff are disheartened to learn of his death, but
 his legacy continues to inspire us.”

In 1989, Watkins co-founded Southern Echo, a community organization which works to develop leaders and empower local residents in support of the welfare of African American communities throughout Mississippi. He also served as chair of the Veteran of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. Watkins was honored with a Fannie 
Lou Hamer Humanitarian Award from Jackson State University in 2011 and received an honorary doctorate from Tougaloo College in 2015.
Watkins died on September 20, 2023, at the age of 82.