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Black Activists Plan Blacks-Only Town ‘Wakanda’ in Georgia

This comes via the Midwestly channel on YouTube. Midwestly is a White guy and his views seem to be Conservative. He’s posted criticisms of Black Lives Matter and the riots that have broken out in its name. But he also says that there’s nothing wrong in this, and gives them his support. He just feels that it’s not the way to bring people together, and that it creates division. He also makes the point that if it was done by Whites, it would be considered Alt Right.

Yes, yes, it would. and there is plenty wrong with a town founded deliberately to exclude or marginalise people simply because of their race or ethnicity.

Ashley Scott, Renee Walters, and the Foundation of the new ‘Wakanda’

According to the Insider, two Black Activists, Ashley Scott, a real estate agent from Stonecrest, Georgia, and her friend Renee Walters found 96.71 acres of land in Georgia. They then persuaded 19 Black families to purchase the land with the intention of setting up a town. Called ‘Wakanda’, presumably after the fictional African supertechnological state in the movie and comic Black Panther, it will be primarily for Blacks, although pro-Black White allies will be permitted to apply. One of the points Midwestly makes is that Georgia doesn’t have the fictional element Vibranium upon which Wakanda’s advanced technology is based. And so it ain’t gonna be Wakanda without the Vibranium.

Scott said that the year had made her feel distraught and was looking for ways to feel empowered. She also said that she envisioned ‘a place where we can all be proud and have human dignity, honour and respect, and equality amongst our Black people because we have Black talent.’

The Freedom Georgia Initiative

This produced the Freedom Georgia Initiative, which will spend the next three to five years installing everything from wi-fi and water before planning residential, retail and recreation areas. MidWestly makes the point that the amount of land purchased gives each family about five acres, which isn’t a lot, plus retail, plus recreation and plus public works. He also says it doesn’t sound like freedom.

Scott wrote an article for Blavity stating that the group saw the land as a fresh start with a city that could be a shining example of being the change they wanted to see by supporting Black families and companies. She said that they wanted to be involved in creating the lives they really want for their Black families. And maybe, just maybe, create some generational wealth for ourselves by investing in the land and their core values and beliefs. The intiative is, apparently, geared to offering a Black centric community a fresh start after the fall of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street by White supremacists and poverty enforced by Jim Crow laws.

Scott said that ‘it’s not even a Black thing. It’s a place where we can all be proud and have human dignity, honour and respect, and equality amongst our Black people because we have Black talent.’ Walter told Insider that despite major figures calling for change and speaking out in favour of Black America in recent months, the two hope the project can be an example to those that advocating for significant change can begin on an individual level.’ He comments that it’s cool they want to get out of the city, but that it sounds like they want segregation. Well, that’s the way it sounds to me!

Practical Problems

He goes on to read from a second article, which says that the planned colony is in Wilkinson County in rural Georgia, and that the group initially looked into Toomsboro, Georgia, until they were told that it wasn’t for sale. This second article calls it a ‘Black only safe haven called ‘Freedom’.’ But it also adds that pro-Black families can apply to live there. Midwestly asks what ‘pro-Black’ means. They also intend to clear the land for farming and fishing. He states that they don’t have nearly enough land for what they intend to do. Even if the 19 families only have one acre plots each, leaving 50 acres for building a lake, retail stores, it would mean that everyone would have to move into condos to make it work. He said that if it was him, he would want to have land with his home, because without land you aren’t going to create wealth.

Segregation and the Alt-Right

Midwestly says he wishes them all the best because they’re private citizens buying land to do what they want. It’s just that if White people did this, it would be called something different, like an ethnostate. Yes, because that’s what it very much looks like from here, the intended ethnicity of the settlement notwithstanding. He goes on to say that it’s what the Alt Right is talking about, and he doesn’t necessarily like all that division, after the University of Michingan launched its Whites and non-Whites separate cafes. This isn’t the way to create unity. It just creates more division. And ultimately it’s heartbreaking to see people talking about this stuff as if it’s stunning and brave.

Here’s the video:

Conservatives, Race and Property Rights

Midwestly is coming at this from the Conservative view that the private individual should be able to do whatever they like on their own land. This is, apparently, the reason Barry Goldwater opposed desegegration. He was not an opponent of Black improvement. I have seen it argued that he was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He also, supposedly, desegegrated his department store. But he thought that compulsory desegegration was an attack on individual freedom and property rights. But Midwestly is clearly troubled by the racism at the heart of this project.

Ideal Communities an American Tradition

In some ways, the project part of a long tradition of people trying to found better, more perfect communities in the New World. It was behind the Pilgrim Father’s decision to migrate, as was explained in this Sunday’s edition of the Beeb’s Christian programme, Songs of Praise. They intended their new settlement to be a shining beacon. It was the Puritan settlers who gave America its vision of itself as a uniquely more community, a shining city on a hill. It saw British nonconformists take to America ideas of democracy and religious tolerance which influenced the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It should be pointed out, however, that the Founding Fathers determinedly weren’t democrats, and explicitly stated that the franchise should be restricted to elite White males to stop the poor majority oppressing the rich.

In the 19th century political radicals like the British poet Robert Southey, the Scots Utopian Socialist Robert Owen, and the followers of the French Utopian Socialist Fourier all tried to set up their own Utopian Communes in the US. These failed, though the Oneida community survived by reforming itself as a joint-stock company. A Jewish emigrant to the US also hoped to found a Jewish state there. I think this was originally going to be in the region of Niagara in New York State. And then there’s Utah, which founded by the Mormons as a theocracy for their faith before it joined the US.

Free Black Villages in the British Caribbean

In the Caribbean, radical Baptist missionaries founded free Black townships with like Sligoville, New Birmingham, Piedmont, Hoby Town, named after the British abolitionist Dr. Hoby, Unity, Refuge, which was originally named Wilberforce after the great British abolitionist, Kettering and Granville, named after another British abolitionist, Granville Sharpe, Buxton and Victoria. The radical Baptist missionary William Knibb estimated in 1840 that there were about 200 free villages with 8,000 inhabitants between them spread about Jamaica. Free Black towns were also established in Demerara and Berbice, now part of Guyana, starting with Northbrook Estate and then Den Amstel. They were also set up in Antigua. By 1842 they numbered 27 such villages with a total population of 3,600.

These villages were set up to protect Black people from re-enslavement by the planters. I don’t know if there were free Black communities established by abolitionists in the 19th century. But America’s Black community, while depressed and impoverished, is not enslaved. That came to an end with the Civil War. Nor do they have official implemented, state-sanctioned segregation. That came to an end in the late ’60s when Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. The Black community is, generally speaking, deprived and disadvantaged. But it is not enslaved, nor legally subject to discrimination. At least, not overtly. Blacks have voting rights, and there are Black politicians and members of the judiciary and legal profession. Since at least the 1980s, various affirmative action legislation has been passed with the deliberate intention of giving Blacks greater opportunities, freedom and prosperity and giving them genuine social and economic equality with mainstream America.

Nation of Islam, American Black Nationalism and White European Communes and Colonies

The proposed establishment of this town seems more like the separatism of the Nation of Islam. This demands the creation of an independent Black nation made out of five of the states of the southern US. Elsewhere in the world, it recalls Liberia, which was founded by American abolitionists as a country for freed American slaves, just as Britain attempted to do the same with Sierra Leone in the late 18th century.

And yes, it also resembles the communes proposed by White supremacists and Nazis, like those in the Hayden Lakes area of the American Midwest. Nietzsche’s cousin, Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche, was a proto-Nazi. She tried to found a perfect community of racially pure Germans in South America. But rather than finding prosperity, the community instead became poor and inbred. Over on this side of the Atlantic, there was also a move by two White British Nazis to buy a farm in France to build a pure, White colony there. This was passionately attacked by British anti-Nazis. Hope Not Hate have published an article about it, and it seems that after all these long years it’s come to nothing. Except that the Nazis behind it seemed to have spent their time trying to kill each other.

Return to the Ghetto

A few years ago in the 1990s or thereabouts there was talk about a ‘return to the ghetto’ amongst American Blacks. You can understand this. As a general rule, people prefer to live among their kind. This may be members of the same religious group, race, or ethnicity. For example, San Francisco has its Chinatown and Chicago a Little Italy, which was the main location of that city’s Italian community. But there is a difference between voluntary settlements, which just happen to be areas where a particular religion or ethnicity happens to live, and those deliberately planned which consciously exclude people because of their race.

Pro-Black Apartheid and the International Third Position

Round about 1985 the British newspaper, the Observer, published a piece fearing the demand for apartheid in Britain by sections of the Black community. It was a direct attack on the Black activist and Labour MP, Paul Boateng, who had called for autonomous Black communities in Britain. Now it seems that the same drives and demands have resurfaced in America by Black radicals in the wake of Black Lives Matter.

And there’s a section of the White Nazi movements which wants the same thing. In the 1960s Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam used to hold joint rallies with the American Nazi party. They both saw a common interest in dividing America on racial grounds. The Blacks would have the eastern seaboard, while the rest of America would be reserved for Whites. In the 1990s there was a strain of British Fascism called the Third International Position. This wanted separate communities for Blacks, including their own schools. It was opposed by the majority of Nazis, like the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, who wanted their total repatriation. But it was also opposed by mainstream anti-racists and opponents of apartheid.

But now it appears apartheid is back, and being championed as pro-Black and anti-racist. It shouldn’t matter who’s doing it. Segregation and apartheid is always wrong, and should always be fought and combated.

Bogota Cyclists Are Getting Much More Than Just Bike Lanes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 11:46pm in

Three great stories we found on the internet this week.

Local Contacts

After a young man who had been at a party tested positive for Covid-19, the residents of his housing project leapt into action to improvise a highly effective response. 

The complex, in the Sunnydale section of San Francisco, is a tight-knit community, which helped its residents to cobble together a contact tracing effort all their own. Upon learning of the diagnosis, they immediately started making calls to figure out “who hung with who and who we could call in the family to persuade them to get tested,” according to one person involved. Once they’d sorted out who was at risk, they lobbied the city to bring in testing. It wasn’t easy — Black and Brown communities are underserved by San Francisco’s health system, and community leaders had to call in favors from allies in the medical community.

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Eventually, they persuaded the city’s Department of Health to begin testing on site. Thanks to the contact tracing blitz, health officials knew exactly who to focus on. Over seven percent of the housing project’s residents tested positive, and were quickly offered food delivery and other services by their neighbors so they could self-quarantine. A few weeks later, the city returned to do follow-up testing, and this time, only one resident out of 100 tested positive, showing the potential of a well-coordinated hyper-local response to an outbreak. “The community has to be served in the way the community works, and not the way the [Department of Public Health] thinks it works,” said one resident.

Read more at Mission Local

Virtuous Cycle

Cities around the world have gone big on bicycling during the pandemic. But Bogota may be Latin America’s champion of the two-wheeled commute.

bogota“Without the pandemic we probably wouldn’t have achieved half of what we have so far.” Credit: Michael M / Flickr

Yes, the city is building lots more bike lanes — in February, its mayor (an avid cyclist) pledged to add 280 kilometers of cycleways to Bogota’s existing 550-kilometer network. But it’s going much further than that to encourage more residents to bicycle. To make cycling safer, speed limits have been lowered citywide to 50 kilometers per hour. Some 20 percent of all parking — both public and private — has been turned over to bikes for the duration of the pandemic. And Bogota established a bicycle registration database in response to a surge in thefts in the first half of 2020. At registration stands that have sprouted across the city, riders can register their bike’s characteristics and serial numbers, making it easier for the police to identify if it pops up on the black market. 

“Without the pandemic we probably wouldn’t have achieved half of what we have so far,” Bogota’s cycling czar told Bloomberg CityLab. And there’s still room to grow: The city’s ultimate goal is to have 50 percent of total trips made via bicycle.

Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

Hashtag No Filter

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine heaps fresh praise on New York City’s water system, one of the most enviable in the world.

reservoirThe Ashokan Reservoir in upstate New York provides the city with drinking water that need not be filtered. Credit: Daniel Case

The report finds that New York’s $2.5 billion watershed protection plan has been a smashing success. Through the program, launched in 1997, the city purchases and protects watersheds all along the 175-mile route that its drinking water must travel as it rushes down from the mountains in the north to the city’s pipes. Protecting these watersheds has prevented pollution from seeping into the system, which is why New York remains one of the few U.S. cities that doesn’t have to filter its drinking water. If it hadn’t spent the last two decades protecting these areas, the report finds, the city might have needed to build a filtration plant — at a cost of a cool, not-so-refreshing $10 billion.

Read more at Grist

The post Bogota Cyclists Are Getting Much More Than Just Bike Lanes appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

The San Francisco Housing Policy That’s Stopping Displacement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 1:37am in

In the summer of 2019, Elizabeth Bell’s apartment building in San Francisco’s Mission District went up for sale, and real estate agents were soon giving tours to prospective developers. As fear of eviction or rent hikes sank in, Bell, 74, started getting heart palpitations. Her apartment was cheap, rent-controlled, a necessity for Bell, who supplements Social Security with gig-translation work to make ends meet. There’s a rail stop less than two blocks away — useful, because Bell does not bicycle as easily as she used to. And she loves the place, which has a “beautiful arch over the front door” with cracked stained glass above the frame.

The other residents are a diverse mix — longtime Latino families, one with a disabled son; low-income seniors like Bell; a young couple. All depend on rent control to live in the Mission, the historic home of San Francisco’s Latino community, now riven by some of the city’s most intense gentrification.

If forced to leave, Bell knew she could not afford to stay in San Francisco, where she has lived since 1975. “I am very bonded to the city,” she said in an interview. “I don’t know where I would pick up and start again at this point in my life.”

To save the building, she and other tenants contacted housing advocates, who eventually introduced them to the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), a longtime Bay Area nonprofit. Over the past few years, MEDA has emerged as a leader in an anti-gentrification effort, known as a “right-to-purchase” policy, where local nonprofits obtain residential buildings to prevent development and displacement. The average income of residents in properties acquired by MEDA is more than 30 percent lower than the area’s median income. Prior to the Covid-19 economic downturn, the average rent for a one-bedroom in San Francisco was $3,360 a month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. To date, MEDA has acquired 32 buildings (more than 250 units), with two more on the way.

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This and other tenant-protection policies are spreading across California. The Covid-19 downturn caused unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression, and experts fear a housing crisis will follow. San Francisco’s city council recently passed an eviction ban. Oakland and Berkeley had already introduced their own right-to-purchase polices pre-coronavirus, both of which gained urgency after the pandemic hit. Los Angeles extended eviction protections through the summer and, spurred by Covid-19, is considering its own right-to-purchase policy. And in late June, a bill was introduced in the California legislature that would create a statewide version of the policy.

MEDA bought Bell’s building in February, just as Covid-19 was beginning to surge in the Bay Area. In addition to financial peace of mind, the purchase allowed Bell, whose age puts her at heightened risk for coronavirus, to remain in her home. Doctors never determined the cause of her palpitations, she said, “but I can tell you, I do not have them anymore.”

Buying in and staying put

The enormous loss of wealth for, and displacement of, low-income and Black and Latino families after the 2008 financial crisis convinced MEDA staff that they needed new and better tools “for when the next financial crisis comes,” Johnny Oliver, an organizer for the group, said. As properties foreclosed, developers bought them and turned them into high-end condos. Oliver described MEDA’s work as “reversing gentrification in the Mission District,” which has been transformed by years of unrestrained housing development and speculation. The Latino population in the Mission has shrunk by nearly 30 percent — a conservative estimate, given the challenge in counting undocumented people — over the past two decades.

Abetting this displacement is a California law called the Ellis Act. A powerful driver of gentrification, the Ellis Act allows landlords to evict entire buildings of tenants before selling a property. The new properties become condos or tenancy-in-common flats, a housing designation that allows buyers to purchase a percentage of the property. The rise of TICs in San Francisco is associated with the Silicon Valley tech boom. Cash-rich coders can buy their share of the building up front. For tenants, the Ellis Act can mean forced displacement; for landlords, it eases the process of selling a residential building.

Oliver and other housing organizers say that repealing the Ellis Act is not feasible given the powerful real estate lobby, so they set out to find their own policy tool. First came a program to publicly fund purchases of local buildings, established in 2014. But housing advocates found that many properties changed hands in back-channel deals between landlords and developers. San Francisco addressed this problem in fall 2019 with the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA), which guarantees local nonprofits like MEDA a five-day window in which to make an offer on a distressed property, before the building owner can sell. The nonprofit then has 25 days to match other bids.

Landlords and developers oppose COPA, largely due to this bureaucratic delay. Joshua Howard, executive vice president of local government affairs for the California Apartment Association, a trade group that represents 25,000 rental property owners across the state, said that more housing is the key to addressing California’s housing crisis. Policies like COPA don’t do this, he said, but they do “create bureaucracy and delay.” Howard supports funding for nonprofits like MEDA, but said they should bid on properties that hit the market, just like a private entity. “(Right-to-purchase policies) would not create new units of housing,” he said, “but do serve to slow down the process for a property owner to sell their rental unit.”

missionChloe Jackman-Buitrago stands in front of the building that MEDA bought, allowing her to avoid losing her apartment. Credit: Christie Hemm Klok

For Bay Area residents, the Ellis Act is so notorious that it has become a verb. Chloe Jackman-Buitrago, who was born and raised in San Francisco, said she feared being “Ellis Act-ed” back in late 2019. Jackman-Buitrago owns a photography studio around the corner from her building in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. When her apartment building hit the market, she looked at other rents in the area and doubted she would be able to stay in the city if she was forced out. MEDA bought the building instead, and she was able to stay.

“(MEDA) is keeping people in their homes,” Jackman-Buitrago said. “These are the people who keep this city running, who make this city what it is. The tech 22-year-olds come in and turn the buildings into some fucking cookie-cutter thing, and where do the people go?”

The building-acquisition program requires that all residents of a property favor the purchase. When she talked to her neighbors about supporting a MEDA purchase, however, Jackman-Buitrago ran into a strange problem: To people used to the city’s typical real estate moves, it seemed too good to be true. It took some convincing, but eventually they came around. With the help of the city, MEDA will manage the building for a 99-year term.

It has also promised to do work that the previous landlord neglected; in Jackman-Buitrago’s apartment, for example, dirt would creep up from under the floorboards, and the wall behind the bathtub had rotted away. Jackman-Buitrago, her husband, Michael — also born in the city — and their one-year-old son will soon move into a previously empty unit. MEDA is undertaking major repairs, including replacing the rotting boards in the old apartment and updating the kitchen in her new one.

Though it took a pandemic for tenant-protection policies to gain momentum, Oliver, the MEDA organizer, cautions that these policies are small compared to the magnitude of California’s housing crisis. Keeping people in their homes is one way to alleviate the pressure, but so is building more affordable housing. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave the Bay Area over the last 20 years. Then there’s the scale of the building-acquisition program, which currently involves fewer than 10 nonprofits. There are more potential properties moving toward the market than housing nonprofits can afford or manage. And because of Covid-caused budget issues, Oliver expects that San Francisco will have to reduce funding for nonprofit purchases of local real estate.

Jackman-Buitrago often feels a sense of loss; the city of her childhood is largely gone, she said, yet the area still feels like home. Bell has seen 45 years of change in the Bay Area, and she agrees. She has no desire to live anywhere else, yet development has diminished the city she remembers. “A community doesn’t just re-form,” she said. “It’s gone.”

This story was originally published in High Country News. It is part of the SoJo Exchange of COVID-19 stories from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

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