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By Elliot Booker — 3 years agoPosted by Jim Clingman April 11th, 2016Piney Woods is a boarding school for grades 9-12, founded in 1909 by Dr. Laurence Jones.It is located 21 miles south of Jackson, Mississippi. Nestled among the pine trees, amid rolling hills, lakes, and farmland, during my initial visit, Piney Woods gave me the feeling of having found a lost treasure. As I walked the campus and learned about the history of this school, a deep sense of melancholy came upon me and, feeling almost ashamed, I questioned why I had not come to that magnificent, historic, and wonderful place much sooner.
Since that first visit to the school in 2004, when I spent two days and nights on campus, had meals with the students, sat in on their classes, and toured the grounds, I have been advocating for Piney Woods. When former President, Dr. Charles Beady,
told me the story about a national fundraising effort in 1954, I decided to start another such fundraiser some fifty years later; our goal was to raise $1 million ($5.00 each from 200,000 donors) for Piney Woods via a group we established known as the Blackonomics Million Dollar Club (BMDC). We helped a lot but came nowhere close to our goal.
Back in 1954, Ralph Edwards, host of the television show, “This is Your Life,” featured Dr. Laurence Jones’ life. Edwards was so impressed with Jones and Piney Woods that he put out a call to his viewers to send in $1.00 each to the school in an effort to raise $1 million; according to Dr. Beady, Edwards’ campaign raised about three-quarters of a million. I figured if $750,000 could be raised in 1954 from an effort that went out over television, a medium only a few families were fortunate enough to have, surely we could eclipse that effort in 2004 with the Internet at our disposal. Optimist that I am, I am absolutely sure we can do that in 2016.
By way of example, Brother Umar Johnson has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his proposed school. He has not yet determined where it will be located, but donors have responded with their dollars nonetheless. Piney Woods has been around for 106 years; it is viable, competitive, and dedicated to serving students and families, most of which are unable to pay the entire tuition necessary for room and board. Why wouldn’t we do the same—and more—for Piney Woods? Piney Woods President, Will Crossley says, “Our students – both male and female – hail from more than 24 states and foreign jurisdictions; from inner-city urban locations, as well as rural spaces; from points north, south, east, and west. As diverse as they are, our students share this status: they all receive scholarship support to help fund their education here. They also share an amazing result: admission to post-secondary educational institutions. I know these principles well and in a personal way. While I am the fifth president of this historic, 107-year-old institution, I am the first alumnus to head our school.”
The school’s national press release states, “Piney Woods creates a living and learning environment where students are expected to excel academically, and become civically engaged and socially responsible. Over 75% of the pupils hail from lower income areas where the failing public school systems and negative peer pressure often inhibit them from accomplishing their life goals. However, after undertaking Piney Woods Schools’ rigorous educational, spiritual and vocational curriculums 99% of the graduating seniors are admitted to colleges and universities.”
The “Give from the Heart National Challenge 2016” fundraiser campaign for Piney Woods began in February 2016. On Saturday, April 30, 2016, an all-star benefit concert will take place at the Word and Worship Church in Jackson, MS. Please plan to attend; but if you cannot, please send a donation to this deserving and worthwhile institution. This is an opportunity for everyone to help Piney Woods maintain the same high-quality education it has provided for years, an education that results in 95% of its graduates going on to college. I believe in the “little from a lot” way of getting things done. In this case once again, if 200,000 persons sent $20.00 every six months to Piney Woods, the school could be well on its way to building an endowment, continue to have the financial ability to give even more student scholarships, pay its teachers and administration attractive salaries, and maintain the school’s infrastructure. Who knows? Maybe your child or grandchild will have the privilege to attend Piney Woods one day.
Why not plan to visit the campus soon, and please send your tax-deductible donation to Piney Woods School, U.S. Highway 49 South, Piney Woods, Mississippi, 39148. For more information see www.pineywoods.com or call 601 845 2214.Post Views: 71
By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
Not many people know that after the O.J. Simpson case, Johnnie Cochran spent much of his time preparing for a case, collecting historical data, information, and studying cases to sue the U.S. government for Reparations for Africans in America.
A powerful group of civil rights and class-action lawyers who have won billions of dollars in court is preparing a lawsuit seeking reparations for American blacks descended from slaves.
The project, called the Reparations Assessment Group, was confirmed by Harvard law professor Charles J. Ogletree and appears to be the most serious effort yet to get American blacks compensated for more than 240 years of legalized slavery. Lawsuits and legislation dating back to the mid-1800s have gone nowhere.
“We will be seeking more than just monetary compensation,” Ogletree said. “We want a change in America. We want full recognition and a remedy of how slavery stigmatized, raped, murdered and exploited millions of Africans through no fault of their own.”
Ogletree said the group, which includes famed attorney Johnnie Cochran, first met in July and will hold its fourth meeting in Washington D.C. later this month.
“This country has never dealt with slavery. It is America’s nightmare. A political solution would be the most sensible but I don’t have a lot of faith that’s going to happen. So we need to look aggressively at the legal alternative,” Ogletree said.
For now, there are more questions than answers in the planned litigation. Left to be determined are when the suit will be filed, exactly who will be named as defendants and what damages will be sought.
Ogletree declined to discuss specifics but said the federal government, state governments and private entities such as corporations and institutions that benefited from slave labor could be targets of the legal action.
“Both public and private parties will be the subject of our efforts,” he said.
Ogletree said the Reparation Assessment Group includes attorneys Cochran and Alexander J. Pires Jr., who won a $1 billion settlement for black farmers who claimed discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Richard Scruggs, who won the $368.5 billion settlement for states against tobacco companies; Dennis C. Sweet III, who won a $400 million settlement in the “phen-fen” diet drug case; and Willie E. Gary, who won a $500 million judgment against the Loewen Group Inc., the world’s largest funeral home operators.
Also in the group is Randall Robinson, president of the TransAfrica Forum, a think tank specializing in African, Caribbean and African-American issues. Robinson recently wrote the book “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks,” which argues for reparations.
“This will be the most important case in the history of our country,” Pires said Friday. “We all agree the suit has to tell the story of what slavery has done to blacks in America …
“We are still suffering from slavery’s impacts today,” Pires said.
Ogletree said the assessment group will call on experts in education, politics, family development, health and economics to help trace how slavery’s outgrowths such as segregated schooling and neighborhoods have affected society today.
Enslavement of Africans in America began in the 1600s. A slave sale was recorded in 1619 in Jamestown, Va. The “peculiar institution” helped to fuel the prosperity of the young nation, while also dividing it. Slavery was not officially abolished in the United States until the 13th amendment was ratified, in 1865.
Reparation supporters point to recent cases where groups have been compensated in cash for historic indignities and harm.
A letter of formal apology and $20,000 were given by the U.S. government to each Japanese-American held in internment camps during World War II.
Austria last week established a $380 million fund to compensate tens of thousands of Nazi-era slave laborers who were born in six eastern European countries.
Reparation opponents argue that victims in the Nazi and Japanese-American cases were directly harmed while many generations separate enslaved blacks and their modern-day descendants.
In addition, those opposed to reparations say it isn’t fair for taxpayers and corporations who never owned slaves to be burdened with possible multibillion dollar settlements.
Neither Ogletree nor Pires mentioned any industry or company that could be a target of the suit.
But Pires said there were overlaps between the slavery of past centuries and today’s corporations. He noted that Aetna Inc., the nation’s largest health insurer, apologized earlier this year for selling policies in the 1850s that reimbursed slave owners for financial losses when their slaves died.
In July, The Hartford (Conn.) Courant newspaper published a front-page apology for running ads for slave sales and the recapture of runaways in the 1700s and 1800s. Such advertisements were commonplace in many newspapers until the Civil War.
Pires was one of the lawyers in the assessment group who discussed reparations in the November issue of Harper’s magazine.
Pires said he believes that any monetary settlement or damage figure should be among the last items discussed as the suit takes shape. He said it is more important to tell the story to all Americans of what slavery did to the country “and let people decide what should be done to repay.”
“Most people,” he said, “don’t like having dirt on their hands.”
By Paul Shepard
AP National Writer
Saturday, Nov. 4, 2000Post Views: 122
By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, the top prosecutor with a notorious reputation for turning a blind-eye to following ethics rules, has clearly seen the proverbial handwriting on the wall.
Williams a few days ago announced that he would not seek reelection to a third term. That suprise announcement evidenced belated recognition by Williams that his quest for reelection would be an uphill struggle if not an impossible mission thanks to fallout from his many ethical failings and questionable practices, as well as ongoing criminal investigations into his finances by the FBI and IRS.
That career-ending announcement by Williams came weeks after Philadelphia’s Ethics Board slapped this once promising and popular politician with a $62,000 fine for his failure to file mandatory financial disclosure forms for five years. His fine – the largest ever levied by Philadelphia’s Ethics Board – faulted Williams for not reporting over $160,000 in gifts that included fancy vacations and expensive jewelry, including from attorneys who were defending cases against his department.
Williams claimed improbably that he merely forgot to file the mandatory disclosure forms from 2010 to 2015.
But that claim fails the laugh test because Williams once served as Philadelphia’s Inspector General, the post tasked with ethics rule enforcement. During his announcement about withdrawing from reelection, Williams apologized for the embarrassment and shame he brought on the District Attorneys Office.
The Williams’ re-election prospects were already in doubt due to erosions of support among his core constituency in the black community and his calculated if unsuccessful effort to cultivate support from Philadelphia’s police union. That labor organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, has a history of reflexively backing police brutality and misconduct that primarily impacts blacks in the so-called City of Brotherly Love.
In recent weeks the FOP launched attacks on Williams arising in part from his decisions not to prosecute civilians who had been victims in questionable confrontations with police officers. Those FOP attacks included an anti-Williams billboard on the major interstate highway that runs through the center of Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s NAACP branch recently blasted Williams for failing to prosecute three white men involved in a fatal building collapse while gaining the convictions of two poor black men connected with that incident. A civil trial jury in that building collapse recently found that the men Williams refused to prosecute were most responsible for that fatal incident, awarding the victims and victims’ families nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in damages.
Williams was already under fire in Philadelphia’s black community for his prosecution of five black state representatives for their failure to report gifts on financial disclosure forms –- the same crime that Williams committed which led to his record-setting Ethics Board fine.
The total value of all ‘gifts’ received by those five legislators was less than half of the value of just one gift Williams received in 2013 and failed to report until August 2016: $45,000 worth of roofing repairs on his home.
Autopsies of Williams’ fall from grace in Philadelphia’s news media fail to note a failing that produced international condemnation of this top prosecutor: his repeated gratuitous assaults on imprisoned Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia journalist widely considered to be an American political prisoner because of how politically corrupted his trial and appeals process has been.
One such assault came in early 2014 when DA Williams, a Democratic, aligned himself with Tea Party Republican Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey to torpedo President Obama’s nomination of a respected lawyer to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.
The national police union had falsely accused Obama nominee Debo Adegbile of having successfully freed Abu-Jamal from death row when Adegbile worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The National FOP harped on Abu-Jamal’s conviction as a “cop killer.”
However, the lawyer whose courtroom arguments resulted in federal court rulings producing the conversion of Abu-Jamal’s death sentence into a life in prison term was not Adegbile but a law school professor who represented Abu-Jamal’s years before the LDF had even joined Abu-Jamal’s appeal.
The national FOP used Abu-Jamal as a bogey man to mask the true intent of its opposition to Adegbile: fear that Adegbile would continue Obama Administration efforts to address rampant police abuses.
The FOP letter that Seth Williams, Toomey and their Senate confederates seized upon to slam Adegbile clearly stated that organization’s concern that Adegbile would “certainly exacerbate” the Obama Administration’s “aggressive and punitive approach towards” police.
The national FOP bristled at the Justice Department’s investigation of errant police departments despite the fact that those investigations only produced recommendations for reforms not prosecutions of abusive officers or funding cuts for departments with persistent patterns of brutality.
DA Williams, hailing from a city with a history of police brutality, backed the national police union’s efforts to scuttle federal oversight of abuse policing. Williams’s actions against Obama’s nominee provided more evidence to critics who claimed he has an anti-black streak.
Rufus Seth Williams entered office in January 2010 with widespread support. Yet the actions and inactions of the first black to serve as the District Attorney of Philadelphia soon turned even avid supporters into ardent critics.
Williams, for example, campaigned for office in 2009 as an opponent of the death penalty. Yet in office, Williams bitterly castigated Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf for initiating a moratorium on executions in 2015, going so far as filing a legal challenge against it.
That moratorium on executions arose in part from revelations that staff members working for DA Williams had mislead state officials during their deliberations about a death row inmate. Philadelphia prosecutors were found to have illegally withheld critical evidence during that inmate’s murder trial in 1986, which tainted his conviction.
Williams, ironically, had campaigned in 2009 as an opponent of unjust convictions.
Williams wasted a lot of political capital defending three staff members caught up in ‘Porngate’ –- the scandal related to revelations that a bunch of Pennsylvania judges and stat- level prosecutors in the attorney general’s office had exchanged emails containing racist, misogynic and homophobic content. One of those staff members — a former state level prosector — was at the center of the prosecution of those five black state legislators and the two black men connected with that fatal building collapse. Williams repeatedly rejected requests to fire those ‘Porngate’ staff members, including demands from irate female members of Philadelphia’s City Council.
Williams’ failure to consistently pursue basic justice overshadowed the reforms he implemented.
Those failures included his indefensible insistance on a retrial of man cleared by DNA after having spent 25-years in prison, as well as his year-plus-long attempt to convict a young man for an alleged crime that defied common sense.
In that second case, the blind next-door neighbor of that young man –- a woman with a history of making false accusations -– had told police her dog had dialed 911, saving her from asphyxiation after an alleged robber had supposedly turned on her gas stove during an attempted break-in. Williams eventually dropped charges against man following criticisms in the media and from community activists over the absurd claim.
Philadelphia attorney and activist Michael Coard responded to a reporter’s inquiry about Williams’ decision to withdraw from the DA’s race with this statement: “I say good riddance to bad rubbish.” Over the weekend, the city’s main paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, in a lead editorial, called on Williams, who had said he intended to finish out his term of office, leaving early in 2018, to resign immediately because of his scandals.
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