Category: Journalism

Matter of Survival: Venezuelan Leaves Country With Hope for Return

Article originally published in SPUTNIK NEWS SERVICE, SPUTNIK. EXCLUSIVES on 03 february 2020, 16:00


WASHINGTON, February 3 (Sputnik), Barrington M. Salmon –

If asked, Ivonne Luces-Pineros would not call herself a refugee, but two and a half months ago – she, like more than 4 million other Venezuelans – fled her country after years of deprivation, a life-threatening illness, political turmoil and relentless, punishing US sanctions.

She is living in Bogota, Colombia with her daughter Anyuli after a dangerous trek traveling from Caracas mainly by bus, car and walking.

The fact she recently underwent surgery made the journey even more perilous. In addition, Luces-Pineros said she left behind her mother, whom she misses greatly.

“My mother is doing so-so. She’s very weak. She’s still in Venezuela caring for my sister who’s wheelchair-bound and who has a debilitating illness,” Luces-Pineros told Sputnik. “She’s frail and sick it’s hard for her to walk and have proper nutrition… She’s my rock and I’m longing to see her.”

Luces-Pineros said she would never have left her homeland but conditions have gotten so bad.

“It breaks my heart to say this, but I had to leave in order to survive and not starve to death or die from a relapse or complications of my surgery,” Luces-Pineros said. “It wasn’t an easy decision, just a matter of survival… There are simply no other options.”


January 23rd marked one year since opposition leader Juan Guaido, opposing the outcome of the 2018 presidential election, declared himself interim president. The Trump administration immediately backed Guaido, whom they coordinated with before the announcement, and imposed crippling sanctions on the country.

This was all in a bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro, just as Venezuela was suffering through a deepening economic crisis.

Other factors driving the crisis include over-reliance on oil revenues at a time when global prices have plummeted, and paralyzing and sometimes violent partisan wrangling between Maduro supporters and opposition forces.

And there appears to be no end in sight to Venezuela’s economic spiral downward. On January 29, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to drop by another ten percent in 2020.

Venezuela’s real GDP has contracted by 65 percent since 2013, the IMF said, due to “declining oil production, hyperinflation, collapsing public services, and plummeting purchasing power.”

Luces-Pineros said she believes government corruption and mismanagement have also complicated the situation.

This has led to the exodus of approximately 4.3 million Venezuelans, the UN estimated in a report last year. In 2018, on average, about 5,000 people left Venezuela every day, the report said.

Caribbean and Latin American countries are hosting an estimated 2.7 million of the total number of Venezuelans who have left, while other regions account for the rest.

Colombia hosts the highest number of Venezuelans with 1.1 million – a group that now includes Luces-Pineros among them. It is followed by Peru, with 506,000, Chile 288,000, Ecuador 221,000, Argentina 130,000, and Brazil 96,000. Mexico and countries in Central America and the Caribbean, like Trinidad and Tobago, are also hosting significant numbers of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

“My mother encouraged me to leave Venezuela in search of better opportunities and making sure I could get adequate medical care in Colombia, and also that eventually I would be able to help her financially. But I’m still longing to be back home in Venezuela,” Luces-Pineros said.

After being on the road for several weeks, Luces-Pineros stayed in the city of Cucuta, Colombia until it was safe to continue her journey to Bogota to reunite with her daughter Anyuli.

“Well my journey was a few weeks and it was extremely rough,” she recalled. “My health is fine now but I am still feeling the effects of the surgery.”

Unfortunately, Luces-Pineros added, during the journey she got very sick with bronchitis and flu-like symptoms.

“The treatment at the border was hard and now Venezuelans have such a bad reputation that they don’t want to accept any immigrants from Venezuela anywhere in South America,” she said.

Luces-Pineros said the massive exodus went beyond neighboring countries and included destinations such as the United States, Canada, the European Union and, especially, Spain.

“The countries I’ve included in the list are for people who have the means. Most of the neighboring countries have a limit and now they don’t want Venezuelans in their country,” she said.

After finally reaching Bogota, Luces-Pineros was able to rent a room at a boarding house for 350 pesos ($18 USD) a month.

She gets up every morning at 4:00 a.m. and works until 5:30 p.m. to try and make money to survive, selling coffee, herbal teas and bread to people for their morning commute.

Although the situation is difficult, Luces-Pineros said she’s a survivor.


The Trump administration has been banking on a deadly assortment of sanctions – the most recent being economic restrictions imposed on banks, the oil industry, government officials and other individuals and entities – to oust Maduro. In fact, senior US officials have even publicly expressed a desire to use sanctions to drive a stake through the heart of the socialist revolution.

US companies have long been interested in Venezuela because it has one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world. Oil revenues account for about 98 percent of the country’s export earnings and 25 percent of gross domestic product, which is why Washington has sought to shut down this industry.

As expected, high prices provided a boon to Venezuela’s economy from 2006 until the first half of 2014 – when oil prices mostly hovered between $100 and $125 per barrel. During that time, Venezuela used its oil revenues to fund its budget and wield regional political power by providing subsidized oil to as many as thirteen neighboring Latin American countries, most notably Cuba.

However, Venezuela’s oil production has now fallen to its lowest point in more than 70 years. In 2017, America imported more than S10 billion worth of oil from Venezuela, making it one of the top sources of crude for US refineries. But now that figure is at about zero as a result of US economic restrictions.

The economic recession – in tandem with the devastating US sanctions – have been lethal, according to doctors, economists and other experts.

In May 2019, leading economist Jeffrey Sachs co-authored a Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) report with Mark Weisbrot, which examined how US sanctions increased disease and mortality and reduced the availability of food, medicine and medical supplies in Venezuela.

Since 2017, the report concluded, more than 40,000 people have died as a result of US sanctions.

Sachs, a Columbia University professor and director of Columbia’s Center for Sustainable Development, described the sanctions regime as collective punishment for all 30 million Venezuelans, “as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory.”

Sanctions imposed by the US government in 2017 prevented the country from accessing international capital markets and the oil company from restructuring its loans, the report noted. The two economists said that after the sanctions were implemented Venezuela lost an estimated $6 billion in oil revenue over the ensuing 12 months.

Weisbrot and Sachs argued that the loss in foreign exchange, needed for vital imports of food, medicine and productive inputs, caused by US sanctions, were the “main shock” that pushed Venezuela into hyperinflation in late 2017.

“That’s when the social, humanitarian crisis went spiraling out of control,” Sachs told the Washington-based Democracy Now in an interview after the report was released. “It’s not an economic standstill. It’s a complete economic collapse, a catastrophe, in Venezuela.”

There was a crisis before Trump came to office, the public policy analyst said, but the Trump administration from the start has wanted to overthrow Maduro. In fact, the US president, Sachs said, was explicit in discussions with Latin American allies about a US military invasion of Venezuela. However, the South American leaders told Washington they did not want to see military action, which forced Trump to consider other options.

“So, the US government has been trying to strangle the Venezuelan economy,” Sachs said.

Then in 2019, he continued, Trump imposed another round of even tighter sanctions which essentially confiscated the earnings and assets of the Venezuelan government.

Sachs said the Trump administration does not even understand the idea of negotiation. Instead, the US government has deliberately created massive suffering to achieve its objectives. However, he said, this “all-or-nothing strategy” has failed to overthrow Maduro.

“It’s not working. And it’s very cruel, because it’s punishing 30 million people,” Sachs said.

Critics cite mismanagement and corruption as among the reasons for Venezuela’s slide. Maduro, members of his administration and allies blame the sanctions. Whoever is ultimately responsible, the fact is that store shelves are empty of bread, sugar, coffee, cooking oil, toilet paper, milk and other basic food items. And even if the items were available, the prices would be unaffordable for most because of hyper-inflation which currently stands at around 1 million percent.

People like Luces-Pineros have watched with dismay as their country’s economy has crumbled under the weight of government mismanagement and crushing sanctions.

Luces-Pineros’ home in Venezuela is in La Pastora, in the heart of Caracas, a marginalized neighborhood she says used to be one of the nicest neighborhoods in the capital city. But things are much different today.

Luces-Pineros said that for months before her departure to Colombia, it was customary for her to eat one arepa a day because of the severe food shortages that plague Venezuela.

Arepas are one of Venezuela’s national foods handed down over generations. It is made of white cornmeal, salt and water, then the dough is shaped into a patty, grilled, baked and stuffed with a variety of tasty ingredients like beef, pork, chicken, olives, raisins, peppers and other vegetables.

That one meal is all Luces-Pineros, a caraquena – a Caracas resident – could afford she said, reflecting the extreme difficulties most Venezuelans are enduring because they are caught in the political crossfire between the government of the bitter conflict sparked by America’s desire to overthrow the socialist government and its 21 year-old Bolivarian Revolution.

“I used to sell coffee, donuts and food to workers from a small mobile food cart but I am barely able to walk much less stand for hours because of the surgery,” she said. “People can’t get around because there’s no gas and there’s no electricity. The lights are only on two hours a day. The metro station has stopped running due to lack of maintenance and power outages.”

Life on the ground grinds people down, she said. The average monthly income for workers is 40,000 bolivares which is about $4.20 USD. Meanwhile, a half a kilo of cheese costs 40,000 bolivares. For six eggs, a customer would pay 20,000 bolivares.

“Undoubtedly, the average Venezuelan can’t even afford to buy cheese,” said Luces-Pineros. “To get half a chicken, which comes from Brazil, by the time it reaches the local market it smells rotten or is spoiled.”

Shortly before her journey to Columbia, Luces-Pineros had surgery to correct an ailment that needed immediate medical attention. The surgery was delayed because of the skyrocketing cost of medicines due to hyper-inflation and the economic freefall.

Johns Hopkins University school of public health researchers in a report released last March found that Venezuelans across the country were facing a situation similar to Luces-Pineros’: patients in hospitals required to bring their own food and medical supplies like surgical thread, scalpels, syringes and the like, including soap and water.

Cases of measles and diphtheria have surged to 9,300 and 2,500 respectively while confirmed cases of malaria increased from 36,000 in 2009 to 414,000 in 2017, according to the report edited and reviewed by Dr. Paul Spiegel.

Spiegel and Human Rights Watch expressed surprise at the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and called for swift international action.

Caritas Venezuela, a Catholic humanitarian organization, found that Venezuela has also recently seen dramatic increases in child malnutrition while other humanitarian groups reported that maternal and infant mortality rates have spiked in the past five years.

Luces-Pineros experienced firsthand the damage inflicted on the quality of healthcare and lack of medical supplies during her recent surgery.

“I had to bring everything with me,” she said. “There was no alcohol, no cotton balls, bandages or pain relievers, no equipment, no sheets, no mask and no gloves. Contaminants were everywhere. The doctors who have just graduated from med school have no skills. You have to rely on nurses who have some skills. It’s completely chaotic.”

Moreover, as she recuperated, Luces-Pineros said she was unable to work.


US sanctions have demonstrably harmed Venezuelans like Luces-Pineros but have failed to achieve the outcome they were designed for – that being, regime change.

Rights groups and even some former US government officials have expressed concerns about the sanctions targeting the populace along with the strategy to force Maduro out regardless the cost.

Although last year’s US-backed coup against Maduro failed, the saber-rattling continues with Trump administration officials signaling the US willingness to send in the military. Yet, several media accounts note that Trump is trying to avoid stepping into yet another military conflict.

Then there is consideration for the valid concerns of some regional leaders who are against military intervention because that would destabilize the region.

Despite America’s best efforts to smash the socialist state, Maduro is still in office, primarily because he has retained the support of Venezuelans who still support the revolution and who are opposed to any outside threat to the country’s sovereignty.

Not to mention, the Maduro administration has the loyalty of the military, military institutions and control of the primary instruments of government.

Part of the interventionists’ dilemma is Guaido’s lack of legitimacy both at home and abroad. Guaido has the support of only the United States and about 50 of its allies – including EU members and right-wing Latin American countries.

Meanwhile China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Turkey – along with most UN member states – still recognize Maduro.

Fernando Cutz, who was Director for South America at the White House National Security Council during the Obama administration, told Sputnik that he was disappointed the move to back Guaido did not change much inside Venezuela.

“Yeah, unfortunately, things have been at a standstill. I had a real expectation that that moment would lead to positive change and a return to democracy,” Cutz, who is currently a senior associate with the Cohen Group, said. “No doubt there has been additional pressure but it hasn’t worked. Regime change isn’t an end goal for me. It’s about helping people and restoring democracy.”

Cutz said he believes that Maduro was not fairly elected in the 2018 presidential elections and that Venezuelans should be given the opportunity to participate in a free and fair vote. If under those conditions Venezuelans voted for Maduro, he would have no issues or misgivings.

The Trump administration is pursuing policy objectives it feels will get results which is its right, Cutz said. However, he added, there are ways to punish the Maduro government so that the pain to ordinary Venezuelans is minimized.

“Looking back a year ago, I was very hopeful. There was international recognition of Guaido and we had the support of a strong coalition. We were working with the European Union, the Lima Group, the OAS and the UN. We all were making a great effort. But I am less hopeful in 2020,” he said.

During the Obama administration, Cutz said the sanctions “were responsible and targeted individuals in the regime who were bad actors.”

However, he added, Trump’s former White House National Security Adviser, John Bolton, oversaw a drastic expansion of sanctions which have had an impact on the people of Venezuela.

“There are ways to focus on individuals without harming citizens in such a wholesale manner,” Cutz claimed.

Cutz, who also served as a senior aide to former White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, said in addition to blind sanctions he opposed military action. US officials, he said, should step back from the rhetoric and recalibrate.

“It’s a devastating situation in Venezuela. It’s horrific but some sort of military move would not be good. Using the military should only be a last resort,” Cutz said.

The Trump administration, he added, should also step back from imposing sanctions “for sanctions sake.”

“I hope there are still good people around in the government willing to side with the people but I don’t see a clear path,” the former White House official said. “But you never know what may spark change. The Arab Spring was one guy in Tunisia who set himself on fire. Enough people were fed up and it all started.”

Netfa Freeman, a peace activist who visited the country last year as part of the Embassy Protection Collective, said Venezuela, as a sovereign nation, has the right to determine its own course, free from threats and intimidation from the United States.

Freeman, an organizer in the International Committee for Peace, Justice & Dignity for the People, formerly the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, told Sputnik that Americans must stop “aiding and abetting the imperialist narrative” that Maduro is a dictator and must be removed to protect human rights.

“When you support Saudi Arabia that doesn’t even have elections, and is a monarchy, or you bomb innocent children in Yemen and in Syria and those kind of things, and you prop up dictators and depose democratically-elected people in Honduras and Haiti, that shows that you don’t care about human rights,” said Freeman who is also a radio co-producer/co-host for “Voices With Vision” on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington.


Since the late president Hugo Chavez introduced what he termed the Bolivarian Revolution in 1998, successive US administrations have tried to overturn Venezuela’s socialist government, including Trump’s by backing Guaido and intensifying sanctions.

The current economic crisis has been a setback for the revolution and has both strengthened Venezuelans’ resolve to defend their country and also turned some people nostalgic about the Chavez years, including Luces-Pineros.

Although Chavez certainly benefited from high oil prices, he is remembered for using the funding to improve the lives of many across all classes and races. Building on what he started, for example, the Maduro government has so far built 5 million houses for Venezuelans.

In addition to class, the mainstream American media has largely ignored the role race has played in the problems plaguing Venezuela.

Several analysts point out that racism is one of the main engines and expressions of the counter revolution, best illustrated by the fact that the National Assembly is overwhelmingly white and upper and middle class, while the Constituent Assembly appointed by Maduro much more accurately reflects the multi-ethnic makeup of the country.

Filmmaker and educator Catherine Murphy, who lived in Venezuela from 2006-2010, told Sputnik that Chavez’s programs transformed the lives of the country’s lower classes and Afro-Venezuelans.

“He [Chavez]… started to run PDVSA, and the money went to pay for housing, paving streets, providing clean running water and nation-building. It benefited everyone. He started the Mission Robinson Literacy Program and invited thousands of Cuban doctors who lived in communities practicing medicine for free,” she noted.

In light of the malnourishment, the collapse of Venezuela’s healthcare system, the general economic collapse and the resultant hardship and privation visited on Venezuelans, Luces-Pineros, who still counts herself as a Chavez supporter, said she is no longer sure that what she envisions as success, as it relates to the goals of the socialist revolution, can be attained under the current circumstances.

Although usually not one to cast blame, she feels widespread corruption is at the root of so many of Venezuela’s problems.

“I didn’t want to leave because I felt there was hope with Chavez for a better Venezuela but not today with the Maduro regime,” she said.

However, despite the greed, corruption, a lack of governance and the inestimable damage caused by US sanctions, she still holds out hope.

“I still feel that under a fair socially democratic state there is a future for the Venezuelan people,” Luces-Pineros said.

Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant Had Transcended Sports, Was Constructing a Second Act

Barrington M. Salmon, Special to The Informer via Trice Edney News Wire January 28, 2020

Sports fans in the United States and around the world — plus people who are not necessarily sports-oriented — are mourning the sudden death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant at the age of 41.

Two years removed from retirement after 20 years in the NBA, the five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers superstar was settling into retirement and immersing himself in sports, entertainment, his family and business ventures when he was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday near Calabasas, Calif.

Bryant & daughter…

The crash also killed eight other passengers, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, a budding basketball phenom. In addition to millions of adoring fans, he leaves to mourn him Vanessa Laine Bryant, his wife of 19 years, and three other daughters: Natalia Bryant, 17, Bianka Bryant, 3, and Capri Bryant, 7 months.

The group was on their way to Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where Bryant was to coach a game in which Gianna was to play. Federal investigators are trying to determine what specifically caused the crash which occurred in dense fog.

Bryant’s death has triggered an outpouring of grief, shock and disbelief among devastated players, fans, celebrities and just those who equated his name with excellence. A common theme offered by tributes is that he had transcended basketball and had become larger than sports.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” tweeted President Barack Obama. “To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day.”

President Trump deflected from his tweeting on impeachment to call the reports on the basketball star “terrible news.” He later released a tweet that critics observed was strikingly similar to President Obama’s:

“Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life. He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating,” Trump tweeted. “Melania and I send our warmest condolences to Vanessa and the wonderful Bryant family. May God be with you all!”

Many struggled to find deeper meaning in the sudden death of a person so beloved who had become a symbol of excellence.

“I didn’t know him well. I only met him a couple of times,” said former Vice President Biden on the presidential campaign trail in Iowa as reported by the Washington Examiner. “It makes you realize that you gotta make every day count, every single solid day, every single day count.”

Jalen Rose, a former college and professional basketball player and sports analyst with ESPN described his friend, Bryant, in terms beyond basketball.

“He is remembered for his dedication to his craft, educated, speaker of multiple languages, father, husband, disciplined hardworking, always gracious and respectful,” he said in a tribute. “He was always the hardest-working guy in the room, smartest guy in the room … he was Industry tastemaker, gave so much to humanity and is gone too soon.”

Kobe Bryant was born in Philadelphia, the only boy and youngest of three children of former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. He was first drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 straight out of Lower Merion High School.

Through hard work and extraordinary dedication to the game, he was seen as a transcendent player, unquestionably one among the best to ever play the game of basketball. But his success impacted beyond the game. In post-game retirement, he inspired hundreds of thousands of young people to aim high, push past their limits, whether it was on a court, a football pitch or in the creative arts.

Kobe, who won five NBA titles and who was an 18-time All-Star, won an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2019 for the film “Dear Basketball.” The six-minute film is based on a poem Bryant wrote in 2015 announcing his retirement from the NBA. Bryant wrote and narrated the short, in which he shares his love of the sport for basketball.

Bryant considered himself to be a storyteller and had been moving into the film and entertainment industry since his retirement from basketball in 2016. He wrote, produced and presented a series for ESPN called Detail, in which he explained the intricacies of athletes in their respective sports. His multimedia company, Granity Studios, produced the ESPN+ series Detail and the podcast “The Punies.” In addition, he helped create four sports fantasy children’s books. According to media reports, the second volume of The Wizenard Series: Season 1, is set to hit bookstores on March 31.

Still it was basketball for which he will always be world renown. Sports lawyer and businessman Michael Huyghue said an icon of the industry has been lost.

“What he stood for is an early example of an athlete transcending his sport,” said Huyghue, author, sports agent and president of Michael Huyghue and Associates, LLC. “His work in the community, building a brand, his eclectic nature and speaking several languages are a part of his legacy. “He was a very rare breed. He set the bar at a place where a lot of athletes could aspire to.”

Sports journalist Elton Hayes Jr. said what sticks out to him is his involvement with children and young people.

“I have been watching all these years. He’s a global icon,” said Hayes, who writes for CNHI News in State College, Pennsylvania. “What sticks out after retirement is the role he played with kids. He showed us his paternal side and the passion he had for women’s basketball. The WNBA is the sister organization to the NBA but there are discrepancies in salary and viewership. He was an active participant and took several women under his wing. I would consider him an ambassador for women’s basketball…I think a part of his legacy is the impact on a generation of aspiring athletes. With his Mamba Foundation, we will continue to see his legacy grow and will continue to see the impact.”

For the past two years, Bryant had focused on coaching Gianna’s AAU team.

“Coaching youth sports is so important to take very seriously because you’re helping the emotional [development] of young kids,” he said in a recent interview. “So it’s understanding not to be overcritical and understanding that [there] are going to be mistakes.”

And in an interview with People magazine, published online two days before his death, Bryant said he launched Granity Studios “as a way of teaching valuable life lessons to the next generation, with whatever they hope to do. The goal is to encourage children to develop their own inner magic and believe they can achieve the impossible and do so in a fun way.”

Bryant added, “Storytelling has always been an interest of mine, so the transition was an exciting one. I’m being challenged in a completely new way and have really loved the opportunity to exercise my creative muscles.”

Nearly everyone killed in the crash shared a love for basketball, reported the Los Angeles Times. They were Bryant and Gianna, a budding basketball player who was ready to follow in her father’s footsteps; baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their basketball-playing daughter Alyssa; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan, the Times reported.

The beloved Bryant had a reputation as egotistical, a talented super-achiever, driven and difficult. But friends and colleagues spoke of all the good he’s done and the impact he had in his 41 years.

“Devastation, heartbroken describes how I feel,” said ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith. “I saw him on New Year’s Eve. He was full of life, happier than I’ve ever seen him. He was loving life in a peaceful place, euphoric of what laid ahead. He was looking forward to and planning on having a life more prosperous and illustrious than what he had accomplished as a basketball player.”

Smith concluded with a thought that’s been on the minds of millions since Sunday: “Never in our wildest dreams did we ever believe that the brilliant savant, a man at least trilingual, would leave like this …”

Can Joe Biden Win? The Jury is Out

By Barrington M. Salmon
Can Joe Biden Win? The Jury is Out

May 14, 2020

( – Former Vice President Joe Biden has the most delegates going into this summer’s Democratic Convention and is the presumptive nominee for president. But there is no consensus about whether Biden will be able to beat President Donald Trump in November.

Political analyst Dr. Avis Jones-Deweever said she’s been tracking polls, talking to colleagues and other people she knows and trying to read the tea leaves. Even though Biden is ahead in all the polls she’s seen, she said she’s still uneasy.

“Coronavirus is helping him because Trump is hurting himself a lot with ridiculous behavior,” said Jones-DeWeever, a highly-sought after women’s empowerment strategist, diversity counselor, author and political commentator. “People are seeing the devastation of that, the lies, incompetence, stupidity. All of that has to count.”

“Biden is leading in every poll. He’s run every single poll.”

Currently, Trump’s base is not enough to win or capture key states. What’s of vital importance is turnout, especially in the key states that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“This is a very winnable election, not necessary a cakewalk,” De-Weever cautioned.

Jones-DeWeever said she’s aware that Biden just released a brand new agenda around Black people.

“It’s 20 pages long which suggests that he is doing more to address our problems,” she said. “It’s been hard for him to get media attention because of coronavirus. I’m very concerned because they’re not using social media to its capacity. They need talented staff to develop digital content because so far, it’s underwhelming.”

Jones-DeWeever said she is stunned that former Democratic presidential candidate billionaire Mike Bloomberg offered his digital staff to the Biden campaign and Biden lieutenants have not accepted it.

“I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, please.’ They’re so arrogant to ignore this offer. It’s making me very concerned. It’s making me feel like the Hillary Clinton campaign all over again.”

Despite positive polls for him, there are some who have sworn against Biden for what they deem to be principled reasons.

Leo Alexander, a Mobile, Alabama businessman, said he thinks Biden is a poor choice for the Democratic nominee and doesn’t deserve to be vying for president because he has never had the interests of Black people during his entire political career.

“In the early ‘70s, he was against busing, then he cozied up to segregation side of the Senate, he aggressively attacked Anita Hill in the ‘80s, and then he was instrumental in the Crime bill which many Black men still haven’t recovered from,” said Alexander. “He is not a friend of the Black man.

The only reason why he’s relevant is because President Obama chose him as his vice president. He ran three times and was a complete loser.”

For the past several weeks, Alexander has been very vocal about his support for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who he said has proven to be the most competent politician on the national scene and he said he’s looking forward to Cuomo being pushed forward as the Democratic nominee this summer.

Cuomo’s response to the Covid19 outbreak that has decimated New York has been masterful, Alexander said.

“Biden doesn’t have enough delegates to claim victory,” he explained. “Bernie (Sanders) kept his delegates which was a smooth move because that opened the door to a brokered convention. And it opens the door for a backdoor candidate to step in.”

“I think Cuomo would take it. Some people are chosen like Cuomo. Coronavirus has done the same thing for Cuomo. He’s saying the right thing, that he doesn’t want post. He’s keeping his mouth shut and doing a helluva job.”

Alexander said Cuomo is perfect is that he’s progressive but comes from the Establishment wing of the party.

“Cuomo will bring the party together. It’s gonna be a beautiful thing. Must-see TV,” Alexander said with a hearty laugh.

The novel virus pandemic has hit America hard with this country exhibiting the highest number of cases in the world. On Tuesday morning, there were 1,218,472 confirmed cases in the US with more than 70,000 people succumbing to the disease.

For well over a month, about 80 percent of the country has been under locked down or under mandatory stay-at-home orders. More than 26 million people have applied for unemployment, an estimated 40 million Americans have lost their jobs and businesses are either closed for the foreseeable future or in danger of being shuttered permanently.

Uncertainty still persists about how the disease is spread, who is infected and who is asymptomatic. Testing is haphazard and sporadic and the contact tracing and surveillance needed to track and contain the disease has been absent because of the lack of coordination from the federal government, critics say.

Prince George’s County, Md. voter Latine Halstead said she believes Biden will be victorious.

“I think he’ll win. I have to believe that. Yeah, I think he will win,” she said with a chuckle. “They’ll put up a good fight. We’ll see some trickery, the Russians may be involved again, but Biden will win.”

Halstead, a businesswoman who transports students to and from school, said Biden’s very affectionate nature has caused him problems but attributes that to a generational thing.

“I don’t think it’s a big thing and doesn’t compare to the predatory actions of Trump and Bill Clinton,” she said. “What’s very important too is that the virus has really brought all these ills to the surface. The healthcare system and the country’s medical infrastructure is inadequate and is being strained to the breaking point. Republicans have shown that they really don’t care. They don’t want to talk about healthcare. If we had universal healthcare, it would have driven the need for masks and people going to the doctor.”

Halstead said she is looking forward to a Democratic president and Democratically-controlled government that cares more about people than property.

When asked if Biden will win, Michele Watley, a strategic communications and political advocacy consultant, said, “You never know …”

“He’s spun a good narrative, taken coronavirus and framed it as war, has pinpointed a source and made it political,” she said of President Trump. “He’s blamed Democrats, said they won’t open businesses.”

“The economy was a major anchor that was keeping the administration afloat and now Covid19 has tossed it awry,” said Watley, who served as director of African-American Outreach during the 2016 campaign. “It will be interesting to see after coronavirus what the process is in terms of going to work, who voters blame for difficulties that arise and the businesses that had to close.”

When asked about if Biden should pick a Black woman as vice president, Watley mulled the question.

“Who he chooses will affect his race. How? I’m not sure,” she said. “This is where it becomes problem in the campaign sense. Rep. James Clyburn has said Biden doesn’t have to choose a Black woman. He is taken as the voice of all Black people but he doesn’t speak for me…When people vote, you vote for a payoff and support candidates who vote your interests. Do you ask Black women to wait again? Where is the payoff?”

By Barrington M. Salmon

Arizona Apache Tribe Steps Up Fight With Copper Mine Over Sacred Land

OPINION14:00 GMT 07.11.2019(updated 14:01 GMT 07.11.2019) Get short URL1111Subscribe

WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Barrington M. Salmon – Imagine standing on the rim of a crater almost two miles wide and anywhere from 850 to 1,500 feet deep that is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, but man-made.

To the dismay of Native Americans and environmentalists, a crater this size could become reality and devastate native land in the southwestern state of Arizona if Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto’s Resolution Copper venture is granted permission to begin extraction from what is believed to be the largest undeveloped copper deposits in the world.

For more than a decade, Resolution Copper has been trying to gain control of the territory above the copper deposits, land that is held sacred by a number of indigenous peoples including the San Carlos and Yavapai Apache tribes, as a gathering place, ceremonial spot and burial site.

One of the areas under threat is Oak Flat (Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel in Apache), which is both a sacred cultural place for Native Americans as well as a national treasure. About four years ago a federally-charted preservation group listed Oak Flat among America’s most endangered historic places.

San Carlos Apache tribal leader Wendsler Nosie, Sr. stated that a combination of corporate greed and the government’s callous disregard for Native American culture will lead to the decimation of the tribe’s spiritual home at Oak Flat.

“By desecrating it [Oak Flat], eliminating it forever, it will affect the next generation and ties to this religious place”, Nosie, who is also a former tribe chairman and councilmember, said. “What Resolution Copper wants to do brings great fear to all Indian nations in this country”.

Anatomy of a Betrayal

On 7 November, the government is set to release a final environmental impact statement on the Resolution Copper project involving public land located nearly 30 miles outside the Arizona state capital of Phoenix and just over 160 miles north of the Mexico border.

However, the report itself could end up being an exercise in futility because politicians in Washington deceptively pushed through legislation that guarantees the rights of the company regardless of the potential environmental impact.

US Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both from Arizona, led an effort in 2015 to tip the scales in Resolution Copper’s favour by slipping a rider into a must-pass defence budget bill at the proverbial eleventh hour that authorised a land swap involving sacred tribal territory.

As a result, Section 3003 of the 2015 US National Defense Authorisation Act allows Resolution Copper to seize a roughly 2,400-acre parcel of federally protected public land in the Tonto National Forest in exchange for about 5,000 acres from other spots around the state.

In addition to portions of Tonto National Forest, indigenous tribes are trying to protect other areas that will be affected by the copper mining project including Oak Flat, Devil’s Canyon, and nearby Apache Leap – an important historic site where 75 tribe members jumped off a cliff to their deaths rather than be captured by the US cavalry.

Oak Flat’s rugged beauty, fragile ecosystems and waterways are at risk because of a mining project that would yield the company billions in copper ore but decimate the sacred lands of the San Carlos Apache tribe and other indigenous groups

According to the US Department of Agriculture, these historic sites and sacred lands also happen to sit atop the world’s largest undeveloped copper deposits, estimated to contain a mineral resource of 1.7 billion metric tons at an average grade of 1.52 percent copper. Resolution Copper officials say they will extract about 132,000 tons of rock daily from the ore body, which is 7,000 feet below ground.

However, a USDA report also warned that the Resolution Copper mineral extraction process will produce 1.5 billion tons of waste tailings that could further degrade the environment.

Tailings are finely ground rock fragments, usually a mud-like material, which is often toxic and must be perpetually isolated. The storage and handling of tailings continues to be a major environmental issue worldwide.

Texas’ Apaches Need Secure Territory to Preserve Their Culture – Vice Chairman

Moreover, culling pure copper from the mine’s underground ore deposit would require an additional 6.5 billion gallons of water each year, enough to supply more than 65,000 households or half the homes in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, the local East Valley Tribune has reported.

McCain’s action triggered widespread condemnation in indigenous communities across the country, among conservationists and environmental groups, those concerned about climate change, rock climbers, hunters, fishermen and women, those who enjoy hiking and camping and Arizona residents who live in towns like Superior, Globe, Queen Valley and cities as far away as Tempe and Tucson.

Rio Tinto, however, has said the company not only respects tribal culture but believes the Resolution Copper mining project will boost the local economy.

But the company’s assurances ring hollow for Tribal Chairman Terry Rambler, Nosie and other Native American activists and reverberates when put in the context of the American government’s treatment of indigenous people in this country.

History shows that the US government negotiated and signed as many as 500 treaties with Native American nations from the Iroquois to the Lenni Lenape to the Lakota to the Shoshone, to the Sioux to the Apache nation and broke almost every single one.

According to the treaties, Indians were to be treated as autonomous nations and dealt with diplomatically, like foreign governments. That did not happen. Reservations were ruled by unelected white agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who outlawed native language and religion. But in past decades, reservations have established their own governments and, with bands of lawyers, have fought for – and, in many cases, won back – their treaty rights.

Elsewhere in 2019, Native Americans are under assault from President Donald Trump’s administration which is intent on opening up federal territory where indigenous peoples are shunted off to mining and oil interests including pristine land in Alaska and the coastlines of Florida and California.

However, US federal government discrimination and disrespect of indigenous peoples is not unique to Trump. In 2016, during the Obama administration, 120 tribes and scores of rights groups – including Black Lives Matter – joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in its bid to halt construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The opposition was fueled by both environmental and human rights concerns especially over the way the decision was blatantly made to protect white interests while harming Native Americans.

In the initial proposal, the DAPL route went through Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, where 92 percent of the 61,000 residents are white. After the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that the pipeline could contaminate drinking water, it was rerouted to pass by Standing Rock.

Protesters erected barricades to block machinery used to excavate the soil and prevented crews from burrowing beneath the Missouri River for fear oils spills would poison freshwater sources and destroy sacred lands. Local authorities beat, caged and brutalised demonstrators with an intensity not seen since the 1960s.

As if to substantiate the concerns of the Standing Rock protestors, 383,000 gallons of crude spilled into North Dakota wetlands last week from the Keystone Pipeline, triggering more anger and further cementing opposition to plans to lengthen the pipeline.

Meanwhile, ever since the Resolution Copper initiative began over a decade ago, mistrust has deepened between Arizona tribal leaders and the company partly due to what the tribes see as an unjust lack of transparency.

In public statements, during this period Rambler and Nosie said the company has repeatedly refused to provide details regarding the environmental, financial, and economic impacts of the project.

The San Carlos Apache tribe, environmentalists and conservations are concerned that Apache Leap will be irrevocably damaged or destroyed by the Resolution Copper mining project despite mining officials’ assurance it won’t be affected

The US federal government, in the meantime, has moved the San Carlos Apache Tribe as many as five times, constantly uprooting the people when they found copper, gold and other natural resources, Rambler has said in testimonies over the years.

Rambler has also argued that the McCain bill would set a dangerous precedent by transferring a known sacred tribal area located on federal land to a foreign-owned mining company for activities that will ultimately destroy the area while circumventing consultation between the government and the tribes.

Government Study Fuels Anger

Years of protests, town halls, complaints delivered via letter and congressional hearings are coming to a head as the process that would finalise the land swap is nearing an end.

The US Forest Service (USFS) released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on 9 August and has been entertaining public comment, from supporters and critics alike, about the mining project.

Sandy Bahr, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, said that she, Nosie and other critics have spoken at several of the public hearings over the DEIS.

“There’s strong opposition. We’re pushing to reduce this”, Bahr said. “I call it an abomination. It’s so unnecessary. There’s nothing we can do to stop them from mining on public land. To just put it [the land exchange] into a bill that is unrelated is just deplorable. We’re trying to figure out a way to stop it from going forward”.

The next step, she added, is for Forest Service staff to review comments, respond and come out with a final impact statement. Once that is done they will try to make the land swap, although Bahr hopes they can stop it or that the forest service pursues the “no action” alternative.

“The Forest Service dismissed from consideration other alternatives. Other options will not cause a big old crater”, she said. “I find it heartbreaking. I’ve lived 30 years in the area, but for indigenous people it’s been so much longer. It’s inexcusable and unjust [and] unfair”.

The concerns of all the people speaking at the public meetings about the project have been roundly ignored by a number of members of US Congress, Bahr said.

Nosie said opponents of the land swap are moving with greater urgency as the process moves squarely into the draft period.

“Resolution [Copper] bought property adjacent to Oak Flat. They have other mining permits and they have purchased other mining areas as far as we know, but their primary goal is to take Oak Flat”, he said. “The biggest challenge now is the urgency we have in this draft period”.

Wendsler Nosie, Sr. speaks to an audience about the threat to Oak Flat by a mining project proposed by Resolution Copper, launched by Rio Tinto, a British-Australian joint project

However, Nosie also warned that the draft process may end up being irrelevant.

“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is a scam”, Nosie said. “The legislation reads that regardless of the report, the land transfer will take place”.

Hence, Nosie hopes people around the country can voice their opposition and pressure congressional leaders to abandon the legislation which has been proposed in both the US House and Senate.

Bahr contends that the 1,300-page DEIS is deficient in a number of areas.

“There’s not adequate analysis of where the tailings are going, the impacts to endangered species, and the DEIS has not seriously considered the cultural impact of this project”, Bahr said.

Roger Featherstone, executive director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, noted he remains optimistic that the broad coalition of organisations, indigenous people and individuals will win this battle.

“You can’t engage in these battles without being optimistic otherwise what’s the point?” he asked. “I ultimately think we’ll win”.

If people did not fight back, companies would destroy everything, Featherstone argued.

“I think there’s a real disconnect between the higher-ups and what happens on the grounds. It’s a combination of hubris and testosterone”, Featherstone said.

Featherstone, who has been on the frontlines of this fight for at least a decade, said there are more things wrong with the DEIS than he can list.

“This document is remarkable because it’s long but doesn’t really say anything. What’s in it is troubling. We asked the Forest Service to take it back and do it again”, he said.

Among those issues troubling him include the fact the original tailings location is unclear, the water table of one location is higher and not at the same level at other testing locations.

And, he added, there are doubts about if the ground at one site is stable enough to build a dam. In addition, the report totally missed a fault in the ground along Dripping Springs Wash, Featherstone noted.

“The bottom line is this is an experiment. Mining has never been done at this depth”, he warned.

Residents of Superior, the nearly 3,000-person town that will likely be most affected by the mining operation, have expressed both hope and skepticism about the process and the future.

Superior Town Manager Todd Pryor stated that in October the city council voted to support the Resolution Copper mining project but detailed its concerns in a comment letter responding to the draft environmental impact study.

He said while the mining project is an economic opportunity, there are concerns from council members about the socio-economic impact.

“The current taxing structure doesn’t benefit Superior because the company is just outside the city. Also, we don’t get as many employees living in town as other projects in the past. Then there are concerns about the impacts of water. We’re working with the company to address these and other issues. We asked them to put together an endowment in perpetuity as a separate community foundation so that we can react to impacts unforeseen”, Pryor explained.

Trail of Disaster

It appears the San Carlos Apache and their environmental allies may be facing their last chance to halt the destruction and degradation of the tribe’s spiritual cradle and this week’s DEIS release marks a pivotal moment.

However, the diverse set of tribal organisationsand advocacy groups that have united to fight this corporate effort to exploit native land seem bent on continuing the battle especially given the historical track record of Rio Tinto along with partner entities like BHP Billiton.

There are even tribal members who have vowed to give their lives to ensure that Resolution Copper does not gain control of sacred land.

In 2007, Nosie told a House congressional committee that the Apache people cannot under any circumstances support the Resolution Copper plan.

“The foul environmental track record and history of shameful treatment of indigenous people by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are well known. Their record speaks volumes”, Nosie argued. “Both companies’ operations over the years have left a wake of environmental destruction, human rights complaints, and lawsuits filed worldwide”.

The Apache tribal leader noted that the Greens Creek Mine in Alaska, owned by Rio Tinto and two other companies, is alleged to be the state’s second largest discharger of toxic waste “releasing 59 million pounds of toxic chemicals in one year, and violating the Clean Water Act 391 times.”

Nosie also pointed out that in the UK Rio Tinto’s Capper Pass smelter dropped 1.3 pounds of emissions on residents each week, leading to a settlement with hundreds of claimants in which the company “refused to accept blame but provided compensation to those with cancer and other illnesses”.

On the other side of the world, he added, current and former residents of Papua New Guinea sued Rio Tinto alleging violations of international law including crimes against humanity related to its operation of a large scale mine.

In the same country, Rio Tinto partner company BHP Billiton was sued for more than $4 billion for destruction of the Ningerum people’s traditional lands.

To this day, Nosie continued, villagers are no longer able to safely eat locally harvested fish or food grown from their own gardens.

“It is estimated that it will take 300 years to clean up the area of the contamination which the mining operation caused”, Nosie said. “It is often stated that history is prophesy. In this case, the historical conduct of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton provide no assurances that these companies will keep their promise to protect Apache Leap, or for that matter, to protect the environment and respect the traditional culture and religious values of the Apache People”.

US, Copper Interests Push Back

The mining interests and US government agencies despite all of the negative feedback and opposition have stood by the process and the draft environmental assessment of the copper development project.

Resolution Copper spokesman Dan Blondeau lauded the release of the DEIS, saying it “marks a significant milestone” for Rio Tinto’s initiative.

“The EIS reflects more than 500 distinct engagements, an extensive study by the US Forest Service (USFS) and independent third-party analysis to shape the future development of the Resolution Copper project”, Blondeau said.

The USFS, he added, rigorously analysed dozens of alternatives to the original mine plan proposal including different locations for tailings and alternative mining methods.

Moreover, he said the USFS had extensive assistance from county, state, tribal and other local officials and jurisdictions and underscored the transparent nature of the assessment.

“The public was notably involved in the process by providing comprehensive feedback”, Blondeau noted.

The draft analysis also highlights cultural resources, tribal values and a plan for tribal training, he said.

The Resolution Copper representative also argued that extensive input from local stakeholders and a dozen Native American tribes led to the Apache Leap Special Management Area (ALSMA) to protect the historic Apache Leap mountain site in Superior, Arizona.

“We respect the sovereign nature of Tribal communities and recognise that Tribes have cultural interests that go beyond the border of their reservations”, Blondeau said. “It is our absolute aim to work together to preserve Native culture. Also, we want to work together to provide direct employment, job training, education, and commercial opportunities for Native American-owned businesses that will last for decades to come”.

This is not the first time the company has attempted to publicly fight the resistance. In 2015, former Resolution Project Director Andrew Taplin in a letter to critics said the project would create nearly 4,000 jobs and generate $61 billion in revenue.

Taplin pointed to examples of how the “mutual benefit framework” around mining is working including for Navajo tribes in New Mexico who took over ownership and operation of a mine.

He even noted how the San Carlos Apache are partnering with a mining company to sell water from their reservation to boost revenue for the tribe.

The former Resolution Copper official said the cases demonstrate industry and tribes can jointly develop projects, share the economic benefits, and still protect culturally and historically important areas.

The USFS, for its part, has been under fire from critics for acquiescing to Resolution Copper and other mining interests, although officials – in several public hearings – have said the law ties their hands.

“There is a mining law which tends to guide the process for starting a project such as this”, USFS spokesman John Scaggs said during a hearing. “Under mining law, the Forest Service has to analyse the mining impact or it would have to make changes. We have an environmental consultant who assists and content is drawn from that”.

At the end of the public comment period, Scaggs said USFS staff will compile and evaluate the applicability of the comments as it relates to what is in the DEIS.

The deciding official, Scaggs noted, is the supervisor for Tonto National Forest who has the authority to extend or not extend the project.

Last Sacred Stand

The tribes have noted the conspicuous absence of outrage emanating from religious circles within the United States to the San Carlos Apache struggle with Resolution Copper given the spiritual significance of the land.

Rambler, the current tribe chairman, in interviews and congressional testimony spanning several years made his position and that of his allies clear about the importance of the spiritual angle.

The Oak Flat area continues to play a vital role in Apache religion, tradition, and culture including centuries-old ceremonies, Rambler told the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during a hearing in 2013.

“The Oak Flat area is a place filled with power – a place where Apaches today go for prayer, to conduct ceremonies such as Holy Ground and the Sunrise Dance that celebrates a young woman’s coming of age, to gather medicines and ceremonial items, and to seek and obtain peace and personal cleansing”, Rambler told the senators. “The Oak Flat area and everything in it belongs to powerful Diyin, or Holy Beings, and is the home of a particular kind of Gaan, which are mighty Mountain Spirits and Holy Beings on whom we Apaches depend for our well-being”.

Naelyn Pike, Wendsler Nosie’s granddaughter, participates in a protest in support of Oak Flat in Times Square, New York

Nosie himself has made comparisons to the Christian religion and argued that the sacredness of either shrines is no different.

“They are all in their place in a unique and irreplaceable region. The traditional cultural and religious values of these places for the Apache People, and the collective integrity of the entire area as a whole, will be destroyed by the surface subsidence and other aspects of the mining proposed by Resolution Copper”, Nosie said in testimony in 2007.

Nosie has argued that even if Apache Leap was protected from subsidence by the proposed conservation easement, the site would eventually be surrounded by 2,300 acres of land “that will be irretrievably damaged and defiled by the proposed mining project”.

“This would be akin to leaving the sanctuary of a church intact, but allowing for the desecration and destruction of the rest of the church, which destroys, in itself, the purpose of the church as community gathering place and place of worship”, Nosie argued.

There are tribal members who have vowed to give their lives to ensure that Resolution Copper does not gain control of sacred land.

“The Apache People cannot, under any circumstances, support this result, especially where the devastating impacts from the mining activities to be conducted on, around, and deep underneath this sacred place will be felt forever once the mining is finished, leaving our future generations to suffer the legacy of damage left behind”, Nosie said.

The tribal elder’s daughter, Vanessa Nosie, an activist in her own right, stated that she has opposed the Resolution Copper proposal “from day one” but is not surprised where the situation is headed.

She also stressed the fact that the struggle against Resolution Copper was more than a tribal issue.

“This is not just an Apache or Indian fight, it’s a fight to save all creation”, Vanessa Nosie said.

The federal government’s tactics against tribal peoples including the Apache have not changed over the centuries, she observed.

“They [US government] have tried complete genocide. They imprisoned us, put us in concentration camps. From our past history to the present, nothing’s changed. The system is still the same – they always go back to divide and conquer, Manifest Destiny”, Ms Nosie said. “They still want to divide and conquer, still want to kill the Indian but save the man”.

The Apache tribe is still dealing with trauma and depression, Vanessa added, but she still sees the beauty and resilience of the people.

Ms Nosie said that although she hopes lawmakers will step in and prevent the Resolution Copper plan from going forward, the tribe will ultimately succeed because they are blessed by spiritual gifts.

“We hope Congress will stop this, but, they [Resolution Copper] can be stopped because we’re a spiritual movement. We will take this and push back against the evil of [US] Congress. We have spirituality and live with the blessed gift of the Creator. The Creator plays a huge part in this fight”, Vanessa Nosie concluded.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

‘By Any Means Necessary’ Gets a New Host

Barrington M. Salmon, Special to The Informer January 7, 2020

Jacqueline “Jacquie” Luqman likes to joke that she “accidentally fell into activism,” but in the days since she was in high school protesting South Africa’s white minority government and its odious apartheid policies, activism has become an essential part of her life.

The longtime social and racial justice advocate said her interest in government process and policy began in high school in the 1980s while she was in the Close-Up program. While working as a receptionist for a D.C. lobbying firm after graduation, she said, her exposure to the real inner-workings of influencing legislation for special interest groups further piqued her interest in politics.

“I was a receptionist at the Wexler Group. I met a lot of people and politicians and saw the influence and money involved,” she said. “I met [former Secretary of Commerce and head of the Democratic National Committee] Ron Brown. We talked while he sat waiting to meet with Anne Wexler. I learned a great deal.”

Luqman said what she learned about politics and lobbying convinced her that those paths were not her calling. Although she didn’t have college degrees, she always loved to read and write and was always able to get good jobs. In her personal time, she said her interest turned from pursuing work in politics to grassroots political and community activism. She immersed herself in protests in support of ACT UP, AIDS research, and gay rights; with Trans-Africa in the effort to end Apartheid in South Africa; for peace for Central America & Southern Africa; against the Gulf War; for Immigrants’ Rights; for D.C. Statehood; against the Iraq War and all global U.S. military intervention since.

“Right out of high school, I met a handsome musician in a punk rock band,” she recalled with a chuckle. “I spent a revolutionary winter in front of the White House. I grew up knowing about the Black Panthers and got involved on the ground.”

For more than 15 years, Luqman has also been involved in community and local activities, supporting community cleanups, neighborhood watches, clothing, food and school supply distributions, community policing/liaison, and local government community advocacy for more.

On Dec. 1, she began a new job — co-host of “By Any Means Necessary” on Sputnik Radio — that allows her to bring her potpourri of activism and lived experiences to the table. She replaces Eugene Puryear, who hosted the radio program with co-host Sean Blackmon. The popular program connects political, social and economic movements shaping the world with a sensibility informed by movements from Black Power to #BlackLivesMatter and a dash of Occupy. The show elevates the people and narratives, which while often ignored, are driving some of the most important changes in the world.

Luqman credits her husband, Abdusshahid, for where she is.

“I was a business analyst and he encouraged me to do this. I wouldn’t be here without him,” she said.

Luqman’s work, her positions, the organizations and agencies she supports and the choices she makes, speak to a deep passion for racial justice, which is fueled by her own family’s experiences, as well as her love for the history of Black people in the context of social struggle in America. She said she’s committed and curious to learn and help others study and learn the history of the struggle for racial justice in America, and she’s grateful to be able to give voice to Black political and social thought in the expanding Progressive political space.

Going forward, African Americans, progressives and social and racial justice advocates have a daunting challenge, said Luqman, who with her husband currently hosts two shows on Facebook and YouTube: “Coffee, Current Events & Politics,” which focuses on politics and current events from a Black perspective; and “Brick by Brick” in Luqman Nation, which concentrates on the history that led to many of the issues we face today.

“We are on the precipice of a future-defining moment for this country,” she said. “This country has never had a soul. We’re fighting for what’s gonna be left. Change is coming. I think they’ll be pretty drastic change in the social fabric.”

America, Luqman said, continues to enrich itself from the benefits of white supremacy. Both political parties espoused the status quo. The Republican Party is a racist, white supremacist party and Democrats are collaborators.

“In essence, we have two clearly imperialist, capitalist parties. We’re in a perpetual state of oppression and revolution,” she said. “Collective wealth is siphoned off and given to the wealthy and super-wealthy. There is a shortage of public and affordable housing and public education is privatized and Black people are sold the charter school bullshit.”

“We need to do what I’m seeing politically aware Black people do: building community organizations, working on the sustainability of communities, and increasing grassroots efforts to cultivate state and local access and power at these levels.”

Activist-ministers like the Rev. Dr. William J Barber II and the Revs. Willie Wilson and Graylan Hagler have spoken at length about the renewed efforts in this generation by European Americans to blunt any progress made by African Americans, women and progressives in this country. America, they declare is in the midst of a Third Reconstruction, and Donald J. Trump is not the illness but a symptom of America’s moral rot and its unwillingness to confront and acknowledge its culpability in centuries of racism, discrimination, land theft and murder of Africans in America.

The white backlash is rooted in reaction to Barack Obama’s presidency and more so to the “browning of America,” which will see them become a minority between 2030 and 2050.

“We’re witnessing a fundamental changing of our demographics around the world, said Barber, former president of the North Carolina NAACP and president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach in 2018. “We see extremist policies in America today and it’s driven by the growing blackening and browning of America and a fusion of every creed, color and class.”

“Those who embrace Make America Great Again slogan are willing to work hard and cheat to undermine what is evolving in America. This is white hegemony and white nationalism strengthened by enormous wealth.”

In the face of this retrenchment, social and racial justice warriors have to fight hard and smart.

“The GOP has been plotting a way to win the White House and take over the government with the religious right,” Luqman said. “The Tea Party came at the right time and showed what grassroots activism looks like. We tend to dismiss how smart racists are. You don’t sustain this system by being stupid and they’ve been playing the long game.”

The 2016 presidential elections showed how whites and white liberals really feel. Despite Sanders’ tone-deafness on racial issues, if he wins the Democratic nomination, Trump loses.

“He’s been wishy-washy on Palestine and Reparations but if you give him a platform, a big enough platform, Trump supporters will be convinced,” she said. “Sanders has given them something they can grasp. Trump can’t beat that, because people want better in their lives.”

In 2020 and beyond, Luqman made clear, activists need to network more, take information and advance a social and political agenda that will influence the U.S. and fight back relentlessly against those forces seeking to take the U.S. backward.

Ally or Adversary? Democrats, Black folks and the latest presidential debate

Article was originally published in The Final Call BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER- | LAST UPDATED: DEC 2, 2019 – 12:21:49 PM

Black women have proven over time to be the most dependable and consistent bloc of voters for the Democratic party, powering candidates to victories in Alabama, Virginia, New Jersey and other states and cities in 2017, the 2018 midterms and 2019.

Democratic presidential candidates from left: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; former technology executive Andrew Yang and investor Tom Steyer participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate, Nov. 20, in Atlanta.

Yet, that loyalty has not often been reciprocated, as Black women have been ignored by the Democratic establishment; been sidelined; have had to fight for their voice to be heard; demanded a place at the table; and pushed and prodded reluctant party brass to focus on their myriad issues, needs and concerns.

The Nov. 20 Democratic debate in Atlanta, Georgia, illustrated for a number of Black women interviewed by The Final Call, the tensions and unease that have frayed the alliance.

“Senators (Kamala) Harris and (Cory) Booker elevated issues of concern to Black people,” said Dr. Melanie Campbell, who spoke to a reporter while waiting at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a flight home after watching the debate. “Cory and Kamala carried it the strongest. This is the challenge. The candidates haven’t spoken much about race, racism, voting and not a lot about criminal justice or policing reforms to any degree.” Dr. Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network, said what she feels is missing is a debate with members of the Black press as moderators.

“The debate forum should focus on criminal justice and social reform issues, voting rights, domestic issues, economic justice, the attacks on Black people and things affecting people in their everyday life,” she explained.

But that hasn’t happened, said activist and organizer Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, because Democrats treat Blacks as pawns and fodder. “There are no real policies and practices showing that Democrats want to deal seriously with African Americans. They blame Black people when they lose and they will not talk about material conditions that people are dealing with,” said Ms. Sankara-Jabar, a resident of Silver Spring, Md., and co-founder of Racial Justice Now! “Every day working class people are hurting. We are not well. The Democratic Party has not done enough to remedy this or the courts dismantling Civil Rights and Affirmative Action,” she argued.

“The Executive Branch has failed us, the Legislative Branch has failed us and we’re about to get our ass kicked by the courts which Trump has been packing. That’s why we have to build our own party.” For Black people, voting and voting for the Democrats is harm reduction, said Ms. Sankara-Jabar.

“It’s a strategy, but it will never get us where we need to be,” she said. “People are suffering, dying, not having their basic needs met. It’s worse now than in the ‘90s economy. When White folks catch a cold, we catch pneumonia. We need to stop bleeding then deal with the underlying trauma.”

Kristal L. High Taylor, a Millennial activist, lawyer, policy advocate and entrepreneur, said there is a tension between Black people and the Democratic Party, an interesting dichotomy, she said, where party officials have never addressed “a full and complete reckoning of the issues.”

“More broadly I would say that the system works if the goal is to keep in power the vested interests who have always controlled the country—wealthy White men,” the Raleigh, North Carolina resident said. “The party mechanism has to change, and a new definition of the party process has to be made clear.”

That means replacing the current system of “retail politics” with one that accommodates people who are diverse, committed, have fresh ideas and a solid work ethic, she said. It is also critically important to reform the campaign finance structure so that people other than the very wealthy or those tied to wealthy donors have a chance to run for office and win.

“Given the demographic shifts and the people who vote for them, you’d think Democrats would focus on this but that’s the ‘challenge,’” Mrs. Taylor said. “There’s a tension between engagement and where you’re seeking strategic counsel. How are Democratic leaders leveraging this bloc?”

They’re not, Ms. Taylor said, because the Democratic establishment continues to cling to the misguided belief that attracting the White working class and Reagan Democrats back to the party is a winning strategy.

“People of color show up but instead of acknowledging this group, Democrats have moved in the opposite direction,” said Ms. Taylor. “In some ways it’s weird but it’s predicated on fear. The idea exists that the only way White people can survive and thrive is by oppressing others. Some level of that has always been engrained in America.”

Tamieka Atkins told The Final Call she didn’t watch the debate because she customarily catches up a day or two later. But she said she’s read all the think pieces and analysis in the debate’s aftermath.

“It’s more an exercise in futility and posturing,” she said of the debates. “There’s some good talk but not good plans. Healthcare is very important to African Americans and a big part of their quality of life but no one’s talking about it in a way to help those listening. Folks are looking for easy comparisons but they’re not getting it.”

The Atlanta resident said she’s completely non-partisan but added, “the Democratic Party doesn’t take us seriously.” Ms. Atkins is executive director of ProGeorgia, Georgia’s state-based non-partisan voter engagement advocacy organization. She was the founding director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Atlanta Chapter.

She is one of a cadre of organizations and individuals in the South who well before 2017 ratcheted up the ground game—crisscrossing the state, knocking on doors in neighborhoods and communities where some Democratic politicians and operatives never thought to go, talking to residents, listening and encouraging them to register and then making sure they made it to the polls.

“We registered 24,000 people in 2019 and 8,000 in 2017,” said Ms. Atkins, a member of the State Voices National Network of Tables. “When I knock on doors as a part of these grassroots programs, people aren’t demoralized. People are definitely engaged. They have a deeper curiosity and make the decision to stay involved. Folks are asking a lot more questions about voting machines, polling stations and other things.”

Ms. Atkins is working on voter mobilization and organizing in Georgia, which is widely acknowledged as the epicenter of voter suppression and voter manipulation by the Republican Party, aided and abetted by Gov. Brian Kemp. As Secretary of State, Mr. Kemp orchestrated voter purges and blatantly used other forms of voter manipulation and intimidation. For example, his office struck more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls between 2012 and 2016.

He was able to do that because Republican legislators, since 2013, doubled down on the opportunity to roll back voting rights for Blacks after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. This removed Department of Justice oversight of Georgia and its 159 counties and eliminated the need for preclearance from the federal government of any changes to the voting apparatus and/ or procedures. Mr. Kemp and state election officials cut back early voting, closed 214 polling stations— the majority in Black districts—and blocked 53,000 voters from casting a ballot in 2018 because of the “exact match” program.

Ms. Atkins said she and members of the Domestic Workers Alliance have been on the frontlines of the fight to secure affordable health care for Georgia residents who qualify. She said Georgians have two options, private healthcare insurance and Medicaid waivers that are offered to one-third of the residents who quality. Georgia is one of 14 states where state officials refuse to expand Medicaid.

“They took the power to expand Medicaid from the governor and gave it to the Legislature and now two-thirds of the legislature would have to vote for expansion for it to be implemented,” she said. “Who gives away power? We were pissed because we (the Domestic Workers Alliance) had been working on this for three years.”

Dr. Monique Gamble said she appreciated Sens. Harris and Booker picking up the slack and articulating the issues of concerns that resonate with Black people. She singled out Julian Castro for also centering his campaign on race and racial issues, saying what few of his colleagues have uttered or articulated.

Mr. Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary in the Obama administration and former mayor of San Antonio, Texas did not qualify for the recent debate. “The Democratic Party is supposed to be the big tent but there are unique challenges,” said Dr. Gamble, visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of the District of Columbia. “We need challenges, but this is a blessing and a curse. Being a big tent is a good thing but if you have tough issues you’re wrestling with, that makes it more difficult,” she said.

“There’s nobility in embracing a diverse group of people and it is respectable, but it also could inspire cowardice. Diverse groups have diverse issues and it takes courage to face and deal with them.”

Students registering to vote, Sept. 25, 2018. Observers say Black voter registration is key to the 2020 Presidential election.

Dr. Gamble also faulted the Democratic Party for reaching backwards for Reagan Democrats and wished aloud that more Democrats would take former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ political tack and adjust to the current political climate where Republicans are doing whatever they need to stay in power, while Democrats call for politeness, civility and unity.

“Hundreds of thousands of people who could use the attention are ignored,” said the Alabama native. “They have a preoccupation with the White working class which is illustrative of where the Democrats’ policies and interests are and what they’re focused on. Black and Brown people are most consistent— no one wants part-time love.”

Dr. Gamble said the centrist-progressive split is real and used her father as an example. He’s a centrist who voted for Reagan and George Bush. He’s a military veteran who is uncomfortable with the progressive agenda.

“I’m not where he is but I’m not as far left as Sen. Elizabeth Warren,” she said. “My healthcare position is Medicare for All while centrists prefer Obamacare. The overhaul of American institutions is scary for some people. For older Millennials and Gen Xers, life is harder. The problems we are inheriting are deep and big. Incremental bites is not enough.”

The interviewees agreed that Mr. Trump has ushered in an era of open racial hostility and aggression, has emboldened White nationalists and other hardline White people, embarked on dismantling the administrative state as he promised during his campaign and has opened a Pandora’s box of racial animus, hatred and White privilege that will continue to haunt this country long after he’s done.

Dr. Campbell said the Democratic Party must focus on diversity and inclusion, invest in the organizations and leadership and continue to hire Black staffers who are self-assured in their Blackness and their expertise. Ms. Taylor and Ms. Atkins spoke of the need to learn the lessons from the past and put a laser focus on local and municipal elections.

Ms. Atkins said she and her colleagues are paying close attention to voting, the 2020 census, the legalization of marijuana and the reduction in the incarceration rate.

“We’ve learned how quickly things can change after eight years,” Ms. Atkins said. “We’re living it. It should be a lesson to us. There are structures that allow White supremacy to flourish at the federal level. We have to challenge local positions of leadership where White men are over-represented.

“White political operatives came to us, but they have their own agenda. We’re just doing our own thing. We started the Women of Color Initiative and have been touring and having listening sessions. At the end of the day, we’ll develop our own agenda, develop our shared collective vision,” she said.

Dr. Gamble said she has concerns about the threat of the toxic racial environment on Black people. She doesn’t believe that Joe Biden is the answer and is fearful about the upcoming election because she’s not fully convinced someone won’t manipulate the electoral system again.

“Nothing has stopped since 2016,” she said. “We could have a viable candidate and someone could throw a bomb like (former FBI Director) James Comey did just before the 2016 election.” Mrs. Sankara- Jabar said she supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 and supports him now even though some parts of his platform and agenda does not completely align with hers. She fears that the Democratic Party might do in 2020 what it did 2016 and sabotage Sen. Sanders so he doesn’t get the party nomination.

“It’s complete bulls*** to say he’s too far left. This is really about neoliberalism,” she said. “People don’t want a … neoliberal. If Democrats chose this, they will continue to lose.”

Meanwhile, she said Africans in America need to build their own party.

“We need to strategically work together. I believe in theory and practice that we have to build Black independence and self-determination but still interact with our allies,” she said. “We don’t have a choice. I’m a supporter of reparations because we’ve never been made whole. We have to have a ‘two-ends’ strategy of building in the midst of White extremist terror as African Americans did during Reconstruction.

“Ultimately, my politics is about liberation. And we can learn from the past because we have the blueprint from which to learn.”

Money, Power, Respect and Major High Court Case

Article was originally published in The Final Call BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON -CONTRIBUTING WRITER- | LAST UPDATED: NOV 6, 2019 – 10:18:39 AM

A $20 billion lawsuit is headed to the Supreme Court and a loss could mean erosion or loss of major civil rights tool

A $20 billion lawsuit is headed to the Supreme Court and a loss could mean erosion or loss of major civil rights tool

Byron-Allen_11-12-2019b.jpgMedia mogul Byron Allen poses for a picture, Sept. 5, in Los Angeles. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 13 in a $20 billion lawsuit Allen filed against Comcast, with the outcome also affecting a $10 billion case he filed against Charter Communications. If Allen wins, it will become easier for Black-owned businesses to bring and win civil rights lawsuits like his that allege discrimination in contracting.

WASHINGTON—Entertainment mogul Byron Allen said the genesis of a $20 billion lawsuit he filed against Comcast Corp. came from a conversation and a question posed to him by Obama administration officials.

Disgusted with the racism—veiled and otherwise—and tired of the institutional barriers put in place to economically stifle Blacks in the business sphere, he said he decided to file a lawsuit against cable giant Comcast and Charter Communications.comcast_supreme-court_11-12-2019.jpg

Mr. Allen has offered scathing criticism of Comcast’s position and tactics. Their behavior has been racist and deeply disrespectful despite his being able to amass eight cable networks, 43 syndicated TV series, The Weather Channel, a movie studio and a movie distribution company, according to Mr. Allen.

That was in 2015. After a bruising four-year battle in the lower courts in which the Ninth Circuit court ruled twice in his favor, on Nov. 13 the case is slated to be heard in front of the justices in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Obama administration came to me and said some media companies wanted to get bigger, buy bigger assets,” Mr. Allen recently told the crew at The Breakfast Club, a hip hop-oriented radio and internet broadcast. “(They) said Comcast wanted to buy this and Charter wanted to buy that blah, blah, blah. They asked if they were good corporate citizens. I asked if they wanted the Hollywood answer or the real answer. They said they wanted the real answer so I told them, ‘Not no, but hell no,’ they’re not good citizens.”

“They said how do you figure? The industry spends $70 billion in licensing cable networks. Seventy billion dollars and African American-owned media get zero. And that’s not fair. They said we hear that a lot. They asked what I’m willing to do. They said people were afraid to speak up because of repercussions and I said I’ll speak up and do it in a way that it wouldn’t be a problem again. So I filed a lawsuit.”

Mr. Allen, who owns media assets he says total $1 billion, filed a federal lawsuit against Comcast and filed a $10 million lawsuit against Charter. The suit, filed in California, contends that Comcast racially discriminated against him when it refused to carry his cable-TV channels on its systems. He is also challenging the fact that Comcast spends $25 billion a year on licensing channels but less than $3 million of that pot is spent on “100 percent African American-owned media.”

While Mr. Allen hopes to win his case, there is growing speculation that a win could change the way discrimination is handled.

The lawsuit is causing increasing concern among civil rights organizations who worry that if Comcast wins, the Trump administration may take the opportunity to weaken or gut a key provision of discrimination protections in labor and contracts for Blacks, while erasing a 153-year-old post-Civil War civil rights bill that ensured “that all people in the United States—(specifically Blacks)—h(ad) the same rights to make and enforce contracts enjoyed by white citizens.”

Kelly Charles-Collins, a Tampa-based lawyer, said the case has enormous implications.

“With the way that our courts are set up, they’re not the biggest supporters of civil rights, although there are laws intended to protect,” said Atty. Charles-Collins, an American employment law attorney, award-winning TEDx speaker and CEO of HR Legally Speaking, a human resources consulting firm. “The NAACP now understands the importance of this case. It’s not just about his getting his stations on Comcast.”

“This is a really huge issue that people don’t see the nuance in. The bigger issue is being able to contract. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King talked about economic inclusion. This is what this case is about: the ability for us to be included in the economic success of this country.”

Mrs. Charles-Collins said what’s at issue is that Mr. Allen is arguing that race was a factor and insists he can prove it. “With ‘but for,’ the difference is whether race is a factor versus whether it was the factor … but how do you prove that? Very rarely do you have direct evidence of racism. Someone can argue that their decisions are or were race-neutral and under current law is very nearly impossible to prove.

“And now the Department of Justice is involved and looking for ways to erode sections of the Section 1981,” she explained.

The Trump administration through the Justice Dept. signed on as a friend of the court, siding with Comcast. Critics say the feds apparently plan to focus on Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights law in an effort to erode the law. The Trump administration position is in keeping with the government’s hostility to Black people, employee protections and its business-friendly pronouncements and policies, say critics.

Cori Harvey, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the case could be consequential.

“This could represent a significant lowering of the barrier to justice,” she explained.

“It’s a fundamental question of who has access to legal recourse. The defendant has information needed such as if anything happened in emails, correspondence, etc. The plaintiff is in the dark. There’s power in darkness in shielding the defendant.”

Mr. Allen will “be able to get access to emails … this forces them to deliver into the public sphere information previously hidden,” said the attorney.

“The Ninth Circuit gave Mr. Allen a shot. It forces Comcast to open secret chambers. That doesn’t happen too often. This leaves Comcast exposed and vulnerable.”

Mr. Allen’s lawyer, Louis R. “Skip” Miller, managing partner of Los Angeles law firm Miller Barondess LLP, said he hadn’t expected the case to reach to the Supreme Court.

“We won in the 9th Circuit District Court and I thought it was the end of it because the U.S. Supreme Court takes just a few cases,” said Mr. Miller, one of Los Angeles’ top litigators. “So I wasn’t really expecting this case to be considered but this case is really important.”

Mr. Miller, who has been practicing law for 45 years, said that right after the Civil War, Section 1981 prohibited racial discrimination in contracts to allow freed slaves to move towards economic self-sufficiency.

“It was upheld over the years and construed broadly,” he said. “In our case we say race has to be a motivating factor not one factor. They could say they don’t have the bandwidth and not wanting to add channels. Non-racial, racial, it doesn’t make sense. Racial discrimination is bad. It’s pretty clear that you can’t discriminate.”

When asked, he said he wouldn’t be arguing the case before the Supreme Court. The person Mr. Allen has hired for that task, he said, is Erwin Chemerinsky, who became the 13th dean of Berkeley School of Law in 2017.

“He’s an expert trial lawyer,” said Mr. Miller of Mr. Chemerinsky, who is the founding dean of the University of California Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Law and served from 2008 to 2017. He has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Allen has offered scathing criticism of Comcast’s position and tactics. Their behavior has been racist and deeply disrespectful despite his being able to amass eight cable networks, 43 syndicated TV series, The Weather Channel, a movie studio and a movie distribution company, according to Mr. Allen.

He has also inked deals with Dish Network, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T/U-Verse.

He accused Comcast of repeatedly lowballing him in negotiations and disrespecting him because of his race. Examples? He said an employee told him a Comcast executive said they didn’t intend to create another Bob Johnson, referring to the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television. Another allegedly told his governmental affairs person that Comcast doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.

“They treat us like we’re like a bunch of monkeys looking for a banana. They told me drop the case and we might meet with you, might work for you. That’s racist,” he said on The Breakfast Club. “First of all, we won twice and I didn’t bring it to the Supreme Court. They should do it the same way as they do with all White people … I asked them to sit with me and they said no.”

“Have respect sit down with me, work it out and it goes away. Don’t jeopardize 100 million minorities for this,” he said.color-of-change.jpgA host of civil rights organizations agree with the case’s importance. The NAACP, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the National Action Network are among those who have filed briefs in support of Mr. Allen’s lawsuit. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a separate brief that included 10 other organizations, including the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Women’s Law Center. Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Ron Widen signed friendly briefs but only eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus did the same.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said on Twitter, “Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 is literally one of the nation’s oldest civil rights statutes. We are proud to stand with @NAACP @NAACP _ LDF & @civilrightsorg in calling on the #SCOTUS to reject Comcast’s attempt to cut the heart of this historic law. @LawyersComm.”

The Lawyers’ Committee brief represents 22 organizations, including the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the National Organization for Women Foundation.

She described the case elsewhere as “the most important civil rights case to be heard by the Supreme Court in term. A negative ruling stands to all but shut the courthouse door on a vast number of victims of discrimination all across the country.”

The NAACP, Color of Change and other civil rights groups have called for a boycott of Comcast because the media giant seeks to change a seminal civil rights law.

In a fundraising letter, Color of Change said, “Comcast and its executives are seeking to roll back landmark civil rights protections for Black people, while also seeking to profit from our pain and the history of struggle … we cannot allow a corporation to set a dangerous precedent with our rights, while also profiting from the painful past that led to the passing of the very civil rights act it is challenging.”

Comcast officials have dismissed Mr. Allen’s claims set forth in his lawsuit.

Comcast said race had nothing to do with rejecting Mr. Allen’s channels, noting that they had low ratings. In response to an earlier NAACP statement, Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice said in an email to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter: “This case arises from a frivolous discrimination claim that cannot detract from Comcast’s strong civil rights and diversity record or our outstanding record of supporting and fostering diverse programming from African American-owned channels.”

“We have been forced to appeal this decision to defend against a meritless $20 billion claim, but have kept our argument narrowly focused. We are not seeking to roll back the civil rights laws—all we are asking is that the court apply Section 1981 in our case the same way it has been interpreted for decades across the country.”

“Given the makeup of the Supreme Court and what the DOJ (Justice Dept.) presents, there may be an opportunity to set forth certain standards in the law,” said Los Angeles attorney Dawn Collins, co-founder of CollinsKim LLP and a specialist in employment law.

“But it may be a opportunity to establish higher standards and burden of proof. The standard from 1866 could change and make it harder to get a trial. That’s the scary part,” she said. “This could have a lasting impact on legal standard and making it more difficult for the plaintiff, making it a lot harder to open the door, get through the door.”

Mr. Allen said he didn’t ask for his case to be considered by the Supreme Court, but asserts he will not withdraw his lawsuit and remains confident that he will prevail.

“Unfortunately, Comcast has chosen to use the U.S. Supreme Court to maximize its own profits. If Comcast thinks that we are wrong, it should go to trial and make its case. It should not challenge and put at risk all minorities’ ability to prove discrimination under the Civil Rights Act that has been in place for 153 years,” Allen said in a guest column in Deadline in August this year. “Meanwhile, I hope that people of conscience will let the U.S. Supreme Court, Donald Trump’s DOJ, and Comcast know, enough is enough.”

“Four hundred years after the start of slavery in America, every day, America kills African Americans in the classroom by making sure we don’t get a proper education; in the boardroom by making sure we don’t have true economic inclusion; and in the courtroom with Jim Crow laws and massive incarceration, long before you watch us bleed to death in the streets. I hope that America takes this historic opportunity to make sure that we have equal rights for all and don’t allow Comcast—headed by CEO Brian Roberts—to manipulate civil rights laws in partnership with the Donald Trump administration, which will hurt millions of Americans, for Comcast’s own financial gain.”