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Haiti…Again

In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti causing massive destruction in the City of Port au Prince and the smaller towns along the northern peninsula of the island. Several towns or small cities were utterly flattened. The death toll is estimated to have been as high as 300,000. The world responded and billions of dollars were pledged to assist the failed nation state to recover and rebuild. The NGO’s, foreign powers, and charitable organizations all rushed in to help…

Six years later, if you visit Haiti – not a hell of a lot has changed.

A fresh disaster, Hurricane Matthew has visited the island, and once again we are treated to dire reports –

Hurricane Matthew toll in Haiti rises to 1,000, dead buried in mass graves

Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.

The powerful hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into Haiti on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rains that left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

A Reuters tally of numbers from local officials showed that 1,000 people were killed by the storm in Haiti, which has a population of about 10 million and is the poorest country in the Americas.

The official death toll from the central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers.

Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.

Frenel said 522 people were killed in Grand’Anse alone. A tally of deaths reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people were killed, the same tally showed.

Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

Government teams fanned out across the hard-hit southwestern tip of the country over the weekend to repair treatment centers and reach the epicenter of one outbreak.

Once again the NGOs and charitable organizations are calling for money to help Haiti.

The response this time has been decidedly muted.

Of the $12 billion promised to Haiti after the earthquake for major infrastructure rebuilding, only about $600 million, mostly spent in humanitarian aid was ever actually spent. The monies promised for the major infrastructure projects, a new Airport, a sewage treatment plans, new power plants, drinking water processing, storm drainage…was never spent.

Why? Largely because of the Haitian Government, and the Haitians themselves.

Bill Clinton, through the Clinton-Bush Foundation formed the International Haitian Reconstruction Commission. It was funded by promised donations to over $3 billion. The Foundation only spent about $300 million of that. The IHRC Commission was made up of 22 voting members, with final approval for all projects by the Committee Chair Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive. Chairman Bellerive tabled all of the major development projects, including the Airport, Septic plant, water processing, and storm drainage. So none of those projects got done.

Bill Clinton’s failure was in believing the Haitian Ministers would forgo the usual corruption and act in the best interest of the country…They didn’t.

A lot of the problems the country experienced with Matthew could have been mitigated or averted.

Here is an example. The reason the earthquake was so particularly devastating in Haiti was because of the low grade form of concrete utilized in most Haitian buildings. Concrete can be made with a variety of sand, but the type of sand used vastly affects the strength of the concrete. Haiti, unlike many of the islands in the Caribbean was formed by geological uplift from the bottom of the ocean. You dig anywhere in Haiti 12 inches below ground and you hit granite. Faced with the prospect of importing silica based sand, which makes the strongest concrete, Haitians used the cheaper locally acquired granite sand, resulting in a concrete at least 300% weaker. In engineering terms a concrete crumbling at 1000 psi, vs 3300 psi used to commonly build structures in the US, and even 7000 psi used to built airport runways and special structures. What you get from Granite sand is a concrete which vaporizes when shaken by an earthquake. When I arrived in Haiti after the earthquake, the entire city of Port au Prince was covered in an inch thick layer of concrete dust. In the frenetic rebuilding after the earthquake, the Haitian Government had the choice to set standards as to the types of materials used. They refused. So construction continued with the sub-par concrete. The new buildings fell…Again, during Matthew. And it wasn’t an issue of cost per say. My company investigated having barges bring in sand from Louisiana, and over 1,000 cubic yards a clip. The cost was not prohibitive (less than $10-20 million for 1 million cubic yards), and could have easily been covered by one of the grants to give the necessary sand to the public.

You can’t help somebody whose interest aren’t in helping themselves. It’s sad, and I cry for the innocent civilians… But there is little anyone can do about it.

Perhaps that is why there isn’t quite the outpouring of sympathy anymore.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Haiti

 

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New Documentary on Rosenwald Schools

The history of black education in America is difficult to separate from the legacy of the Rosenwald Schools. Julius Rosenwald, who rose to be President of Sears and Roebucks, charity built nearly 5,000 schools in the segregated South for black children. Black parents paid a “double tax” to get the schools built and operated in the 14 states of the South, as on top of their normal state and local taxes, they had to raise and donate about 14% of the cost of the school – which I will detail in the second article below.

Julius Rosenwald, center, started the Rosenwald Fund to help build schools in the segregated South. “Rosenwald” is a new documentary by filmmaker Aviva Kempner.

Rosenwald’s generosity captured in new film

In age that exalts politicians and entertainers who can’t stop telling us how wonderful they are, it is refreshing to honor a man who accomplished a lot without wanting his name on all of it.

Julius Rosenwald, who never finished high school but rose to become president and co-owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co., didn’t want his name on the store that he led to worldwide success.

Rosenwald, who died in 1932, didn’t want his name on Chicago’s magnificent Museum of Science and Industry, although he funded and promoted it so much that many Chicagoans called it “the Rosenwald museum” anyway.

He didn’t want his name on his other edifices, including more than 5,000 schools that he helped fund for black schoolchildren across the segregated South.

Yet, alumni of those schools still call them “the Rosenwald schools.” I know. Some of those alumni are in my family.

I discovered that tidbit of family information in the way journalists often stumble across information about themselves while pursuing stories about somebody else.

I was being interviewed by Washington, D.C., filmmaker Aviva Kempner for her new documentary, “Rosenwald,” when she asked if any of my southern relatives, most of them in Alabama, attended Rosenwald schools. I didn’t know, I said, but it was possible. I have a lot of cousins.

I later asked my cousin Willie Howard, a whiz in the telecommunications industries, and he broke out in a big grin. “We all did,” he said.

Alumni more famous than my cousins include poet-author Maya Angelou, director George C. Wolfe, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, all of whom are interviewed in the film.

Indeed, Kempner’s “Rosenwald,” now in select theaters, may well leave you convinced that former United States poet laureate Rita Dove, another Rosenwald school alum, was right when she called the Rosenwald Fund “the single most important funding agency for African-American culture in the 20th century.”

Besides underwriting the mostly rural grade schools, the Rosenwald Fund awarded fellowships to such rising stars as classical vocalist Marian Anderson, poet Langston Hughes, painter Jacob Lawrence, photographer Gordon Parks and writers James Baldwin, Arna Bontemps, Zora Neale Hurston and Ralph Ellison.

The most intriguing question, among the many that the film explores, is why Rosenwald, whose father immigrated from Germany in 1851 with $20 in his pocket, was so modest yet so generous.

As the late civil rights leader Julian Bond, whose father and uncle were Rosenwald fellows, puts it in the film, “He did not have to care about black people, but he did.”

The answer, Rosenwald’s biographers say, can be found in his faithfulness to the Jewish ideals of “tzedakah” (charity) and “tikkun olam” (repairing the world).

According to Stephanie Deutsch, author of the 2011 book “You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South,” Rosenwald said in one of his speeches that “We like to look down on the Russians because of the way they treat the Jews, and yet we turn around, and the way we treat our African-Americans is not much better.”

Rosenwald was also influenced by Booker T. Washington, conservative founder of the Tuskegee Institute, who suggested the funding of schools as the best investment for the future of black America.…More…

 

Rosenwald Schools

By: Dr. Alyce Miller, associate professor of history at John Tyler Community College and Dr. Brian J. Daugherity, assistant professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University

The Rosenwald school building program, in many ways the brainchild of Virginia-born and Hampton-educated Booker T. Washington, occurred during the period of segregation and Jim Crow across the American South. Segregated school systems were supposed to be, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), “separate and equal,” but in reality educational systems for African Americans in Virginia and the South were anything but. This made the funds provided by educational grant programs such as the Rosenwald Fund so significant.

Rosenwald schools were public schools that were built using matching grant funds. The Rosenwald Fund required matching funds from any combination of public and private sources. According to Julius Rosenwald Fund records (JRF), the JRF helped construct 367 schools, three teacher’s homes, and eleven school (industrial) shops in Virginia. Of the total cost of Rosenwald-associated buildings, grounds, and equipment in Virginia from 1917 through 1932, African Americans contributed 22%, white contributions totaled 1%, the Rosenwald Fund contributed 15%, and state and local government contributions equaled 62%. In the fifteen states in the South where the school building program operated, African Americans collectively contributed 17% of the funds, the Rosenwald Fund contributed 15% of the funds, private white contributions totaled 4% of the funds, and public funds made up the remaining 64% of the funds. Without the organization of local African American communities willing to pay what historian James D. Anderson referred to as the “double tax,” these schools would not have been built.

In late Fall 2015, VCU Special Collections will launch an online exhibit, Black Education in Goochland County: From Rosenwald Schools through Brown v. Board of Education, comprised of research and oral history interviews related to African American educational activism in Virginia and, specifically, Goochland County. The interviews and research were conducted by Dr. Alyce Miller, Dr. Brian Daugherity, and Cris Silvent, associate professor of art at John Tyler Community College.

The local activism surrounding Rosenwald schools continues today in movements throughout the Commonwealth to preserve the histories, and structures, of these schools. John Tyler Community College (and the Virginia Community College system) has been working on an initiative to increase student engagement and success using student and faculty involvement in Rosenwald school activities. The excitement and commitment surrounding this activism provides us with an opportunity to engage the younger generation in this history and in education in general. We have also partnered with Preservation Virginia (among others) to create a larger network of Rosenwald school information across the Commonwealth.

In today’s featured image, you can see the number of Rosenwald schools built in counties throughout Virginia. You can find more information on the number of schools built in each county in Virginia (and throughout the South) by accessing the Rosenwald Schools Database at Fisk University. This is available online here. Schools were not often named after Julius Rosenwald, at his own request.

This short documentary (not the one Paige discusses above) is about the restoration of the Russell School in North Carolina

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Black History

 

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Urban Farming – The Next Frontier?

Seems to be a lot of space in formerly Urban areas which is now empty. This ground was more than likely formerly farmland, which was used to feed the nearby urban area before the suburbs took over. There is no reason – except knowledge, skill, determination, and a little hard work – for not converting some of this into usable land in terms of food production. I’ve always found growing my own food in a garden just tastes better – and considering you don’t need all those pesticides and chemicals used by the factory farms…It’s a lot healthier.

So even though I live on a heavily treed lot – I have found space to put out some Tomato Plants, Cucumber,and Basil in containers.

Urban reuse is going to be the next major change in living in this country.  Time to go back, and maybe…This time get it right.

Using Community Gardens to Grow Low-Income Communities Out of Food Deserts

March 20th marked the third anniversary of the planting of the White House vegetable garden, the first functioning garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden. The garden is an essential part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative that aims to help raise a generation of healthy, active kids. But while it provides an excellent jumping off point for discussing the importance of nutrition, it does not get to the root cause of the lack of nutrition across the country. Not everyone can have an organic garden in his backyard or, on an even more basic level, a supermarket that sells quality fruits and vegetables. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 23 million Americans live in “food deserts”: areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly ones composed of predominantly lower income neighborhoods and communities. Before we begin to talk about the problem of nutrition in our country, we must first improve access to food for millions of Americans. And Michelle Obama is on the right path — community gardens can be a powerful tool for improving access to produce for people across the country. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in The Post-Racial Life

 

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Steve Harvey’s New Self Help Book – “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”

Not sure how Steve Harvey became a relationship advisor, but in the spirit of keeping it somewhat real – here is an interview of Harvey on his new book…

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in General

 

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