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2024 Prince George’s County Spelling Bee

ABOUT THE EVENT

The 2024 Prince George’s County Spelling Bee is presented by The Washington Informer. Watch the top spellers in the county compete for a chance to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

National Spelling Bee

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is an annual spelling bee held in the United States. It is open to students in grades 1-8 who have won their local and regional spelling bees.

The bee is held in Washington, D.C., and the winner receives a trophy, a cash prize, and a trip to New York City.

History

The National Spelling Bee was first held in 1925. It was created by Frank Neuhauser, a journalist for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Neuhauser was inspired to create the bee after he saw a spelling bee at a local school.

The bee was originally called the National Spelling Contest. It was renamed the National Spelling Bee in 1941.

Format

The National Spelling Bee is a single-elimination tournament. The competition begins with a preliminary round, in which the spellers are given a list of words to spell. The spellers who spell all of the words correctly advance to the next round.

The final round of the bee is held on stage at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. The spellers are given a list of words to spell, and they are eliminated one by one until only one speller remains.

Winners

The winner of the National Spelling Bee receives the Scripps Cup, a trophy that is named after the Scripps family, which has sponsored the bee since 1925. The winner also receives a cash prize of $50,000 and a trip to New York City.

Some of the most famous winners of the National Spelling Bee include:

  • Frank Neuhauser (1925)
  • Jacques Bailly (1980)
  • Rebecca Sealfon (1997)
  • Nupur Lala (2015)
  • Zaila Avant-garde (2021)

Impact

The National Spelling Bee has had a significant impact on American culture. The bee has helped to promote literacy and spelling in the United States. It has also helped to create a sense of community among spellers and their families.

Harvard’s Black Scholars on The State of Black America

Editor’s Note: article by Harvard Magazine.

Harvard African American scholars take stock of a difficult moment.

by Lydialyle Gibson

During  A searching discussion Thursday evening at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) on the “State of Black America,” historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad opened with a trenchant warning: “We are facing uncharted waters.”

Surveying the rise of Trumpism and the past several years of proliferating book bans, rollbacks of voting rights, attacks on diversity, and laws curtailing our prohibiting the teaching of black history, he added, “It looks like we have the underpinnings of textbook fascism—not make-believe, not excessive rhetoric. If these things were happening in other countries, particularly in liberal democracies, or let alone in the Global South, the U.S. State Department would be issuing warnings about the status of those societies.”

Muhammad, the Ford Foundation professor of history, race, and public policy, was joined on stage by three HKS colleagues, including co-panelists Cornell Brooks, the Hauser professor of the practice of nonprofit organizations and professor of the practice of public leadership and social justice; and Sandra Susan Smith, the Guggenheim professor of criminal justice. The evening was moderated by Setti Warren, director of the Institute of Politics and adjunct lecturer in public policy.

The event came a little more than two months after U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx (R, North Carolina) targeted Muhammad and one of his courses by name on the House floor. During the now-infamous Congressional hearing into campus antisemitism where lawmakers interrogated former President Claudine Gay and two other college presidents, Foxx decried Muhammad’s class, “Race and Racism in the Making of the United States as a Global Power,” as a “prime example” of the “race-based ideology” that made Harvard “ground zero for antisemitism.”

Muhammad’s course, required for first-year MPP students, explores how race and racism have influenced American public policy and contributed to the nation’s rise to global dominance. Last fall, 207 students were enrolled. On Thursday evening, Muhammad sought to put Foxx’s accusation in the broader context of recent and longstanding political attacks on education, and he argued that those attacks endanger American democracy. “These people have no idea what happens in [my] class,” he said. “Zero evidence. So, I find it incredibly important for you, the audience and the listeners, to take seriously what that means, to take seriously that we have political leaders in this country who can pick out of thin air classes being taught anywhere in this country and accuse the people who teach those classes of being responsible for antisemitism.” The goal, he added, is to silence voters, activists, and educators. “Self-censorship and fear are the oxygen that allow this illiberal movement to win,” he said.

Muhammad also had criticism for Harvard. In response to an audience question from a College student about feeling uneasy as a black person on campus in the current political climate, Muhammad said he felt uneasy too: “I’m still waiting on this University to say something about protecting its faculty against such attacks,” like the one he experienced, which he described as “unwarranted, unjustified, and a flat-out lie.” He also called on Harvard’s leadership to “dispel the myths” articulated by conservative activists and politicians who accuse the University’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies of generating antisemitism. “Faculty can’t be their full selves for students if they themselves feel unsupported or unprotected,” Muhammad said.

In a statement about Muhammad’s course, emailed to Harvard Magazine by the University’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications, HKS Dean Douglas Elmendorf said: “Requiring this course for Master in Public Policy students at the Kennedy School recognizes the important role that race has played in public policy over time. This course makes a vital contribution to the learning of our students who will become policymakers and public leaders.”

THE REST OF the evening’s discussion was by turns sorrowful, frustrated, and defiant. Warren noted the long history of African American leadership in the pro-democracy movements to expand rights in the United States and wondered about its meaning in the context of the current moment. In response to a question comparing today’s political anger and polarization to the backlash against Reconstruction in the 1870s, Brooks offered the metaphor of the canary in the coal mine. “When we talk about the state of black America,” he said, “we’re really talking about the state of America, and the state of this democracy. Which is to say, when black people’s lives are in peril, when black people’s access to the ballot box is in peril, so is the country’s.” The same laws that make it harder for black people to vote also make it harder for other groups of citizens: young people, the disabled, the elderly. He continued, “And we see in our democracy all the time, over and over again, that the harms perpetuated against black people are not just illustrative—they are predictive.”

Smith spoke of the difficulty of achieving, and sustaining, concrete gains for racial equality amid the reflexive undertow of American culture. Too often, she said, activists try to effect change with ambitious policies, but “fail to grapple with the cultures that lie underneath.” Americans’ short-sightedness—and short memories when it comes to racism—also make it hard, she said, to give policy reforms the longevity they need to work. “When you’re trying to achieve racial equity, you have to take into consideration a history of race and racism. But we live in a culture of denial. How do you achieve equity, if you’re denying the fact of or erasing a history of poor treatment, and you’re not addressing it?”

At one point, Warren broached the idea that racial progress has been overstated, given the dramatic setbacks in recent years. Smith agreed, arguing that mass incarceration skewed people’s perceptions by removing a huge fraction of the African American population from view. Incarcerated people aren’t counted in statistics on employment, wages, graduation rates, and other categories of societal engagement. As a result, she said, “[W]e like to lift up how much progress we have made…but much of it has been a mirage, because we have essentially warehoused a significant percentage of people on the low end.” Smith and Muhammad both pointed to racial gaps that have persisted, and in some cases widened, during the decades since the civil rights movement: black women die in childbirth at higher rates than prevailed 20 years ago—and at more than double the rate for white women; black Americans’ homeownership rate is 30 percentage points lower than whites’—three percentage points worse than in 1960.

Asked about the “bright spots” they see, Smith pointed to examples of “communities of color taking control of their situation and creating solutions for themselves”: black women opening birthing centers to give each other better maternal care; community bail funds to get people out of jail; court watchers who monitor legal proceedings. Brooks pointed to a 60 percent drop in incarceration rates among juveniles (though racial disparities remain): “What we failed to do with respect to adults”—2 million of whom are behind bars—“we have managed to do in many places for young people.” He also noted the pushback among activists and grassroots organizers against voter suppression. “I think that speaks to our ability to be optimistic,” he said. “It’s not the inevitability of this democracy writ large. We’re confident in ourselves and our ability to affect change, which I think is absolutely necessary to a school that calls itself a school of public policy and leadership. We’ve got to be hopeful with respect to ourselves.”

From left: Setti Warren, Cornell Brooks, Sandra Susan Smith, Khalil Gibran Muhammad | SCREENSHOT BY HARVARD MAGAZINE

The Lynching of Frazier Baker

Frazier Baker, the first African American to be elected as U.S. postmaster for Lake City, South Carolina, was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was born in 1908 in Lake City and attended segregated schools. After graduating from high school, he worked as a farmer and a teacher.

In 1946, Baker was elected as the president of the Lake City branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also served as the president of the South Carolina NAACP from 1951 to 1955.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Baker was a leading figure in the fight for voting rights for African Americans. He was arrested several times for his activism, but he never gave up.

In 1966, Baker was elected as the U.S. postmaster for Lake City. He was the first African American to hold this position. Baker served as postmaster until his retirement in 1972.

Baker was a dedicated civil rights activist and a respected community leader. And although he left a lasting legacy of fighting for justice and equality in America, he was dealt the cruelty of racism and hate by a white mob.

On February 22, 1898, a white mob lynched Dr. Frazier Baker along with his infant daughter, Julia. The mob also injured Baker’s wife, Lavinia, and two of their remaining children. Lavinia and the five surviving children managed to flee.

Read a detailed report on Frazier Baker by Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), HERE.

Historians Years-Long Campaign Wins Landmark Status for Historic Black NYC School That Survived Anti-Black Riots

Building in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood is part of seeming flood of U.S. sites newly recognized for ties to Black history

A dormant 176-year-old building in downtown Manhattan played a role in New York’s little-known Draft Riots, which prompted Irish immigrants — angered over being drafted into the Civil War — to take their frustration out on Black people. The Irishmen gathered at the doors of Colored School No. 4, then a refuge for Black children who were taught by educators with ties to abolitionist, suffragist, religious and cultural movements.

Pulitzer winner E.R. Shipp wrote for NABJ Black News & Views about historian Erik K. Washington and his quest to win landmark status for the school. Read  Shipp’s full report HERE

 

DeWitt, NY First Black Town Councilor Introduces Resolution to Recognize Black History Month

DEWITT, N.Y. — Bishop Dr. H. Bernard Alex, the Town of DeWitt’s first black town councilor, is continuing to bring firsts to his community.

In a town board meeting on Monday, Feb. 12, Alex introduced a resolution for the town to recognize February as Black History Month. Alex says it is a step in recognizing the contributions African Americans have made in the town and the whole country.

“It is important because I am here, because of all of those forgotten, all of those invisible, men and women who sacrificed and gave up so much.”

Black History in CNY: Two business owners are using fashion, to spread a deeper message

Alex was elected to the board in the November 2023 Election. Before that, he helped serve on the DeWitt Police Commission for several years. Alex hopes his role in the community can inspire others.

“I sincerely hope that others will say, ‘If he can, so can I,’ and that they will get involved in local politics, the greatest service you can give is serving the people closest to you,” said Alex.

Bishop Alex is a senior pastor and teacher at Victory Temple Fellowship Church, “A Missionary Baptist Church” in Syracuse.

“We have been positioned in a very wonderful time in history that we can expand our reach and make a difference in the life and lives of those in DeWitt and hoping for those to come.”

 

BHM: Robert Rice Sr. Preserved Black History in Dayton for Future Generations

 

By Greg Lynch

 

Robert Rice was a Dayton school teacher for more than 40 years and was considered an expert on Black history in the area.

A cousin of famed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, Rice traced his family lineage to a woman bought out of slavery by the Steele family, whose name was on the former Steele High School, in 1839. His father, Lucius Rice, was the city’s second Black police officer. His mother, Dora Rice, was the city’s first female Black police force member.

Rice’s grandfather, Richard Burton, was a Civil War veteran who escaped slavery to join the Union Army in Tennessee before coming to Dayton and opening up the city’s first Black laundry.

After graduating from Stivers High School, Rice attended Fisk and Wilberforce universities.

He returned to Dayton in 1936 and became a teacher at Dunbar High School, the only school that allowed for Black teachers at the time. He stayed there for 35 years.

In 1973, the city asked Black teachers to volunteer for reassignment in order to break down segregated teaching staffs. Rice volunteered and went to Meadowdale. A year later he retired from the Dayton school system and began teaching at Chaminade Julienne “to keep busy.”

Rice spent a lifetime collecting written and oral Black history from the area. A 1974 Dayton Daily News article called Rice a “talking history book.”

Over the years, Rice was interviewed and wrote columns for the Dayton Daily News many times. Here are some of the facts and stories he shared with us.

First Black residents arrive in Dayton

According to Rice, the first Black residents came to Dayton between 1796 and 1798, a year or two after white settlers arrived.

Several thousand people are believed to have made their way into Ohio as squatters prior to the official settlement of the region in the 1790s and there were Black residents — probably escaped slaves — among them.

The name of the very first Black resident is lost to history, but he is described as a servant of the family of Daniel Cooper, proprietor of the town.

In 1803, Cooper brought a second Black person, a girl who worked as a servant, to a farm south of the town. Shortly after arriving, she gave birth to the first Black child here and named him Harry Cooper, taking her employer’s family name.

The earliest Black settlement was downtown and on the East Side, in an area called Seely’s Ditch.

When the village officially became a city in 1841, there were about 400 Black residents out of a total population of 5,000.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Rice liked to set the record straight on Black history in the city. One common error he cited was the belief that famed poet Paul Laurence Dunbar went to Steele High School. He graduated from Central High School in 1891. Steele High School didn’t open until 1894. When Central closed, all of the records were transferred to Steele, and that is how the error occurred, he explained.

Rice said that “when Paul Laurence Dunbar finished high school he couldn’t get a decent job so he became an elevator operator in the Callahan Building, which later became the Gem City building, making $4 a week.”

Black ‘firsts’ in Dayton

Rice uncovered many milestones through the years.

One of the first marriages of Black people was that of Joe Wheeler and Catherine Sills. They made their home on McLain Street As of 1976, one of their descendants still lived in Dayton.

The town’s first Black church, Wayman African Methodist Episcopal, began meeting in a log cabin on the corner of McLain and Potomac Streets in East Dayton. The congregation later moved to Eaker Street and later to Fifth and Bank Streets in West Dayton. Finally, in the 1920s, they moved to Westwood.

Dayton’s first Black-owned bank, Unity State Bank, opened in 1970.

The city’s first Black doctor had the last name of Burns. His office was located on 5th and Perry Streets, and he was the man that told Paul Laurence Dunbar that he had tuberculosis.

The first Black druggist in the city was LeRoy Cox. The drugstore he owned opened sometime during 1911 or 1912. It was located on Fifth and Charter streets. The drugstore had just opened for business when the Great Flood of 1913 ravaged the region. Cox went to work at the post office carrying mail until 1919, when he reopened for business.

Theaters and restaurants

Up until the early 1920s, Black residents could attend any theater or restaurant in Dayton.

Segregation of public facilities started when the Keith Theatre opened its new building at Fourth and Ludlow streets in 1923, and Black residents were barred from almost all downtown theaters, restaurants and other places. Three restaurants, at Union Station, the bus station and Mose Moore’s on Sixth Street were the only ones still open to Black residents.

Theater segregation remained until 1941, when a group of Black businessmen and clergy fought for an end to the policy. In 1951, similar pressure was applied the the restaurant industry, ending segregation there as well.

In 1926, Black businessmen Carl Anderson and Augustus Giles built the Classic Theater at 817 W. Third St. The Classic Theater opened the next year, in 1927. Rice said silent movies were the first productions at the theater. Entertainers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Count Bassie, Billy Eckstine and the Mills Brothers performed there.

The Palace Theater on the corner of Fifth and Williams streets was founded in 1929 by Dr. Lloyd Cox (who was Black) and Valentine Winters. In 1933, the theater was converted to a nightclub.

Politics

The first Black person elected to office in the Dayton area was Frederick Bowers, a Jefferson Twp. real estate broker who was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives as a Republican in 1949 and again in 1951.

David Albritton, a former Golden Gloves boxer and Olympic athlete, won election to the Ohio House from the same district a short time later. C.J. McLin Jr. was elected to the state legislature in 1967 and served until 1988.

Important homes and places

At 205 Dunbar Ave., the first Black-owned taxicab company, West Side Taxi Co., was started by Jack Spicer.

The Mallory Building, at the corner of Fifth Street and Horace Avenue, was once the home of Robert Mallory, a captain in the Army during World War I. The Queen Anne-style home was built by Black contractors.

A home at 59 Horace Ave. was owned by Mose Moore, who was once the wealthiest Black person in Dayton before the turn of the century. Moore owned a combined restaurant, pool room, hotel and barbershop in downtown Dayton. He died in 1927.

A home on Shannon Street is where Hallie Q. Brown once lived. In the early 1900s, Brown founded the first school for Black adults in Dayton. She later was a professor at Wilberforce University. She died in 1930.

 

House Republicans Impeach DHS Secretary Mayorkas in Historic Vote

House Republicans on Tuesday narrowly secured a historic vote to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, after a first failed effort. Mayorkas is the first Cabinet official to be impeached since the 1870s, almost 150 years ago. Only one Cabinet official has previously been impeached in American history: Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

The impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas, the current United States Secretary of Homeland Security, has been a topic of discussion and debate in recent times. The process of impeaching a cabinet secretary or any federal official involves several steps and considerations. Here’s an overview of the impeachment process and the potential grounds for impeaching Mayorkas:

  1. Introduction of Articles of Impeachment: The impeachment process begins with the introduction of articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives. These articles outline the specific charges and allegations against the official, in this case, Secretary Mayorkas. The articles must be supported by evidence and demonstrate that the official has committed impeachable offenses.Mayorkas faced two articles of impeachment filed by the Homeland Security Committee arguing that he “willfully and systematically” refused to enforce existing immigration laws and that he breached the public trust by lying to Congress and saying the border was secure. “Alejandro Mayorkas deserves to be impeached, and Congress has a constitutional obligation to do so,” Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement after the vote.
  2. House Debate and Vote: Once the articles of impeachment are introduced, the House of Representatives debates and votes on them. A simple majority vote is required for the articles to pass and proceed to the Senate for trial. This was the second attempt to impeach Mayorkas and the Resolution was passed by 1 vote.  
  3. Senate Trial: Once the articles of impeachment are passed by the House, the Senate holds a trial to determine whether the official should be convicted and removed from office. The trial is presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States, and each senator acts as a juror. A two-thirds majority vote of the Senate is required for conviction and removal from office.
  4. Potential Grounds for Impeachment: The grounds for impeaching a federal official are outlined in Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution. These include “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The interpretation of these terms and whether they apply to specific actions or decisions by an official is a matter of debate and legal analysis.
  5. Current Situation and Challenges: The impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas has been discussed and debated in the context of his handling of the immigration and border security issues facing the United States. Some have argued that his policies and decisions have violated the law or are detrimental to the nation’s security and interests. However, the decision to impeach is highly political, and the outcome is uncertain.

It’s important to note that impeaching a cabinet secretary or any federal official is a serious matter, and the process is designed to ensure accountability and uphold the Constitution. The decision to impeach is not to be taken lightly and requires substantial evidence and support.

 

EAGLE PASS, TEXAS – JANUARY 08: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas holds a press conference at a U.S. Border Patrol station on January 08, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. Mayorkas visited Texas border areas where large numbers of migrants had been crossing over the Rio Grande from Mexico just weeks before. The number has recently dropped dramatically, according to Mayorkas since the Mexican government ramped up enforcement actions, slowing many migrants from reaching the U.S. southern border. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

 

Understanding Haiti Through the Power of the Social Forces in Interaction

Summary of Current Affairs and Unrest in Haiti

Haiti, a Caribbean nation with a rich history and culture, is currently facing a complex and challenging situation marked by political instability, economic struggles, and widespread unrest. Here is a brief summary:

Political Crisis:

An ex-US government informant was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2021 assassination of Haiti’s former president Jovenel Moise. The Caribbean nation is also recovering from a recent spate of violent demonstrations demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry. The intensity of gang clashes has also impacted the rum industry with the torching of sugarcane fields. Haiti has been grappling with a prolonged political crisis, characterized by disputed elections, allegations of fraud, and a lack of consensus among political parties. This crisis has led to frequent protests and demonstrations, as citizens demand transparency, accountability, and democratic governance.

Economic Challenges:

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with over 60% of its population living in poverty. The economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid and remittances from Haitians living abroad. Persistent economic challenges, including high unemployment rates and limited infrastructure, have contributed to the country’s instability.

Social Unrest:

The combination of political and economic challenges has fueled widespread social unrest and protests in Haiti. Citizens have taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the government, demanding better living conditions, increased security, and an end to corruption. The unrest has sometimes led to violent clashes between protesters and security forces.

Humanitarian Crisis:

The ongoing unrest and economic challenges have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. The country faces critical shortages of food, clean water, and medical supplies. The World Food Programme estimates that over 4 million Haitians are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

International Response:

The international community, including the United Nations and regional organizations, has been closely monitoring the situation in Haiti and providing support. Efforts are underway to facilitate dialogue between political actors, promote human rights, and address the humanitarian crisis. However, progress has been slow, and the challenges facing Haiti remain significant. It is important to note that the situation in Haiti remains fluid and can evolve rapidly. Continued efforts are needed to address the root causes of unrest, promote peace and stability, and support the Haitian people in their quest for a brighter future.

Here’s a look back to a 2021 report in Georgetown Journal of International Affairs…

By Professor Jean Eddy St. Paul

In the current context of intellectual struggle and global activism against systemic and institutional racism, the international community should be aware that Haiti’s victimization through racialized capitalism harms the daily lives of Haitians both inside and outside Haiti. Political theories that portray Haiti as a fragile or failed state are inaccurate since they do not provide a sufficient account of the power of international and local forces that constantly shape the contours of Haitian society. The international community must come to understand that Haiti is part of that community of nations, and it must abandon its foreign policy of tutelage in the first antislavery Republic.

When studying the Haitian state and its institutions, scholars and policymakers often unwittingly employ standard neo-colonial tropes developed through the lens of racialized capitalism. Supporters of the fragile or failed-state idea look at poor institutional outcomes, arguing that political corruption, crime, and rampant poverty are direct consequences of the absence of a Leviathan able to both exercise legitimate physical force and provide governmental social services. Such researchers customarily resort to the “culture argument,” which usually borders on racist essentialism. Often the very phrasing of the researcher’s question reveals preconceptions about the country. William Zartman, then Director of the Conflict Management and African Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University, went to Haiti in January 2007 to find out “how to explain the endemic conflict in Haiti,” and the tenor of his final report could have been anticipated. It did not offer explanations but instead the dry conclusion that “Haiti is a place where institutions, economy, security, infrastructure, state, and legitimacy have collapsed, the eighth worst country in the Failed States Index…”[i]

The problem with this approach lies in its inability to explain the failure and fragility of the Haitian state within the context of the multiple imbricated relations between local social forces (such as state officials, political opposition, and oligarchs of the private sector, all devoid of projects to improve people’s lives) and powerful transnational forces. Through an analysis of Joel S. Migdal’s state-in-society perspective, the moral responsibility of the international community in the production of insecurity and state-sponsored violence in Haiti can be determined. In light of this, the United States must reject its foreign policy based uniquely on instrumental rationality and adopt one that respects Haitian sovereignty.

Migdal’s Theory of Social Forces for a More Comprehensive Understanding of Haiti’s Current Situation

Migdal’s state-in-society perspective, which has been noticeably absent in the specialized literature on politics and society in Haiti, is essential for a better understanding of the current disrepair in both the Haitian state and society. For Migdal, states are never entities that enjoy complete autonomy; different interest groups are seeking constantly to impose their influence or domination over state officials.

In one of his edited books, Migdal asks two particularly relevant questions:

1) When and how have states been able to establish broad political authority?

2) When and how have states established economic agendas for their societies– to appropriate resources and shape patterns of investments, production, distribution, and consumption?

These questions are meaningful since they allow us to address Haiti’s structural problems while avoiding ahistorical analyses when considering the negative impacts of foreign policies designed by the global north and imposed on nations of the global south. The first question offers an understanding of the influences of alien social forces, which have compromised Haiti’s sovereignty since its inception. Migdal’s questions help determine the moral responsibility of the international community in producing insecurity and state-sponsored violence in Haiti. Illustrative of this point, US Congressman Gregory Meeks recently quipped, “The guns that are killing people in Haiti came from the United States. We have to stop the flow of guns to Haiti.

In the case of Haiti, Migdal’s perspective is insightful and allows for apprehending the state as an open arena caught by a myriad of both international and national political forces whose agendas do not coincide with the promotion of the good life of the Haitian population. Thus, his approach makes possible a comprehensive and decolonial interpretation of Haiti’s current problems—which are connected both to the country’s past and the position it has occupied among modern nation-states since its emergence in 1804—within a broader context of racialized capitalism.

The Weight of Powerful Transnational Social Forces Against State Officials in Haiti

Haiti, Africa’s oldest daughter, championed the universalization of human rights early in its history. Haïti chérie, as Haitians are wont to call her, opened the gate for the construction of decent, modern nation-states beyond racial division. The 1804 Act of Independence of Hayti and the 1805 Constitution challenged racialized capitalism and the idea associated black with barbarism and white with civilization. Despite such achievements, Haiti has customarily been ill-treated by the international community. From the country’s birth to today, powerful transnational social forces have sabotaged Haiti’s development.

Since Haitian independence, the West, using a combination of diplomacy, coercion, and ‘machtpolitik,[ii] has disciplined Haiti for upsetting the ontological foundation of Western modernity. For example, France in 1825 coerced Haiti to pay $20 billion reparations for property loss. This multigenerational debt robbed Haiti of much-needed development capital, which has contributed enormously to the country’s chronic economic woes. A more recent example of the country’s abuse at the hands of powerful Western states was the February 2004 coup d’état engineered by Washington and Paris, overthrowing the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. One of the main reasons for this coup was Aristide’s discursive request to France to repay Haiti the monies it paid for its independence (the reparations).

Since 1825,  the hallmarks of relations between Haiti and France, Germany, and the United States have been a series of foreign interventions, political interference and tutelage, noxious Western policies targeting the county, strategic alliances among those Western powers, and corrupted Haitian politicians from the US Occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) until today.

Alliances between Transnational and Local Social Forces in Haiti

For Migdal, the state is an expression of the polymorphic and reticular relations between its social forces. Accordingly, in the case of Haiti, local social forces have been at the forefront of the historical actions that have led to the disarticulation of state institutions. Institutions are not exterior or disconnected from society but embedded within the state. Accordingly, Haiti’s powerful oligarchy plays a central role in this process. Well-connected locally and internationally, that oligarchy has been actively engaged in well-articulated political and strategic alliances. In their deadly struggles to maintain political power, they finance the campaigns of usually noir politicians; the idea is to show the black masses, le peuple, that their leaders look like them.

The historical politics of doublure, predicated on class and color manipulation, have allowed these oligarchs profitable returns on their political machinations. The black-skinned president provides the light-skinned oligarchs various business opportunities with the state. Oligarchs pay no taxes, enjoy customs duties exemptions, and sign government contracts that allow them much leeway to overbill or underbill at their discretion. Thus, oligarchs have been able to establish a system of domination anchored in patronage and grift, “the politics of the belly.” Consequently, the Haitian state may well have collapsed for the Haitian people, but it remains a healthy and vigorous entity for the dinosaurs of the private business sector, who are locally and internationally well-connected.

Conclusions

Identifying the shortcomings of failed states theories in diagnosing Haiti’s historical and structural damages requires using the social forces approach, which is much better for understanding the complex networks of relations and strategic alliances between internal and external social forces that have shaped the institutional matrix of the Haitian state. The international community’s traditional foreign policies toward Haiti is also criticized in this article. We suggest that it is not too late to fix the untenable situation in Haiti. During his Presidential inauguration, Joe Biden recognized that democracy, although precious, is a fragile experiment requiring constant vigilance from the civil society. This is Haiti’s continuing predicament. The international community, particularly the United States, has work to do. It is an opportune moment for the United States to play its part by abandoning foreign policy based uniquely on instrumental rationality and embracing a humanitarian approach toward the Haitian people. This requires the United States to stop the flow of guns to state-sponsored gangs, who take the lives of innocent Haitians. Furthermore, many private sector oligarchs doing business in Haiti, are in reality, foreign citizens, including US. citizens who are well-connected with transnational social forces. A political change in Washington can do a lot to reverse Haiti’s current state-supported lawlessness. This is the time for the international community and Haiti’s oligarchy to listen to the progressive Haitian social forces (politicians and civil society) desire to establish healthy and respectful relations with the international community.

[i] William Zartman ed., Haiti: Understanding Conflict. Student Field Trip to Haiti 2007 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2007), 5.

[ii] Jacques Barros, Haïti de 1804 à nos jours (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1984), 222-223.

 . . .

Jean Eddy Saint Paul is a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, where he was the founding director of the CUNY Haitian Studies Institute. He previously was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Political Science (Sciences Po) in Paris, France, and served on the Faculty of the Division of Law, Politics and Government at the Universidad de Guanajuato (Mexico), where he cofounded the PhD program in Law, Politics and Government. Email  jeaneddy.saintpaul@brooklyn.cuny.edu.

 

NABJ Calls for Meeting with NFL After No Progress Seen in Media Hiring Practices

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is disappointed with the lack of progress in the NFL’s media hiring practices. Just a few months short of a year since our initial outreach and call for change, the NFL continues to lack Black journalists and communicators in its news division.

In addition to NABJ, others have sought answers from NFL executives, but no documented progress in the organization’s media diversity efforts has been made available.

As we noted in our initial statement in May 2023, there have been no explanations given for how the NFL has allowed the practice of exclusion to operate over the years.

As a result, the NABJ media monitoring team is requesting an immediate meeting with NFL media executives and commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss what swift actions they will take to remedy the lack of diversity in its media department.

“As the NFL gears up for one of the most watched events in the world, it should not feel comfortable knowing that its news arm does not reflect the diversity of its players, audience and event participants. We are challenging the NFL to make a serious effort to address these inequities now,” said NABJ President Ken Lemon, NABJ Vice President-Broadcast Walter Smith Randolph, and NABJ Vice President-Print Kathy Chaney in a joint statement.

“A failure to move quickly to resolve this matter reflects an insensitivity to the importance of having NFL stories told by diverse voices.”

A Florida Immigration Law Is Turning Farm Towns Into ‘Ghost Towns’

Florida is one of a growing number of states threatening to use E-Verify as a way to intimidate and control farmworkers. As farmers face worker shortages and farm communities lose residents, are GOP lawmakers shooting themselves in the foot?

 

By 

Moncho had just started building a life in Florida when SB 1718’, a broad law targeting both undocumented immigrants and the people in their lives, passed through the state legislature last May. In the weeks that followed, his home stopped feeling like home. He began seeing more cops and state troopers in his town, a predominantly immigrant community. He feared it would only get worse and figured it was safest to leave before the law went into effect in July. “It was a quick decision. Once I learned about the law, I talked it over with my wife and we said, ‘OK, let’s get out of here,’” said Moncho, who is using a nickname. He has lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, moving between states as a farmworker and construction worker, without getting the chance to fully make any of them his home.

In June 2023, just weeks after the bill’s passage, Moncho and his wife packed up what they could fit into their car and drove—through the wildfire smoke that was blanketing the East Coast at the time—to Vermont to seek work in the dairy industry and build a new life for themselves, again.

They are just two of the many undocumented immigrants who have left Florida in the aftermath of the bill’s passage. In the last nine months, as workers have fled, “help wanted” signs have reportedly popped up across the state. Crops have been left to rot in fields. Entire communities emptied out and turned into “ghost towns.”

“Once the law passed, there were empty houses,” said Moncho. “You went down the street, and it was, ‘For Rent. For Rent. For Rent,’ everywhere.”

The law targets supporters of undocumented immigrants by making it a felony, under the charge of human smuggling, to knowingly transport undocumented people across state lines. Beyond that, it requires medical providers to inquire about a patient’s immigration status (although patients need not respond).

And the most potentially sweeping provision aims to crack down on the hiring of undocumented workers by mandating the use of E-Verify, a web-based federal system that allows employers to confirm or deny workers’ legal status. This applies to workplaces with 25 or more employees and extends the use of E-Verify to many Florida farms that were previously exempt.

Proposed by Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis as an answer to “Biden’s border crisis,” the law reflects a larger Republican strategy for the upcoming election: “The GOP’s goal is to turn the 2024 election into a referendum on the Biden administration’s handling of immigration, framed by the notion of a crisis that has spilled beyond the southern border and into cities across the country,” wrote immigration reporter Gaby Del Valle in a recent op-ed.

It’s a strategy currently on display in Congress as House Republicans appear poised to sabotage an immigration deal—even though it would crack down on the southern border—that is backed by President Biden.

But some farmers and advocates speculate that Florida’s law may be largely intended as a political spectacle that will stir chaos but ultimately lack enforcement—and began as an effort to boost DeSantis’s short-lived bid for president—while still allowing Florida industries to rely on undocumented laborers in the end.

“It’s not clear whether it’s a way for DeSantis to boost his image as somebody ‘tough on immigration’ versus a law that will have real penalties and consequences,” Deirdre Nero, a Florida-based immigrant rights advocate and lawyer, told Civil Eats. “We’ll see when they start imposing penalties if the proof is in the pudding.”

Regardless, Florida farmers, farmworkers, and lawmakers will continue to deal with the consequences of the law in the coming months and the potential for another exodus if E-Verify is enforced. As Florida looks to fill worker shortages, the law poses big questions about the future of farm labor in the U.S. as similar policies could expand elsewhere.

As the presidential election season kicks into gear, Donald Trump and other GOP candidates are promising sweeping crackdowns on undocumented workers and expanded federal mandates of the use of E-Verify. But Florida, often a bellwether of the GOP’s future, shows that even a political tool can have real consequences.

 

Chilling Effect

SB 1718 has already disrupted the lives and livelihood of undocumented immigrants and their communities. “It’s a political stunt gone too far,” read a letter sent in October by a group of Democratic members of Congress, led by U.S. Representative Darren Soto from Florida. The letter calls upon Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the law, which they say is “causing immense harm to families and could jeopardize Florida’s economy.”

Agriculture is one of Florida’s major industries, and along with construction and tourism, it plays a significant role in employing the state’s estimated 772,000 undocumented immigrants. Nearly half of Florida’s farmworkers are undocumented, according to the Florida Policy Institute.

After many farmworkers began to flee, some Republican lawmakers briefly realized they may have bit the hand that, quite literally, feeds them. Last June, Representative Rick Roth, a vegetable farmer and Republican who voted for the law, pleaded with constituents to convince workers to stay. “This is more of a political bill than it is policy,” he told an audience of South Florida pastors at the time, implying that it wouldn’t be enforced with any real consequences.

So far, there have been a few arrests under the law’s human smuggling provision, which is being challenged as unconstitutional in a lawsuit. But the E-Verify mandate isn’t set to begin enforcing penalties until July.

Now, nine months after the law’s passage, some farmers are struggling to find workers to harvest crops, while farmworkers live and work with heightened uncertainty that ultimately impacts their health and safety.

Jeannie Economos coordinates a pesticide safety and environmental health program for the Farmworker Association of Florida, a group that represents more than 10,000 workers. She told Civil Eats that she typically fields complaints from them about “wages, pesticides, harassment, and other conditions in the workplace.”

But since SB 1718 passed, those complaints have slowed to a trickle, despite last summer’s record-breaking heat. A similar silence fell over the community under the Trump administration, she said, when farm workers feared speaking out.

The E-Verify Mandate

Still largely voluntary on a federal level, the E-Verify system emerged from the Immigration Act of 1990, a major overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. This established a commission that recommended a national registry for checking immigration status and employment eligibility. After a series of pilots, the program became available in 2003 to employers in all states as a voluntary database. Since then, a growing number of states have mandated its use, but industry pushback often narrows the scope of these mandates.

 

Previous attempts to strictly enforce E-Verify have unraveled in Florida. In 2020, when DeSantis pushed for a law mandating use of the database in the hiring process, it was strongly opposed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, for instance, until it was amended to exclude farmworkers.

The version of the bill that passed also created loopholes for private employers, prompting some to call it “E-Verify Light” and “Fake E-Verify.” Prior to that, two other efforts to require use of the database failed to pass. The reason is clear: The current E-Verify mandate could hurt Florida’s economy to a tune of $12 billion in just one year.

“[Florida’s E-Verify mandate] has always been defeated, and it’s not defeated by the immigrants that would be impacted,” said Paul Chavez, a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, representing a legal challenge to the law. “It has been defeated by the business community, including from lobbyists for farmers, tourism, and construction.”

“I can’t say for sure, but my understanding is that there will definitely be advocacy from the business community to try to poke holes in the E-Verify law, or even get it repealed,” added Chavez, who expects to see efforts to do so in the current legislative session.

Greg Schell, a lawyer who represents migrant farmworkers in Florida, thinks there is good reason to believe the E-Verify mandate will lack enforcement. “There are no regulations to guide employers,” he said. “It certainly would be plausible for an employer to claim that the returning worker is ‘grandfathered in’ and does not need to be the subject of an E-Verify inquiry.”

In other states, E-Verify mandates have often spared the agriculture industry and other industries dependent on undocumented workers, either by the law’s design or its lax enforcement. For instance, North Carolina passed a law mandating E-Verify in 2011, but carved out an exemption for “temporary seasonal workers for fewer than 90 days,” which would allow farms to continue employing, with less risk, undocumented people for seasonal work.

In 2013, this exemption was expanded to employees of less than nine months. Since then, North Carolina lawmakers have introduced several bills to carve out an even larger exemption for all farmworkers.

Presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who served as South Carolina’s governor between 2011 and 2017, has called for a national E-Verify mandate in her campaign. She often cites the law that she helped pass in 2011 as an example. “What we did in South Carolina with E-Verify was you had to verify that that person was in this country legally or else you could not hire them,” Haley said, in an interview with Breitbart. “That’s what we put in place in South Carolina and, more importantly, we enforced it.”

However, like in other states, South Carolina’s law doesn’t require E-Verify for every employee, exempting a number of essential jobs, including farmworkers and domestic laborers. “The S.C. Farm Bureau convinced lawmakers that the E-Verify requirement could scare off migrant workers needed to harvest crops,” The State reported in 2017. A representative from South Carolina’s Department of Labor confirmed that this exemption remains in effect today.

In fact, no state has been able to enforce E-Verify across every industry, without it backfiring. Take Georgia. In 2011, when the state attempted to enforce E-Verify for nearly all employers, it triggered a mass exodus of farmworkers and an estimated $140 million loss in agricultural revenue.

The expansion of E-Verify mandates is often framed, including by former Governor Haley, as a way to protect the jobs of U.S. citizens. Yet when this policy has prompted an exodus of undocumented farmworkers, U.S. citizens haven’t exactly jumped at the opportunity to work on farms. In fact, when E-Verify mandates are strictly enforced in agriculture, they have been found to lead to worker shortages, loss in farm revenue, and shrinking farm production.

“E-Verify is a way of sharing immigration status with the government that has no positive value for either the undocumented worker or the employer,” said Mary Jo Dudley, the director of the Cornell Farmworker Program. The consequences are most dire, of course, for the farmworkers who would face criminal penalties and a heightened threat of deportation.

“[For] farmworkers, E-Verify is a pathway to share information with the government that you’re deportable,” said Dudley. “Because once you register that you don’t have a social security number with the government, you become immediately deportable.”

Questions About the Future of Farm Labor

Despite the rippling economic consequences, the promised expansion of E-Verify mandates has become increasingly central to the GOP platform. Currently, Republican lawmakers in Iowa and West Virginia are pushing for state mandates, while DeSantis, Haley, and Chris Christie campaigned for a federal mandate. E-Verify is also part of the conservative playbook, Project 2025, which plans to “permanently authorize and make mandatory E-Verify” on a federal level if a Republican wins the 2024 presidential election.

As Congress tensely debated the latest border security bill, which was released by the Senate in early February, Republicans have repeatedly insisted on even more stringent proposals. In a recent letter, House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, pointed to the Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2), a Republican-sponsored bill that passed in the House last year—which would federally mandate E-Verify, among other sweeping measures—as reflecting his core legislative demands.

But in recent years, even major bipartisan efforts to reform immigration for farmworkers, namely the multiple versions of the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, have also included E-Verify mandates. First introduced in 2019, the legislation creates a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers, while streamlining the hiring of foreign agricultural workers with a temporary H-2A visa. Re-introduced and abandoned last year, the bill is a political compromise that has deeply divided farmworkers and their advocates, and one of the major sticking points is E-Verify.

“There are basic things that we cannot negotiate away, and E-Verify is one of them,” said Edgar Franks, the political director at Familias Unidas por la Justicia, an independent farmworker union in Washington state representing Indigenous farmworkers. “[The Farm Workforce Modernization Act] is sold as immigration reform . . . but it would implement the E-Verify system for the first time across a whole industry in the United States.”

Even in Washington, where E-Verify is voluntary, Franks has observed farmers threaten to use it when engaging with the union. “We’ve seen E-Verify weaponized, especially when immigrant workers are trying to organize themselves into unions, or to get some kind of justice in their workplace,” said Franks. As he sees it, “the main intention [behind E-Verify] is always having this hanging over people’s heads—or raids or deportations—to make sure that the workforce is controllable.”

This perspective was echoed in a letter to the House Agriculture Committee’s newly formed Labor Workforce Working Group last September by a group of farmworker advocates, including the Farmworker Association of Florida and the Agricultural Justice Project, which raised concerns about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and its E-Verify mandate.

“Do not implement mandatory E-Verify for farms, since it serves as a control and scare tactic in an immigration and trade policy system that strategically created a large population of undocumented immigrant workers to ensure an exploitable labor pool,” reads the letter. “Agriculture risks losing some of its most highly skilled workers.”

Mandatory E-Verify could also create a more exploited workforce by helping funnel more farmworkers into the H-2A guestworker program. The federal program, which recruits farmworkers from other countries, has ballooned by more than 7 times between 2005 and 2022. It represents one of the only pathways to legally enter the U.S. with a high acceptance rate. Yet the program is rife with exploitation and abuse, often perpetuated by its structure: Farmworkers live in employer-supplied congregate housing, often in unfamiliar rural areas, and are not allowed to switch employers.

“The vulnerability of H-2A workers makes them an attractive workforce for growers,” reads the letter from the group of farmworker advocates. “They are tied to the grower or contractor who recruits them and can be legally fired for not meeting exhausting production quotas, or for raising issues about workplace conditions.”

In fact, the American Farm Bureau, the largest lobbyist group representing growers, has stated that they would support E-Verify mandates under one condition: a “workable guest worker program” so that farmers could more readily hire H-2A workers and curb the anticipated labor shortage. So, by making a pathway to citizenship conditional upon both an E-Verify mandate and streamlining the H-2A program, The Farm Workforce Modernization Act strikes a compromise that appeals to farmers. As Edgar Franks put it, “It’s basically a gift to the agricultural industry.”

As the state with the most H-2A workers, Florida has played a major role in driving the rapid expansion of this program, and it’s likely that it could rely on this program even more to address labor shortages. As of September, Florida’s farms recruited over 86,000 H-2A farmworkers in 2023, already surpassing the amount recruited in 2022. For comparison, California, the second biggest H-2A state, recruited nearly 46,000 workers during that time.

In recent years, Florida’s labor-intensive citrus industry has moved to nearly exclusively hiring H-2A workers, representing 95 percent of the workforce in 2022, according to the Florida Citrus Manual. If E-Verify is enforced, it’s possible other agricultural industries in Florida may follow suit.

Meanwhile, undocumented farmworkers in other parts of the country have felt the chilling effect of Florida’s law. In New York, a farmworker who asked to remain anonymous and a leader with Alianza Agricola, a group of undocumented dairy workers organizing for their rights, observed an influx of farmworkers coming from Florida to New York late last spring. He welcomed a couple families from Florida to their meetings, helping them feel at home. But witnessing this also made him worry about what could happen if a E-Verify mandate ever came to New York.

“Those of us who are farmworkers in the dairy industry are concerned about this too,” he said. “It puts the status of many workers in the food chain at risk and [people] who have been working here for 10, 15, or even 20 years—like me.”