“What to the Slave is 4th of July” James Earl Jones

Open Culture

Every year on this day, Frederick Douglass’s fiery, uncompromising 1852 speech, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro,” gets a new hearing, and takes on added resonance in the context of contemporary politics. It has never ceased to speak directly to those for whom the celebrations can seem like a hollow mockery of freedom and independence. The American holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence—next to the Constitution, the U.S.A.’s most cherished founding document, and a text, for all its rhetorical elegance, which cannot escape the irony that it was written by a slaveholder for an emerging slave nation.

Slavery had always been a contentious subject among the colonists. And yet the American Revolution was a war waged for the full freedom and enfranchisement of only a very few white men of property. Not only were black people excluded from the nation’s freedoms, but so too were conquered Native American nations, and in great part, poor white men and women who could not vote—though they were not chained in perpetual servitude as human chattel, with little hope of liberty for themselves or their descendants.

Douglass gave the speech in Rochester, NY, seventy-six years after the first July 4th and at a time when the country was riven with irreconcilable tensions between abolitionists, free-soilers, and the slaveholding South. The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act—at least, in hindsight—made the impending Civil War all but inevitable. The speech reveals the celebration as a sham for those who were or had been enslaved, and who could not consider themselves American citizens regardless of their status (as Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney would affirm five years later.)

Just above, you can hear a powerful reading of Douglass’s speech by James Earl Jones, delivered as part of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Read an excerpt of the speech below.

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

Douglass’s speech condemned the “scorching irony” of American independence even after the Civil War, as racist terrorism and Jim Crow destroyed the promise of Reconstruction. In our present time, writes Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor Isabel Wilkerson, amidst the rash of high profile police killings and an ensuing lack of justice, events “have forced us to confront our place in a country where we were enslaved for far longer than we have been free. Forced us to face the dispiriting erosion that we have witnessed in recent years—from the birther assaults on a sitting black president to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act that we had believed was carved in granite.” We might add to this list the resumption of the failed “War on Drugs” and the federal government’s announcements that it would do little to safeguard civil rights nor to investigate and prosecute the surge of white supremacist violence.

And yet the “self evident” mythology of American freedom and equality—and of American innocence—remains potent and seductive to many people in the country. As the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute put it a few days ago, “The birth of the United States was unique because it was a nation founded not on blood or ethnicity, but on ideas.” To this ahistorical fiction, which manages to erase the founders’ own statements on race, the colonization of indigenous lands, and even the bloody Revolutionary War in its strangely desperate zeal to sweep the past away, Douglass would reply: “The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.”

Angela Davis on Abolition, Calls to Defund Police, Toppled Racist Statues & Voting in 2020 Election

Democracy Now

Angela Davis on Abolition, Calls to Defund Police, Toppled Racist Statues & Voting in 2020 Election

Democracy Now Web Exclusive      June 12, 2020

 

Video: https://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/360/dn2020-0612.mp4?start=1191.0

Amid a worldwide uprising against police brutality and racism, we discuss the historic moment with legendary scholar and activist Angela Davis. She also responds to the destruction and removal of racist monuments in cities across the United States; President Trump’s upcoming rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, the site of a white mob’s massacre of Black people; and the 2020 election, in which two parties “connected to corporate capitalism” will compete for the presidency and people will have to be persuaded to vote “so the current occupant of the White House is forever ousted.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

 

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace ReportThe Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman. As the nationwide uprising against police brutality and racism continues to roil the nation and the world, bringing down Confederate statues and forcing a reckoning in city halls and on the streets, President Trump defended law enforcement Thursday, dismissing growing calls to defund the police. He spoke at a campaign-style event at a church in Dallas, Texas, announcing a new executive order advising police departments to adopt national standards for use of force. Trump did not invite the top three law enforcement officials in Dallas, who are all African American. The move comes after Trump called protesters ”THUGS” and threatened to deploy the U.S. military to end, quote, “riots and lawlessness.” This is Trump speaking Thursday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They want to get rid of the police forces. They actually want to get rid of it. And that’s what they do, and that’s where they’d go. And you know that, because at the top position, there’s not going to be much leadership. There’s not much leadership left.

Instead, we have to go the opposite way. We must invest more energy and resources in police training and recruiting and community engagement. We have to respect our police. We have to take care of our police. They’re protecting us. And if they’re allowed to do their job, they’ll do a great job. And you always have a bad apple no matter where you go. You have bad apples. And there are not too many of them. And I can tell you there are not too many of them in the police department. We all know a lot of members of the police.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is also calling for an increase to police funding. In an op-ed in USA Today, he called for police departments to receive an additional $300 million to, quote, “reinvigorate community policing in our country.” On Wednesday night, Biden discussed police funding on The Daily Show.

JOE BIDEN: I don’t believe police should be defunded, but I think the conditions should be placed upon them where departments are having to take significant reforms relating to that. We should set up a national use-of-force standard.

AMY GOODMAN: But many argue reform will not fix the inherently racist system of policing. Since the global protest movement began, Minneapolis has pledged to dismantle its police department, the mayors of Los Angeles and New York City have promised to slash police department budgets, and calls to “defund the police” are being heard in spaces that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

Well, for more on this historic moment, we are spending the hour with the legendary activist and scholar Angela Davis, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. For half a century, Angela Davis has been one of the most influential activists and intellectuals in the United States, an icon of the Black liberation movement. Angela Davis’s work around issues of gender, race, class and prisons has influenced critical thought and social movements across several generations. She’s a leading advocate for prison abolition, a position informed by her own experience as a prisoner and a fugitive on the FBI’s top 10 wanted list more than 40 years ago. Once caught, she faced the death penalty in California. After being acquitted on all charges, she’s spent her life fighting to change the criminal justice system.

Angela Davis, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us today for the hour.

ANGELA DAVIS: Thank you very much, Amy. It’s wonderful to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, do you think this moment is a tipping point, a turning point? You, who have been involved in activism for almost half a century, do you see this moment as different, perhaps more different than any period of time you have lived through?

ANGELA DAVIS: Absolutely. This is an extraordinary moment. I have never experienced anything like the conditions we are currently experiencing, the conjuncture created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recognition of the systemic racism that has been rendered visible under these conditions because of the disproportionate deaths in Black and Latinx communities. And this is a moment I don’t know whether I ever expected to experience.

When the protests began, of course, around the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade and many others who have lost their lives to racist state violence and vigilante violence — when these protests erupted, I remembered something that I’ve said many times to encourage activists, who often feel that the work that they do is not leading to tangible results. I often ask them to consider the very long trajectory of Black struggles. And what has been most important is the forging of legacies, the new arenas of struggle that can be handed down to younger generations.

But I’ve often said one never knows when conditions may give rise to a conjuncture such as the current one that rapidly shifts popular consciousness and suddenly allows us to move in the direction of radical change. If one does not engage in the ongoing work when such a moment arises, we cannot take advantage of the opportunities to change. And, of course, this moment will pass. The intensity of the current demonstrations cannot be sustained over time, but we will have to be ready to shift gears and address these issues in different arenas, including, of course, the electoral arena.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, you have long been a leader of the critical resistance movement, the abolition movement. And I’m wondering if you can explain the demand, as you see it, what you feel needs to be done, around defunding the police, and then around prison abolition.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, the call to defund the police is, I think, an abolitionist demand, but it reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else. And it appears as if this is the rather superficial understanding that has caused Biden to move in the direction he’s moving in.

It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions — mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.

And I would say that abolition is not primarily a negative strategy. It’s not primarily about dismantling, getting rid of, but it’s about reenvisioning. It’s about building anew. And I would argue that abolition is a feminist strategy. And one sees in these abolitionist demands that are emerging the pivotal influence of feminist theories and practices.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, I want us to see feminism not only as addressing issues of gender, but rather as a methodological approach of understanding the intersectionality of struggles and issues. Abolition feminism counters carceral feminism, which has unfortunately assumed that issues such as violence against women can be effectively addressed by using police force, by using imprisonment as a solution. And of course we know that Joseph Biden, in 1994, who claims that the Violence Against Women Act was such an important moment in his career — the Violence Against Women Act was couched within the 1994 Crime Act, the Clinton Crime Act.

And what we’re calling for is a process of decriminalization, not — recognizing that threats to safety, threats to security, come not primarily from what is defined as crime, but rather from the failure of institutions in our country to address issues of health, issues of violence, education, etc. So, abolition is really about rethinking the kind of future we want, the social future, the economic future, the political future. It’s about revolution, I would argue.

AMY GOODMAN: You write in Freedom Is a Constant Struggle, “Neoliberal ideology drives us to focus on individuals, ourselves, individual victims, individual perpetrators. But how is it possible to solve the massive problem of racist state violence by calling upon individual police officers to bear the burden of that history and to assume that by prosecuting them, by exacting our revenge on them, we would have somehow made progress in eradicating racism?” So, explain what exactly you’re demanding.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, neoliberal logic assumes that the fundamental unit of society is the individual, and I would say the abstract individual. According to that logic, Black people can combat racism by pulling themselves up by their own individual bootstraps. That logic recognizes — or fails, rather, to recognize that there are institutional barriers that cannot be brought down by individual determination. If a Black person is materially unable to attend the university, the solution is not affirmative action, they argue, but rather the person simply needs to work harder, get good grades and do what is necessary in order to acquire the funds to pay for tuition. Neoliberal logic deters us from thinking about the simpler solution, which is free education.

I’m thinking about the fact that we have been aware of the need for these institutional strategies at least since 1935 — but of course before, but I’m choosing 1935 because that was the year when W.E.B. Du Bois published his germinal Black Reconstruction in America. And the question was not what should individual Black people do, but rather how to reorganize and restructure post-slavery society in order to guarantee the incorporation of those who had been formerly enslaved. The society could not remain the same — or should not have remained the same. Neoliberalism resists change at the individual level. It asks the individual to adapt to conditions of capitalism, to conditions of racism.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Angela Davis, about the monuments to racists, colonizers, Confederates, that are continuing to fall across the United States and around the world. In St. Paul, Minnesota, Wednesday, activists with the American Indian Movement tied a rope around a statue of Christopher Columbus and pulled it from its pedestal on the state Capitol grounds. The AIM members then held a ceremony over the fallen monument. In Massachusetts, officials said they’ll remove a Columbus statue from a park in Boston’s North End, after it was beheaded by protesters early Wednesday morning. In Richmond, Virginia, protesters toppled a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from Monument Avenue Wednesday night. In the nearby city of Portsmouth, protesters used sledgehammers to destroy a monument to Confederate soldiers. One person sustained a serious injury, was hospitalized after a statue fell on his head. In Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined other lawmakers demanding the removal of 11 Confederate statues from the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

Meanwhile, President Trump said he will “not even consider” renaming U.S. Army bases named after Confederate military officers. There are 10 such bases, all of them in Southern states. Trump tweeted Wednesday, “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” unquote. Trump’s tweet contradicted Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley, who suggested they’re open to discussion about renaming the bases. And a Republican committee in the Senate just voted to rename these bases, like Benning and Bragg and Hood, that are named for Confederate leaders.

Meanwhile, in your hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, Angela, comedian Jermaine Johnson is pleading not guilty to charges of “inciting a riot” after he urged protesters at May 31st rally to march on a statue of Charles Linn, a former officer in the Confederate Navy.

Did you think you would ever see this? You think about Bree Newsome after the horror at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who shimmied up that flagpole on the grounds of the South Carolina Legislature and took down the Confederate flag, and they put it right on back up. What about what we’re seeing today?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, Bree Newsome was a wonderful pioneer. And I think it’s important to link this trend to the campaign in South Africa, Rhodes Must Fall. And, of course, I think this reflects the extent to which we are being called upon to deeply reflect on the role of historical racisms that have brought us to the point where we are today.

You know, racism should have been immediately confronted in the aftermath of the end of slavery. This is what Dr. Du Bois’s analysis was all about, not so much in terms of, “Well, what we were going to do about these poor people who have been enslaved so many generations?” but, rather, “How can we reorganize our society in order to guarantee the incorporation of previously enslaved people?”

Now attention is being turned towards the symbols of slavery, the symbols of colonialism. And, of course, any campaigns against racism in this country have to address, in the very first place, the conditions of Indigenous people. I think it’s important that we’re seeing these demonstrations, but I think at the same time we have to recognize that we cannot simply get rid of the history. We have to recognize the devastatingly negative role that that history has played in charting the trajectory of the United States of America. And so, I think that these assaults on statues represent an attempt to begin to think through what we have to do to bring down institutions and reenvision them, reorganize them, create new institutions that can attend to the needs of all people.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think should be done with statues, for example, to, oh, slaveholding Founding Fathers, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, you know, museums can play an important educational role. And I don’t think we should get rid of all of the vestiges of the past, but we need to figure out context within which people can understand the nature of U.S. history and the role that racism and capitalism and heteropatriarchy have played in forging that history.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about racism and capitalism? You often write and speak about how they are intimately connected. And talk about a world that you envision.

ANGELA DAVIS: Yeah, racism is integrally linked to capitalism. And I think it’s a mistake to assume that we can combat racism by leaving capitalism in place. As Cedric Robinson pointed out in his book Black Marxism, capitalism is racial capitalism. And, of course, to just say for a moment, that Marx pointed out that what he called primitive accumulation, capital doesn’t just appear from nowhere. The original capital was provided by the labor of slaves. The Industrial Revolution, which pivoted around the production of capital, was enabled by slave labor in the U.S. So, I am convinced that the ultimate eradication of racism is going to require us to move toward a more socialist organization of our economies, of our other institutions. I think we have a long way to go before we can begin to talk about an economic system that is not based on exploitation and on the super-exploitation of Black people, Latinx people and other racialized populations.

But I do think that we now have the conceptual means to engage in discussions, popular discussions, about capitalism. Occupy gave us new language. The notion of the prison-industrial complex requires us to understand the globalization of capitalism. Anti-capitalist consciousness helps us to understand the predicament of immigrants, who are barred from the U.S. by the wall that has been created by the current occupant. These conditions have been created by global capitalism. And I think this is a period during which we need to begin that process of popular education, which will allow people to understand the interconnections of racism, heteropatriarchy, capitalism.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela, do you think we need a truth and reconciliation commission here in this country?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, that might be one way to begin, but I know we’re going to need a lot more than truth and reconciliation. But certainly we need truth. I’m not sure how soon reconciliation is going to emerge. But I think that the whole notion of truth and reconciliation allows us to think differently about the criminal legal system. It allows us to imagine a form of justice that is not based on revenge, a form of justice that is not retributive. So I think that those ideas can help us begin to imagine new ways of structuring our institutions, such as — well, not structuring the prison, because the whole point is that we have to abolish that institution in order to begin to envision new ways of addressing the conditions that lead to mass incarceration, that lead to such horrendous tragedies as the murder of George Floyd.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to this discussion and also talk about President Trump going to Tulsa on Juneteenth. We’re speaking with Angela Davis, the world-renowned abolitionist, author, activist and professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz, author of many books, including Freedom Is a Constant Struggle. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Shanty Tones” by Filastine. This is Democracy Now! The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we spend the hour with the legendary activist, scholar, Angela Davis, professor emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz.

President Trump has announced he’s holding his first campaign rally since the quarantine, since lockdowns across the country, since the pandemic. He’s holding it in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 19th — a highly symbolic day. It was June 19, 1865, that enslaved Africans in Texas first learned they were free, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The day is now celebrated as Juneteenth. California Senator Kamala Harris tweeted in response, “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party,” unquote.

Well, Tulsa recently marked the 99th anniversary of one of the deadliest mass killings of African Americans in U.S. history. In 1921, a white mob killed as many as 300 people, most of them Black, after a Black man was accused of assaulting a white woman. The white mobs destroyed a thriving African American business district known at the time as the Black Wall Street of America.

Well, this all comes as a Tulsa police major is coming under fire after denying systemic racism in the police force there and saying African Americans probably should be shot more. Listen carefully. This is Major Travis Yates in an interview with KFAQ.

MAJTRAVIS YATES: If a certain group is committing more crimes, more violent crimes, then that number is going to be higher. Who in the world in their right mind would think that our shootings should be right along the U.S. census line? All of the research says we’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.

AMY GOODMAN: “We’re shooting them less than they probably ought to be”? Tulsa’s mayor and police chief have both blasted Yates for the comment, but he remains on the force. And on Friday, President Trump will be there. Angela Davis, your thoughts on the significance of the moment, the place?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, that’s — well, you know, I can’t even respond to anything he does anymore. It’s just so, so, so, so ridiculous. And it is, however, important to recognize that he represents a sector of the population in this country that wants to return to the past — “Make America great again” — with all of its white supremacy, with all of its misogyny. And I think that at this moment we are recognizing that we cannot be held back by such forces as those represented by the current occupant of the White House. I doubt very seriously whether the people who come out to hear him in Tulsa on this historic day — of course, all over the country, people of African descent will be observing Juneteenth as an emancipatory moment in our history.

But I think that our role is to start to begin to translate some of the energy and passion into transforming institutions. The process has already begun, and it can’t be turned back, at least not by the current occupant of the White House. I’m not suggesting that it’s easy to create lasting change, but at least now we can see that it is possible. When someone like Roger Goodell says “Black lives matter,” even though he did not mention Colin Kaepernick, and even though he may have — he probably did not really mean it, what that means is that the NFL recognizes that it has to begin a new process, that there is a further expansion of popular consciousness.

In New York, of course, you need to ask whether you really want to create new jails in the boroughs in the aftermath of closing Rikers, or whether you need new services. You know, I’ve been thinking about the case of Jussie Smollett, and I’m wondering why — in Chicago, given the conditions surrounding the murder of Laquan McDonald, the police department should be thoroughly investigated. And we need to ask: How is it that the public could so easily be rallied to the police narrative of what happened in the case of Jussie Smollett?

So, there is so much to be done. And I think that the rallies that the current occupant of the White House is holding will fade into — don’t even merit footnotes in history.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I wanted to ask you about another event that’s taking place on Juneteenth, on June 19th. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is finally going to issue you the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award during a virtual event on Juneteenth. And I wanted to ask you about this, because you returned to your hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, last February after the institute had at first rescinded the award due to your support for BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — and your support of Palestinians. After outcry, the institute reversed its decision. More than 3,000 people gathered to see you talk at an alternative event to honor you, which was hosted by the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a clip of your comments that day.

ANGELA DAVIS: It became clear to me that this might actually be a teachable moment.

IMANI PERRY: Yes.

ANGELA DAVIS: … That we might seize this moment to reflect on what it means to live on this planet in the 21st century and our responsibilities not only to people in our immediate community, but to people all over the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: We were there covering this amazing moment, where the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had rescinded the award to you, the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award, went through enormous turmoil. The mayor of Birmingham, so many people across the spectrum criticized them for it, but then this process happened, and you are going to be awarded this. Can you talk about the significance of this moment? And what do you plan to say on Juneteenth, the day that President Trump will be in Tulsa?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, thank you for reminding me that these two events are happening on the same day. And, of course, that was, I think, the last time I actually saw you in person, Amy, in Birmingham. A lot has happened over the last period, including within the context of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. They have completely reorganized. They have reorganized their board. They have been involved in conversations with the community. Of course, as you know, the mayor of Birmingham was threatening to withdraw funding from the institute. There was a generalized uprising in the Black community.

And, you know, while at first it was a total shock to me that they offered this award to me, and then they rescinded it, I’m realizing now that that was an important moment, because it encouraged people to think about the meaning of human rights and why is it that Palestinians could be excluded from the process of working toward human rights. Palestinian activists have long supported Black people’s struggle against racism. When I was in jail, solidarity coming from Palestine was a major source of courage for me. In Ferguson, Palestinians were the first to express international solidarity. And there has been this very important connection between the two struggles for many decades, so that I’m going to be really happy to receive the award, which now represents a rethinking of the rather backward position that the institute assumed, that Palestinians could be excluded from the circle of those working toward a future of justice, equality and human rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking about what’s going on in the West Bank right now and about the whole issue of international solidarity, the global response to the killing of George Floyd. In the occupied West Bank, protesters denounced Floyd’s murder and the recent killing of Iyad el-Hallak, a 32-year-old Palestinian special needs student who was shot to death by Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem. He was reportedly chanting “Black lives matter” and “Palestinian lives matter,” when Israeli police gunned him down, claiming he was armed. These links that you’re seeing, not only in Palestine and the United States, but around the world, the kind of global response, the tens of thousands of people who marched in Spain, who marched in England, in Berlin, in Munich, all over the world, as this touches a chord and they make demands in their own countries, not only in solidarity with what’s happening in the United States? And then I want to ask you about the U.S. election that’s coming up in November.

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, yes, Palestinian activists have long supported Black people’s struggle against racism, as I pointed out. And I’m hoping that today’s young activists recognize how important Palestinian solidarity has been to the Black cause, and that they recognize that we have a profound responsibility to support Palestinian struggles, as well.

I think it’s also important for us to look in the direction of Brazil, whose current political leader competes with our current political leader in many dangerous ways, I would say. Brazil — if we think we have a problem with racist police violence in the United States of America, look at Brazil. Marielle Franco was assassinated because she was challenging the militarization of the police and the racist violence unleashed there. I think 4,000 people were killed last year alone by the police in Brazil. So, I’m saying this because —

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, the president of Brazil, a close ally of President Trump. We only have two minutes, and I want to get to the election. When I interviewed you in 2016, you said you wouldn’t support either main-party candidate at the time. What are your thoughts today for 2020?

ANGELA DAVIS: Well, my position really hasn’t changed. I’m not going to actually support either of the major candidates. But I do think we have to participate in the election. I mean, that isn’t to say that I won’t vote for the Democratic candidate. What I’m saying is that in our electoral system as it exists, neither party represents the future that we need in this country. Both parties remain connected to corporate capitalism. But the election will not so much be about who gets to lead the country to a better future, but rather how we can support ourselves and our own ability to continue to organize and place pressure on those in power. And I don’t think there’s a question about which candidate would allow that process to unfold.

So I think that we’re going to have to translate some of the passion that has characterized these demonstrations into work within the electoral arena, recognizing that the electoral arena is not the best place for the expression of radical politics. But if we want to continue this work, we certainly need a person in office who will be more amenable to our mass pressure. And to me, that is the only thing that someone like a Joe Biden represents. But we have to persuade people to go out and vote to guarantee that the current occupant of the White House is forever ousted.

AMY GOODMAN: Angela Davis, I want to thank you so much for this hour, world-renowned abolitionist, author, activist, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, author of many books, including Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us. Stay safe.

A List of All the Crucial Environmental Pollution and Water Regulations the Trump Administration Has Waived So Far During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Pandemic in Review: A List of All the Crucial Environmental Pollution and Water Regulations the Trump Administration Has Waived So Far During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration has been tested and faced with impossible tasks and decisions to save the nation from the spread of the Coronavirus. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revoked several crucial regulations in the name of necessity and economic restructuring which has developed a deep wound in terms of environmental safety. Here’s a running list of all the Obama-era regulations revoked, waived, or altered:

Clean Water Regulations:

Brain Damage-Causing Clean Water Regulation Waived Against Court Orders:

EPA waived a regulation for a contaminant in clean water that harms babies’ brains and can reduce their IQ severely at a young age. The chemical, perchlorate, had been recognized as harmful for years and had been ordered by the court to introduce a new regulation by this month. However, the EPA did not introduce a new regulation, instead waiving the current existing regulation out of reason that perchlorate was not present enough in water to the point where regulations would need to be implemented.

Investigated for Poor Water Policy in San Francisco:

The Trump Administration has been accused of doing a poor job maintaining water policy in San Francisco. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic lawmakers have discovered the carelessness of the Trump Administration in enforcing water policy in California, and this has caught the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Review of Harmful Water Pipeline Projects: 

EPA announced that they would be removing a key portion of the Clean Water Act, depriving states the ability to block harmful pipeline projects that cross within their waterways. States are now limited in yet another way in moderating clean water quality– before the removal of this rule, part of section 401, states were allowed one year to approve or reject projects that go through rivers and streams to weigh how the project would affect the water quality in the surrounding region. The justification given by an EPA administrator was that the law has “held [the] nation’s energy infrastructure projects hostage.”

Waiving Requirement to Monitor Waterways for Hazardous Weedkiller:

EPA lifted the requirement of monitoring waterways in the Midwest for the presence of the weed killer atrazine. Even though the administration’s reason behind this action is because of “the sudden impact of COVID-19,” it is still putting a risk to the health of residents who rely on these now-unchecked waterways.

Pollution Regulations:

Fails to Update Flaring Requirements Linked With Respiratory Disease:

As the health hazards and perilous impacts on the environment caused by the burning of these fuels continue to be exposed, public outcry to re-assess environmental rules and requirements has likewise increased: this past Thursday, numerous environmental organizations took legal action against the federal organization, Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), due to its inaction in updating over 30-year-old regulations regarding an industrial process known as flaring.

Trump Weakens Federal Authority on Clean Air Regulations:

The Trump Administration signed executive orders waiving many environmental regulations. One of the regulations waived was federal authority on clean air regulations. The EPA proposed a new rule that changes the way the agency conducts analyses to impose Clean Air Act regulations. This new rule has been favored by the Trump Administration, and this new rule will effectively limit the strength of air pollution control.

Trump Administration Makes Move to completely Roll Back Methane Pollution Regulations:

The EPA has recently made steps in its work to roll back its methane emissions limits. With the current timelines the rollbacks could be finalized as early as July. Right now the EPA has sent in the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget to be reviewed and possibly accepted. This particular piece of legislation has been worked on by the Trump Administration’s EPA since 2016.

Loosening Fuel Emission Standards amid COVID-19 Pandemic:

More than twenty states filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming that their decision to lower fuel economy standards puts public health at risk– with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, this ruling has only become increasingly magnified. Because of this ruling, it is predicted there will be approximately 900 million more tons of carbon dioxide released than the Obama administration standards.

White House struggles to understand the ACA case it supports

MaddowBlog

White House struggles to understand the ACA case it supports

By Steve Benen          June 30, 2020

 

Image: Kayleigh McEnanyWhite House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House on May 1, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

Last week, Donald Trump and his team asked the Supreme Court to tear down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, despite the ongoing pandemic. If the president succeeds in getting what he wants, his own country’s health care system would be left in shambles, and tens of millions of families would lose benefits they’ve come to rely on.

It was against this backdrop that White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared on Fox News yesterday morning, and one of the co-hosts asked about the potential political fallout of destroying the existing system without having a replacement ready. The president’s chief spokesperson made the case that it’s actually Democrats who’ll have a political problem.

“Look, the American public looks at this and what they say is this: If Democrats passed an unconstitutional law several years ago, then it’s on Democrats to come forward with a solution.”

McEnany went on to argue that the Affordable Care Act represents a “government takeover of health care” (that’s not true), that the White House has “put forward solutions” (that’s not true), and that Democrats are moving toward “eliminating Medicare” (that’s not true).

There was, in other words, quite a bit wrong with the press secretary’s pitch. But let’s focus on two key elements.

First, to hear McEnany tell it, if Supreme Court conservatives agree to destroy the existing health care system, it will be because Democrats “passed an unconstitutional law several years ago.” She’s confused: the pending ACA case is not a test of the original law’s constitutionality. That case has already come and gone.

Rather, the current case relates to the Republicans’ 2017 tax plan and the GOP’s apparent belief that it altered the ACA in such a way as to render it unconstitutional. It’s the sort of detail the White House really ought to know while it tries to take health care coverage from millions of families.

In reality, however, it’s Democrats who’ve already “come forward with a solution” — it’s the ACA, and it’s working — which they continue to take steps to improve. Meanwhile, it’s Republicans who’ve spent more than a decade promising to craft an alternative to “Obamacare” that does more and costs less.

At least so far, McEnany’s party has failed to keep that promise.

Up to 3 Billion will live in extreme heat by 2070, study warns.

USA Today

Unsuitable for ‘human life to flourish’: Up to 3 Billion will live in extreme heat by 2070, study warns.

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY                May 4, 2020

 

If global warming continues unchecked, the heat that’s coming later this century in some parts of the world will bring “nearly unlivable” conditions for up to 3 billion people, a study released Monday said.

The authors predict that by 2070,  much of the world’s population is likely to live in climate conditions that are “warmer than conditions deemed suitable for human life to flourish.”

The study warned that unless greenhouse gas emissions are curtailed, average annual temperatures will rise beyond the climate “niche” in which humans have thrived for 6,000 years.

That “niche” is equivalent to average yearly temperatures of roughly 52 to 59 Fahrenheit. The researchers found that people, despite all forms of innovations and migrations, have mostly lived in these climate conditions for several thousand years.

“We show that in a business-as-usual climate change scenario, the geographical position of this temperature niche is projected to shift more over the coming 50 years than it has moved (in the past 6,000 years),” the study warned.

Climate change: 2020 expected to be Earth’s warmest year on record, scientists say

These brutally hot climate conditions are currently experienced by just 0.8% of the global land surface, mostly in the hottest parts of the Sahara Desert, but by 2070 the conditions could spread to 19% of the Earth’s land area.
These brutally hot climate conditions are currently experienced by just 0.8% of the global land surface, mostly in the hottest parts of the Sahara Desert, but by 2070 the conditions could spread to 19% of the Earth’s land area.

 

The future scenario used in the paper is one in which atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are high. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas releases “greenhouse” gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. The emissions have caused the planet’s temperatures to rise to levels that cannot be explained by natural factors, scientists report.

Temperatures over the next few decades are projected to increase rapidly as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions.

Without climate mitigation or migration, by 2070 a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to average annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today, the study said. These brutally hot climate conditions are currently experienced by just 0.8% of the global land surface, mostly in the hottest parts of the Sahara Desert, but by 2070 the conditions could spread to 19% of the Earth’s land area.

This includes large portions of northern Africa, the Middle East, northern South America, South Asia, and parts of Australia.

“Large areas of the planet would heat to barely survivable levels and they wouldn’t cool down again,” said study co-author Marten Scheffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “Not only would this have devastating direct effects, it leaves societies less able to cope with future crises like new pandemics. The only thing that can stop this happening is a rapid cut in carbon emissions.”

Rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could halve the number of people exposed to such hot conditions. “The good news is that these impacts can be greatly reduced if humanity succeeds in curbing global warming,” said study co-author Tim Lenton, a climate specialist from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

“Our computations show that each degree warming (Celsius) above present levels corresponds to roughly 1 billion people falling outside of the climate niche,” Lenton said. “It is important that we can now express the benefits of curbing greenhouse gas emissions in something more human than just monetary terms.”

The study, which was prepared by an international research team of archaeologists, ecologists and climate scientists, was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In our current climate, the most extreme heat is restricted to the small black areas in the Sahara Desert region. But by 2070, that area will expand to the shaded areas across portions of Africa, Asia, Australia and South America, according to the study.

Russia Offered Afghans Bounty to Kill U.S. Troops, Officials Say

The New York Times

Russia Offered Afghans Bounty to Kill U.S. Troops, Officials Say

Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz        June 27, 2020

WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.

Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Donald Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.

Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news, and covert and deniable military operations.

American troops at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 26, 2019. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)
American troops at Camp Shorabak in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 26, 2019. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

 

The Kremlin had not been made aware of the accusations, said Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for President Vladimir Putin of Russia. “If someone makes them, we’ll respond,” Peskov said.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that the insurgents have “any such relations with any intelligence agency” and called the report an attempt to defame them.

“These kinds of deals with the Russian intelligence agency are baseless — our target killings and assassinations were ongoing in years before, and we did it on our own resources,” he said. “That changed after our deal with the Americans, and their lives are secure and we don’t attack them.”

Spokespeople at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA declined to comment.

The officials familiar with the intelligence did not explain the White House delay in deciding how to respond to the intelligence about Russia.

While some of his closest advisers, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have counseled more hawkish policies toward Russia, Trump has adopted an accommodating stance toward Moscow.

At a summit in Helsinki in 2018, Trump strongly suggested that he believed Putin’s denial that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite broad agreement within the U.S. intelligence establishment that it did. Trump criticized a bill imposing sanctions on Russia when he signed it into law after Congress passed it by veto-proof majorities. And he has repeatedly made statements that undermined the NATO alliance as a bulwark against Russian aggression in Europe.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the delicate intelligence and internal deliberations. They said the intelligence has been treated as a closely held secret, but the administration expanded briefings about it this week — including sharing information about it with the British government, whose forces are among those said to have been targeted.

The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals. The officials did not describe the mechanics of the Russian operation, such as how targets were picked or how money changed hands. It is also not clear whether Russian operatives had deployed inside Afghanistan or met with their Taliban counterparts elsewhere.

The revelations came into focus inside the Trump administration at a delicate and distracted time. Although officials collected the intelligence earlier in the year, the interagency meeting at the White House took place as the coronavirus pandemic was becoming a crisis and parts of the country were shutting down.

Moreover, as Trump seeks reelection in November, he wants to strike a peace deal with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan War.

Both American and Afghan officials have previously accused Russia of providing small arms and other support to the Taliban that amounts to destabilizing activity, although Russian government officials have dismissed such claims as “idle gossip” and baseless.

“We share some interests with Russia in Afghanistan, and clearly they’re acting to undermine our interests as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., commander of American forces in Afghanistan at the time, said in a 2018 interview with the BBC.

Though coalition troops suffered a spate of combat casualties last summer and early fall, only a few have since been killed. Four Americans were killed in combat in early 2020, but the Taliban have not attacked U.S. positions since a February agreement.

American troops have also sharply reduced their movement outside of military bases because of the coronavirus, reducing their exposure to attack.

While officials were said to be confident about the intelligence that Russian operatives offered and paid bounties to Afghan militants for killing Americans, they have greater uncertainty about how high in the Russian government the covert operation was authorized and what its aim may be.

Some officials have theorized that the Russians may be seeking revenge on NATO forces for a 2018 battle in Syria in which the U.S. military killed several hundred pro-Syrian forces, including numerous Russian mercenaries, as they advanced on an American outpost. Officials have also suggested that the Russians may have been trying to derail peace talks to keep the United States bogged down in Afghanistan. But the motivation remains murky.

The officials briefed on the matter said the government had assessed the operation to be the handiwork of Unit 29155, an arm of Russia’s military intelligence agency, known widely as the GRU. The unit is linked to the March 2018 nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury, England, of Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who had worked for British intelligence and then defected, and his daughter.

Western intelligence officials say the unit, which has operated for more than a decade, has been charged by the Kremlin with carrying out a campaign to destabilize the West through subversion, sabotage and assassination. In addition to the 2018 poisoning, the unit was behind an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 and the poisoning of an arms manufacturer in Bulgaria a year earlier.

American intelligence officials say the GRU was at the center of Moscow’s covert efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. In the months before that election, American officials say, two GRU cyberunits, known as 26165 and 74455, hacked into Democratic Party servers, and then used WikiLeaks to publish embarrassing internal communications.

In part because those efforts were aimed at helping tilt the election in Trump’s favor, Trump’s handling of issues related to Russia and Putin has come under particular scrutiny. The special counsel investigation found that the Trump campaign welcomed Russia’s intervention and expected to benefit from it, but found insufficient evidence to establish that his associates had engaged in any criminal conspiracy with Moscow.

Operations involving Unit 29155 tend to be much more violent than those involving the cyberunits. Its officers are often decorated military veterans with years of service, in some cases dating to the Soviet Union’s failed war in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Never before has the unit been accused of orchestrating attacks on Western soldiers, but officials briefed on its operations say it has been active in Afghanistan for many years.

Though Russia declared the Taliban a terrorist organization in 2003, relations between them have been warming in recent years. Taliban officials have traveled to Moscow for peace talks with other prominent Afghans, including the former president, Hamid Karzai. The talks have excluded representatives from the current Afghan government as well as anyone from the United States and at times have seemed to work at crosscurrents with U.S. efforts to bring an end to the conflict.

The disclosure comes at a time when Trump has said he would invite Putin to an expanded meeting of the Group of Seven nations, but tensions between U.S. and Russian militaries are running high.

In several recent episodes, in international territory and airspace from off the coast of Alaska to the Black and Mediterranean seas, combat planes from each country has scrambled to intercept military aircraft from the other.

Coronavirus exposed fragility in our food system – it’s time to build something more resilient.

The Conversation – World

Coronavirus exposed fragility in our food system – it’s time to build something more resilient

Luke Owen, Assistant Professor, Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience, Coventry University and Emma Burnett, Researcher, Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience, Coventry University.        

 

Most people rely on supermarkets, and these megastores dominate our food economy. They are part of a system that depends on large-scale agriculture and production, smooth-flowing international food trade and fast turnaround times.

But what happens when system vulnerabilities are exposed and they break down? What catches our fall?

We need a resilient food system. This means going beyond the ecological idea of resilience as merely survival during times of stress, and instead proactively building a food system that can both respond quickly to changing circumstances and act as a safety net.

What we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is exactly what you’d expect from a vastly underprepared population: panic buying, spread of misinformation, and passing blame. The cascade of panic has highlighted major economic, social, and political flaws.

But alongside this, we have seen a surge in self-organised responses which can help build resilience. Think of people producing homemade NHS scrubs, for example.

Supermarkets, and much of the supporting infrastructure, have in many ways stepped up during the crisis. They ramped up online shopping and delivery capacity, prioritised those being shielded, provided free meals and priority shopping access to NHS workers, and donated to food banks. However, rapid changes and crisis-driven hoarding led to empty shelves (a shock for those used to “on demand”) and unavailable online delivery slots.

Because of this, many people turned to alternatives. Demand for veg boxes, milk, and dry goods deliveries spiked, as did requests to join community supported agriculture and local farm schemes. Huge numbers of community-based food hubs, food banks and small farms and even independent gardeners responded. When supermarkets ran out of stock or delivery slots, localized initiatives expanded to meet demand, or found new sources of goods and produce.

Beyond supermarkets

Diversity in the food system is paramount. This goes beyond the number of options in a shop. We need to look at how food is produced, processed, transported, and made available, along with impacts and knock-on effects.

Take the mass retail model that provides food to most people across the global north. The sort of industrial agriculture it relies on is ideal for producing masses of uniform food, but not for planetary or human health and well-being. Industrial agriculture thrives on mono-culture, where whole fields and farms are planted with a single crop, but so do pests and diseases.

 

By removing biodiversity we have made it easier to sow and harvest, predict and control. But generations of selective breeding means increasingly homogeneous crops and livestock, which lack the genetic diversity to adapt to evolutionary pressures like diseases.

Large-scale intensive agriculture amplifies this risk. In mono-cultures, there are no physical barriers or buffers to hinder selective sweeps in susceptible populations. When something virulent crops up, it can spread like wildfire.

We have seen this before. Repeated potato famines in Ireland, due to blight (and the impact of British colonial rule), killed millions. In the 1950’s, the most popular banana variety was driven to near extinction by a single fungus.

Outbreaks of Nipah virus in several Asian countries led to hundreds of deaths between 1998 and 2018. In 2019, African Swine Fever killed hundreds of millions of pigs in China. COVID-19 joins a long list of blights that we have unintentionally encouraged.

A safety net

We live in a house of cards. Our support systems are unstable, and constantly being eroded – one knock could see them all tumble down. This is why agroecologists argue that food systems need to encourage diversity: of crops, of business models, of people. Let’s look beyond the supermarkets and industrial farms to systems that have a track record of being highly adaptable, even without supportive policies.

Community groups and small enterprises have stepped up during the pandemic, utilizing their networks to look after the vulnerable, and generally strengthening the fabric of social safety nets. This has happened despite years of cuts.

Organisations and initiatives, are going beyond their original purposes to deliver services and care, including food. Community supported agriculture schemes, food banks, and food hubs can do this because they are already networked locally and can rely on emergency helpers. Their adaptability means they are fleet-footed, and capable of picking up the slack of an inflexible, industrialized food system.

This is not to say that supermarkets should not be applauded for their recent actions. But they are inexorably linked to industrial agriculture systems. These pose a dual risk, potentially both triggering global crises and failing to deliver provisions. For our own welfare, we should ensure that there is more to the food landscape than industrial agriculture, large-scale processing, and mega-retail.

The diverse production and distribution systems that have long been on the periphery need proper funding and nurturing, because they provide a safety net. If we fail to heed the root causes of systemic problems in our food supply, we will likely face another global crisis perilously unprepared.The Conversation

The Conversation

Emma Burnett receives funding from sankalpa for her research, and sits on the Board of Directors at Cultivate Oxfordshire.

Luke Owen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

This gay guy’s hilarious rant about small town Trump supporters is absolute perfection

Five Minutes of Hot Tea

This gay guy’s hilarious rant about small town Trump supporters is absolute perfection

By Daniel Villarreal          June 10, 2020

 

Want to See Food and Land Justice for Black Americans? Support These Groups.

Civil Eats

Want to See Food and Land Justice for Black Americans? Support These Groups.

Food justice is racial justice. As the nation rises up to protest atrocities against Black people, here are some organizations working to advance Black food sovereignty.

Protestors march in Philadelphia on June 1, in the aftermath of widespread unrest following the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others.

Food justice is racial justice. Food and agriculture, like everything in this country, are deeply intertwined with our nation’s entrenched history of slavery and structural racism. Our food system actively silences, marginalizes, and disproportionately impacts people of color, who are also being hardest hit by COVID-19.

As Americans rise up to respond to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, and to the ongoing violence, suppression, and brutality facing the Black community, we hope this list of organizations working to strengthen food justice, land access, and food access in the Black community will inform, inspire, and energize you to show up for racial justice.

Black Church Food Security Network works to connect Black communities and other urban communities of color with Black farmers in hopes of advancing food and land sovereignty. Read more.

Black Dirt Farm Collective is a collective of Black farmers, educators, scientists, agrarians, seed keepers, organizers, and researchers guiding a political education process.

Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers Cooperative of Pittsburgh works with Black communities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to grow food and to share Black cultural traditions through a farm, youth program, and policy work. Read more.

Black Urban Growers (BUGS) is committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. Through education and advocacy around food and farm issues, it nurtures collective Black leadership.

Castanea Fellowship offers a two-year fellowship for diverse leaders working for a racially just food system in any of the areas of health, environment, agriculture, regional economies, or community development. Read more.

Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED) is a queer and transgender people of color-led organization that partners with young folks of color to build food and land co-ops.

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network ensures that Detroit’s African American population participates in the food movement through urban farming, youth education programs and the much-anticipated Detroit People’s Food Co-op. Read more.

Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (FARMS) is a legal nonprofit, committed to assisting Black farmers and landowners in retaining their land for the next generation. Read more.

Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund is a non-profit cooperative association of Black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives, with a primary membership base in the Southern States.

Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. Read more.

Food First works to end the injustices that cause hunger through research, education, and action.

Freedom School Demonstration Farm runs a Fresno, California-based program aimed at empowering Black and brown youth to grow their own food. Read more.

HEAL Food Alliance brings together groups from various sectors of movements for food and farm justice to grow community power, develop political leadership, and exposing and limiting corporate control of the food system. Read more.

The Land Loss Prevention Project responds to the unprecedented losses of Black-owned land in North Carolina by providing comprehensive legal services and technical support to financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners. Read more.

The National Black Farmers Association is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the United States.

National Black Food and Justice Alliance organizes for Black food and land, by increasing the visibility of visionary Black leadership, advancing Black people’s struggle for just and sustainable communities, and building power in our food systems and land stewardship. Read more.

New Communities Land Trust is a grassroots organization that has worked for more than 40 years to empower African American families in Southwest Georgia and advocate for social justice. Read more.

The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust advance land sovereignty in the Northeast through permanent and secure land tenure for Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian farmers and land stewards.

Planting Justice works to empower people impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities through a nursery, land trust, and various community farming efforts. Read more.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United is fighting to improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce. Read more.

Sankofa Farms seeks create a sustainable food source for minorities in both rural and urban areas located in Durham and Orange County, North Carolina.

The Seeding Power Fellowship is an innovative 18-month, cohort-based food justice fellowship program. Read more.

Soil Generation is a Philadelphia-based Black- and Brown-led coalition of growers building a grassroots movement through urban farming, agroecology, community education, and more. Read more.

Soul Fire Farm is a Black, Indigenous, and people of color-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. Read more.

Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network is a regional network for Black farmers committed to using ecologically sustainable practices to manage land, grow food, and raise livestock that are healthy for people and the planet. Read more.

Want more? Read our ongoing coverage of the many worthwhile efforts to expose and address structural inequities in the food system.

We Must Save Farmers’ Markets

Civil Eats

Op-ed: We Must Save Farmers’ Markets

Without more support, the impact of losing markets could be massive to farmers, eaters, and regional economies.

San Francisco’s Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has been an oasis of fresh, farm-direct produce in a neighborhood dominated by fast food and liquor stores since 1981. It makes a variety of local produce available to a diverse population of shoppers from around the city and provides income for 82 farmers and food artisans.

Each year, the market also matches low-income shopper’s produce purchases, resulting in $1.5 million in food assistance, making it the largest distributor of EBT of all farmers’ markets in California. COVID-19 has spiked demand for these services, to the point that lines now wrap around the block. Unfortunately, the virus has also strained the nonprofit’s budget and put all of that good work in jeopardy.

Farmers’ markets operators—the organizations and individuals who plan, coordinate, and run America’s farmers’ markets—are engaging in herculean efforts to protect their communities from COVID-19. In the case of Heart of the City, this means crowd control measures to limit the number of shoppers, pre-order options, and the elimination of sampling and touching produce before shopping, among other strategies.

Farmers’ markets have always been hubs for innovation. When farmers have opted or been forced out of the traditional supply chain, America’s 8,000 farmers’ markets have served as a lifeline to their businesses, filling a vital role to move their goods from field to plate. Now, in this time of crisis, these markets have had to devise rapid solutions. Apart from these efforts, emerging research suggests sunlight effectively kills COVID-19, adding more support to the idea that farmers’ markets may be the safest place to shop for groceries during the pandemic.

“There are benefits to visiting a farmers’ market in light of coronavirus … you’re outside, there’s fresh air moving, and the supply chain is shorter,” Yvonne Michael, an epidemiologist at Drexel University School of Public Health, told WHYY recently.

But keeping these markets safe is very expensive for the organizations that run them. For example, Heart of the City market expects to lose almost $200,000 by the end of the year because of a drop in attendance by vendors, who pay a modest fee to participate. These fees serve as the backbone of the market’s budget. And yet, many vendors have been unable to attend due to farmers’ health concerns, age, and labor shortages on their farms. At the same time, the market anticipates spending over $80,000 to maintain health and safety measures, including extra staff and equipment to maintain social distancing.

Yerena Farms, one of the vendors at the Heart of the City Farmers' Market in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Heart of the City)

Yerena Farms, one of the vendors at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of Heart of the City)

The Heart of the City market is far from alone. In a recent, as-yet unpublished Farmers Market Coalition member survey, 74 percent of the organizations that responded reported decreased income, while 93 percent report added costs, including the purchase of PPE for market staff, rental of more handwashing stations, new software or services, and additional staff to rearrange market layouts and monitor customer traffic. In a similar survey by the California Alliance of Farmers Markets (also unpublished), nearly 20 percent of farmers’ market operators reported concern that they may not survive the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The impact of losing farmers’ markets would be massive. They facilitate an estimated $2.4 billion dollars in sales for small and mid-scale farms in the U.S. each year.

“Without direct assistance for our state’s farmers’ markets, many of which already operate on a shoestring budget and an all-volunteer staff, we risk losing this vital outlet, drastically affecting the livelihoods of farmers,” says Robbi Mixon, director of the Alaska Farmers Market Association. “Small to medium scale farms are the cornerstone of local food systems. If farmers’ markets disappear, these farmers lose market access and economic stability.”

The cruel irony is that interest in local food and demand for emergency food needs have skyrocketed during the pandemic, making the work of farmers’ market operators more important than ever. And yet, they have largely been left out of relief efforts, both public and private.

A vendor's sign about maintaining physical distance at a farmers' market in Boone, North Caroline. (Photo courtesy of the Farmers Market Coalition)

A vendor’s sign about maintaining physical distance at a farmers’ market in Boone, North Caroline. (Photo courtesy of the Farmers Market Coalition)

And the fact that farmers’ markets are some of the safest places to shop at this moment hasn’t happened by accident. It’s thanks to the committed efforts of people who work hard for their communities. These are very lean organizations and many are close to a breaking point, especially since they have been left out of grants and recovery funds that have been made available to other sectors of the economy. For example, many farmers’ market operators were not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program because of their nonprofit incorporation type. Only 501(c)(3) nonprofits are eligible for these funds and most farmers’ markets are not.

The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare many of the structural problems of our food system, not the least of which is the vital and underappreciated work that farmers’ market operators engage in to keep farmers in business and keep people fed.

The federal government needs to make the Paycheck Protection Program available to farmers’ market operators and provide grants to ensure that they are able to keep markets open and safe. If this work is to continue, farmers’ market operators will need the support of public and private entities as they develop and implement recovery plans.

Meanwhile, we hope the private individuals and foundations who can will step up and donate to support the operation of their local farmers markets. These community institutions have a pivotal role to play—now and in the future—and they’re much too important to lose.