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Spirit of King plaque rededicated, with tree planting

NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER — With storm clouds threatening as participants from the Kingsley Association, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and friends and family of past honorees assembled in the plaza above the East Busway in East Liberty to dedicate a new Spirit of King plaque, Kingsley Executive Director Malik Bankston assured the audience that all was well.

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By Christian Morrow

With storm clouds threatening as participants from the Kingsley Association, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and friends and family of past honorees assembled in the plaza above the East Busway in East Liberty to dedicate a new Spirit of King plaque, Kingsley Executive Director Malik Bankston assured the audience that all was well.

“Jimmy—I call him Jimmy because I’ve known him since long before he was a pastor—but Rev. James Harris has assured me that he has the weather on lock,” he said.

And he did—after Rev. Harris gave the invocation, the ceremony went off without a hitch, and without a drop of rain.

Bankston—whose Kingsley Center hosts the annual Spirit of King ceremony, honoring those who best personify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and who have impacted the region in the areas of civil rights, leadership, culture and education—explained that the award was spearheaded by then-Port Authority Equal Opportunity Manager Katie Everette-Johnson, who received the posthumous Spirit of King award in 2018. The former plaque, which was mounted at the bus stop at Penn and Shady avenues, was taken down when the Port Authority redeveloped the entire area into a plaza connected to the busway below.

The new, larger plaque, made of brushed bonze and brass, and set in stone amid the plaza’s greenery, contains the names of all the honorees from 1989 to 2019 and has room for twice that many more.

More than one of the speakers commented on the symbolism of placing the plaque above the busway—because its full name is the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.

“Where we’re standing is a bridge,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “It’s a bridge of opportunity because a busway connects people to education, to jobs and other opportunities—just like the honorees on that plaque were bridge-builders. I want to introduce another bridge-builder, Port Authority CEO Katherine Kelleman.”

Kelleman noted that the first event she attended after coming to Pittsburgh—before she’d even officially started, was the Spirit of King ceremony.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it—transportation is a civil right, it’s a human right,” she said. “From Selma to the Freedom Riders to that bus right over there, opportunities don’t matter if you can’t get to them. We want to make sure everyone can. That’s our mission.”

Spirit of King planning committee member and New Pittsburgh Courier Advertising Coordinator Ashley Johnson then gave some historical context prior to the unveiling of the new plaque, noting that three years before the annual ceremony began, a tree was planted, and a parklet was dedicated at the former East Liberty bus station to Wilhelmina Byrd Brown—the first Spirit of King honoree.

“Through the desire to continue this historical tribute…something much greater has been created. It is something that will withstand time; and serve as a constant remembrance, to all who visit or pass through, of the legacies that positively impacted and shaped the City of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities,” Johnson said. “This area will also function as a reminder that each one of us should be dedicated to fighting for equality for all, so that this city will truly be the most livable city for all, and not some.”

Following the plaque unveiling, a symbolic, newly-planted tree was dedicated at the site.

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This article originally appeared in the New Pittsburgh Courier

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#NNPA BlackPress

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Named National Co-Chair of No Labels

“As a veteran of the civil rights movement, during the last six decades, I’ve learned a few things about the importance of people working together across lines of race, ethnicity, language, geography, and the things that divide us. I want to work on things that unite us as Americans. I believe No Labels offers that opportunity but also that responsibility to move forward,” Dr. Chavis said.

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

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

No Labels, a nonprofit think tank that describes itself as a national movement of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to solve the country’s most complex problems, has named Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. as its national co-chair.

The formal announcement occurred during a Zoom news conference on January 22.

It included welcome messages from Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and former Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, among others.

Recording star Deborah Cox opened the introductory news conference by performing a spirited song about No Labels, who created the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus and an allied Senate group that led passage of some of the most important legislation of recent years, including the CHIPS Act, a gun safety bill, and a rewrite of the Electoral Count Act in 2022.

Voiceovers were woven in of former U.S. Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

The organization then played a tribute video that included Dr. Chavis’ family and his legendary career as a civil rights leader.

“I’m very pleased to join Sen. Lieberman and Gov. Hogan as co-chairs of No Labels,” Dr. Chavis exclaimed.

“As a veteran of the civil rights movement, during the last six decades, I’ve learned a few things about the importance of people working together across lines of race, ethnicity, language, geography, and the things that divide us. I want to work on things that unite us as Americans. I believe No Labels offers that opportunity but also that responsibility to move forward,” Dr. Chavis said.

Lieberman, a former U.S. Senator from Connecticut, who changed parties in 2006 and is now an Independent, said No Labels is fortunate to have Dr. Chavis on board.

“Based on his history as a civil rights leader and the kind of person he is, I’m thrilled. Dr. Chavis has always been a bridge-builder and will bring civility, which is sorely needed in our government and our country,” Lieberman asserted.

Hogan, who served two terms as Maryland governor, also congratulated Dr. Chavis.

“I’m thrilled to congratulate Dr. Chavis and welcome him to No Labels. I know Dr. Chavis will be a great addition to the leadership team of No Labels,” Hogan stated.

“He shares our commitment to bringing people together to achieve common sense solutions for all Americans. Having worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Chavis knows what it means to fight for freedom and respect for all Americans, and that’s exactly what No Labels stand for,” Hogan concluded.

Manchin, the conservative-leaning Democrat, said he got involved with No Labels more than 12 years ago because the organization works to unite America.

“We’re still working to unite this country,” Manchin declared.

“What we’ve done in the last two years in a bipartisan way because of No Labels has been [major].

“So, I’m thrilled to have the experience of Dr. Chavis and the wealth of knowledge he’s gained over the years that he’ll share with us to help make us a more perfect union.”

In welcoming Dr. Chavis, Senator Susan Collins, Maine’s longest-serving Senator, lent her voice.

“As a highly respected civil rights leader, his service alongside Sen. Lieberman and Gov. Hogan will help move our organization and nation forward,” Collins insisted.

“Dr. Chavis has dedicated his life to championing equality and encouraging our nation to live up to its ideals. He believes in American unity, democracy, and opportunity for all.”

Dr. Chavis said his life’s work had taught him that if everyone works together, divisions can be overcome.

“And when we overcome divisions, we make progress,” he insisted.

“I believe we need to restore bipartisanship in the American Congress. We need to restore bipartisanship at the state legislative level.

“We need to restore bipartisanship at the local and municipal level. Americans today are worn out with all the divisions and looking for a way forward. No Labels offer that way forward.”

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San Francisco Committee Recommends Massive Reparations Payout for Black Residents

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans. After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

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The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.
The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

‘Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration’

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

Each Black inhabitant of San Francisco, including those arrested during the racist war on drugs, should receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $5 million from the African American Reparations Advisory Committee.

Assuming the city council approves the proposal, it would be the largest payment of reparations in American history.

In a study released this week, members of the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee noted, “We have ultimately established that the repercussions of numerous programmatic and policy actions by San Francisco’s administration have been generational and overlapping.”

Committee members asserted that most prominent period that illustrates how the city and county of San Francisco as an institution contributed to the depletion of Black wealth and the forced relocation of its Black inhabitants was the period of urban renewal.

Further, the committee concluded that “public and private entities facilitated and coddled the conditions that created near-exclusive Black communities within the city, limited political participation and representation, disinvested from academic and cultural institutions, and intentionally displaced Black communities from San Francisco through targeted, sometimes violent actions”

(San Francisco’s African American population grew rapidly between 1940 and 1963).

To address what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “a national racial reckoning,” the Board of Supervisors established the AARAC committee in December 2020.

According to the Chronicle, what happens next “will demonstrate whether San Francisco lawmakers are serious about tackling the city’s checkered past or are merely pretending to be.”

The committee’s investigation determined that segregation, structural oppression, and racial prejudice developed from the institution of slavery had a tremendous impact on the development of the city, even though California was never formally a slave state.

Throughout the 20th century, the Chronicle reported, “San Francisco was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, prohibited Black people from residing in particular districts, kept them out of city employment, and bulldozed the Fillmore,” a historically Black neighborhood and commercial center.

AARAC chair Eric McDonnell told the newspaper, “Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration.”

A tale of two cities emerges when one examines San Francisco, as one observer put it.

This committee’s actions are consistent with those of other jurisdictions, where similar bodies have advocated for reparations for African Americans.

Residents must have self-identified as Black or African American on public documents for a minimum of ten years and be at least 18 years old when the committee’s plan is approved to receive the compensation.

Additionally, individuals may be required to show that they were born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996, have been residents of the city for at least 13 years, and are either a former inmate themselves or a direct descendant of a former inmate who served time during the war on drugs.

The Chronicle said that “to put that in context,” the state reparations task panel believes Black Californians may be awarded $569 billion for housing discrimination alone between 1933 and 1977.

Evanston, Illinois, voted to pay $400,000 to select African Americans as part of the city’s vow to spend $10 million over a decade on reparations payments shortly after the San Francisco committee was founded.

The government of St. Paul, Minnesota, has apologized for its role in institutional and structural racism and formed a committee to investigate reparations.

A report detailing the committee’s proposed financial compensation for African Americans was subsequently made public.

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans.

After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

Legislators in both Maryland and Virginia have expressed an interest in researching reparations.

Meanwhile, there has been no movement on a federal level on a bill by Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to establish a committee to investigate reparations.

The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

As an added measure, the city would establish a public bank framework and provide citizens with extensive financial education to ensure that those without bank accounts have access to equal opportunities, including increased access to credit, loans, financing, and other means of managing their money.

The committee also seeks to pay for a broad debt cancellation plan that wipes out all types of debt including student loans, personal loans, credit card debt, and payday loans.

“Given the history of financial institutions preying on underbanked communities — and especially given the vulnerability of subsets of this population such as seniors and youth — this body recommends putting legal parameters and structures in place to ensure access to funds and to mitigate speculative harm done by others,” the committee concluded.

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Black History

Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee Introduces Anti-White Supremacy Bill, then Schools Republican Boebert on Hate

The text of the bill reads as follows: “A person commits a white supremacy inspired hate crime when white supremacist ideology has motivated the planning, development, preparation, or perpetration of actions that constituted a crime or were undertaken in furtherance of activity that, if effectuated, would have constituted a crime.”

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)

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

That’s enough of racism and bigotry, says Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

The Democratic representative from Texas has introduced House Resolution 61, which would amend Title 18 of the United States Code to broaden the definition of hate crimes, with the goal of preventing and prosecuting hate crimes motivated by white supremacy and conspiracy to commit such crimes.

The text of the bill reads as follows: “A person commits a white supremacy inspired hate crime when white supremacist ideology has motivated the planning, development, preparation, or perpetration of actions that constituted a crime or were undertaken in furtherance of activity that, if effectuated, would have constituted a crime.”

With respect to any information or evidence obtained by the Department of Justice of any unlawful action specified in Jackson-Lee’s bill, the DOJ shall have the authority to conduct operations and activities pursuant to such crimes.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) would also be authorized to conduct investigations, intervene, and take any other measures it deems necessary and appropriate to prevent, mitigate, or stop any potentially violent action.

The Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program would keep track of white supremacist-inspired hate crimes and other related actions, and Justice Department officials would have the authority to prosecute those responsible for them.

Jackson Lee has requested that the DOJ report its findings annually to the relevant Congressional committees.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, claimed the legislation “makes a mockery of the First Amendment.”

While Boebert, a right-wing leader, misrepresented the legislation after reading a misleading news article, Jackson Lee schooled her on Twitter.

“First of all, it took me about 32 seconds of reading the article you cited to understand that none of you know what you are talking about,” Jackson Lee scolded.

To be convicted of a hate crime in some jurisdictions, “H.R. 61 simply deals with adding white supremacy to a list of reasons,” the Texas Democrat explained.

She elaborated:

“So, when the article states that ‘only white people can be charged with’ this crime, that’s flagrantly false.

“Your argument assumes that only white people can hold white supremacist views and that only certain groups of people can perpetrate violence motivated by white supremacy.

“I would hope now that your argument would not shift to ‘why is white supremacy being added to this law?’ That would be egregious.

“Yes, white supremacy should be added to this law. Why? Because as Director Wray testified, it’s a major domestic terrorist threat.”

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