William Pickard discusses with Roland Martin growing business beyond the 1 employee plateau.
William Pickard discusses with Roland Martin growing business beyond the 1 employee plateau.
About that economy Obama supposedly wrecked…
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits held at a 43-year low last week, pointing to sustained labor market strength that could pave the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in December.
Thursday’s report from the Labor Department added to data such as September automobile sales and manufacturing and services sector surveys in reinforcing the view that economic growth picked up in the third quarter after a sluggish performance in the first half of the year.
“The data are making the Fed’s current policy look too wrong footed and the markets are waiting for them to get back on track, most likely in December,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits were unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 246,000 for the week ended Oct. 8, the lowest reading since November 1973, the Labor Department said.
Claims for the prior week were revised to show 3,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.
It was the 84th consecutive week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is associated with robust labor market conditions.
That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
The dollar fell against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasuries rose.
Used to be that most Home Schoolers did so for religious reasons.
With the reports of the disciplinary actions against black students, the school to jail pipeline, and the failure of Charter Schools, more and more parents with the wherewithal are deciding to Home School.
While some parents cite religious and moral reasons, others say they are keeping their kids out of public schools to protect them from school-related racism.
ATLANTA AND BOSTON — Nikita Bush comes from a family of public school teachers: Her mom, aunts, uncles – nearly all of them have been involved in public education at some level.
But her own teaching career ended, she says, “in heartbreak” when she had to make a decision about where her own child would go to school.
After being reprimanded repeatedly for folding Afro-centric education into her Atlanta classroom, she left. Fifteen years and six children later, Ms. Bush leads a growing homeschooling co-op near Atlanta’s historic West End neighborhood.
Despite the promises of the civil rights movement, “people are starting to realize that public education in America was designed for the masses of poor, and its intent has been to trap poor people into being workers and servants. If you don’t want that for your children, then you look for something else,” she says. To her, the biggest flaw in public education is a lack of character education, an “absence of a moral binding,” that contributes to low expectations – and lower outcomes for children of color.
Ms. Bush is part of a burgeoning movement of African-American parents done waiting for public schools to get better. The numbers of black parents choosing to home-school their children has doubled in a little over a decade – about 220,000 black school-aged children are being homeschooled – up from estimates of 103,000 in 2003, according to the National Home Research Institute (NHERI).
“Moms and dads are saying, ‘We just want what’s best for our children,’ ” says Brian Ray, who founded NHERI and has written a paper on black home-schooling parents and how their children perform academically. “They’ve been told for 20, 30, 40 years that public schools will get better, they’ll get better for black kids, but … black kids are still at the bottom of the totem poll in terms of academic achievement… and black families know it.”
The reasons black parents cite for home-schooling their children cover a wide range. Some sound similar to the homeschooling movement as a whole: religious beliefs, a desire to shelter children from an increasingly crass or materialistic society, a conviction that they are best-suited to teach their kids the values they need to live a fulfilling life.
But other parents cite incidents of racial bullying, studies showing that black students are less likely to be recommended for gifted and advanced classes, and multiple studies showing that African-American children – especially boys – are disproportionately likely to be suspended or arrested.
In short, in order to protect their children from school-related racism, more black parents are keeping their kids out of school entirely, writes Ama Mazama, a professor of African American Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia who has written extensively on home-schooling. She has dubbed the movement “racial protectionism.”
On academic performance, home-schooled students in his study scored between 23 and 42 percentile points above their public school counterparts in math, reading, and English, says Dr. Ray of NHERI. But he and others stress that research is nascent and more comprehensive studies need to be conducted before broader conclusions can be drawn. Ray’s study looked at 81 home-schooled students, for example.
Interestingly, given one common concern about home-schooled students not getting needed socialization with peers, the students in his study scored above average “on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development.”
Georgia’s twist on home-schooling
In most states, home-schooling parents tend to be dual-parent and middle- or upper-income, according to Ray’s research, enabling one parent to stay home and teach the kids.
But Georgia is different, says Cheryl Fields-Smith, a professor of education at the University of Georgia. While most states prohibit homeschooling parents from teaching anybody except their own children, Georgia has no such restriction. That has given rise to co-ops, where, in essence, groups of parents serve as rotating teachers, based on their own skill sets, talents, and fortes.
That, Professor Fields-Smith says, has allowed single black moms to band together to give their children an education that they say better reflects their values and history – while still being able to work.
“Some of the most amazing inventions come forward out of a need,” says Queen Taese, a Lithonia, Ga., mom who has homeschooled her seven children. “And with the way public education is going, there was an inevitable need, especially for the black community, because less funds go to our schools and there are a lot less opportunities unless our children go outside our community.”…Read the Rest Here…
North Carolina’s Research Triangle and the Charlotte/Cary area are hotspots for tech an other development. The US Government supplies over $1.5 billion a year in research grants to the state’s public universities, money that has helped drive the growth of the Universities in the state from decidedly mediocre to competitive powerhouses. This has spurred massive growth, as the combination of a realistic cost of living, easy access to recreational activities in the mountains and shore, as well a good school systems have individualized both corporations and employees to flock to the state.
Unfortunately, like Virginia, the back woods redneck religious bigots haven’t quite dissipated yet, and with the election of a Republican majority in the state house – pushing extremist social conservatism which is an anathema to the high-tech and banking industries.That growth roll may be in for a screeching halt.
The fact is, major corporations don’t give a shit about Republican tax breaks, they do about being able to attract the best and brightest as employees, and having a stable government which isn’t going to do something stupid to hurt their business. They need good schools, which are producing students in the fields that relate to their businesses, who are willing to stay in-state after they graduate. (As an example, the collapse of what was once referred to as “Silicon Valley East” here in northern Virginia, was in good part due to the major University in the area being taken over by conservative donors. The school produces Economists and right wing Federalist Lawyers – but not STEM Graduates needed by the local industries to grow, or to establish the sort of incubators which create the next Google. Instead we have the Antonin Scalia Law School, which is fornicating useless, both as the symbol of higher education in the fields in demand, as well as in attracting students that want to be in a top program in the Sciences, Engineering, or technology.)
They want to be able to attract experienced workers and executives. To get those people, the potential employees need to feel comfortable moving their families into the State. The sort of “Culture Wars” and racism being promulgated by the right, destroys that.
This isn’t just an issue about Transgender people, it is an issue about the future viability of the State as a business center.
Back during the South Carolina confederate flag imbroglio, one of my clients was a foreign auto company looking to put a plant there. Took one of the Senior Staff folks down there behind the proverbial woodshed, and explained to him that foreign companies, unlike their US counterparts are not willing to go into an environment where discrimination and harassment lawsuits chew up 10-15% of their profits. And as such, were looking for a place which supported a harmonious workforce, over cheap rent. The differential between labor costs between Detroit and Charleston disappears really fast paying lawyers at $500/hr over racial bullshit. They got that message apparently from more than one prospective company. American companies have finally started to get a clue about this as well.
Too bad the white winger Tea Baggers haven’t.
This isn’t just an issue about Transgender people, it is an issue about the future viability of the State as a business center.
Monday, two North Carolinians squared off over the state’s controversial House Bill 2, which requires transgender people to use the bathroom matching their “biological sex” in public schools and government buildings and invalidates local laws protecting transgender people from discrimination. Both Pat McCrory, the governor of North Carolina, and Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney General, grew up partly in Greensboro, a site of anti-segregation sit-ins in 1960, and Lynch recalled that history by comparing H.B. 2 to Jim Crow laws. “Let us reflect on the obvious but often neglected lesson that state-sanctioned discrimination never looks good in hindsight,” she said, as she announced that the Department of Justice is suing North Carolina, claiming that H.B. 2 violates federal laws forbidding sex discrimination.
Earlier that day, McCrory’s office had filed its own federal lawsuit, which attempted to protect the state from federal anti-discrimination action against H.B. 2. “North Carolina does not treat transgender employees differently,” according to the lawsuit. “All state employees are required to use the bathroom and changing facilities assigned to persons of their same biological sex, regardless of gender identity, or transgendered status.” Such bland assertions of neutrality have an infamous place in the law. Before the Supreme Court established a right to same-sex marriage, in 2015, North Carolina forbade gay and straight alike to wed members of the same sex. Before the Court invalidated laws against racial intermarriage, in 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, the state forbade both black and white people to marry someone of the other race. All these laws were defended on the grounds that they treated everyone alike. So, for that matter, were the original Jim Crow segregation laws. In 1896, upholding separate-but-equal accommodations, the Supreme Court held that, if “the enforced separation of the races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority,” this was “solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction on it.”
McCrory’s suit looks more like political theatre than a serious attempt to preserve H.B. 2. On April 19th, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North Carolina, adopted the Obama Administration’s interpretation of federal sex-discrimination law to invalidate a local school-board policy that assigned students to bathrooms by “biological genders.” The court accepted the federal government’s argument that the prohibition on sex discrimination in Titles VII and IX of the Civil Rights Act includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and that “biological” bathroom assignments are just this sort of discrimination. (The Fourth Circuit reported that, in public hearings on school-bathroom assignments, the plaintiff in the case, a transgender boy, had been called a “freak” and “compared to a person who thinks he is a ‘dog’ and wants to urinate on fire hydrants.”)
That McCrory would seek out this wrong-side-of-history position reveals a lot about the fractured and desperate state of the Republican Party. The governor took office in 2013 as the consummate country-club Republican. He had spent fourteen years as the mayor of Charlotte, a banking capital, where he presided over robust growth and—unusual in the South—the construction of a light-rail system. He was a candidate in the “New South” tradition, a political manner that is also a development strategy. In the sixties, as other parts of the white South dug in against desegregation, North Carolina’s politicians found a different formula: accept the national consensus on civil rights and attract employers with low wages, weak unions, and business-friendly laws. The state’s population more than doubled between 1960 and 2010, as a formerly rural, agricultural state developed national centers of technology and finance. The previous New South governors were Democrats, but many saw McCrory as their natural successor in a state that narrowly supported Barack Obama in 2008 but in 2010 handed control of the legislature to Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction.
Since taking office, McCrory has mostly been back on his heels as a Tea Party legislature, installed with decisive support from the activist donor Art Pope (whom Jane Mayer wrote about in 2011), has set the state’s agenda. McCrory has signed laws restricting abortion access, cutting back on early voting and requiring voter identification, slashing unemployment benefits, and repealing the state’s Racial Justice Act, which commuted the death penalty for people sentenced in racially inequitable jurisdictions. North Carolina is one of nineteen states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (and the fourth-largest, after Texas, Florida, and Georgia). The advocacy group Families USA estimates that 593,000 North Carolina residents lack health insurance because of the state’s refusal.
The Tea Party has shared McCrory’s deregulatory, tax-cutting economic agenda, but it has led with culture-war issues. The year McCrory won the governorship, the legislature put forward a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which passed with sixty per cent of the vote. This blend of tactics defined most state-level Republican parties in the Obama years, when the Republicans took power in statehouses across the country, and McCrory seems to have made his peace with it. Polls showed him lagging in a tight reëlection race when he called North Carolina’s part-time legislature into emergency session in late March. Both houses passed H.B. 2 on March 23rd, and McCrory signed it that night. The only local anti-discrimination statute that it overrode was one passed a month before in Charlotte, where McCrory had served seven terms as mayor.Now the New South elements of McCrory’s governing style are falling to pieces. H.B. 2 may have seemed an ordinary measure of culture-war politics when the governor signed it, but the consensus position on L.G.B.T.Q. rights has changed so fast that it may secure his place as the Orval Faubus of public bathrooms. McCrory’s Democratic opponent, Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general, who has announced that his office will not defend H.B. 2 against legal challenge, has led McCrory in every poll since the law was passed. Since H.B. 2 became law, PayPal and Deutsche Bank have scrapped expansion plans for North Carolina, the N.B.A. and N.C.A.A. have suggested that they may not hold future events in the state, and a caravan of entertainers have cancelled shows, including Bruce Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil. New South governors measure themselves by the investments they attract. When the cultural divisiveness of Tea Party politics drives out business and entertainment, it becomes New South kryptonite….More Here…
After over a century of discrimination and destruction, the nation’s black farmers are making a slow comeback. Destroyed by a combination of denial of Agricultural Loans by the Government so they could modernize, predatory zoning and land theft, and land covenants which in some areas kept them from eve being able to expand enough to be competitive – the current trend reverses that started in the Great Migration.
We are at the dawn of Urban Farming, where deserted factory buildings can be converted to support 4 story tall vertical farming racks which produce anything from lettuce to carrots. First heard about this being done in Detroit several years ago, and since then it is gradually expanding across the northeastern US urban landscape. The problem with this for prospective black farmers is the high initial costs being a barrier to entry. Setup costs run from $90-200 per square foot, and even with production per square foot being 4-8 times greater than old style farming, it still takes a while (years) to amortize that.
The comeback of black farmers is contrary to a landscape where mega-corporate farming has become the norm. By focusing on organic and naturally grown crops, and bypassing the retail middlemen, farming is profitable again. The market desire for “organic”, not tainted by pesticides or growth hormone food is also a driver. Factory farms at this point cannot meet that need. Fishing is also becoming increasingly farming, and while corporate level farms concentrate on mass production of high demand product like salmon and catfish, the ability to produce contaminant free shellfish is a fast growing industry dominated by small players because the cost to entry is fairly low.
The folks they discuss in this article are very small operators. In my part of the world I am more used to black farmers who have 40 or more acres under till, although they are using the traditional farming methods.
A few years ago, while clearing dried broccoli stalks from the tired soil of our land at Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, I received a cold call from Boston. On the other end was a Black woman, unknown to me, who wanted to share her story of trying to make it as a farmer.
Through tears, she explained the discrimination and obstacles she faced in a training program she’d joined, as well as in gaining access to land and credit. She wondered whether Black farming was destined for extinction. She said she wanted to hear the voice of another African-heritage farmer so that she could believe “it was possible” and sustain hope.
The challenges she encountered are not new. For decades, the U.S. Department of Agriculture discriminated against Black farmers,excluding them from farm loans and assistance. Meanwhile, racist violence in the South targeted land-owning Black farmers, whose very existence threatened the sharecropping system. These factors led to the loss of about 14 million acres of Black-owned rural land—an area nearly the size of West Virginia.
In 1982, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights extrapolated the statistics on land loss and predicted the extinction of the Black farmer by the year 2000.
They were wrong. While the situation is still dire, with Black farmers comprising only about 1 percent of the industry, we have not disappeared. After more than a century of decline, the number of Black farmers is on the rise.
These farmers are not just growing food, either. The ones you’ll meet here rely on survival strategies inherited from their ancestors, such as collectivism and commitment to social change. They infuse popular education, activism, and collective ownership into their work.
And about that woman who called me from Boston? Years after we first spoke, I called her back. Turns out, she is still at it.
About 80 miles southeast of Baltimore, Black Dirt leases 2 acres that long have been home to the Black freedom struggle. Harriet Tubman once rescued her parents and nine other people from enslavement in this place, which was one of the first stops on the Underground Railroad.
The 10 farming-collective members who work here today revere Tubman’s example and work to continue her legacy of revolutionary social change. In addition to growing natural food for markets in D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, they host hundreds of people each year for activist training programs. They continue the farming practices of their ancestors, such as “going through together,” a southern Black practice of working collectively in neighbors’ plots and sharing the harvest. They are also part of the North Carolina-based Seed Keepers Collective, and focus on preserving seeds of the African diaspora, including millet, sorghum, cotton, and sweet potatoes.
“It’s like jazz music in a sense,” Snipstal explains, referring to Black Dirt’s collaborations with like-minded farmers around the country. “We are always riffing off each other, even if we don’t tell one another.” …Read Other Stories of Black Farmers Here...
No surprise here…
America is getting angrier, according to one watchdog.
For the first time in five years, the number of hate groups in the United States rose in 2015, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal and advocacy organization known among other things for monitoring extremist activity.
The number of such groups spiked 14 percent in 2015, a year characterized by levels of polarization and anger perhaps unmatched since the political turmoil of 1968, the center said in the report on hate and extremism released exclusively to The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Swelling numbers of Ku Klux Klan chapters and black separatist groups drove last year’s surge, though organizations classified as anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim saw small increases, too.
“It was a year marked by very high levels of political violence, enormous rage in the electorate and a real significant growth in hate groups,” said Mark Potok, author of the report.
The center credits a number of factors for inciting that anger, including shifting demographics that largely favor non-whites; immigration; legalized same-sex marriage; the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; and the all-too-real atrocities carried out by Islamic terrorists.
A creeping rhetoric of intolerance among politicians helped to normalize hate, the center argued. And while it singled out other presidential contenders, too, the center—which conservatives criticize for casting too wide a net—stated that Donald Trump had “electrified the radical right.”
Having done several projects in and for South Africa, I had been tracking the development of black ownership in their quickly emerging wine industry. The business model typically involves an “apprenticeship” with one of the larger producers, with ownership distributed in part (typically 20-30%) to the workers or village which provided the labor, the entrepreneurs, and the established wine company, which could hold no more than about 20% for their assistance in development, cultivation, and distribution. With this model, there are a small but encouraging number of black wine producers now in South Africa. As of this writing, there are only 34 black owned producers in the US, and four from South Africa which are distributed to the US – Seven Sisters, M’Mudi, Highberry, and House of Mandela.
One for the nascent problems for black vintners in South Africa, is that the black population (80%), only about 5% drink wine (beer is by far the favorite beverage). Which mans that these new companies are heavily dependent on exports.
It was at the very first Soweto Wine Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2005 when Vivian Kleynhans offered Selena Cuffe a glass of Seven Sisters wine—the strawberry-colored rosé named after Kleynhans’ sister Twena.
“She is a flirt,” says Kleynhans (née Brutus), the fourth sister and namesake of the sauvignon blanc. “That wine flirts with you—be careful.”
The rosé was so tempting, Cuffe gathered $75,000 in savings and credit cards after returning home to Cambridge, Mass. to import Seven Sisters in the United States. She hardly knew anything about wine.
“We ran out of product in the first six weeks,” says Cuffe, CEO of Heritage Link Brands, the company she founded with her husband a month after meeting Kleynhans, which is also the leading importer of black-produced wines from South Africa and the African diaspora.
With Cuffe’s help, Seven Sisters gained the interests of restaurants, liquor stores and specialty supermarkets across the United States. Vivian, the elegant sauvignon blanc, became the first South African wine ever served on American Airlines.
Then Walmart came knocking in 2013—that is Walmart’s now-retired executive vice president of global sourcing, Ed Kolodzieski, literally showed up at Kleynhans’ door in South Africa with an offer to distribute five of the seven wines, created to match the style and personality of each sister, in more than 650 stores.
The deal firmly planted Seven Sisters as the largest black-owned South African wine brand in America, and put the Brutus sisters, from the small fishing village of Paternoster, on the map in 42 states.
On December 15, Seven Sisters will open the doors of the first—and only—black-owned and woman-owned tasting room in more than 350 years of South African winemaking.
It is a dream come true for seven siblings, who grew up without electricity or a bathroom in a two-bedroom cottage shared between a family of 10.
But the road from wine to riches hasn’t always been sweet—for the Brutus sisters, or the long lineage of black farm workers who pruned vines before them.
South Africa is among the largest wine producers in the world, exporting more than 414 million liters in 2014. While black people make up 80 percent of its population, less than 2 percent of the $3 billion industry is black-owned—a statistic the African National Congress vowed to improve after the country’s first democratic election in 1994.
Socioeconomic disparities is something the Brutus sisters know too well. When their father lost his job during apartheid, the family was forced to split up and live with different relatives—most of the sisters dropped out of school. And they were left with nothing after their parents died.
“The only riches left for us was ourselves,” says Kleynhans, who celebrated her 51st birthday in October.
From a young age, Kleynhans was always the sister who solved everyone’s problems. It was her idea to reunite her siblings after twenty years to create a new legacy with fine wines, albeit an unlikely calling.
Because of its exclusivity, wine was hardly the beverage of choice for the majority of South Africans.
“With apartheid, blacks drank beer, as there were only beer halls in the townships, owned by the government,” says Marilyn Cooper, co-founder of Soweto Wine Festival. “There was no exposure to wine.”
Cooper has seen consumption increase since the inception of Soweto Wine Festival, but says only 5 percent of the black population drinks wine.
Not only that, the relationship between black people and wine in South Africa has been complicated since Dutch settlers planted the first vineyard on indigenous peoples’ land in 1655.
Afrikaners, descendants of the Dutch, have controlled the wine industry for generations, while the descendants of slaves, who were trafficked from African countries, developed the farms, much like African Americans developed plantations in the American south.
Under the apartheid-era “dop system,” farm workers were paid in cheap wine, which exacerbated alcoholism, and kept them dependent on white farmers. Thecolored population, a mixed-race group that includes the Brutus sisters, still suffers from the social damages of alcoholism to this day, which includes one of the highest levels of fetal alcohol syndrome in the world….Read the Rest Here…