AIDS: A women’s pandemic
The global pandemic of HIV/AIDS took on the face of females, as worldwide figures conclude that women are now the number one group dying from the virus. “Reaching Women and Girls” was more than the theme for World AIDS DAY 2004, observed on Dec. 1–it is a matter of life and death. For Black women, the statistics spoke of biological devastation that has silently encroached on their mortality. In the U.S., 72 percent of the women infected are Black. AIDS is now the number one killer of Black women ages 24-35.
Black farmers endure lawsuit setbacks
The same racist government program that denied Black farmers fair access to farm aid and forced a $2.3 billion landmark civil rights settlement was accused in 2004 of “willfully obstructing justice” in their denial of nearly 90 percent of the rightful compensation claims, after a new investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the National Black Farmers Association. According to the court, the claims were to be “automatic,” yet 81,000 out of 94,000 farmers were denied compensation and any future opportunity to appeal. The farmers are looking for Congressional intervention to remedy this wrong.
Newark gang truce
On the heels of their historic May 22, 2004 ceasefire, around 150 members of the Bloods and Crips gangs gathered before residents of the Baxter Terrace Houses in Newark, N.J. to ask their forgiveness, pledged to clean up the community and try and live up to the principles set forth in their agreement. Members of both street organizations formed a gang prevention and intervention program for at-risk youth called Saving Our Selves, Inc. (SOS).
In a special address to street organizations on Dec. 11, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan exposed the hidden agenda by the United States government to infiltrate and destroy street organizations and dismantle the successful, almost year-long peace accord. Not surprising, three days after the address by Minister Farrakhan, four people were shot to death and three more wounded in what police officials, the mayor and media labeled as “street gang violence.” The very next day, Dec. 15, two more died in the streets of New Jersey’s largest city, bringing the 2004 homicide rate to 85.
Federal officials moved in 2004 to create the Criminal Street Gang Abatement Act of 2004 (S-1735), making it a federal crime to participate in a “criminal street gang”–defined as three or more people who cooperate to commit two or more “gang crimes.” One of the most controversial components of the bill deals with prosecutors being able to treat 16-year-olds as adults if they commit murder, manslaughter, carjacking or armed robbery. Also, if S-1735 becomes a law, gang recruitment may be punishable up to 10 years in jail; two gang street crimes punishable up to 30 years in prison and gang members who commit murder may face the death penalty or life in prison. Critics say the bill will not have any positive impact on deterring youth gang violence and deem it “open warfare” on Black youth.
On the West Coast, the Nation of Islam responded to the pleas of mothers who wanted help in stopping the killings of their sons by putting out a call via radio one week before Mother’s Day for those mothers to bring their sons aged 5-18 to Muhammad’s Mosque No. 27 in Los Angeles to receive manhood training. Over 150 mothers answered that call and brought their young boys and men to the Peacemakers Junior Fruit Manhood Training classes.
On the East Coast, as national media circulated that killing from gang activity is on the rise similar to 1990 levels, Durham, N.C. was mentioned in a Justice Department survey which suggested the city of 187,035 was among the 87 percent of all cities experiencing a gang problem. This prompted Durham’s Mayor William Bell to call on the various religious and community leaders to the table to seek out a solution. Because of the Nation of Islam’s success with brokering truces between rival gangs, Muhammad’s Mosque No. 34 in Durham was contacted to help city officials. As a result, a meeting involving leaders of the local Bloods and Crips was held where they were able to express their thoughts and feelings about the situation through intense dialogue.
In Harlem, N.Y. on Sept. 18, members of the city’s Bloods, Crips and the Zulu Nations, among others, invited the Nation of Islam to engage in a “Five Points Street Leadership Summit” aimed at defining the meaning of “gang” from a grassroots perspective, developing an urban identity where gang members can become more responsible to their communities as well as gaining more respect for Black women by transforming their values and morals. The open discussion led to the importance of providing jobs and starting non-profit organizations to help end gang activity with the $250 million in grants already received by state and local governments to combat it.
The election was last year, but stories continue to be told of election violations. The horrors include broken machines, eliminated votes and 400,000 calls to voter protection hotlines. Complaints ranged from voter intimidation, disenfranchisement, absentee ballots lost in the mail, and Ohio became the new Florida. Black voters had the longest lines and the most problems. Congressional Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers held a Dec. 8 hearing to examine the reported irregularities and fraud, while ballot recounts and litigation are pending. Democratic National Committee is investigating the election to “help ensure that every eligible vote cast is truly counted,” said committee chairman Terry McAuliffe.
Child support shaken
Child support recipients, 90 percent of whom are female, feel like they are being held hostage, much like the money that is supposed to go to them, but doesn’t, due to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) law, which allows states to have the option of keeping billions of dollars in child support they collect annually on behalf of welfare recipients. If the states keep the money, they use it to reimburse themselves for the cash assistance they extend those same families as straight welfare payments. However, if the states send the child support payments to the families, they may cut back on welfare disbursements. Critics say this does not serve the long-term goal of helping poor, single-parent households climb out of poverty.
Under the rubric of “homeland security,” government law enforcement agencies have expanded the practice of racial profiling. There were an estimated 32 million victims of racial profiling in the U.S., one in nine in 2004. An estimated 87 million are at risk of being racially profiled. It is a violation of human rights that occurs, while individuals are walking, driving, shopping, flying, sitting at home, or worshiping. In 2004, the list of those to be “profiled” expanded to include all Muslims, particularly immigrants–Arabs and Southeast Asians. Ironically, the resulting “pervasive focus on race” by law enforcement authorities, in fact, undermines national security rather than improves it. “Racial profiling blinds law enforcement to real criminal threats and creates a hole in the national security net large enough to drive a truck through,” said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.
Reparations activists gathered at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., for the fourth ndaba, to continue the momentum of demanding reparations, which featured a national petition drive in 2004 for one million signatures in support of reparations. The first reparations case to bring DNA evidence to bear against the U.S. government and companies charged with profiting from the trans-Atlantic slave trade was lodged in a Manhattan court Mar. 29.