Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Black Concerned Freedmen Urge Biden: Prioritize Enforcing Environmental Laws, Not Renaming Key Bridge

Baltimore Key Bridge collapse (Tasos Katopodis-Getty Images via CNN Newsource)
Baltimore Key Bridge collapse (Tasos Katopodis-Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

*ST. LOUIS  — The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™, comprised of members of the descendant community of U.S. chattel slaves, descendants of free Negroes, unaffiliated Negro descendants of slaves to Native American tribes (collectively “Freedmen”), and allies, extend sincere condolences to all affected by the tragic loss of life and distress caused by the catastrophic collapse of Baltimore Maryland’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Thankfully, President Biden has promised that federal money will fund the bridge rebuild. Immediately after the Key Bridge crumbled, business interests (including the immigration lobby) positioned themselves to receive special consideration for this public works project. And while some civil rights groups demand that the bridge is no longer named after the writer of our Star-Spangled Banner (Francis Scott Key), little attention has been given to the question of who will rebuild this critical infrastructure.

Now is not the time for opportunism and yet another erasure of American historical figures! The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen demands that the Biden administration not expedite work permits for illegal aliens to source labor for the bridge rebuild.

The Coalition also demands that President Biden enforce the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976, as originally written.

Black civil rights groups have given little attention to the question of who will rebuild this critical infrastructure.

Pamela Denise Long / via X
Pamela Denise Long / via X

Pamela Denise Long, National Coordinator of The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™, noted that “There is an emotional, shortsighted, and unpatriotic effort to fully erase from public view the complex history the United States of America and its early key figures had with its founding Black population. Being an American, and becoming a citizen, means we must come to peace with the long and courageous paths that have made this nation a beacon of freedom. Erasure—removing/renaming monuments rather than adding historical context to them and misappropriating “equity” through replacement via mass immigration—is not the route to a more perfect Union. Instead of renaming the Francis Scott Key Bridge, this tragedy provides an opportunity to comingle the age-old viewpoint diversity that spurred America to transform from a worldwide exporter of goods sourced by chattel slaves, carried this nation through a Reconstruction Era that Constitutionally codified the protected class status of its formerly enslaved founding population, and transformed the U.S. into a Representative Republic that, from the 1960s-1980s, invested in the full enforcement of Negro civil rights laws and reparatory funding policies aimed at correcting the unbroken chain of harms that predate our founding.” Although renaming the bridge is the least of the Coalition’s priorities, we are compelled to ask, why not rededicate the bridge after both Francis Scott Key and James Weldon Johnson the man who composed the hymn Lift Every Voice and Sing in 1900 to honor President Abraham Lincoln [R-IL]?

It is President Biden’s responsibility to enforce the laws of Congress, including legal precedents that require contracting with historically harmed American citizens, explicitly prohibit hiring aliens in public works projects, and mandate that any proposed federal action be submitted to review of impacts on the Black American population. Those precedents are, the 1976 Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act and the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), respectively.

The Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976 requires the Secretary of Commerce to ensure that “no contract will be awarded in connection with such project to any bidder who will employ on such project any alien in the United States in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act [8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.] or any other law, convention, or treaty of the United States relating to the immigration, exclusion, deportation, or expulsion of aliens.” Moreover, The Act requires that specific groups in the U.S. at the time of enactment of the law (including American “Negro”-led organizations) receive at least 10% of the contracted funds for public works projects.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, remains in effect today. In a bipartisan effort during the civil rights era, NEPA became law in the wake of rampant use of eminent domain to put waste dumps in Negro communities and/or bulldoze legacy Negro neighborhoods for highways, parks, and other commercial interests. With the passage of NEPA, the U.S. Congress established the federally mandated NEPA review for any proposed federal action. A NEPA review happens in advance of a project beginning and, via a comprehensive and unbiased environmental impact statement, is supposed to identify how any proposed federal action would affect all aspects of “the human environment.”  Effects on the human environment include changes in the social, cultural, economic, natural and built environment.

Lesley Blackner, environmental advocate, and Attorney-at-Law stated that “Rebuilding of the bridge is exactly the type of “federal action” requiring impact review under the National Environmental Justice Executive Order No. 12,898 (EJEO)—signed by Bill Clinton in 1994.  A proper impact review must include an analysis of how the rebuild will help and/or harm Baltimore’s Black residents.  Is the federal government going to comply with federal law and analyze how hiring Black Americans and Marylanders can begin to rebuild Baltimore itself?  Or, as per usual, is Black Baltimore going to go unseen and unconsidered, even though federal law requires special consideration?”

The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen
The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen

With economic development and law and order in mind, The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™ demands that President Biden submit the Francis Scott Key Bridge infrastructure project to full NEPA review. NEPA review would include solicitation of public comment on renaming the bridge, identifying and developing a plan to minimize negative impacts that are made worse by low-to-no enforcement of legacy appropriations laws that prioritized American Negroes, providing a comprehensive environmental impact statement of the proposed labor sourcing plan and, procuring an economic analysis on a plan to source labor and apprenticeship opportunities from the local and national descendant of U.S. slaves community that reflects the percentage of Black people in Baltimore, currently 62%, according to Census.gov. The appropriate civil rights call-to-action quotes from award-winning journalist Roy Howard Beck, author of Back of the Hiring Line: Let Americans do the Work and Put Descendants of U.S. slaves at the Front of the Hiring Line.

In Fall of 2023, the Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™ was the only lineage advocacy organization for descendants of U.S. slaves to author public comment about the proposed changes in rulemaking for implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A descendant of U.S. slaves is “a multi-generational Black American born in the United States who, under penalty of perjury and through a combination of vital records and census data, can trace his/her ancestral lineage back to a Black American/Negro born in the United States prior to 1900.” This is a category set apart from any other group of people. Black American/Negro/Freedmen are the founding population of Black families who were subject to chattel slavery and Jim Crow in the United States of America.

The Coalition’s NEPA comment focused on calling the federal government to fully enforce NEPA, directly engage with the Black American Negro Freedmen community regarding proposed federal actions, and return to a practice of using lineage-based economic analysis and financial projections as essential first steps to funding public works (keeping with the original intent of the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976). Read the Coalition’s public comments about proposed rules and changes to the National Environmental Policy Act here.

Toward a More Perfect Union.

The Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™ is a voluntary association of the descendants of emancipated U.S. chattel slaves and descendants of free American Negroes with ethnogenesis in the U.S. from the 1776-1865 antebellum era through the present. The Coalition is committed to delivering on the promise of a comprehensive package of reparatory policy, practices, and financial appropriations to redress the impacts of chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing discrimination against multigenerational Black Americans. Our work with institutions and national, state, and local governments ensures reparative implementation and full enforcement of the citizenship rights and protected class status of the descendant community.

Learn more about the Coalition of Concerned Freedmen™ and confirm the support of your institution by visiting us online at www.concernedfreedmen.com
source: Coalition of Concerned Freedmen

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