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“Time for an Awakening” with Bro.Elliott 02-15-2015 guest Dr.Akinyele Omowale Umoja

https://www.timeforanawakening.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Time-for-an-Awakening-with-BroElliott-2-15-2015-Dr.Akinyele-Omowale-Umoja.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 2:05:06 — 57.5MB) | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | RSS “Time For An Awakening” Classic Interview 2/15/2015, was Activist, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of African-American studies at Georgia State University, and Author of the book “We Will Shoot Back”, Dr.Akinyele Omowale Umoja. On the...

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“Time for an Awakening” with Bro.Elliott, 12-08-19 special guest Dr.Arikana Chihombori-Quao

https://www.timeforanawakening.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Time-for-an-Awakening-with-Bro.Elliott-12-8-19-guest-Dr.Arikana-Chihombori-Quao-mp3.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 2:37:49 — 72.4MB) | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | RSS “Time For An Awakening” for Sunday 11/08/2019 at 7:00 PM (EST) our guest was Medical Doctor, Activist, Diplomat, former African Union Ambassador to the US, Arikana Chihombori-Quao. Dr. Chihombori-Quao discussed strategies to move our people from both...

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“Time For An Awakening” with Bro.Elliott Friday 11/08/2019, “Freestyle Friday” Open Forum

“Time For An Awakening” for Friday 11/08/2019 at 8:00 PM (EST) our guest was the listeners in Freestyle Friday” conversation. Comcast Cable  attempting to undo the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was one of this weeks hot topics.

The Great Land Robbery: The shameful story of how 1 million black families have been ripped from their farms

Vann R. Newkirk III September 2019

I. Wiped Out

“You ever chop before?” Willena Scott-White was testing me. I sat with her in the cab of a Chevy Silverado pickup truck, swatting at the squadrons of giant, fluttering mosquitoes that had invaded the interior the last time she opened a window. I was spending the day with her family as they worked their fields just outside Ruleville, in Mississippi’s Leflore County. With her weathered brown hands, Scott-White gave me a pork sandwich wrapped in a grease-stained paper towel. I slapped my leg. Mosquitoes can bite through denim, it turns out.

Cotton sowed with planters must be chopped—thinned and weeded manually with hoes—to produce orderly rows of fluffy bolls. The work is backbreaking, and the people who do it maintain that no other job on Earth is quite as demanding. I had labored long hours over other crops, but had to admit to Scott-White, a 60-something grandmother who’d grown up chopping, that I’d never done it.

“Then you ain’t never worked,” she replied.

The fields alongside us as we drove were monotonous. With row crops, monotony is good. But as we toured 1,000 acres of land in Leflore and Bolivar Counties, straddling Route 61, Scott-White pointed out the demarcations between plots. A trio of steel silos here. A post there. A patch of scruffy wilderness in the distance. Each landmark was a reminder of the Scott legacy that she had fought to keep—or to regain—and she noted this with pride. Each one was also a reminder of an inheritance that had once been stolen.

Drive Route 61 through the Mississippi Delta and you’ll find much of the scenery exactly as it was 50 or 75 years ago. Imposing plantations and ramshackle shotgun houses still populate the countryside from Memphis to Vicksburg. Fields stretch to the horizon. The hands that dig into black Delta dirt belong to people like Willena Scott-White, African Americans who bear faces and names passed down from men and women who were owned here, who were kept here, and who chose to stay here, tending the same fields their forebears tended.

But some things have changed. Back in the day, snow-white bolls of King Cotton reigned. Now much of the land is green with soybeans. The farms and plantations are much larger—industrial operations with bioengineered plants, laser-guided tractors, and crop-dusting drones. Fewer and fewer farms are still owned by actual farmers. Investors in boardrooms throughout the country have bought hundreds of thousands of acres of premium Delta land. If you’re one of the millions of people who have a retirement account with the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, for instance, you might even own a little bit yourself.

A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America.

TIAA is one of the largest pension firms in the United States. Together with its subsidiaries and associated funds, it has a portfolio of more than 80,000 acres in Mississippi alone, most of them in the Delta. If the fertile crescent of Arkansas is included, TIAA holds more than 130,000 acres in a strip of counties along the Mississippi River. And TIAA is not the only big corporate landlord in the region. Hancock Agricultural Investment Group manages more than 65,000 acres in what it calls the “Delta states.” The real-estate trust Farmland Partners has 30,000 acres in and around the Delta. AgriVest, a subsidiary of the Swiss bank UBS, owned 22,000 acres as of 2011. (AgriVest did not respond to a request for more recent information.)

Unlike their counterparts even two or three generations ago, black people living and working in the Delta today have been almost completely uprooted from the soil—as property owners, if not as laborers. In Washington County, Mississippi, where last February TIAA reportedly bought 50,000 acres for more than $200 million, black people make up 72 percent of the population but own only 11 percent of the farmland, in part or in full. In Tunica County, where TIAA has acquired plantations from some of the oldest farm-owning white families in the state, black people make up 77 percent of the population but own only 6 percent of the farmland. In Holmes County, the third-blackest county in the nation, black people make up about 80 percent of the population but own only 19 percent of the farmland. TIAA owns plantations there, too. In just a few years, a single company has accumulated a portfolio in the Delta almost equal to the remaining holdings of the African Americans who have lived on and shaped this land for centuries.

This is not a story about TIAA—at least not primarily. The company’s newfound dominance in the region is merely the topsoil covering a history of loss and legally sanctioned theft in which TIAA played no part. But TIAA’s position is instrumental in understanding both how the crimes of Jim Crow have been laundered by time and how the legacy of ill-gotten gains has become a structural part of American life. The land was wrested first from Native Americans, by force. It was then cleared, watered, and made productive for intensive agriculture by the labor of enslaved Africans, who after Emancipation would come to own a portion of it. Later, through a variety of means—sometimes legal, often coercive, in many cases legal and coercive, occasionally violent—farmland owned by black people came into the hands of white people. It was aggregated into larger holdings, then aggregated again, eventually attracting the interest of Wall Street.

Owners of small farms everywhere, black and white alike, have long been buffeted by larger economic forces. But what happened to black landowners in the South, and particularly in the Delta, is distinct, and was propelled not only by economic change but also by white racism and local white power. A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America. They have lost 12 million acres over the past century. But even that statement falsely consigns the losses to long-ago history. In fact, the losses mostly occurred within living memory, from the 1950s onward. Today, except for a handful of farmers like the Scotts who have been able to keep or get back some land, black people in this most productive corner of the Deep South own almost nothing of the bounty under their feet.

II. “Land Hunger”

Land has always been the main battleground of racial conflict in Mississippi. During Reconstruction, fierce resistance from the planters who had dominated antebellum society effectively killed any promise of land or protection from the Freedmen’s Bureau, forcing masses of black laborers back into de facto bondage. But the sheer size of the black population—black people were a majority in Mississippi until the 1930s—meant that thousands were able to secure tenuous footholds as landowners between Emancipation and the Great Depression.

Driven by what W. E. B. Du Bois called “land hunger” among freedmen during Reconstruction, two generations of black workers squirreled away money and went after every available and affordable plot they could, no matter how marginal or hopeless. Some found sympathetic white landowners who would sell to them. Some squatted on unused land or acquired the few homesteads available to black people. Some followed visionary leaders to all-black utopian agrarian experiments, such as Mound Bayou, in Bolivar County.

From March 1901: W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau’

It was never much, and it was never close to just, but by the early 20th century, black people had something to hold on to. In 1900, according to the historian James C. Cobb, black landowners in Tunica County outnumbered white ones three to one. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 25,000 black farm operators in 1910, an increase of almost 20 percent from 1900. Black farmland in Mississippi totaled 2.2 million acres in 1910—some 14 percent of all black-owned agricultural land in the country, and the most of any state.

The foothold was never secure. From the beginning, even the most enterprising black landowners found themselves fighting a war of attrition, often fraught with legal obstacles that made passing title to future generations difficult. Bohlen Lucas, one of the few black Democratic politicians in the Delta during Reconstruction (most black politicians at the time were Republicans), was born enslaved and managed to buy a 200-acre farm from his former overseer. But, like many farmers, who often have to borrow against expected harvests to pay for equipment, supplies, and the rent or mortgage on their land, Lucas depended on credit extended by powerful lenders. In his case, credit depended specifically on white patronage, given in exchange for his help voting out the Reconstruction government—after which his patrons abandoned him. He was left with 20 acres.

In Humphreys County, Lewis Spearman avoided the pitfalls of white patronage by buying less valuable wooded tracts and grazing cattle there as he moved into cotton. But when cotton crashed in the 1880s, Spearman, over his head in debt, crashed with it.

Around the turn of the century, in Leflore County, a black farm organizer and proponent of self-sufficiency—referred to as a “notoriously bad Negro” in the local newspapers—led a black populist awakening, marching defiantly and by some accounts bringing boycotts against white merchants. White farmers responded with a posse that may have killed as many as 100 black farmers and sharecroppers along with women and children. The fate of the “bad Negro” in question, named Oliver Cromwell, is uncertain. Some sources say he escaped to Jackson, and into anonymity.

Like so many of his forebears, Ed Scott Sr., Willena Scott-White’s grandfather, acquired his land through not much more than force of will. As recorded in the thick binders of family history that Willena had brought along in the truck, and that we flipped through between stretches of work in the fields, his life had attained the gloss of folklore. He was born in 1886 in western Alabama, a generation removed from bondage. Spurred by that same land hunger, Scott took his young family to the Delta, seeking opportunities to farm his own property. He sharecropped and rented, and managed large farms for white planters, who valued his ability to run their sprawling estates. One of these men was Palmer H. Brooks, who owned a 7,000-acre plantation in Mississippi’s Leflore and Sunflower Counties. Brooks was uncommonly progressive, encouraging entrepreneurship among the black laborers on his plantation, building schools and churches for them, and providing loans. Scott was ready when Brooks decided to sell plots to black laborers, and he bought his first 100 acres.

Unlike Bohlen Lucas, Scott largely avoided politics. Unlike Lewis Spearman, he paid his debts and kept some close white allies—a necessity, since he usually rejected government assistance. And unlike Oliver Cromwell, he led his community under the rules already in place, appearing content with what he’d earned for his family in an environment of total segregation. He leveraged technical skills and a talent for management to impress sympathetic white people and disarm hostile ones. “Granddaddy always had nice vehicles,” Scott-White told me. They were a trapping of pride in a life of toil. As was true in most rural areas at the time, a new truck was not just a flashy sign of prosperity but also a sort of credit score. Wearing starched dress shirts served the same purpose, elevating Scott in certain respects—always within limits—even above some white farmers who drove into town in dirty overalls. The trucks got shinier as his holdings grew. By the time Scott died, in 1957, he had amassed more than 1,000 acres of farmland.

Scott-White guided me right up to the Quiver River, where the legend of her family began. It was a choked, green-brown gurgle of a thing, the kind of lazy waterway that one imagines to be brimming with fat, yawning catfish and snakes. “Mr. Brooks sold all of the land on the east side of this river to black folks,” Scott-White told me. She swept her arm to encompass the endless acres. “All of these were once owned by black families.”

III. The Great Dispossession

That era of black ownership, in the Delta and throughout the country, was already fading by the time Scott died. As the historian Pete Daniel recounts, half a million black-owned farms across the country failed in the 25 years after 1950. Joe Brooks, the former president of the Emergency Land Fund, a group founded in 1972 to fight the problem of dispossession, has estimated that something on the order of 6 million acres was lost by black farmers from 1950 to 1969. That’s an average of 820 acres a day—an area the size of New York’s Central Park erased with each sunset. Black-owned cotton farms in the South almost completely disappeared, diminishing from 87,000 to just over 3,000 in the 1960s alone. According to the Census of Agriculture, the racial disparity in farm acreage increased in Mississippi from 1950 to 1964, when black farmers lost almost 800,000 acres of land. An analysis for The Atlantic by a research team that included Dania Francis, at the University of Massachusetts, and Darrick Hamilton, at Ohio State, translates this land loss into a financial loss—including both property and income—of $3.7 billion to $6.6 billion in today’s dollars.

This was a silent and devastating catastrophe, one created and maintained by federal policy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal life raft for agriculture helped start the trend in 1937 with the establishment of the Farm Security Administration, an agency within the Department of Agriculture. Although the FSA ostensibly existed to help the country’s small farmers, as happened with much of the rest of the New Deal, white administrators often ignored or targeted poor black people—denying them loans and giving sharecropping work to white people. After Roosevelt’s death, in 1945, conservatives in Congress replaced the FSA with the Farmers Home Administration, or FmHA. The FmHA quickly transformed the FSA’s programs for small farmers, establishing the sinews of the loan-and-subsidy structure that undergirds American agriculture today. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s administration created the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, or ASCS, a complementary program to the FmHA that also provided loans to farmers. The ASCS was a federal effort—also within the Department of Agriculture—but, crucially, the members of committees doling out money and credit were elected locally, during a time when black people were prohibited from voting.

Through these programs, and through massive crop and surplus purchasing, the USDA became the safety net, price-setter, chief investor, and sole regulator for most of the farm economy in places like the Delta. The department could offer better loan terms to risky farmers than banks and other lenders, and mostly outcompeted private credit. In his book Dispossession, Daniel calls the setup “agrigovernment.” Land-grant universities pumped out both farm operators and the USDA agents who connected those operators to federal money. Large plantations ballooned into even larger industrial crop factories as small farms collapsed. The mega-farms held sway over agricultural policy, resulting in more money, at better interest rates, for the plantations themselves. At every level of agrigovernment, the leaders were white.

READ MORE AT: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

Why Are So Many Black Families Losing Their Land?


Lizzie Presser 17 Jul 2019

Mansions on land once owned by Freeman’s family.

The Reels brothers spent eight years in jail for refusing to leave their plot of land in North Carolina.

Since 1910, black families have been stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars because of lost land.”

In the Spring of 2011, the brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels were the talk of Carteret County, on the central coast of North Carolina. Some people said that the brothers were righteous; others thought that they had lost their minds. That March, Melvin and Licurtis stood in court and refused to leave the land that they had lived on all their lives, a portion of which had, without their knowledge or consent, been sold to developers years before. The brothers were among dozens of Reels family members who considered the land theirs, but Melvin and Licurtis had a particular stake in it. Melvin, who was 64, with loose black curls combed into a ponytail, ran a club there and lived in an apartment above it. He’d established a career shrimping in the river that bordered the land, and his sense of self was tied to the water. Licurtis, who was 53, had spent years building a house near the river’s edge, just steps from his mother’s.

Their great-grandfather had bought the land a hundred years earlier, when he was a generation removed from slavery. The property — 65 marshy acres that ran along Silver Dollar Road, from the woods to the river’s sandy shore — was racked by storms. Some called it the bottom, or the end of the world. Melvin and Licurtis’ grandfather Mitchell Reels was a deacon; he farmed watermelons, beets and peas, and raised chickens and hogs. Churches held tent revivals on the waterfront, and kids played in the river, a prime spot for catching red-tailed shrimp and crabs bigger than shoes. During the later years of racial-segregation laws, the land was home to the only beach in the county that welcomed black families. “It’s our own little black country club,” Melvin and Licurtis’ sister Mamie liked to say. In 1970, when Mitchell died, he had one final wish. “Whatever you do,” he told his family on the night that he passed away, “don’t let the white man have the land.”

“The land was home to the only beach in the county that welcomed black families.”

Mitchell didn’t trust the courts, so he didn’t leave a will. Instead, he let the land become heirs’ property, a form of ownership in which descendants inherit an interest, like holding stock in a company. The practice began during Reconstruction, when many African Americans didn’t have access to the legal system, and it continued through the Jim Crow era, when black communities were suspicious of white Southern courts. In the United States today, 76% of African Americans do not have a will, more than twice the percentage of white Americans.

Many assume that not having a will keeps land in the family. In reality, it jeopardizes ownership. David Dietrich, a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Property Preservation Task Force, has called heirs’ property “the worst problem you never heard of.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized it as “the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss.” Heirs’ property is estimated to make up more than a third of Southern black-owned land — 3.5 million acres, worth more than $28 billion. These landowners are vulnerable to laws and loopholes that allow speculators and developers to acquire their property. Black families watch as their land is auctioned on courthouse steps or forced into a sale against their will.

Between 1910 and 1997, African Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families. Now, as reparations have become a subject of national debate, the issue of black land loss is receiving renewed attention. A group of economists and statisticians recently calculated that, since 1910, black families have been stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars because of lost land. Nathan Rosenberg, a lawyer and a researcher in the group, told me, “If you want to understand wealth and inequality in this country, you have to understand black land loss.”

”’Heirs’ property is estimated to make up more than a third of Southern black-owned land — 3.5 million acres, worth more than $28 billion.”

By the time of Melvin and Licurtis’ hearing in 2011, they had spent decades fighting to keep the waterfront on Silver Dollar Road. They’d been warned that they would go to jail if they didn’t comply with a court order to stay off the land, and they felt betrayed by the laws that had allowed it to be taken from them. They had been baptized in that water. “You going to go there, take my dreams from me like that?” Licurtis asked on the stand. “How about it was you?”

They expected to argue their case in court that day. Instead, the judge ordered them sent to jail, for civil contempt. Hearing the ruling, Melvin handed his 83-year-old mother, Gertrude, his flip phone and his gold watch. As the eldest son, he had promised relatives that he would assume responsibility for the family. “I can take it,” he said. Licurtis looked at the floor and shook his head. He had thought he’d be home by the afternoon; he’d even left his house unlocked. The bailiff, who had never booked anyone in civil superior court, had only one set of handcuffs. She put a cuff on each brother’s wrist, and led them out the back door. The brothers hadn’t been charged with a crime or given a jury trial. Still, they believed so strongly in their right to the property that they spent the next eight years fighting the case from jail, becoming two of the longest-serving inmates for civil contempt in U.S. history.

You going to go there, take my dreams from me like that?”

Land was an ideological priority for black families after the Civil War, when nearly 4 million people were freed from slavery. On Jan. 12, 1865, just before emancipation, the Union Army Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman met with 20 black ministers in Savannah, Georgia, and asked them what they needed. “The way we can best take care of ourselves is to have land,” their spokesperson, the Rev. Garrison Frazier, told Sherman. Freedom, he said, was “placing us where we could reap the fruit of our own labor.” Sherman issued a special field order declaring that 400,000 acres formerly held by Confederates be given to African Americans — what came to be known as the promise of “40 acres and a mule.” The following year, Congress passed the Southern Homestead Act, opening up an additional 46 million acres of public land for Union supporters and freed people.

The promises never materialized. In 1876, near the end of Reconstruction, only about 5% of black families in the Deep South owned land. But a new group of black landowners soon established themselves. Many had experience in the fields, and they began buying farms, often in places with arid or swampy soil, especially along the coast. By 1920, African Americans, who made up 10% of the population, represented 14% of Southern farm owners.

A white-supremacist backlash spread across the South. At the end of the 19th century, members of a movement who called themselves Whitecaps, led by poor white farmers, accosted black landowners at night, beating them or threatening murder if they didn’t abandon their homes. In Lincoln County, Mississippi, Whitecaps killed a man named Henry List, and more than 50 African Americans fled the town in a single day. Over two months in 1912, violent white mobs in Forsyth County, Georgia, drove out almost the entire black population — more than a thousand people. Ray Winbush, the director of the Institute for Urban Research, at Morgan State University, told me, “There is this idea that most blacks were lynched because they did something untoward to a young woman. That’s not true. Most black men were lynched between 1890 and 1920 because whites wanted their land.”

“By 1920, African Americans represented 14% of Southern farm owners.”

By the second half of the 20th century, a new form of dispossession had emerged, officially sanctioned by the courts and targeting heirs’ property owners without clear titles. These landowners are exposed in a variety of ways. They don’t qualify for certain Department of Agriculture loans to purchase livestock or cover the cost of planting. Individual heirs can’t use their land as collateral with banks and other institutions, and so are denied private financing and federal home-improvement loans. They generally aren’t eligible for disaster relief. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina laid bare the extent of the problem in New Orleans, where 25,000 families who applied for rebuilding grants had heirs’ property. One Louisiana real-estate attorney estimated that up to $165 million of recovery funds were never claimed because of title issues.

Heirs are rarely aware of the tenuous nature of their ownership. Even when they are, clearing a title is often an unaffordable and complex process, which requires tracking down every living heir, and there are few lawyers who specialize in the field. Nonprofits often pick up the slack. The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, in South Carolina, has cleared more than 200 titles in the past decade, almost all of them for African-American families, protecting land valued at nearly $14 million. Josh Walden, the center’s chief operating officer, told me that it had mapped out a hundred thousand acres of heirs’ property in South Carolina. He said that investors hoping to build golf courses or hotels can target these plots. “We had to be really mindful that we didn’t share those maps with anyone, because otherwise they’d be a shopping catalogue,” he told me. “And it’s not as if it dries up. New heirs’ property is being created every day.”

Through interviews and courthouse records, I analyzed more than three dozen cases from recent years in which heirs’ property owners lost land — land that, for many of them, was not only their sole asset but also a critical part of their heritage and their sense of home. The problem has been especially acute in Carteret County. Beaufort, the county seat, was once the site of a major refugee camp for freed people. Black families eventually built homes near where the tents had stood. But in the 1970s the town became a tourist destination, with upscale restaurants, boutiques, and docks for yachts. Real-estate values surged, and out-of-town speculators flooded the county. David Cecelski, a historian of the North Carolina coast, told me, “You can’t talk to an African-American family who owned land in those counties and not find a story where they feel like land was taken from them against their will, through legal trickery.”

Investors hoping to build golf courses or hotels can target these plots.”

Beaufort is a quaint town, lined with coastal cottages and Colonial homes. When I arrived, last fall, I drove 20 miles to Silver Dollar Road, where Melvin and Licurtis’ family lives in dozens of trailers and wood-panelled houses, scattered under pine and gum trees.

Melvin and Licurtis’ mother, Gertrude, greeted me at her house and led me into her living room, where porcelain angels lined one wall. Gertrude is tough and quiet, her high voice muffled by tobacco that she packs into her cheek. People call her Mrs. Big Shit. “It’s because I didn’t pay them no mind,” she told me. The last of Mitchell Reels’ children to remain on the property, she is the family matriarch. Grandchildren, nieces and nephews let themselves into her house to pick up mail or take out her trash. Around dinnertime on the day I was there, the trickle of visitors turned into a crowd. Gertrude went into the kitchen, coated fish fillets with cornmeal and fried them for everyone.

Her daughter Mamie told me that Melvin and Licurtis had revelled in the land as kids, playing among the inky eels and conch shells. In the evenings, the brothers would sit on the porch with their cousins, a rag burning to keep the mosquitoes away. On weekends, a pastor strode down the dirt street, robed in white, his congregants singing “Wade in the Water.” Licurtis was a shy, humble kid who liked working in the cornfields. Melvin was his opposite. “When the school bus showed up, when he come home, the crowd would come with him and stay all night,” Gertrude said. When Melvin was 9, he built a boat from pine planks and began tugging it along the shore. A neighbor offered to teach him how to shrimp, and, in the summer, Melvin dropped nets off the man’s trawler. He left school in the 10th grade; his catch was bringing in around a thousand dollars a week. He developed a taste for sleek cars, big jewelry and women, and started buying his siblings Chuck Taylors and Timberlands.

Gertrude was the administrator of the estate. She’d left school in the eighth grade and wasn’t accustomed to navigating the judicial system, but after Mitchell’s death she secured a court ruling declaring that the land belonged to his heirs. The judgment read, “The surviving eleven (11) children or descendants of children of Mitchell Reels are the owners of the lands exclusive of any other claim of any one.”

“Gertrude secured a court ruling declaring that the land belonged to his heirs.”

In 1978, Gertrude’s uncle Shedrick Reels tried to carve out for himself the most valuable slice of land, on the river. He used a legal doctrine called adverse possession, which required him to prove that he had occupied the waterfront for years, continuously and publicly, against the owners’ wishes. Shedrick, who went by Shade and worked as a tire salesman in New Jersey, hadn’t lived on Silver Dollar Road in 27 years. But he claimed that “tenants” had stood in for him — he had built a house on the waterfront in 1950, and relatives had rented it or run it as a club at various times since. Some figured that it was Shade’s land. He also produced a deed that his father, Elijah, had given him in 1950, even though Mitchell, another of Elijah’s sons, had owned the land at the time.

Shade made his argument through an obscure law called the Torrens Act. Under Torrens, Shade didn’t have to abide by the formal rules of a court. Instead, he could simply prove adverse possession to a lawyer, whom the court appointed, and whom he paid. The Torrens Act has long had a bad reputation, especially in Carteret. “It’s a legal way to steal land,” Theodore Barnes, a land broker there, told me. The law was intended to help clear up muddled titles, but, in 1932, a law professor at the University of North Carolina found that it had been co-opted by big business. One lawyer said that people saw it as a scheme “whereby rich men could seize the lands of the poor.” Even Shade’s lawyer, Nelson Taylor, acknowledged that it was abused; he told me that his own grandfather had lost a 50-acre plot to Torrens. “First time he knew anything about it was when somebody told him that he didn’t own it anymore,” Taylor said. “That was happening more often than it ever should have.”

“The Torrens Act is ‘a legal way to steal land.’”

Mitchell’s kids and grandkids were puzzled that Shade’s maneuver was legal—they had Mitchell’s deed and a court order declaring that the land was theirs. And they had all grown up on that waterfront. “How can they take this land from us and we on it?” Melvin said. “We been there all our days.” Gertrude’s brother Calvin, who handled legal matters for the family, hired Claud Wheatly III, the son of one of the most powerful lawyers in town, to represent the siblings at a Torrens hearing about the claim. Gertrude, Melvin and his cousin Ralphele Reels, the only surviving heirs who attended the hearing, said that they left confident that the waterfront hadn’t gone to Shade. “No one in the family thought at the end of the day that it was his land and we were going to walk away from it forever,” Ralphele told me.

Wheatly told me a different story. In his memory, the Torrens hearing was chaotic, but the heirs agreed to give Shade, who has since died, the waterfront. When I pressed Wheatly, he conceded that not all the heirs liked the outcome, but he said that Calvin had consented. “I would have been upset if Calvin had not notified them, because I generally don’t get involved in those things without having a family representative in charge,” he told me. He said that he never had a written agreement with Calvin — just a conversation. (Calvin died shortly after the hearing.) The lawyer examining Shade’s case granted him the waterfront, and Wheatly signed off on the decision. The Reels family, though it didn’t yet know it, had lost the rights to the land on the shoreline.

Licurtis had set up a trailer near the river a couple of years earlier, in 1977. He was working as a brick mason and often hosted men from the neighborhood for Budweiser and beans in the evenings. Melvin had become the center of a local economy on the shore. He taught the men how to work the water, and he paid the women to prepare his catch, pressing the soft crevice above the shrimps’ eyes and popping off their heads. He had a son, Little Melvin, and in the summers his nephews and cousins came to the beach, too. One morning, he took eight of them out on the water and then announced that he’d made a mistake: only four were allowed on the boat. He threw them overboard one by one. “We’re thinking, We’re gonna drown,” one cousin told me. “And he jumps off the boat with us and teaches us how to swim.”

In 1982, Melvin and Gertrude received a trespassing notice from Shade. They took it to a lawyer, who informed them that Shade now legally owned a little more than 13 acres of the 65-acre plot. The family was stunned, and suspicious of the claim’s validity. Many of the tenants listed to prove Shade’s continuous possession were vague or unrecognizable, like “Mitchell Reels’ boy,” or “Julian Leonard,” whom Gertrude had never heard of. (She had a sister named Julia and a brother named Leonard but no memory of either one living on the waterfront.) The lawyer who granted the land to Shade had also never reported the original court ruling that Gertrude had won, as he should have done.

Shade’s ownership would be almost impossible to overturn. There’s a one-year window to appeal a Torrens decision in North Carolina, and the family had missed it by two years. Soon afterward, Shade sold the land to developers.

“Shade now legally owned a little more than 13 acres of the 65-acre plot.”

The Reelses knew that if condos or a marina were built on the waterfront the remaining 50 acres of Silver Dollar Road could be taxed not as small homes on swampy fields but as a high-end resort. If they fell behind on the higher taxes, the county could auction off their property. “It would break our family right up,” Melvin told me. “You leave here, you got no more freedom.”

This kind of tax sale has a long history in the dispossession of heirs’ property owners. In 1992, the NAACP accused local officials of intentionally inflating taxes to push out black families on Daufuskie, a South Carolina sea island that has become one of the hottest real-estate markets on the Atlantic coast. Property taxes had gone up as much as 700% in a single decade. “It is clear that the county has pursued a pattern of conduct that disproportionately displaces or evicts African-Americans from Daufuskie, thereby segregating the island and the county as a whole,” the NAACP wrote to county officials. Nearby Hilton Head, which as recently as two decades ago comprised several thousand acres of heirs’ property, now, by one estimate, has a mere 200 such acres left. Investors fly into the county each October to bid on tax-delinquent properties in a local gymnasium.

In the upscale town of Summerville, South Carolina, I met Wendy Reed, who, in 2012, was late paying $83.81 in taxes on the lot she had lived on for nearly four decades. A former state politician named Thomas Limehouse, who owned a luxury hotel nearby, bought Reed’s property at a tax sale for $2,000, about an eighth of its value. Reed had a year to redeem her property, but, when she tried to pay her debt, officials told her that she couldn’t get the land back, because she wasn’t officially listed as her grandmother’s heir; she’d have to go through probate court. Here she faced another obstacle: heirs in South Carolina have 10 years to probate an estate after the death of the owner, and Reed’s grandmother had died 30 years before. Tax clerks in the county estimate that each year they send about a quarter of the people who try to redeem delinquent property to probate court because they aren’t listed on the deed or named by the court as an heir. Limehouse told me, “To not probate the estate and not pay the taxes shouldn’t be a reason for special dispensation. When you let things go, you can’t blame the county.” Reed has been fighting the case in court since 2014. “I’m still not leaving,” she told me. “You’ll have to pack my stuff and put me off.”

“Tax sales have a long history in the dispossession of heirs’ property.”

FOR YEARS, the conflict on Silver Dollar Road was dormant, and Melvin continued expanding his businesses. Each week, Gertrude packed two-pound bags of shrimp to sell at the farmers’ market, along with petunias and gardenias from her yard. Melvin was also remodelling a night club, Fantasy Island, on the shore. He’d decked it out with disco lights and painted it white, he said, so that “on the water it would shine like gold.”

The majority of the property remained in the family, including the land on which Gertrude’s house stood. But Licurtis had been building a home in place of his trailer on the contested waterfront. “It was the most pretty spot,” he told me. “I’d walk to the water, and look at my yard, and see how beautiful it was.” He’d collected the signatures of other heirs to prove that he had permission, and registered a deed.

When real-estate agents or speculators came to the shore, Melvin tried to scare them away. A developer told me that once, when he showed the property to potential buyers, “Melvin had a roof rack behind his pickup, jumped out, snatched a gun out.” It wasn’t the only time that Melvin took out his rifle. “You show people that you got to protect yourself,” he told me. “Any fool who wouldn’t do that would be crazy.” His instinct had always been to confront a crisis head on. When hurricanes came through and most people sought higher ground, he’d go out to his trawler and steer it into the storm.

The Reels family began to believe that there was a conspiracy against them. They watched Jet Skis crawl slowly past in the river and shiny SUVs drive down Silver Dollar Road; they suspected that people were scouting the property. Melvin said that he received phone calls from mysterious men issuing threats. “I thought people were out to get me,” he said. Gertrude remembers that, one day at the farmers’ market, a white customer sneered that she was the only thing standing in the way of development.

In 1986, Billie Dean Brown, a partner at a real-estate investment company called Adams Creek Associates, had bought Shade’s waterfront plot sight unseen to divide and sell. Brown was attracted to the strength of the Torrens title, which he knew was effectively incontrovertible. When he discovered that Melvin and Licurtis lived on the property, he wasn’t troubled. Brown was known among colleagues as Little Caesar — a small man who finished any job he started. In the early 2000s, he hired a lawyer: Claud Wheatly III. The man once tasked with protecting the Reels family’s land was now being paid to evict them from it. Melvin and Licurtis saw Wheatly’s involvement as a clear conflict of interest. Their lawyers tried to disqualify Wheatly, arguing that he was breaching confidentiality and switching sides, but the judge denied the motions.

“A white customer sneered that Gertrude was the only thing standing in the way of development.”

Earlier this year, I met Wheatly in his office, a few blocks from the county courthouse. Tall and imposing, he has a ruddy face and a teal-blue stare. We sat under the head of a stuffed warthog, and he chewed tobacco as we spoke. He told me that he had no confidential information about the Reelses, and that he’d never represented Melvin and Licurtis; he’d represented their mother and her siblings. “Melvin won’t own one square inch until his mother dies,” he said.

In 2004, Wheatly got a court order prohibiting the brothers from going on the waterfront property. The Reels family began a series of appeals and filings asking for the decree to be set aside, but judge after judge ruled that the family had waited too long to contest the Torrens decision.

Licurtis didn’t talk about the case, and tried to hide his stress. But, Mamie told me, “you could see him wearing it.” Occasionally, she would catch a glimpse of him pacing the road early in the morning. When he first understood that he could face time in jail for remaining in his house, he tried removing the supports underneath it, thinking that he could hire someone to wrench the foundation from the mud and move it elsewhere. Gertrude wouldn’t allow him to go through with it. “You’re not going with the house nowhere,” she told him. “That’s yours.”

At 4 a.m. on a spring day in 2007, Melvin was asleep in his apartment above the club when he heard a boom, like a crash of thunder. He went to the shore and found that his trawler, named Nancy J., was sinking. Yellow plastic gloves, canned beans and wooden crab boxes floated in the water. There was a large hole in the hull, and Melvin realized that the boom had been an explosion. He filed a report with the sheriff’s office, but it never confirmed whether an explosive was used or whether it was an accident, and no charges were filed. Melvin began to wake with a start at night, pull out his flashlight, and scan the fields for intruders.

By the time of the brothers’ hearing in 2011, Melvin had lost so much weight that Licurtis joked that he could store water in the caverns by his collarbones. The family had come to accept that the dispute wasn’t going away. If the brothers had to go to jail, they would. Even after the judge in the hearing found them guilty of civil contempt, Melvin said, “I ain’t backing down.” Licurtis called home later that day. “It’ll be all right,” he told Gertrude. “We’ll be home soon.”

If the brothers had to go to jail, they would.”

One of the most pernicious legal mechanisms used to dispossess heirs’ property owners is called a partition action. In the course of generations, heirs tend to disperse and lose any connection to the land. Speculators can buy off the interest of a single heir, and just one heir or speculator, no matter how minute his share, can force the sale of an entire plot through the courts. Andrew Kahrl, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, told me that even small financial incentives can have the effect of turning relatives against one another, and developers exploit these divisions. “You need to have some willing participation from black families — driven by the desire to profit off their land holdings,” Kahrl said. “But it does boil down to greed and abuse of power and the way in which Americans’ history of racial inequality can be used to the advantage of developers.” As the Reels family grew over time, the threat of a partition sale mounted; if one heir decided to sell, the whole property would likely go to auction at a price that none of them could pay.

When courts originally gained the authority to order a partition sale, around the time of the Civil War, the Wisconsin Supreme Court called it “an extraordinary and dangerous power” that should be used sparingly. In the past several decades, many courts have favored such sales, arguing that the value of a property in its entirety is greater than the value of it in pieces. But the sales are often speedy and poorly advertised, and tend to fetch below-market prices.

On the coast of North Carolina, I met Billy Freeman, who grew up working in the parking lot of his uncle’s beachside dance hall, Monte Carlo by the Sea. His family, which once owned thousands of acres, ran the largest black beach in the state, with juke joints and crab shacks, an amusement park and a three-story hotel. But, over the decades, developers acquired interests from other heirs, and, in 2008, one firm petitioned the court for a sale of the whole property. Freeman attempted to fight the partition for years. “I didn’t want to lose the land, but I felt like everybody else had sold,” he told me. In 2016, the beach, which covered 170 acres, was sold to the development firm for $1.4 million. On neighboring beaches, that sum could buy a tiny fraction of a parcel so large. Freeman got only $30,000.

Even small financial incentives can have the effect of turning relatives against one another.”

The lost property isn’t just money; it’s also identity. In one case that I examined, the mining company PCS Phosphate forced the sale of a 40-acre plot, which contained a family cemetery, against the wishes of several heirs, whose ancestors had been enslaved on the property. (A spokesperson for the company told me that it is a “law-abiding corporate citizen.”)

Some speculators use questionable tactics to acquire property. When Jessica Wiggins’ uncle called her to say that a man was trying to buy his interest in their family’s land, she didn’t believe him; he had dementia. Then, in 2015, she learned that a company called Aldonia Farms had purchased the interests of four heirs, including her uncle, and had filed a partition action. “What got me was we had no knowledge of this person,” Wiggins told me, of the man who ran Aldonia. (Jonathan S. Phillips, who now runs Aldonia Farms, told me that he wasn’t there at the time of the purchase, and that he’s confident no one would have taken advantage of the uncle’s dementia.) Wiggins was devastated; the 18 acres of woods and farmland that held her great-grandmother’s house was the place that she had felt safest as a child. The remaining heirs still owned 61% of the property, but there was little that they could do to prevent a sale. When I visited the land with Wiggins, her great-grandmother’s house had been cleared, and Aldonia Farms had erected a gate. Phillips told me, “Our intention was not to keep them out but to be good stewards of the property and keep it from being littered on and vandalized.”

Last fall, Wiggins and her relatives gathered for the auction of the property on the courthouse steps in the town of Windsor. A bronze statue of a Confederate soldier stood behind them. Wiggins’ cousin Danita Pugh walked up to Aldonia Farms’ lawyer and pulled her deed out of an envelope. “You’re telling me that they’re going to auction it off after showing you a deed?” she said. “I’m going to come out and say it. The white man takes the land from the black.”

Hundreds of partition actions are filed in North Carolina every year. Carteret County, which has a population of 70,000, has one of the highest per-capita rates in the state. I read through every Carteret partition case concerning heirs’ property from the past decade, and found that 42% of the cases involved black families, despite the fact that only 6% of Carteret’s population is black. Heirs not only regularly lose their land; they are also required to pay the legal fees of those who bring the partition cases. In 2008, Janice Dyer, a research associate at Auburn University, published a study of these actions in Macon County, Alabama. She told me that the lack of secure ownership locks black families out of the wealth in their property. “The Southeast has these amazing natural resources: timber, land, great fishing,” she said. “If somebody could snap their fingers and clear up all these titles, how much richer would the region be?”

The white man takes the land from the black.”

Thomas W. Mitchell, a property-law professor at Texas A&M University School of Law, has drafted legislation aimed at reforming this system, which has now passed in 14 states. He told me that heirs’ property owners, particularly those who are African-American, tend to be “land rich and cash poor,” making it difficult for them to keep the land in a sale. “They don’t have the resources to make competitive bids, and they can’t even use their heirs’ property as collateral to get a loan to participate in the bidding more effectively,” he said. His law, the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, gives family members the first option to buy, sends most sales to the open market, and mandates that courts, in their decisions to order sales, weigh non-economic factors, such as the consequences of eviction and whether the property has historic value. North Carolina is one of eight states in the South that has held out against these reforms. The state also hasn’t repealed the Torrens Act. It is one of fewer than a dozen states where the law is still on the books.

Last year, Congress passed the Agricultural Improvement Act, which, among other things, allows heirs’ property owners to apply for Department of Agriculture programs using nontraditional paperwork, such as a written agreement between heirs. “The alternative documentation is really, really important as a precedent,” Lorette Picciano, the executive director of Rural Coalition, a group that advocated for the reform, told me. “The next thing we need to do is make sure this happens with FEMA, and flood insurance, and housing programs.” The bill also includes a lending program for heirs’ property owners, which will make it easier for them to clear titles and develop succession plans. But no federal funding has been allocated for these loans.

“North Carolina is one of eight states in the South that has held out against these reforms.”

The first time I met Melvin and Licurtis in the Carteret jail, Melvin filled the entire frame of the visiting-room window. He is a forceful presence, and prone to exaggeration. His hair, neatly combed, was streaked with silver. He didn’t blink as he spoke. Licurtis had been given a diagnosis of diabetes, and leaned against a stool for support. He still acted like a younger brother, never interrupting Melvin or challenging his memory. He told me that, at night, he dreamed of the shore, of storms blowing through his house. “The water rising,” Licurtis said. “And I couldn’t do nothing about it.” He was worried about his mother. “If they took this land from my mama at her age, and she’d been farming it all her life, you know that would kill her,” he told me.

The brothers were seen as local heroes for resisting the court order. “They want to break your spirits,” their niece Kim Duhon wrote to them. “God had you both picked out for this.” Even strangers wrote. “When I was a kid, it used to sadden me that white folks had Radio Island, Atlantic Beach, Sea Gate and other places to swim, but we didn’t!” one letter from a local woman read. She wrote that, when she was finally taken to Silver Dollar Road, “I remember seeing nothing but my own kind (Blk Folks!).”

In North Carolina, civil contempt is most commonly used to force defendants to pay child support. When the ruling requires a defendant to pay money other than child support, a new hearing is held every 90 days. After the first 90 days had passed, Melvin asked a friend in jail to write a letter on his behalf. (Melvin couldn’t read well, and he needed help writing.) “I’ve spent 91 days on a 90 day sentence and I don’t understand why,” the letter read. “Please explain this to me! So I can go home, back to work. Sincerely, Melvin Davis.” The brothers learned that although Billie Dean Brown’s lawyer had asked for 90 days, the court had decided that there would be no time restriction on their case, and that they could be jailed until they presented evidence that they had removed their homes. They continued to hold out. Brown wasn’t demolishing their buildings while they were incarcerated, and so they believed that they still had a shot at convincing the courts that the land was theirs. That fall, Brown told the Charlotte Observer, “I made up my mind, I will die and burn in hell before I walk away from this thing.” When I reached Brown recently, he told me that he was in an impossible position. “We’ve had several offers from buyers, but once they learned of the situation they withdrew,” he said.

The brothers were seen as local heroes for resisting the court order.”

Three months turned into six, and a year turned into several. Jail began to take a toll on the brothers. The facility was designed for short stays, with no time outside, and nowhere to exercise. They couldn’t be transferred to a prison, because they hadn’t been convicted of a crime. Early on, Melvin mediated fights between inmates and persuaded them to sneak in hair ties for him. But over time he stopped taking care of his appearance and became withdrawn. He ranted about the stolen land, though he couldn’t quite nail down who the enemy was: Shade or Wheatly or Brown, the sheriffs or the courts or the county. The brothers slept head to head in neighboring beds. “Melvin would say crazy things,” Licurtis told me. “Lay on down and go to sleep, wake up, and say the same thing again. It wore me down.” Melvin is proud and guarded, but he told me that the case had broken him. “I’m not ashamed to own it,” he said. “This has messed my mind up.”

Without the brothers, Silver Dollar Road lost its pulse. Mamie kept her blinds down; she couldn’t stand to see the deserted waterfront. At night, she studied her brothers’ case, thumbing through the court files and printing out the definitions of words that she didn’t understand, like “rescind” and “contempt.” She filled a binder with relatives’ obituaries, so that once her brothers got out they would have a record of who had passed away. When Claud Wheatly’s father died, she added his obituary. “I kept him for history,” she told me.

Gertrude didn’t have the spirit to farm. Most days, she sat in a tangerine armchair by her window, cracking peanuts or watching the shore like a guard. This winter, we looked out in silence as Brown’s caretaker drove through the property. Melvin and Licurtis wouldn’t allow Gertrude to visit them in jail. Licurtis said that “it hurt so bad” to see her leave.

Other members of the family — Melvin and Licurtis’ brother Billy, their nephew Roderick and their cousin Shawn — kept trying to shrimp, but the river suddenly seemed barren. “It might sound crazy, but it was like the good Lord put a curse on this little creek, where ain’t nobody gonna catch no shrimp until they’re released,” Roderick told me. Billy added, “It didn’t feel right no more with Melvin and them not there, because we all looked out for one another. Some mornings, you didn’t even want to go.”

Sheriff’s deputies came to the property a few times a week, and they wouldn’t allow the men to dock their boats on the pier. One by one, the men lost hope and sold their trawlers. Shawn took a job at Best Buy, cleaning the store for $11.50 an hour, and eventually moved to Newport, 30 miles southwest, where it was easier to make rent. Billy got paid to fix roofs but soon defaulted on the mortgage for his house on Silver Dollar Road. “One day you good, and the next day you can’t believe it,” he told me.

Roderick kept being charged with trespassing, for walking on the waterfront, and he was racking up thousands of dollars in legal fees. He’d recently renovated his boat — putting in an aluminum gas tank, large spotlights and West Marine speakers — but, without a place to dock, he saw no way to hold on to it. He found work cutting grass and posted his boat on Craigslist. A white man responded. They met at the shore, and, as the man paid, Roderick began to cry. He walked up Silver Dollar Road with his back to the river. He told me, “I just didn’t want to see my boat leave.”

This has messed my mind up.”

The Reels brothers were locked in a hopeless clash with the law. One judge who heard their case likened them to the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” who attempts to guard his forest against King Arthur. “Even after King Arthur has cut off both of the Black Knight’s arms and legs, he still insists that he will continue to fight and that no one may pass — although he cannot do anything,” the judge wrote, in an appeals-court dissent.

In February, nearly eight years after Melvin and Licurtis went to jail, they stood before a judge in Carteret to request their release. They were now 72 and 61, but they remained defiant. Licurtis said that he would go back on the property “just as soon as I walk out of here.” Melvin said, “I believe that land is mine.” They had hired a new lawyer, who argued that it would cost almost $50,000 to tear down the brothers’ homes. Melvin had less than $4,000 in the bank; Licurtis had nothing. The judge announced that he was releasing them. He warned them, however, that if they returned to their homes they’d “be right back in jail.” He told them, “The jailhouse keys are in your pockets.”

An hour later, the brothers emerged from the sheriff’s department. Melvin surveyed the parking lot, which was crowded with friends and relatives. “About time!” he said, laughing and exchanging hugs. “You stuck with me.” When he spotted Little Melvin, who was now 39, he extended his arm for a handshake. Little Melvin pulled it closer and buried his face in his father’s shoulder, sobbing.

When Licurtis came out, he folded over, as if his breath had been pulled out of him. Mamie wrapped her arms around his neck, led him to her car, and drove him home. When they reached Silver Dollar Road, she honked the horn all the way down the street. “Back on Silver Dollar Road,” Licurtis said, pines flickering by his window. “Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm.”

Melvin spent his first afternoon shopping for silk shirts and brown leather shoes and a cell phone that talked to him. Old acquaintances stopped him — a man who thanked him for his advice about hauling dirt, a DJ who used to spin at Fantasy Island. While in jail, Melvin had been keeping up with his girlfriends, and 11 women called looking for him.

Melvin told me that he’d held on for his family, and for himself, too. But away from the others his weariness showed. He acknowledged that he was worried about what would happen, his voice almost a whisper. “They can’t keep on doing this. There’s got to be an ending somewhere,” he said.

A few days later, Gertrude threw her sons a party, and generations of relatives came. The family squeezed together on her armchairs, eating chili and biscuits and lemon pie. Mamie gave a speech. “We gotta get this water back,” she said, stretching her arms wide. “We gotta unite. A chain’s only as strong as the links in it.” The room answered, “That’s right.” The brothers, who were staying with their mother, kept saying, “Once we get this land stuff sorted out . . .” Relatives who had left talked about coming back, buying boats and go-karts for their kids. It was less a plan than a fantasy — an illusion that their sense of justice could overturn the decision of the law.

Pine trees by the shore.

The brothers hadn’t stepped onto the waterfront since they’d been back. The tract was 100 feet away but out of reach. Fantasy Island was a shell, the plot around it overgrown. Still, Melvin seemed convinced that he would restore it. “Put me some palm trees in the sand and build some picnic tables,” he said.

After the party wound down, I sat with Licurtis on his mother’s porch as he gazed at his house, which was moldy and gutted, its frame just visible in the purple dusk. He reminisced about the house’s wood-burning heater, the radio that he’d always left playing. He said that he planned to build a second story and raise the house to protect it from floods. He wanted a wraparound deck and big windows. “I’ll pour them walls solid all the way around,” he said. “We’ll bloom again. Ain’t going to be long.”

READ MORE AT: https://blackagendareport.com/why-are-so-many-black-families-losing-their-land

AU Ambassador Tells African Americans To ‘Come Home’ And Build

Written by Peter Pedroncelli Jul 05, 2019

AU ambassador
Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao is the African Union ambassador to the U.S. Photo – AU

Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, African Union ambassador to the U.S., has called on African Americans to “come home” and contribute to Africa’s growth and prosperity.

She was speaking to an audience of Black entrepreneurs at a Power Networking Conference in Houston, Texas and urged them to “wake up, organize, go home and take what is rightfully ours,” according to a YouTube video uploaded by Dr. Boyce Watkins, the CEO of The Black Business School.

Zimbabwe-born Dr. Chihombori-Quao is the permanent representative of the African Union Representational Mission to the U.S., according to the A.U.

A former medical doctor, she is the CEO and founder of Bell Family Medical Centers in the U.S. Before taking up her current position at the A.U. in 2017, she practiced medicine for 29 years in Tennessee.

A.U. ambassador calling Africa’s children home

Chihombori-Quao asked African Americans to return home to Africa with the skills and expertise to help build African economies.

“If the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area is going to succeed, it must include the children in the diaspora,” she said.

The Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement is a new pan-African trade zone proposed in March 2018 that aims to enable intra-Africa trade among the 55 countries in Africa, Fin24 reports.

Intra-African trade was worth about $170 billion in 2017, but accounts for only 15 percent of the continent’s trade, FT reports.

By comparison, intra-continental trade is at 67 percent in the European Union and 58 percent in Asia.

Designed to boost intra-Africa trade, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which came into effect at the end of May, aims to slash tariffs on 90 percent of goods across a market of 1.2 billion people, according to Moneyweek.

Contracts for massive construction projects are going to companies in China and Europe when they could be going to “the children of Africa” in the diaspora, Chihombori-Quao said.

“So while the rest of the world is strategizing about how to get into Africa, guess who is still sleeping like grasshoppers? Us, the children of Africa. I’m here to say, my brothers and sisters, we must wake up. We have got to wake up, organize and go home to take what is rightfully ours.”

She ended her address with a call for African Americans not to complain about Africa but contribute to change it.

“If we don’t organize in order for us to participate in the development of Africa, let’s not complain when the contract to build the Cape-to-Cairo highway goes to China. Let’s not complain when the highway from East Africa to West Africa goes to some European company,” Chihombori-Quao said.

Organized for almost two decades, the PowerNetworking Conference has gathered Black entrepreneurs looking to connect, grow and prosper with annual events held in Houston, Texas.

This year’s event took place between June 26-29. The dates for 2020 are not confirmed.

During a visit to Los Angeles on June 14, Ethiopian ambassador Fitsum Arega outlined the prospects for investors, companies, and entrepreneurs to engage with Africa’s second most populous country, according to the LosAngelesSentinel.

“Our new, reformist prime minister (Abiy Ahmed) welcomes U.S. businesses to do trade between the U.S. and Africa and the U.S. and Ethiopia. We encourage the Africa diaspora – African Americans – to do business and strengthen this link,” said Arega.

Manufacturing, telecommunications, power and solar energy and entertainment are areas ripe for investment, he said.

READ MORE AT: https://moguldom.com/211045/au-ambassador-tells-african-americans-to-come-home-and-build/

FYI ADOS Pan Africanists Today

By OBI EGBUNA Jr.

Obi Egbuna Jr At every phase of our struggle for liberation and human dignity, Africans at home and abroad who have courageously and selflessly fought on the front line, all arrive at the conclusion that unity is undeniably the most invaluable weapon at our disposal. One of Mother Africa’s brightest sons Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah told us all “ The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”, in the heat of battle it becomes extremely necessary to remember the most fundamental lessons that benefit our genuine resistance collectively.

On the African continent specifically, one of our best test cases concerning unity in perpetual motion serves us well, is both Zimbabwe’s 2nd and 3rd Chimurenga primarily because on the Patriotic United Front between ZANU and ZAPU, at height of the protracted armed struggle and the Unity Accord seven years after initial independence in 1980.

As history moved forward the last three administrations of US(The Bush and Obama and Trump currently ) let it be known to all who listen that while Zimbabwe is a small country it presents rather a peculiar problem concerning US interests in the region.

Whether the regime change agents in MDC, ZCTU or the 400 civil society groups whose blind loyalty is to US EU Imperialism, ever acknowledge this publicly, it is Zimbabwe’s political culture that has always been driven by unity, that forced them to become part of the inclusive government with Zanu-PF between 2009 and 2013.

While the example of Zimbabwe takes place on our Mother continent, it serves as an example and inspiration, that front line fighters and supporters of these efforts in the diaspora can not only learn from but aggressively incorporate on the strategical and tactical level.

If there is any indifference or backlash , it will come from quarters who are not comfortable looking to the African continent for insight and direction, because in the final analysis an amputated narrative of the African experience serves as their political and intellectual blueprint.

This amputated narrative which draws a striking resemblance to diced onions or dandruff on our scalps, happens to be the engine behind a social media driven network, that goes by the name American Descendants of Slaves(ADOS). We can only imagine how Bishop Richard Allen and Absalom Jones who started the Free African Society in 1794, would feel about the name ADOS.

The most visible and vocal proponents of the ADOS are a so called African American female and male tandem Ms. Yvette Carnell and Mr. Antonio Moore, Mr. Moore is a graduate of both UCLA and Loyola Law School and Ms. Carnell is a graduate of Howard University.

When articulating the ideological position of the ADOS, Mr. Moore takes on the character of a lawyer in the courtroom, where on the other hand Ms. Carnell who has a blog entitled Breaking Brown, has a more provocative and confrontational style of communication that appears to work for her.

At the forefront of the ADOS network’s political agenda is the age old question of reparations, similar to the manner that naked police terrorism defined Black Lives Matter and Imperialist corporate greed drove Occupy Wall Street movement.

Another characteristic that makes ADOS similar to both Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, is what appears to be a deliberate choice to have political space, detached from the organized formations who developed and championed the very issue that steers their political efforts and program.

We challenge any and everyone to go back and review the articles of Mr. Moore and blogs of Ms. Carnell and find them humbly recognizing the tireless and selfless work of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the New Afrikan Peoples Organization, NCOBRA(National Conference of Blacks For Reparations In America), Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, December 12th Movement, and The National Black United Front. Even before these organized formations, the Nation of Islam and Africans who were in the Communist Party many moons ago, also pushed the question of reparations.

Because of our political culture takes on a matralineal character, the heart and soul of the reparations movement inside US borders was the larger than life Garveyite Queen Mother Moore, who took the red black and green flag of the UNIA-ACL and insisted it be the symbol of the reparations movement, that same flag is the symbol of what the internationally acclaimed hip hop group Dead Prez call RBG which stands for Revolutionary but Gangsta.

For whatever reason Mr. Moore and Ms. Carnell decided to yankee doodleize the Reparations question by not only dismissing the New Afrikan approach to reparations, but theoretically and figuratively draping themselves in the US flag.

When it comes to reactionary sentiments, we do have choices, you can either come out of the gate with plantation love like ADOS or wait until your twilight years like the NFL legend Jim Brown and scold Colin Kapernick for desecrating the red white and blue or Kareem Abdul Jabber who boycotted the US Olympics in 1968 over the Vietnam war but as a senior citizen became the cultural ambassador for the US State Department . Sadly this includes James Brown going from singing I’m Black and I’m Proud in the 60’s and then singing Living In America in the movie Rocky IV in the 80’s.

Another disturbing posture by Ms. Carnell and the ADOS network was to give the Pan Africanist movement a eulogy, which metaphorically speaking would be the equivalent of burying a human being alive. While genuine Pan Africanists were either angered or humored by this statement, we are delighted to know exactly Imperialism recruited for this opportunist mission.

When their appetite for for clarity and research increases, the ADOS will discover that the organizers who have pushed reparations in the streets beyond the comforts and confines of social media, gained crucial momentum when the reparations movement took on a Pan Africanist character.

Thanks to their contributions, reparations is a banner that has a home in the Caribbean thanks to the lawsuit by CARICOM and without question the efforts of our comrades in Namibia taking Germany to task for atrocities committed during the colonial era.

Cuba’s revolutionary demand for reparations stemming from the blockade is also part of the mix.

What this exposes is the ADOS refuses to acknowledge the boost Pan Africanist forces gave the reparations question at the UN conference on racism, xenophobia and other related intolerances. that took place in Durban, South Africa back in 2001. All patriotic Zimbabweans remind the world that was also the birth of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.

Concerning relations between Africans at home and abroad a micro nationalist approach is not consistent with Ms. Carnell’s political origin. As a student at Howard University, Ms. Carnell was the Chief Financial Officer of former HUSA President Neville Welch who was born in Guyana, whose Chief of Staff Elsie Aguele was born in Nigeria. Perhaps today Ms. Carmella would say Mr. Welch should have been the head of the Caribbean Student Association and Mr. Aguele should have remained in the African Student Union, and only students born in the US should lead Student Governments at HBCUS.

What Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore must also recognize is that even though the New Afrikan movement never deviated from the program of seeking five states

in the south seeking five states in the South, at no pointing their history did they consider themselves politically exempt from fighting US-EU Imperialism’s Africa policy.

Since Mr. Moore is a lawyer interested in Reparations, he should know that the late freedom fighter Chokwe Lumumba through NAPO was at the forefront of breaking former US President Ronald Reagan’s travel ban on Libya in 1987. In 2009 Comrade Lumumba persuaded both NAPO and the National Conference of Black Lawyers to sign an appeal to the Obama administration demanding US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe be lifted immediately.

One of the most consistent organizations that was fought for Reparations based in New York the December 12th Movement, has remained at the forefront of defending the territorial integrity of Zimbabwe.

Every New Afrikan Organization gave platforms to ANC,PAC and AZAPO at their annual conventions.

What ADOS has done is challenged the legitimate forces committed to reparations, to distance themselves from the frauds, who exploited its mileage and don’t understand its roots. This includes Trans Africa Forum founder Randall Robinson and Retired US Congressman John Conyers .Robinson’s book The Debt What America owes to Blacks was a national best seller and Mr. Conyers pushed A reparations bill.  Mr. Conyers voted in favor of sanctions on Zimbabwe and Mr. Robinson did nothing when TAF got in bed with the National Endowment for Democracy and worked for US EU regime change in Zimbabwe.

Would ADOS tell Senator and Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and former US President Barack Obama if they change their position on Reparations, maintaining sanctions on Zimbabwe is not an issue.

A rather interesting dynamic is that Mr. Moore’s articles are archived by a website called inequality.org,which is a front for the Institute of Policy Studies, financed the face liberal imperialist philanthropy George Soros, which unfortunately means if ADOS like so many others who are eating at Mr. Soros table, their expression of reparations doesn’t consider self determination a principle to die for.

Other ADOS mouthpieces have gone as far as stating Pan Africanism has achieved nothing concrete, if nothing else, as an act of humility and good will, let the Pan Africanist sector of our movement send the most consistent mouthpieces of ADOS a box of library cards.

ADOS front runners and extended mouthpieces should know the 5th Pan Africanist Congress resulted in thirty five countries in Africa liberating themselves from Settler Colonial Rule from 1957-1960, which remains the most rapid swing towards power ever witnessed in modern history.

One wonders if Ms. Carnell and Mr. Moore would have supported the deportation of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, because the feel a Jamaican born African could not build the largest mass movement in modern times, that was launched on US soil.

If it was up to them Mr. Moore and Ms. Carnell would have told the writer Claude McKay to stay in Jamaica, as opposed to coming to Harlem to help build the Harlem Renaissance.The follow up would have been to tell Arthuro Schomburg to stay in Puerto Rico and not come to Harlem and start the American Negro Academy or build the Schomburg Library of Black Culture, or even better Kwame Ture should have not been allowed to chair SNCC because he was born in Trinidad.

This also suggests Paul Robeson should have stayed away from Claudia Jones and threw a bash in Harlem when she was deported for joining the Communist Party which violated the McCurran Act.

ADOS had better recognize the CTS which is an acronym to contributors to struggle, which focus on commitment not birth. What if Katherine Dunham and Pearle Primus didnt use dance to teach us about the Haitian Revolution or the anti colonial movement in Africa?

Every so called African American drumming and dancing ensemble, owe their very existence to that great Pan African giant Ahmed Seku Ture.and the PDG who championed the African Cultural Revolution.

What if Langston Hughes told the Cuban born African poet Nicholas Guiilen the poet laureate of the revolution I only want to work with poets of my color born in the US?

What if Fela Kuti never read the autobiography of Malcolm X, given to him by ex Panther Ericka Huggins, which made him embrace his mother’s legacy of struggle and the black power movement he avoided in Britain.

Should Cuba deport Assata Shakur and Nehanda Obiodun and tell them to join ADOS????

How much substance would Manning Marable’s book How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America coned if he never studied How Europe Underdeveloped Africa who was inspired after reading George Padmore’s How Britain Ruled Africa?

Were SNCC and the Panthers wrong for distributing The Wretched Of The Earth because Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique and fought in the Algerian Revolution?

Lastly if Nnandi Azikwe and the Osagyefo never came to Lincoln University or Edwardo Mondlane and John Chilembwe didn’t attend Oberlin College or Virginia Theological Seminary, how would Ghana,Nigeria,Malawi and Mozambique look today? Would it matter if Amadou Diallo was shot down by the Contee regime in Guinee or the NYPD?.

Let us salute that Spanish speaking African Jesus Chucho Garcia for leading the Afro Descendant movement in the America’s, which is an alternative to a social media network that implies the slaveship was like an express train from Africa to the US with no stops in between.

While defending Pan Africanism falls on our shoulders going back and forth with ADOS is not a substitute for a concrete program.

Obi Egbuna Jr is the US Correspondent To The Herald and External Relations Officer to ZICUFA(Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association

His email is obiegbuna15@gmail.com

READ MORE AT: https://www.herald.co.zw/fyi-ados-pan-africanists-today/

Secret Courts in America Fuels Mass Incarceration—-Not Actual Conviction of Criminals”

By Antone White

In the 1630’s, King Charles I of England administrated ‘The Star Chamber’, a sui generis court (a form of legal protection that exist outside of typical legal protection) that presided in absentia of the public to suppress dissent. Due to its secrecy, ‘The Star Chamber’ became an absolute abuse of power.

Originally, ‘The Star Chamber’ was established in the 15th Century to enforce jurisprudence against social & political notables so powerful that ordinary courts would be hesitant to convict them of any crimes. However, ‘The Star Chamber’ became synonymous to a tyrannical court through unchallenged punishment of defendants wielded in secrecy, for crimes the court deemed to be morally reprehensible, but were not in violation of the letter of the law. For example, committing adultery is not illegal but it is highly frowned upon in the moral sense.

The vile reputation and absolute power of application of ‘The Star Chamber’ became a potent symbol in America of oppression; and the hostility of the ‘Founding-Fathers’ morale to reject the abuse of power of ‘The Star Chamber’; and sought a liberty interest & protection for democracy independent of England’s crown.

In the U.S. Constitution, the enumeration of certain rights as specified in the 9th Amendment, the right to a public trial by jury is ascribed to be among the most important privileges of an American; and further decreed to receive the highest form of judicial protection. “According to the Supreme Court the right to a public trial by jury under the 6th Amendment is granted to criminal defendants in order to prevent oppression by the government, and safeguard against any attempts to employ the courts as instruments of persecution”.

In the mid-1980’s, during America’s declaration on the ‘war on drugs’, the ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guideline’ was enacted into law. The primary goal was to alleviate sentencing disparity that research had indicated was prevalent in the previous sentencing system. Nonetheless, upon initiation, it has subsequently cited as evidence of an unconstitutional pandect that utterly marginalized the ‘Due Process Clause’ of the U.S. Constitution. Therein, the 5th Amendment determined that, ” No person shall be held to answer for an infamous crime unless on a presentment of an indictment…. nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.

The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘Due Process’ requires the government to comply with certain standards in criminal cases, specifically mentioned in the ‘Bill of Rights’; such as a public trial by jury. As well as, the right to a presumption of innocence, and to have the government prove its case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The underlying concept is that the government many not behave arbitrarily and capriciously, but must act fairly according to established rules.

Notwithstanding, under the guise of the ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guideline’, we have an instrument of persecution that dubiously infringes on defendants’ right to due process, and to a

trial by jury; by employing ‘Federal Prosecutors’ and its team of ‘Probation Officers’ to reconvene in place of a jury trial, and veto the decision by the jury. Hence the Federal Prosecutors and its team dictates what element of facts of the crime that the defendant will be sentenced without regards to the letter of the actual conviction. This action is similar to the tyrannical court of ‘The Star Chamber’. In Baltimore and Carolina Line vs. Redman (1935), the Supreme Court upheld that juries decide facts of a case, and judges determine what laws are relevant to those facts.

For over a span of 30 years, since the inception of the ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Regime’, criminal defendants have been damned to ‘cruel and unusual’ inflated sentencing above the guideline range of their actual convictions for elements of hearsay and suspicion of uncharged or unindicted crimes; and stridently bizarre for indicted charges that were acquitted or dismissed. Which consequently, double, triple or aggregate a life without parole prison sentence. A summary of this authoritarian proceeding is riddled in Criminal Defendants’ PSI (Pre-Sentenced Investigation Report), or what I deem to be equivalent to “The Star Chamber Report”.

The ‘Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guideline’, imputes the government and its probation authorities, or the court – at sentencing, to go outside the presentment of an indictment and forged up other crimes; and additionally, undermine the jury’s verdict and determine their own theoretical belief of the case; as well as, utilize acquitted conduct to enhance a defendant’s sentence above the maximum range of the guideline of their actual conviction. At sentencing, a defendant can be acquitted of counts on their indictment and found guilty on other accounts, but be sentenced as if they were guilty of every account based on evidence the court has deemed fact in “The Star Chamber Report”. This is un-American and antithetical to all the tenets in which the ‘Founding-Fathers’ and Farmer’s sought to preserve and protect in the ‘Bill of Rights’.

The marginalization of due process based on Secret Courts fact finding continuously results in countless defendants being ‘Unjustly Sentenced’; this has been perpetuated to an extravagant numbers of decades that aligned Criminal Defendants to their life expectancy, or outright execrate a life without parole prison sentence for nonviolent conviction. These Secret Court proceedings are uniquely malevolent and blameworthy to have fueled the decades of growth of ‘Mass Incarceration’ and as a consequence defendants will continue to receive unjustly punishment for years to come. Which undoubtedly will continue to fuel the United States as number # 1 in Mass Incarceration.

Bounding criminal defendants to punishment according to their actual conviction can cure the Mass Incarceration crisis almost overnight; and thus, the system won’t have to alter their stance on crime policy.

“Federal Sentencing Guidelines Demoralizes the U.S Constitution”

By: Antone White 

The U.S Constitution body of rules and principles endows protections and enforcements of private rights( as to life, liberty and property). The constitution body of rules reposes ultimate power in the people, by the people and for the people of the United States to preserve and maintain a liberty thesis of “Freedom, Justice and Equality”.

The genius of the “Constitution Protection” was established to safeguard its democracy against the will and tyrannical effect of a government to imprison and exercise complete control over its citizens; stemming from the oppression of England’s Star Chamber. The protection ordains that an individual’s life, liberty or property can only be stripped away by due process of law; from results in either a plea of guilt (by the individual) or by a jury of its peers upon proof of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The foundational role of due process is that all citizens have entitlement to a presumption of innocence! Otherwise, a person may not be convicted of a crime unless the government proves them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; without any burden placed on the accused to prove its innocence. Due process grounds citizens’ the right to a trail by jury. Thereby, according to an underlying provision in the “Due Process Clause” of the U.S Constitution, “ no courts, nor any officer of law may presume a person guilty of a crime enough to demand sanctions ( as to life liberty, or property).

However, congress legislated a policy imputed by the United States Sentencing Commission in 1984; the Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Guidelines. Spanning three decades, almost four, these guidelines have eroded the foundational tenants of America’s Democracy bringing forth a Jim Crow climate that systematically demoralizes criminal defendants “Constitutional Protection”, at sentencing.

At sentencing, the courts are authorized to consider “relevant conduct” for the purpose of calculating the sentencing guidelines, which may include uncharted crimes that otherwise are inadmissible at trial.Even more, the courts are permitted to extract offenses from acquitted and dismissed charges which consequently nullify principles of the 5th Amendment of the constitution that decrees ..” no person shall be held to answer for an infamous crime, unless on the presentment of an indictment of a Grand Jury, nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process.

In a constitutional system that relies upon the jury to stand as a great bulwark and neutral arbiter between criminal defendants and government bent on depriving them of their civic duty; hereof, an axiom adhered by Judge Millet of DC Circuit Court of Appeal:

 “Allowing courts at sentencing to materially increase the length of imprisonment based on conduct for which the jury acquitted the defendant guts the role of the jury in preserving individual liberty, and preventing oppression by the government”.

The unfairness perpetuated by the use of uncharged, dismissed, and acquitted conduct to heighten criminal defendants sentences in federal court are uniquely malevolent. As well as a dubious infringement of individuals rights to due process and trial by jury.

Imagine the abhorrent act of a man or woman’s sentence being double, triple or virtually scaled to a lifetime of imprisonment for crimes or otherwise conducts for which they were neither charged nor convicted. One wonders what the reaction of the jury would be if the jurors were told at outset:

“If you convict the defendant on one charge, but deadlock or acquit them on the other count, that the court may utilize a different standard of proof and consequently sentence the defendant as though he was convicted of both “

Would this resonate with the jury as being fair and worthwhile of their time and effort while still respecting the admiration for our system of justice? I sincerely doubt it!

For the constitution to have meaning it must not be pure words we recite but also the words we live by as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior emphasize from Birmingham jail or April 16, 1963.

“An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law”

*For more information on the Star Chamber, read article “Star Chamber: How Secret Courts Fuels Mass Incarceration”

I AM SO TIRED OF BEING BEATEN DAILY! WHO CAN I TURN TO?” The crisis of domestic violence against males.

According to domestic violence therapists, 40% of domestic violence victims are men and they won’t. seek help.

Tonight (10/22/19) the conversation on The Black Reality Think Tank will focus on male victims of domestic violence. Our discussion will center on the “what, who, and why” of this major crisis. We will also address the question “why don’t male victims seek help?”

Special guest is Dr. Alice Belcher, Ph.D. Std., D.Div., M.S., B.A who.is the founder and leader of Christian Women Perspective Ministries and CEO of Impact Coalition for Families. Inc. a Wisconsin based 501(c)3.

WILL “HUMPTY TRUMPTY” FALL OFF THE WALL AND BE IMPEACHED?

A discussion on national politics from an African American perspective. How does the African American community position itself during this electoral season? Where do we go from here- “chaos or community?”

STOP: IN THE NAME OF LOVE! DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY.

Tonight (10-8-19) on the Black Reality Think Tank Kitonga Alexander, Dr. Alice Belcher, and James Mosely will discuss community efforts to HALT this cancer that destroys families. The program airs at 8 p.m. eastern time

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