02-19-2017  3:50 am      •     

An old African proverb goes like this: "A people without their land will be a people without a future."  Way before the current housing mortgage crisis that disproportionately has negatively impacted Black Americans, there had been a 20-year steady pace of land loss in the majority of Black communities across the United States. Now today with the additional persistence of high unemployment for African Americans, there is a corresponding destabilizing increase in the daily rate of Black land loss throughout the nation.

No one seems to know the exact statistics on this issue, but in nearly all reliable reports, in particular from states where African Americans are over 30 percent of the population, more than 10,000 acres of land per day is now being lost.  The reason why I am raising this phenomenon is because too often when we face a challenge for a long period of time, the sheer magnitude of the problem becomes understated and misunderstood. During the last 20 years, dialogue about this continued crisis has moved from awareness to reaction to cynicism and now even an emerging sense of hopelessness.

I do not believe Black people in the United States, in the Caribbean, South America, or in Africa can afford to be casual or hopeless on the global issue of land loss by Black people.  No one seems to remember years ago that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) helped to initially destabilize Zimbabwe because they disagreed with President Robert Mugabe giving native Africans millions of acres of their land back that had been stolen by Rhodesian farmers and businessmen. All human life is valuable. We live in a world that too often seeks to triage the value of Black life.  But, we should never engage in self-destruction or self-devaluation!  Black owned land is of no less value.

Thus, we hope that after you read these words, you will survey the land that your family now owns and make sure that the taxes are paid because thousands of acres of are lost daily because abandonment or tax delinquency.  It is unfortunate that some of us do not even know the value of the land we live on or have inherited from our parents.  It is so sad to go to most county courthouses to see the long list of properties that are sold for less than one-tenth of the real value because family members for various reasons decided to let the family property become the ward of the state or county.

But beyond the sheer monetary value of Black-owned land across America are the tremendous potential health-related and self-determination benefits for the use of this land.  So many of the diseases and serious health problems that African Americans face today are a direct result of not eating healthy food properly. When the majority of Black people in the past lived on our own farms or in communities where there was a multitude of organic gardens, the overall health condition of our people was much better.  The fundamental striving for self-determination and freedom is to be able to feed yourself, shelter yourself, and empower yourself economically from the bounty and produce of your own land and labor.  Freedom is inconsistent with being dependent on others to do for you what God wants you to do for yourself.

Today there is a gradual reverse migration of Black Americans from the northeast and midwest back to the southeast.  Will this trend lead to a reverse in Black land loss?  Whether you live in a big city or a small town, the questions about land ownership and the economic development of the Black community are most urgent and important.  The Black church and other institutions that serve our communities should put a special emphasis on this issue. The establishment of local "land banks" and other cooperative efforts to pool the resource potential of our communities should be given a priority.

The latest U.S consumer spending reports Black American spending continues to increase annually. According to recent research by the Nielsen Company, Black American buying power by the year 2015 will reach in excess of $1.1 trillion. Wow, we are becoming trillion dollar spenders, yet losing more and more land.  We will not be able to create more wealth for generations to come, if we do not change our spending habits.  What are we spending more on? Appreciating assets or depreciating assets?  If properly done, land purchases can be a wise appreciating investment.  We owe it to our ancestors not to lose all that they worked and suffered so much for in the past.  Let's turn our land losses into gains by reversing this awful trend.  Stop Black land loss now!  Let's build for a better future.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor for the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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