Saturday, November 10, 2018

Let Me Tell You What Forced Separation feels Like !

The images of immigrant children in cages are incredibly painful to digest. Still many people seem to forget that the U.S. has long track record of forcibly separating families, whether it was African American during slavery, the Japanese during World War 2, Native Americans during colonization, or poor children whose unfit single mothers have lost custody today.

Another common way families are forcibly separated? Juvenile detention , ten of thousands of teens most often the poor and people of color are locked up in substandard , often privatized penal facilities. Children who go through these forced winds up experience trauma , grief , shame and dehumanization.  

The sad reality is incarceration rates are on the rise along side economic, inequality, and children aren't exempt. Quite often , the only crime these children have committed is that they are from vulnerable families or suffering from mental health issues.

Separating families due to incarceration. immigration status, mental health, and or race and class is wrong. If the families impacted by incarceration and other trauma join together with advocates for immigrants. We can create a sea of social change.  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Benton Harbor, Michigan Has Higher Lead Levels Than Flint

Benton Harbor, the city of no return, is among 71 water districts in the state that have higher lead levels in the drinking water than Flint, say the Michigan Department of Environment Quality (MDEQ). Benton Harbor joins Grand Rapids as the worst cities in Michigan for child lead poisoning , according to the Detroit Free Press.

According to MDEQ, a study in 2015 shows Benton Harbor had lead levels in its water in two locations of 38 parts per billion, and 12 parts per billion overall for the city. Some of the areas with high concentrations of children with high levels of lead in their poor Black areas. Some say it is a result of lead paint in older homes.

This is what happens when a city government pulls resources out of a community. Water contamination and lead paint in homes is killing people. There has been no plan by the city to solve the problem or to help the people of Benton Harbor.

Let the truth be told that the greedy blood sucking Whirlpool Corporations, that rules Benton Harbor city government and school system , is behind this destruction of the city of Benton Harbor.They are finding many ways to destroy the city and get rid of the citizens. Whirlpool did a complete hostile take over of the city of Benton Harbor's land as part of their "redevelopment" plan.

Now the people of Benton Harbor are being destroyed by lead poisoning, health problems created by poor medical service,  and by economic problems resulting from jobs not paying employees a fair living wage. The unemployment rate in Benton Harbor could be as high as 70 percent(the federal and state government claim it is less) The poverty rate is over 80 percent and I see no relief coming soon.

They are evicting senior citizens left and right, putting seniors out of their homes, they had lived in over 25 years, and not caring if they have a place to live. There isn't a more broke and outright dangerous place in the state of Michigan to live, than Benton Harbor

The justice system is out of control.The judges, Prosecutors, law enforcement and especially the sheriff department are attacking the poor  and the homeless, nobody really cares.What a world we live in.

The city government works for Whirlpool Corporations The city refuses to get rid of the city manager, who works for Whirlpool , not the people of Benton Harbor.The city manager refuses to return even a phone call or an e-mail. He is an undercover agent for Whirlpool. 

What has made matters worse is that they destroyed the school system. Whirlpool planted the seed over 20 years ago and then watched it grew. Whirlpool Corporation and State government brough
in a CEO to complete the total take over of the school system. The CEO is just another name for an emergency manager under public act 436, which gives absolute power to destroy the school and school board which no longer exists. It is now an advisory board.I have no ideal what that mean.

The people of Benton Harbor have accepted this, with no fight. When will the true loving people of Benton Harbor, confront the enemy and take back the city f Benton Harbor. 

Friday, August 03, 2018

A tremendous Victory for the People

In a tremendous victory for the people in the fight against naked corporate power, Rev Pinkney was exonerated. In November 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court heard Rev Pinkney's appeal and on May 1, 2018, the court overturned his conviction. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 6 to 0 that Rev Pinkney was improperly charged with five felony counts of election forgery in 2014 by the Berrien County prosecutor, that he was improperly tried and sentenced by the Berrien County Circuit Court and improperly served 30 months in prison as a result.

In overturning Rev Pinkney's conviction, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the statute he was sentenced for supposedly violating did not create any substantive criminal offense at all, but was merely a sentencing provision for other election forgery offense , which Rev Pinkney was charged with. The state Supreme Court ruling marked a rebuke of the Michigan Court of Appeals, which had ruled against Rev Pinkney.

We congratulate Rev. Pinkney, the people of Benton Harbor and his supporters across the country on this victory. A major battle against corporate dictatorship and for democracy has been won! This victory could not have happened without people all over the country rallying in defense of Rev Pinkney, the people of Benton Harbor and the fight for democracy.

The war is not over Benton Harbor is still poverty -stricken and under the thumb of the giant corporation Whirlpool, as is much of America. We must stand on this victory to carry the fight forward for a democratic America. Until the people not corporations rule society, we can't have true democracy.We can not rule,  if we are living in the streets or working two three jobs , just to survive. Benton Harbor shows that the corporations, their government and police force control everything whether we eat , live or die, whether we are housed or whether we get justice in the courts. The only way we're going to achieve true democracy is if we build a huge movement to take power away from the corporations. We must confront this fascist government.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Recall of James The Puppet Hightower and Rev Pinkney Exoneration !

The recall election was schedule to be held May 6 2014, but at the mayor's request, the Berrien County sheriff's Department began investigating the petition campaign, intimidating residents who signed petitions in April 2014, prosecutors decided to charge Rev Pinkney with voter fraud (five felonies), and soon after , a judge cancelled the recall election. In an alarming display of force , a SWAT team was sent to Rev Pinkney's home to look for him. at a preliminary hearing May 23, 2014, no direct or indirect evidence again Rev Pinkney was presented, and prosecutors say they need only circumstantial evidence to convict him.

In June , 2014 the judge ruled that the trial could go forward, The trial began on Oct. 27, 2014, and the jury returned a guilty verdict on Nov. 3 2014.The Berrien County court that convicted Rev Pinkney showed how far they were willing to go by playing the race card. During jury selection they aggressively expelled all African -Americans, leaving the trial to be decided by an all white jury. No one on that jury was from Benton Harbor or had lived under a emergency financial management. It is next to impossible for a Black man from the poorest town in Berrien County to get a fair trial from an all white jury from the richest towns in the county. This issue was central to the case and calls into question the definition of a trial by one's peers and the meaning of due process.

During the trial, the prosecution admitted there was no physical evidence linking Rev Pinkney to the crime they were charging him with. And yet the prosecution repeatedly introduced examples of Rev Pinkney exercising his first Amendment right to free speech, his political activities and community activism as evidence he committed the crime.

On Dec 15, 2014 Rev Pinkney was sentenced to 30 to 120 months in prison, and surrender to authorities that day. He appealed his conviction in 2015 and on July 26, 2016, the court of Appeals of Michigan affirmed his conviction. Rev Pinkney was released on a 12-month parole in June 2017 after serving 2.5 difficult years in prison. At times he felt his life was in danger by prison as the result.

In a tremendous victory for the people in the fight against naked corporate power, Rev Pinkney was exonerated. In November 2017, the Michigan Supreme Court heard Rev Pinkney's appeal and on May 1 2018, the court overturned his conviction. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled 6-0 that Rev Pinkney was improperly charged with five felony counts of election forgery in 2014 by the Berrien County prosecutor, that he was improperly charged was improperly tried and sentenced by the Berrien County Circuit Court, and improperly served 30 months in Prison as a result.       

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Struggle Escalates

In 2009, residents who wanted to challenge corporate control of Benton Harbor, became the majority on the city commission. As the city's economy continued to deteriorate with the global economic crisis and corporate neglect, its financial situation worsened. Then  Gov-Jennifer Granholm appointed an emergency financial manager( EFM )under Public ACT 72 to assume control over Benton Harbor finances. This EFMs was one of a number appointed across Michigan in the 2000s. The EFM had limited power in early 2011, the legislature passed Public Act 4, which turned the EFMs into emergency managers EM with broad powers to overrule elected officials and take dictatorial control of cities and school districts. Benton Harbor was one of the first cities to have an EM. When the people of Michigan overturned Public Act4 by referendum in 2012, the legislature thumbed its nose at the people and promptly passed a new version of the law, public Act 436, which is not subject to referendum.

The emergency manager law allows , the EMs to take over cities and school districts and replace local officials, sell public assets, privatize public services, dismantle collective bargaining agreements and more, They are dictators in the service of the corporations.Between 2010 and early 2014. Benton Harbor had two different EMs, and they stripped city officials of their power, cut city spending and continued giving away public land Whirlpool.

In 2011 James Hightower a puppet of Whirlpool was elected mayor. When Benton Harbor residents proposed that the city enact by referendum a 1% income tax aimed at Whirlpool to help solve the city's financial crisis , Whirlpool and Hightower worked to defeat the measure through a massive misinformation campaign. In 2013 , Pinkney and others launched an effort to recall Hightower. They gathered the required numbers of signatures to force a recall election and turned them into the county clerk, who verified them. This is what you can do when you have unity and work together...

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rev Pinkney sent to prison for quoting the bible.

Rev Pinkney was given one year's probation , which included house arrest for voter fraud conviction. Then Rev Pinkney published an article in the People"s Tribune quoting the Biblical admonition from
Deuteronomy that God will punish those who act unjustly against others. The trial judge declared that this amounted to a personal threat against him, and he found Pinkney guilty of violating his probation and jailed him.In early 2008, another judge sentenced Rev Pinkney to 3-10 years in prison-double the recommendation of the probation department and prosecutor -for quoting the bible in the newspaper article.

Across Michigan and the country, thousands of people and many institutions rallied to Pinkney"s defense, including community, labor, religious and other activists, attorneys, and People's Tribune, other newspapers and other media. As a result of this fight, a Michigan appellate court ordered Rev Pinkney released to house arrest pending a review of his case, and the court eventually , overturned the lower court decision. Rev Pinkney had spent nearly a year in prison.

Let the truth be told, the charges leved against Rev Edward Pinkney in Benton Harbor, Michigan are , but the latest sage in a ruthless pursuit of the naked corporate rule that is gripping the state of Michigan in 2011, current Government Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that codified the fascist offensive already in motion. The law, a.k.a. Emergency Manager law, dispatches unelected , managers to designated cities and school districts who issue edicts that fast track the sale of precious public services , dismantle collective bargaining agreements, and more, They are empowered to even dissolve municipalities and school districts, all the while replacing local elected officials altogether.

Benton Harbor, home of the corporate giant Whirlpool , is a poster child of the Rust Belt's post industrial destruction of the Manufacturing life, we once knew. Benton Harbor is 90% African -American and over 42.6% of the population live in poverty. with its rich Lake Michigan beachfront property park, which has now been stolen from the people. Benton Harbor experienced the wrath of Emergency Managers, more than 17 municipalities and school districts, including Detroit , Flint, and Pontiac have been pulled into the mire of dictatorship.

Rev Pinkney has become the face of resistance to the notion that the working class has no rights that the corporation is bound to respect. In a tremendous victory for the people against corporate power, Rev Pinkney was exonerated by the Michigan Supreme Court. This victory is a giant step toward overturning the spread of corporate dictatorship to the rest of Michigan and the nation. 

Friday, July 06, 2018

Whirlpool Destroyed Benton Harbor.

As the bulk of the manufacturing jobs either replaced or sent elsewhere. Whirlpool set its sights on turning Benton Harbor-St Joseph area into a lakeside resort for the wealthy. The former CEO of Whirlpool advocated in 2003-4 for developing a 500 million marina/residential/golf course complex that would take 465 acres of Benton Harbor. It would privatize the city's only beach and pay the city less than $1million for the property. Rev Edward Pinkney, a Black community activist in Benton Harbor, and many others, opposed the plan because it would do nothing for the poor and would deprive the city of some of its greatest assets. Benton Harbor City Commissioner Glen Yarbrough was local politician supporting the plan.

As the largest local employer, Whirlpool has historically been the single biggest influence on local government in Berrien County. In 2004 Pinkney and the organization Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO) circulated petitions to recall commissioner Yarbrough (who is Black ) because Yarbrough was representing only Whirlpool's interests, not the community's. Pinkney and BANCO network rallied the community to get out the absentee vote, winning the recall election by 54 votes. Whirlpool's local political forces -Yarbrough, the local police and sheriff's department. and Berrien County Judiciary-then went into action to overturn the recall election,to isolate and crush Pinkney, and to contain the people of Benton Harbor.

Voter fraud was used as an excuse by the county prosecutor to sue the city to overturn the recall election. Then Pinkney was framed, he was arrested and indicted on trumped -up " voter fraud " charges and in March of 2005, the first trial ended in a hung jury, then March 2007 Rev Pinkney was convicted by an all-white jury, that was motivated by something other than the truth.. There was ample evidence to show that Pinkney was framed, but the judge refuse to allow it to be admitted during the trial. The city clerk, was forced out of office.      

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Benton Harbor A harbinger of America 's future

How could a minister in America be arrested and imprisoned for quoting the Bible? It may seem strange, but this very thing happen in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

As the economic crisis continues to grip America and threaten to get deeper, in working class communities across the country are beginning  to stand up and demand that the government serve the people's interests not those of the corporations. And as they stood up, the people have come under fire from the corporations and government. This is especially true in America's former industrial heartland, the rust belt.

The struggle that has taken place in recent years in Benton Harbor is a case in point, and one that holds a number of lessons for the America people. The fight in Benton Harbor is a war whether Americans will have prosperity and democracy, or live in poverty under the heel of open corporate rule.

Benton Harbor and its sister community across the river, St. Joseph are in Berrien County, on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. Historically , the Whirlpool Corporation, a global appliance manufacturer has been the largest single employer and main political influence in the county.. The factory jobs its provided gave the workers of the now predominantly Black Benton Harbor and predominantly white St. Joseph stability and good standard of living. Then in the late 1990's in a pattern typical of the Rust Belt, the jobs began to disappear, partly because of globalization and partly because advance technology replaced manufacturing labor with robots and computers. What had once been a relatively prosperous working class in Benton Harbor , became plagued with unemployment and poverty as Whirlpool and other , corporations began transitioning the area from an industrial to a tourist, real estate and service based economy. This process has prompted a resistance from the people of Benton Harbor, and that resistance prompted a political attack on the people by Whirlpool and its local political machine.

Let 's make this struggle in Benton Harbor a victory for all who are victim of the economic crisis in every city and town in America.