Insight News

Feb 09th


Quiet times

A snowstorm has blanketed the east coast, causing flight cancellations and disrupted holiday plans.  The President is vacationing in Hawaii after a grueling lame duck session in Washington.  During this the last week of the year, there will be no economic indicator issues.  These are quiet times.

I received an email from a friend of a friend, one of those forwarded things that I swear not to forward on, even though I am threatened with gloom, doom, and decades of bad luck if I fail to spread the word.   This electronic version of a chain letter leaves much to be desired until I read to the bottom line that says, “January 1, 2011 can be written as 1-1-11.  How much more confirmation do you need to do things differently.”  Something to think about but different does not mean polluting cyberspace with more junk e-mail.

Christmas, Kwanzaa and Chanukkah

Habari Gani begins the greeting.  It is Swahili for “what’s happening.”  During Kwanzaa, the seven days between December 26 and January 1, the response reflects the particular day of Kwanzaa.  On December 26, the response is Umoja, which means Unity.  On December 29, the response is Ujamaa, which is cooperative economics.  On the last day of Kwanzaa, January 1, the response is Imani which means Faith.

We are all indebted to Mualana Ron Karenga for his development of the Kwanzaa concept in 1969, and for the millions of people who celebrate African history and heritage.   As a Christian, I worship and am mindful of the birth of the Christ Child and the fact that somehow, as a greeting, Happy Holidays has swallowed Merry Christmas.

Claims Resolution Act: Will farmers be paid?

Headlines are saying that “Black Farmers Are Getting Paid” because President Barack Obama has signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 that authorizes $1.15 billion to settle claims Black farmers won initially from the US Department of Agriculture over a decade ago.  Before we all trumpet “success and justice” in this matter, take a look at how we got to here.

In 1997, a Black North Carolina farmer named Timothy Pigford filed a claim against the government for reparations.  Four hundred Black farmers joined Pigford’s suit and claimed USDA discrimination against them on the basis of race.  Then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman found that 205 of the 116,261 loan and crop payments issued by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency involved the possibilities of racial discrimination.  On January 4, 1999, Judge Paul Friedman signed a consent decree that awarded damages to Blacks who farmed, or tried to farm, between January 1981 and December 1996 and had applied for USDA aid.  Claimants were supposed to file by September 15th 2000, but around 73,800 did not.

Give the gift of caring and sharing this season

No matter what faith traditions we come from or celebrate—Ramadan, Christmas, or Hanukkah—this time of year is one of reflection on what really matters. The average American family spends hundreds of dollars on gifts during this season. It’s wonderful to share special times and gifts with friends and family, but for many adults this holy season has been commercialized and become defined by shopping for the “in” toys, clothes, and other material gifts we think our children want. And while it’s fine to give children these things when we can, we should never forget to give them the more important gifts of ourselves—our time, attention, and family rituals—that children need. We also should be teaching them the importance of sharing with others. Too many children are afflicted by physical poverty, but too many are afflicted with “affluenza”, the spiritual poverty of having too much that is worth too little. Perhaps this season we can teach that the greatest gift is one of caring, sharing, and service.

Challenging the privatized prison industry

A few months ago a group of earnest and determined stockholders traveled together by bus from Washington, D.C. to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend a shareholders’ meeting. On the surface, it sounded like a fairly ordinary trip, but this was an unusual group on an extraordinary mission. The shareholders’ meeting was for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the country; and the group of shareholders included ex-offenders who now each hold one share of stock in CCA to get an ownership stake in some of the same prisons that once held them captive. They attended the meeting in hopes of sharing their perspective on how the privatized prison industry can better serve society by rehabilitating inmates rather than just serving its own profits by perpetuating the prison cycle.

Justice and compensation for farmers

After decades of struggle, it appears that Black and Native American farmers will finally receive compensation—in the form of nearly $4.6 billion—from the federal government for injustices carried out against them.

In 1997, 400 black farmers joined in a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture, alleging they were unfairly denied governmental loans and other support.  The farmers ultimately won their lawsuit.  But, more than $1 billion of that settlement was never paid out—$1.2 billion of the $4.6 approved by Congress will finish paying off that debt.

Twenty years of beating the odds

How does a child endure unspeakable hardship and still manage to succeed?  What does it mean to save rather than give up on a child?  When you read the stories of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s Beat the Odds® award recipients, you’ll find the answers.  Too often we hear about teens getting into trouble, dropping out of school, getting involved with drugs, crime, and gangs, or becoming parents too soon.  Yet thousands of children overcome tremendous obstacles like these and poverty, homelessness, hunger, abuse and neglect by adults, parental incarceration, and more every day.  Each year, CDF takes time to honor some of these inspiring high school students through our Beat the Odds scholarship program. We provide them with scholarships up to $10,000, a laptop computer, and, most importantly, recognition of what they’re doing: beating the odds.
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