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Jet Lag and a Crash Course on Kampala

THE AFRO — Uganda’s proximity to its large neighbor to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is probably the root of its cozy commerce relationship with Belgium. The history of the Congo is tightly bound to the brutal colonization by Belgium over the country once known as the Congo Free State (later the Belgian Congo). The title, “Congo Free State” is indicative of the genocidal rule of the diabolical King Leopold II of Belgium, who essentially claimed the Congo as his own personal property (it was the world’s only private colony). In 1870, during Europe’s so-called “Scramble for Africa,” more than 80 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa was under the rule of chiefs or kings. Forty years later, by the early 1900’s virtually all of Africa south of the Sahara had been subdued by Europe. Leopold’s conquest of the Congo was the most murderous. 

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Thousands of enterprising young Ugandan men make up the “Boda Boda Brigades,” that transport people for money, dominate the crowded roadways of Kampala. (Photo credit: Sean Yoes)

By Sean Yoes

Traveling for the first time to the first continent was physically brutal. Operating on virtually no sleep, I felt almost every one of the nearly 9,000 miles from West Baltimore to East Africa.

Fatigue fell upon me like a brick house, particularly, during the final long stretch of the journey, from Brussels, Belgium to Entebbe, Uganda.

As I flew from Chicago to Brussels, I wondered why this was the European layover city (via United Airlines) into East Africa. Once I arrived in Brussels, I realized it was a well established air route from this tiny European country into Uganda. But, why? What was the relationship?

Then it hit me, probably during the midnight run from Entebbe to Kampala.

Uganda’s proximity to its large neighbor to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is probably the root of its cozy commerce relationship with Belgium. The history of the Congo is tightly bound to the brutal colonization by Belgium over the country once known as the Congo Free State (later the Belgian Congo). The title, “Congo Free State” is indicative of the genocidal rule of the diabolical King Leopold II of Belgium, who essentially claimed the Congo as his own personal property (it was the world’s only private colony). In 1870, during Europe’s so-called “Scramble for Africa,” more than 80 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa was under the rule of chiefs or kings. Forty years later, by the early 1900’s virtually all of Africa south of the Sahara had been subdued by Europe. Leopold’s conquest of the Congo was the most murderous.

Under his greed fueled reign in pursuit of lucrative ivory and then the rubber plant, the Congo’s indigenous population was cut in half, approximately from 20 million to 10 million from 1880 to 1920. Leopold was responsible for the death of millions of Black Africans and the maiming and forced relocation of millions more.

Context and history are foundational in the story of Africa; there was no African nation uninterrupted by European colonization. Uganda is no different, yet it endures and compared to most countries on the Continent, thrives.

“Economic growth in East Africa is soaring ahead of other regions on the continent at close to seven percent while the overall outlook for the rest of Africa is cautious, but positive. Job creation and ramping up manufacturing will continue to be, major priority for creating growth and employment across the continent,” according to a report published by the African Development Bank in April.

On the streets of Kampala the people yearn to be fully participant in the economic growth of East Africa.

The Boda Boda Brigades is what I call the legions of young men transporting passengers for money on zippy motorbikes (Boda Boda) that dominate Kampala roads. These young entrepreneurs carry one, two, sometimes three passengers on their bikes at a time.

Now, if dirt bikes were legal on the streets of Baltimore, I bet you we would have the Baltimore Boda Boda Brigades. The spirit of many of the young brothers in Uganda reminds me a lot of many of the young men I encounter on the streets of my home. Honestly, I’m not sure if the Boda Boda brothers are any more reckless than the burgeoning crowd of young hustlers, gentrifiers and hipsters whipping around Baltimore on rented scooters.

Like Baltimore, Kampala certainly has a large swath of her population grappling with poverty. As I have been driven around the bustling city for the first days of my odyssey, I’ve witnessed housing complexes that remind me of the projects back in Baltimore. Also like Baltimore, Kampala has a growing community of striving entrepreneurs; some are White American expatriates, but many are indigenous Black Ugandans. There is also a thriving music scene in Kampala, which is reminiscent of Baltimore’s legendary House and Club Music culture.

Like Baltimore, Kampala I’m told, is a complicated place; I’m just skimming the surface.

With all that I have seen already it is still hard for me to believe I am actually in this beautiful East African country; the air here may be the sweetest I’ve ever experienced.

And for the most part, the Ugandans I have met are just as sweet.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Fighting an Unjust System, The Bail Project Helps People Get Out of Jail and Reunites Families

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

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Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.
Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily — many find it challenging to pay bail

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — advocates remain adamant that it’s more important than ever that the facts are straight, and everyone understands the bigger picture.

“The U.S. doesn’t have one ‘criminal justice system;’ instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems,” Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner found in a study released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the study authors said in a press release.

With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily, many find it challenging to pay bail.

Recognizing America’s ongoing mass incarceration problem and the difficulties families have in bailing out their loved ones, a new organization began in 2018 to offer some relief.

The Bail Project, a nationwide charitable fund for pretrial defendants, started with a vision of combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

“We have a mission of doing exactly what we hope our criminal system would do: protect the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that we know can criminalize poverty,” Johnson stated.

“Our mission is to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system,” she insisted.

Johnson said The Bronx Freedom Fund, at the time a new revolving bail fund that launched in New York, planted the seed for The Bail Project more than a decade ago.

“Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we can build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution,” Johnson stated.

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Johnson noted that officials created cash bail to incentivize people to return to court.

Instead, she said, judges routinely set cash bail well beyond most people’s ability to afford it, resulting in thousands of legally innocent people incarcerated while they await court dates.

According to The Bail Project, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by cash bail, and of all Black Americans in jail in the U.S., nearly half are from southern prisons.

“There is no way to do the work of advancing pretrial reform without addressing the harmful effects of cash bail in the South,” said Robin Steinberg, Founder, and CEO of The Bail Project.

“Cash bail fuels racial and economic disparities in our legal system, and we look forward to supporting the community in Greenville as we work to eliminate cash bail and put ourselves out of business.”

Since its launch, The Bail Project has stationed teams in more than 25 cities, posting bail for more than 18,000 people nationwide.

Johnson said the organization uses its national revolving bail fund, powered by individual donations, to pay bail.

The Bail Project has spent over $47 million on bail.

“When we post bail for a person, we post the full cash amount at court,” Johnson stated.

“Upon resolution of the case, the money returns to whoever posted. So, if I posted $5,000 to bail someone out, we then help the person get back to court and resolve the case,” she continued.

“The money then comes back to us, and we can use that money to help someone else. So, we recycle that.”

Johnson said eliminating cash bail and the need for bail funds remains the goal.

“It’s the just thing to do. It restores the presumption of innocence, and it restores families,” Johnson asserted.

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PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina

NNPA NEWSWIRE — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and other participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.
The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Administrator to honor legacy of environmental justice and civil rights at event in Warren County, site of protests that launched the movement 40 years ago

WASHINGTON (September 22, 2022) – On Saturday, September 24, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will travel to Warren County, North Carolina to deliver remarks on EPA’s environmental justice and civil rights priorities and the progress we’ve achieved since the first protest and march that launched the movement 40 years ago this week. Administrator Regan will make a significant announcement on President Biden’s commitment to elevate environmental justice and civil rights enforcement at EPA and across the federal government and ensure the work to support our most vulnerable communities continues for years to come.

Administrator Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.

Who:
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan
Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Leaders
Warren County residents and community leaders
Additional stakeholders

What: Remarks on EPA environmental justice and civil rights priorities and honoring the legacy of the environmental justice and civil rights movement
When: Saturday, September 24, 2022,
Doors Open: 11:30 AM ET
Program: 12:45 PM ET
;
Where: Warren County Courthouse
109 S Main Street
Warrenton, NC 27589
Livestream: A livestream of this event will be available at epa.gov/live.

The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane

Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …
The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …

The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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