South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with Russian President Putin
June 18, 2023 (GIN) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, among a group of seven African leaders meeting on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, presented an African plan to end the ruinous war between Russia and the Ukraine. The delegation from South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Congo-Brazzaville, Comoros, Zambia and Uganda was scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian leader on Friday and the Russian leader on Saturday. Among their proposals was: that both leaders must listen to one another; that there must be a de-escalation of conflict on both sides; and, of major interest to Africans, that the movement of grains across the Black Sea must be opened up to remove blockages so that commodities can reach markets. African Union Chair and president of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, said Africa’s history had taught its leaders to always find a peaceful solution to war. But, addressing President Putin, “we are not going to teach you any new lessons because your country has gone through many painful events in the past.” The African proposals failed to dent the hardened positions of the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. Nor did they impress citizens at home. South Africans writing to the local Daily Maverick news outlet were incensed that the President’s security detail of 120 had failed to obtain proper paperwork for 12 containers of arms on board the plane that President Ramaphosa, accompanied by 30 journalists, would be carrying with him to the meeting with the Ukrainine leader in Kyiv. As a consequence, Poland refused to allow South African security police to accompany the president. “Almost nothing was in place, almost nothing worked,” said reporter Pieter du Toit, one of the journalists who, along with the presidential protection unit, was held at the airport for more than 20 hours. Among the undeclared and unauthorized weapons were “long-range sniper rifles and weapons normally used in serious conflict,” according to the South African Sunday Times quoting “highly placed South African Government insiders.” Meanwhile, just as Ramaphosa was visiting the Ukraine, Russia shot off hypersonic and cruise missiles narrowly missing the high-ranking delegation of African leaders there to discuss peace options. Reuters reported seeing the African heads of state fleeing to a nearby hotel to use its air-raid shelter. “Russian missiles are a message to Africa: Russia wants more war, not peace,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to disturb a federal law that governs the process for the placement of Native American children in foster or adoptive homes, rejecting constitutional challenges to the law. The court ruled 7-2 in the case known as Haaland v. Brackeen, which a birth mother, foster and adoptive parents, and the state of Texas brought. The challengers claimed the law exceeds federal authority, infringes on state sovereignty, and discriminates on the basis of race. In a majority opinion authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court turned down the challenges, a victory for the Biden administration and several Native American tribes that defended the law. “The issues are complicated,” Barrett wrote, adding that “the bottom line is that we reject all of petitioners’ challenges to the statute, some on the merits and others for lack of standing.” Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Enacted in 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act aims to keep Native American children connected to Native families by giving preference to those families or Native institutions during foster care and adoption proceedings that involve Native children. The law defines “Indian child” as not only one who is a member of a Native American tribe but also one who is eligible for membership and the biological child of a tribal member. The dispute before the Supreme Court arose from three child custody proceedings, during which the Indian Child Welfare Act was invoked to govern the placement of Native children. The white foster and adoptive parents, joined by the state of Texas, challenged the law’s constitutionality in federal court, arguing in part that it uses racial classifications that unlawfully impede non-Native families from fostering or adopting Native children. A federal district court ruled in favor of the families. Still, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision that the law’s preferences for prioritizing “other Indian families” and “Indian foster home[s]” over non-Native families are unconstitutional. The appeals court also upheld the district court’s ruling that several of the law’s requirements violated the 10th Amendment. In a concurring opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Gorsuch praised the majority opinion upholding the law and wrote that when enacting it more than 30 years ago, Congress exercised its lawful authority to “secure the right of Indian parents to raise their families as they please; the right of Indian children to grow in their culture; and the right of Indian communities to resist fading into the twilight of history.” “In affirming the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Court safeguards the ability of tribal members to raise their children free from interference by state authorities and other outside parties,” he wrote. “In the process, the Court also goes a long way toward restoring the original balance between federal, state, and tribal powers the Constitution envisioned.” Thomas, in dissent, said while the Supreme Court’s precedents reference a “plenary power” that Congress has over Native American affairs, such a power does not derive from any constitutional basis. “Even taking the Court’s precedents as given, there is no reason to extend this ‘plenary power’ to the situation before us today: regulating state-court child custody proceedings of U. S. citizens, who may never have even set foot on Indian lands, merely because the child involved happens to be an Indian,” he wrote. President Biden cheered the majority’s ruling, saying he stands “alongside Tribal Nations as they celebrate today’s Supreme Court decision.” “Our Nation’s painful history looms large over today’s decision. In the not-so-distant past, Native children were stolen from the arms of the people who loved them. They were sent to boarding schools or to be raised by non-Indian families — all with the aim of erasing who they are as Native people and tribal citizens. These were acts of unspeakable cruelty that affected generations of Native children and threatened the very survival of Tribal Nations,” he said. “The Indian Child Welfare Act was our Nation’s promise: never again.”
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Sgt. William Henry Johnson
In an effort to address historic racial injustice, a U.S. Army base in western Louisiana has been renamed to honor the heroic legacy of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, an African American soldier who displayed extraordinary bravery during World War I. Previously, the base bore the name of Leonidas Polk, a Confederate commander. This renaming is part of the broader efforts within the U.S. military to rectify past injustices, including the renaming of nine Army posts that had previously commemorated Confederate officers. Brig. Gen. David Garner, the commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Johnson, expressed profound honor in bearing the name of Sgt. William Henry Johnson. Describing Johnson as the epitome of the warrior spirit, Garner made this announcement via a post on Twitter. The National Museum of the United States Army recounts the awe-inspiring account of Johnson’s bravery on the front lines of France in 1918, where he valiantly repelled a German night raid near the Argonne Forest. Wounded a staggering 21 times during the intense confrontation, Johnson fearlessly fought off the attacking forces. Selflessly, he also safeguarded a fellow wounded Black comrade from being taken captive. Having exhausted his supply of grenades and ammunition, Johnson resorted to using his knife to eliminate two German soldiers. His relentless and determined assaults shattered the morale of the German troops, ultimately forcing them to retreat. After surviving the war, President Theodore Roosevelt saluted Johnson’s bravery by naming him one of the five bravest Americans to serve in the conflict. However, Johnson humbly dismissed the notion of heroism, stating, “There wasn’t anything so fine about it. Just fought for my life. A rabbit would have done that.” Despite his outstanding actions, the Army failed to recognize his courage during his lifetime, denying him a disability allowance and neglecting to award him a Purple Heart. Nearly a century later, in 2015, Johnson posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The prestigious accolade recognized his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, Johnson’s war injuries took a toll on his life after his return to Albany, New York. Struggling with his health, he succumbed to a heart condition at 32 in 1929. Officials said the ongoing process of renaming Army posts represents a significant milestone, as it is the first time that bases will bear the names of Black soldiers and women. Fort Bragg in North Carolina became known as Fort Liberty earlier this month, while officials changed Fort Benning in Georgia to Fort Moore. The original naming process for military bases predominantly involved input from local communities, though it notably excluded the participation of Black residents. Bases were typically named after soldiers born or raised nearby, regardless of their effectiveness or leadership skills. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg, for instance, is widely regarded among historians as an inadequate leader who lacked the respect of his troops. In honoring Johnson, the U.S. Army has taken a significant stride towards rectifying historical racial injustices and acknowledging the immense contributions of African American soldiers to the nation’s defense, military officials said. They said the move reflects a broader commitment to inclusivity and represents a significant step forward in fostering a more equitable and representative military landscape.
Confirming widespread suspicions, an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) as well as the city of Minneapolis have not only been engaging in a pattern of racist behavior but have also done so while being abusive to mostly Black and brown people. The DOJ findings come more than three years after city police officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to apply deadly pressure to the neck of George Floyd, who was handcuffed at the time and insisting he couldn’t breathe as stunned onlookers recorded video footage of the murder. In particular, the DOJ found that MPD routinely employs “excessive force, including unjustified deadly force and unreasonable use of tasers; Unlawfully discriminates against Black people and Native American people in its enforcement activities, including the use of force following stops;” and “Violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech.” As a result of its findings, the DOJ said that it and the city of Minneapolis have entered into a consent decree “to resolve the [DOJ’s] findings.” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who restored the DOJ’s power to investigate police shortly after he was confirmed in 2021, described the DOJ’s findings in Minneapolis as just the beginning of being able to forge a legitimate path forward for the city’s police department to truly protect and serve its Black and Brown citizens. “George Floyd’s death had an irrevocable impact on his family, on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world,” Garland said in a statement. “The patterns and practices of conduct the Justice Department observed during our investigation are deeply disturbing. They erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. And they made what happened to George Floyd possible. Today, we have completed our investigation, but this is only the first step. We will continue to work with the city and the MPD toward ensuring that MPD officers have the support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively and lawfully as we work together toward meaningful and durable reform.”
Floyd’s murder seemingly has not prevented Minneapolis police from its aggressive — and, according to the DOJ, racist and abusive — tactics, as shown with the shooting death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who police shot last year within seconds of seeing him while he was sleeping in an apartment they raided in search of another person. The lawyers representing Locke’s family called the DOJ report “deeply disturbing” and condemned “these unconstitutional patterns and practices on the community and individual lives.” They also expressed “hope” about the efficacy of the consent decree but admitted they have doubts. “Unfortunately, our legal team remains skeptical about Minneapolis’ commitment to change and accountability,” the statement by civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and Jeff Storms said in part because of how Minneapolis has repeatedly tried to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Locke’s parents. “This continued refusal to police from within is a textbook example of why the federal government must police the Minneapolis police,” the lawyers said. The conclusions from the DOJ’s investigation are especially important as efforts at reforming the police on a federal scale have repeatedly failed or stalled in Congress. The George Floyd Justice In Policing Act — proposed sweeping legislation aimed at reforming how police departments enforce the nation’s laws — has not advanced past the Senate. In particular, the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act would have eliminated qualified immunity, a deal-breaker for Republicans who are in favor of keeping the legal protections that shield police officers from civil liability when they’ve violated a citizen’s constitutional rights.