Newswire: Inhumane conditions, violence and death represents everyday life at Mississippi’s Parchman Prison

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Entrance to Mississippi State Penitentiary


The conditions at Mississippi’s Parchman prison makes it one of the worst detention facilities in the world, according to reform advocates and human rights organizations.
Death and violence are rampant, many inmates are without beds, and electricity, plumbing, and fundamental human rights are absent. At the same time, mold, roaches, mosquitos, and rodents far outnumber the more than 5,000 inmates.
On Tuesday, January 14, hip-hop superstar Jay-Z sued the head of the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the warden on behalf of 29 prisoners who have complained that officials have done nothing to stop the violence at Parchman.
In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenville, Mississippi, Jay-Z addressed the recent deaths at the prison. “These deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights,” the mogul said in the court filing.
The suit names Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall and Mississippi State Penitentiary Superintendent Marshall Turner as defendants.
Earlier this month, hip-hop stars T.I., and Yo Gotti called on the governor to close the prison or to address the issues adequately. “This is unacceptable,” T.I. wrote on his Instagram page.
“The conditions in the prisons operated by the Mississippi Department of Corrections are absolutely inhumane and unconstitutional,” Yo Gotti wrote in a letter to the governor Phil Bryant, a Republican.
“To see this happen so close to my hometown of Memphis is truly devastating. That’s why we’re calling on Mississippi state leaders to take immediate action and rectify this issue. If they don’t right this wrong, we’re prepared to take legal action to provide relief for those that are incarcerated and their families,” Gotti stated.
In an alarming 2019 report on Parchman and other Mississippi prisons, The Marshall Project found that gang activity isn’t limited to some of the people incarcerated. They discovered that some prison employees, including some high ranking officers and managers, are affiliated with one of two gangs, the Vice Lords or Gangster Disciples. The reasons vary.
“Some staffers said gang loyalty gives some officers a measure of protection; since gangs have a lot of control, they can prevent certain attacks,” The Marshall Project reported. “Others say gang affiliation began before employment; according to lawsuits, testimony, and interviews, gangs directly recruit women to apply for correctional officer jobs.”
In a tweet, Pro Publica officials stated, “Understaffed and underfunded, Mississippi’s #ParchmanPrison recently received media attention for its grisly violence, gang control, and subhuman living conditions. Lawmakers have known about these issues for years — and have done nothing to fix it.”
Earlier this month, five inmates were killed after allegedly trying to escape.
Video captured by cellphones, which are routinely smuggled into the prison, surfaced online this month appearing to show inside Parchman and the conditions in which inmates live.
One shows individuals in orange and white prison uniforms walking through piles of trash and dirty water. Mold is apparent, and there’s no electricity, heat, plumbing, and many inmates sleep on concrete because there aren’t enough beds. “We sleeping on straight concrete. There are no mats,” one person on the video states. The individuals than demonstrate that there’s no running water by trying to flush toilets and opening faucets and showers. In another video, two inmates also complain about the lack of running water. “Please get us some help,” they plead.In still another video, an inmate appears to breakdown emotionally as he sits in an area where prisoners have disposed of their feces.
In the heart of the Mississippi Delta, the prison, once a plantation that was home to hundreds of slaves, has a long history that’s intertwined with Mississippi’s racist past. In 1901, the state government of Mississippi established Parchman Penitentiary, taking advantage of an opportunity to continue to profit off of cheap Black labor, much like Whites had done for generations before, while also continuing to exercise violent control over the descendants of former slaves.
Historians at the University of North Carolina said Parchman was modeled after a traditional southern plantation, for-profit prison in Sunflower County was segregated until 1971. “While a small farm held White convicts, Black inmates labored on Parchman’s massive, twenty-thousand-acre plantation, where they picked cotton, chopped wood, and plowed fields under the control of armed guards,” the historians stated.
Today, of the more than 5,000 inmates at Parchman, more than 60 percent are African American. The prison has an 11-to-1 inmate to guard ratio, and no one is safe.
“I will be requesting that the U.S. Attorney General launch an investigation into the ongoing failures in safety, security, health, and environmental standards within the Mississippi Department of Corrections,” stated U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). “This is unacceptable,” Thompson wrote on Twitter.

Newswire : Bullet-proof monument rededicated for Emmett Till

Three previous monuments were destroyed

By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet.Today

Emmett Till
The new bullet-proof monument for Emmett Till

The Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, on Saturday dedicated a bullet-proof sign honoring Emmett Till. The 500-pound sign replaces three others that either had been shot up by racists, including by members of a frat from the University of Mississippi, or had been thrown into a river.
Three Ole Miss frat brothers, posing with smiles and guns, shot up one of the signs. They were members of Kappa Alpha Order, whose spiritual founder is U.S. Civil War traitor General Robert E. Lee.
Two men carried the shot-up sign and placed it at the base of a Confederate statue on the University of Mississippi campus.
Relatives of Emmett Till attended the ceremony to see the sign installed in Graball Landing on the banks of the Tallahatchie River where Till’s bloated and beaten body was discovered after it unexpectedly floated to the water’s surface.
Till, a 14- year-old from Chicago, was spending the summer of 1955 with relatives in Money, Mississippi, where his mother believed he would be safe from Chicago gangs.

But two white men who brutally beat him and shot him in the head in what some call a lynching. J.W. Milam and his half-brother, Roy Bryant, murdered Till. The teenager’s lifeless body, which had been weighted down so no one would ever find it, was thrown like a bag of garbage into the Tallahatchie, a 230-mile long river that flows through Mississippi.

Jet magazine, whose editor and founder was John H. Johnson, published a photo of the open casket, showing Till’s face disfigured beyond recognition. His teeth were missing, one eye was hanging from its socket and one ear had been severed. Mamie Till, his mother, who insisted on the open casket so people could see what had happened to her son, leaned over the casket, and wept uncontrollably.

But even in death, Till did not find peace. His mother buried her son in Burr Oak Cemetery, an African American-owned cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. Investigators discovered Till’s casket had been desecrated along with others in a scheme to resell burial plots.

The first sign that notified visitors this was where Till’s body was discovered was thrown into the Tallahatchie. The next two signs were riddled with bullets. These incidents occurred over 11 years.
The new sign is heavy and sleek. It is made of thick AR500 steel and sheathed by an acrylic panel.

Newswire : Lumumba becomes youngest Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi

By Othor Cain (The Mississippi Link/NNPA Member)

 

 Clumumbamayor_jjohnson_web120Chokwe Lumumba and his wife at swearing in ceremony

Chokwe Antar Lumumba became the youngest mayor in the history of Jackson, Miss., when he was sworn-in last month in front of a standing room-only crowd at Jackson’s Convention Center Complex.
Lumumba, 34, defeated the business-friendly incumbent Mayor Tony Yarber after losing to him in a special election in 2014. The seat was left vacant when Lumumba’s father, Chokwe Lumumba, died after serving less than a year in office.
Lumumba called his victory a celebration of the city’s unity. “It’s about our collective efforts to move Jackson forward,” Lumumba said to a cheering crowd. A blessing deferred isn’t a blessing denied.
Even though he had hoped to fulfill the unexpired term of his father in 2014, Lumumba said he was grateful for losing to Yarber, during his first campaign.
“I’m actually grateful that we lost the election in 2014, not because the sincerity was not there, not because we didn’t believe we would have done a good job, but, we’ve been able to appreciate far more what’s going on with the city of Jackson, and I’ve been able to appreciate more within myself,” Lumumba shared during an interview with “Democracy Now!”
Lumumba continued: “People have to remember, in 2014, not only did I bury my father in a two-month time span and then enter into an election, my wife was pregnant with our first child. And so there was a world of change. You had a first-time candidate, who had not run for junior class president, much less mayor of a city. And so, we’ve been able to, you know, gather more information and position ourselves better.”
Lumumba said that everything happens in a perfect timing. “We’re happy where we find ourselves at this time, to move forward the agenda that my father embarked on, an agenda of a people’s platform, one that was not only, you know, symbolic of his work in his short term as mayor, but symbolic of a lifetime of work, that he subscribed to and also ultimately dedicated his family toward,” said Lumumba.
During Lumumba’s swearing-in service, on the same stage where his father stood on and was sworn-in, just four years ago, he became overwhelmed with emotions. “A son only holds his father’s hand for a short while, but he holds his heart forever,” he said as he fought back tears. “I can’t help, but to be emotional today.”
The young mayor also paid homage to his mother. “My mom’s spirit was infectious, she was the first person to tell me that I was brilliant,” said Lumumba. “If you had the privilege of knowing her or meeting her, she is someone that you would never forget.”
In Chicago, earlier this summer, speaking at the People’s Summit, Lumumba shared his thoughts about “the people’s platform.”
“From the moment we announced, we worked hard and aggressively on an agenda that included social justice, economic democracy and making certain that the people had a voice,” he said. “That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.”
Lumumba said that he plans to implement “people’s assemblies,” that speak directly to his campaign promise to the community that he serves.
“‘When I become mayor, you become mayor,’” he said, echoing a campaign. “These assemblies will give residents an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process.”
Lumumba said in Chicago that all eyes were on Jackson. “So what happens in Jackson, Mississippi, impacts each and every one of us. And so we have to make the decision that we’re going to start controlling the way electoral politics proceed. We’ve made the decision that we’re going to be the most radical city on the planet, that we’re going to make certain that we change the whole scope of electoral politics,” said Lumumba. “No longer will we allow an individual to step before us and tell us all of the great things that they’re going to accomplish on our behalf, only to find that nothing in their past demonstrates a sincerity, a willingness or an ability to do so.”
Tackling the city’s budget is top priority for Lumumba, who is also known as a social justice activist and attorney.
“Shortly after we take office, we have to pass a budget. And so, it’s important that we have the right people in place,” said Lumumba. “We have a transition team that’s in place right now, looking at the issues which Jackson is facing, making certain that we don’t make plans just off conjecture, but a fact-based analysis of where we find our city, and bringing together not only people who have the acumen and ability and skill to do the job, but people who have a passion, a passion which goes beyond just the way we see electoral politics, but a passion to change people’s lives.”
What does the name Lumumba mean?
Many have; many do; and many will, mispronounce and misspell Lumumba’s name, including this writer. When asked the origin and meaning of his name, he shared a quick historical perspective with democracynow.org: So, my father changed his name when he was in law school, and accepted a name that he believed to be more culturally identifiable. Chokwe is the name of a tribe in the Angola region, a tribe that was resistant to the slave trade. The name Chokwe means “hunter.” Antar is the name of a historic poet and warrior who died while saving a woman from drowning; Antar means “poet” and “warrior.” Lumumba, given that name from our namesake, Patrice Lumumba, the former prime minister of the Congo, Lumumba means “gifted.”
The Mississippi Link is a member publication of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

Newswire : Mike Espy to receive Witherspoon Award at Federation’s 50th Annual Meeting celebration

Mike Espy
Mike Espy

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund will celebrate its 50th. Annual Meeting on August 17 to 19, 2017. The organization was founded in 1967, by 22 cooperatives and credit unions, arising from the Civil Rights Movement, serving low-income farmers and rural people in the South.
On Thursday evening, August 17, Attorney Mike Espy of Jackson, Mississippi will receive the 16th annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award at a fundraising banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Interstate 495 in Birmingham. Estelle Witherspoon was the Manager of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alberta, Alabama and a founding member of the Federation.

Mike Espy served as the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction, from 1987 to 1993. In 1993, President Bill Clinton selected him to be the first African-American and the first Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South. Today, Espy heads the Mississippi office of the law firm of Morgan and Morgan and was involved in the Pigford Black Farmer Discrimination lawsuits against USDA.

Espy has worked closely with the Federation in all of his professional pursuits. As a Mississippi Congressman he co-sponsored the “Minority Farers Rights Bill” and helped to get several of its major components, including the Section 2501 Outreach Program, into the 1990 Farm Bill. As Secretary of Agriculture, he worked closely with the Federation on the efforts to bring greater civil rights concern to the department. As a lawyer, he worked closely with the Federation and our members on the Pigford lawsuit.

On Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19, the Federation’s Annual Meeting will shift to the organization’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes in Sumter County. Friday will be a day of workshops, presentations and celebration of the Federation’s half century of work and achievements on behalf of Black farmers and landowners. Friday evening there will be a fish-fry, wild game tasting and other dishes from the regional membership of the Federation.

On Saturday, the Federation will hold a prayer breakfast followed by the organization’s business meeting, which includes reports from the Board of Directors, Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, and state caucuses of the membership.

Cornelius Blanding said, “For five decades, the Federation has served its membership of Black farmers and other low income rural people across the South. We have held true to our mission and worked at the grassroots level to transform people and communities, many times in the face of racial hostility and economic exploitation, to win a better future with social and economic justice for our membership. I am proud to be part of the continuing legacy of the Federation and hope to lead it into the next half century of progress.”

Persons interested in attending the Estelle Witherspoon Awards Banquet and the 50th Annual Meeting should go to the organization’s website at http://www.federation.coop to register. Information is also available from the Federation’s offices in Atlanta (404/765-0991) and Epes, Alabama (205/652-9676).

Black Lawyer argues Mississippi’s flag represents racial discrimination; battle over Confederate flag continues

By Lawyers Herald Staff Writer

State of Miss flag

Mississippi state flag which includes the Confederate flag.

Voters will decide whether to replace the state’s old flag, which sports the Confederate battle cross, with a new flag that would have 20 white stars on a blue square. A Mississippi lawyer sued Governor Phil Bryant for flying the state flag, an emblem tantamount to hateful government speech against himself and African American residents of Mississippi’s rights.Carlos Moore alleged that the current flag contains a Confederate emblem with a racial discriminatory purpose to subjugate African-Americans to second class status and promote the notion of white supremacy. Thus, his constitutional rights have been violated along with all African American citizens of the state.
Moore stated in his complaint, which was lodged before the jurisdiction of Southern Mississippi U.S. District Court, that time is of the essence for the removal of the current state flag from all public display on public lands and adoption of a non-discriminatory state flag. He also emphasized that there was a recent mass killing by a young white supremacist who was a Confederate battle flag sympathizer and militant. Mississippi is the only state that incorporates the Confederate emblem flag into its state flag.
Moore said that he invoked some of the same language from the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which the U.S. Supreme Court solidified to legalize same-sex marriage nationally.
“Such case is the law of the land, and if it applies to same-sex couples, and they’ve got the right to be respected; surely African Americans have the right to be respected too,” Moore said in an interview.
However, Republican Bryant, who recently issued a proclamation naming April as Confederate Heritage Month, has said voters should decide whether to keep the flag used since 1894.
He said that he will rely on a landmark case filed in the mid-1990s in Georgia. A black resident of Atlanta sued over the design of Georgia’s flag, which then displayed the same Confederate battle emblem that’s still on the Mississippi banner.
In such lawsuit, it argued that the flag was racist because the Confederate emblem was added in 1956 to defy school desegregation rulings. U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans ruled in January 1996 that she would not make Georgia stop flying its flag because: “There simply is no evidence in the record indicating that the flag itself results in discrimination against African-Americans.”
In a report by The Oregonian, House Speaker Tina Kotek stated, “After attempting again this week to reach out to leadership in both the Mississippi House and Senate, I now believe it is time for us to act. We should remove the Mississippi flag.”
Constitutional law expert Matt Steffey said that there are some issues with Moore’s legal claims.
“The 14th Amendment is not usually read to be concerned with symbolic matters, and the flag is by definition a symbol,” Steffey said. “And while the lawsuit attempts to tie this to violence, at least in a courtroom, there’s no way to establish that.”