Correction & Florida students/governor respond to the violence

Note: First a correction! The teenage killer in Florida is 19 years old! In my previous article about violence, the teenager Nikolas Cruz was noted as being 17 years old which is not correct – again he is 19. I have made the correction in the following link to this article: “Addressing Violence in America“.

Below is also a profound response about this massacre from Florida student Emma Gonzalez as well as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer questioning Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Also, there has wisely been a critique of the FBI for not responding to the concerns by those in Florida who called the FBI regarding the potential violence of the young Cruz. “The FBI said it failed to act on a tip about the suspected Florida school shooter’s potential for violence”.

Yet, I think one thing missing here is that while the FBI was not appropriately responsive, we at the very least should be thankful to whoever it was who warned the FBI, and the teachers warnings as well! Here is some narrative about their concerns:

After seeing a comment on a YouTube post last year by Mr Cruz, user Ben Bennight contacted the FBI and spoke to representatives for about 20 minutes.

Mr Bennight said the FBI contacted him again following the school shooting in Parkland.

The FBI confirmed on Thursday that they were made aware of the comment, adding that they had conducted “checks” but were unable to identify the person behind it.

Meanwhile maths teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald newspaper that school authorities had emailed teachers about Mr Cruz’s behaviour.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Mr Gard told the Miami Herald.

“There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

It is unclear why Mr Cruz was expelled from the school. Former schoolmate Joshua Charo said Mr Cruz had been found with bullets in his backpack.

“I can’t say I was shocked,” Mr Charo said after the shooting.

“He seemed like the kind of kid who would do something like this.”

So a heartfelt “thank you” to you brave souls who attempted to prevent this disaster!

Heather Gray

February 18. 2018
Justice Initiative international

Florida student to NRA and Trump: ‘We call BS’ 

CNN Staff
Updated 12:26 AM ET
February 17, 2018

Emma Gonzalez demanded national lawmakers do something
to prevent mass school shooting.

(CNN) In an emotional rally Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, politicians and Marjory Stoneman Douglas students called for a ban on weapons like the one used to kill 17 people at the Florida high school, and urged voters to kick out lawmakers who oppose the move or who take money from the National Rifle Association.

In a fiery speech, senior Emma Gonzalez demanded national lawmakers do something to prevent mass school shootings.

“We certainly do not understand why it should be harder to make plans with friends on weekends than to buy an automatic or semiautomatic weapon,” Gonzalez, who huddled in an auditorium during Wednesday’s shooting, said at the rally outside a federal courthouse.

Gonzalez, whose palpable anger burst out in her words, demanded that laws change because she said they have not, while guns have changed.

Maybe the adults have got used to saying, ‘It is what it is,'” she said. “But if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead.”

She addressed politicians, saying to those who take campaign donations from the NRA: “Shame on you.”

Hundreds of people gathered began to chant, “Shame on you! Shame on you!”

As she ended her remarks, she shouted her disagreement with what she hears from the other side of the gun laws debate.

“Politicians who sit in their gilded house and senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS!” she said.

“They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS,” she cried with the crowd screaming along with the final word.

Read Gonzalez’s full remarks

Florida governor
challenged on gun laws

Feb 15, 2018


Florida Governor Rick Scott

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer presses Florida Gov. Rick Scott on his state’s gun laws that allow someone to purchase an AR-15 assault-style rifle at a younger age than they can purchase a handgun or buy a beer.


Addressing Violence in America

February 18, 2018

Justice Initiative International


Violent video games may be more harmful than violent television and movies because they are interactive and engrossing, and they sometimes even require

that the person playing identify with the aggressor.
(National Center for Health Research)


The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally
and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. 

(Martin Luther King

Given the shock of the February 14 school killing in Florida by the 19 year old Nikolas Cruz at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, my thoughts were immediately directed toward our youth culture in America and the impact of contemporary technology, as in video games, for one, leading to violence. But the culture of violence is also compounded, of course, by the predominance and availability of guns and assault rifles that I know many around the country will wisely address. So I will instead, in this article, focus on video games and other American trends since WWII.

And further, we don’t yet have all the history of this young 17 year old Nikolas Cruz, still, he clearly has had his own personal challenges, as in losing his adoptive parents and having been the persistent and troubled loner.

But the question is also, what was the culture in America he was exposed to as a youth, which in most instances is fairly universal and, unfortunately, often alienating and also violent.

We humans beings historically don’t want to kill

Historically, Americans have not wanted to kill another human being. But this has been true world-wide. Apparently ever since Roman times, those in the military have not wanted to kill, particularly when they see the ‘human’ face of the opponent (Gray 2017). It takes serious training to change what could be described as a ‘compassionate’ sentiment of not wanting to kill.

“The average and healthy individual,” Marshall contended in his postwar book 

Men Against Fire , “has such an inner and usually unrealized resistance towards killing a fellow man that he will not of his own volition take life if it is possible to turn away from that responsibility…At the vital point he becomes a conscientious objector.” (Scientific American)

In World War II, it was found that less than 20% of the Americans were willing to kill. This upset the powers that be in the military and government overall. So they changed the way training took place in the military by, for one, using the aggressive and repetitive Pavlov classical conditioning methodology, as in kill-kill-kill, in the training. So with this training, by the Korean War in the 1950s, 55% of the American military were willing to kill. By the Vietnam War 90% to 95% were willing to kill, but it required pharmaceuticals to make sure the military actually killed. Vietnam was, in fact, referred to as the first pharmaceutical war (Grossman).

Impact of military training on civilian life

I admit I have also wondered what this military training after WWII has meant for the American society overall with having individuals in the military being trained this way to become killers, who ultimately become a part of the domestic society. Do they add to an acceptance of violence in the culture? The answer to this is “yes”. Training for war is one thing, but adjusting to domestic life after this training and experience in the “war” field is quite another, and this also includes the sentiment from this violent training being transferred to the domestic society.

After the military training of advancing killing started in America, within a short amount of time the assault and imprisonment rate in America increased exponentially in which potential killers were in jail. Dave Grossman, the army psychologist who wrote the book “ On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” notes that:

What is the root cause of the epidemic of violence in our society? An application of the lessons of combat killing may have much to teach us about constraint and control of peacetime violence. Are the same processes of the military used so effectively to enable killing in our adolescent, draftee soldiers in Vietnam being indiscriminately applied to the civilian population of our society?

The three major psychological processes at work in enabling violence are classical conditioning (a la Pavlov’s dog), operant conditioning, operant conditioning a la B.F. Skinner’s rats), and the observation and imitation of vicarious role models in social learning.

Total incarceration in the United States by year (Wikipedia)

The draft ended after the Vietnam War in 1973 and the military became voluntary so the military no longer had access to a vast selection of America’s youth for this training.  But then it was fairly clear, to me, that people in charge in America wanted to make sure there was a pool of potential violent males, in particular, to fight in their increasingly violent military initiatives and growing military might. Having video games, for one, being available to youth was a way of fulfilling the desires of the powers in America to have American youth desensitized and prepared for war.

Here is some narrative on the military use of video games from The Conversation in 2017:

Violent video games have become embedded within American culture over the past several decades and especially since 9/11. First-person shooters, in particular, have become increasingly popular. 

These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.

For the U.S. military, the rise of first-person shooters has been a welcome development. In recent years, the military has encouraged many of its soldiers to partake in the thrill of violent video games as a way to continue combat training, even when not on active duty. (In fact, using games to teach military tactics has been a longstanding practice in the U.S. military: Before video games, troops were encouraged to play military-themed board games.)

The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.

Eisenhower had warned us of the “military industrial complex” and his concerns were well placed.

The impact of video games on our youth

While arcade video games had been around for some time, the technology kept changing. By the 1990s, as the arcades were decreasing, the games for home computers became the trend yet there were concerns about this because of the  controversial ‘violent nature’ of these games such as “Mortal KombatNight Trap, and Doom, leading to the formation of the Interactive Digital Software Association and their rating games by signing them their ESRB ratings since 1994.”  (Wikipedia)  

According to some, the video games are teaching repetitive violent aggression and often, with these games, the youth “ identify with the aggressor“. The video games have therefore had the effect of training many of our youth to develop a combative mindset basically without concern for the other. There has, actually, been considerable research on the topic. Here is a brief account of this impact from a 2010 report from the National Center for Health Research:

Playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior in real life, according to two new studies.  Violent video games may be more harmful than violent television and movies because they are interactive and engrossing, and they sometimes even require that the person playing identify with the aggressor. (National Center for Health Research)

Grossman continues by analyzing the impact of technology on youth compared to military training and actions in the field of war which is something we all need to consider.

In a reverse Clockwork Orange classical conditioning process, adolescents in movie theaters across the nation, and watching television at home, are seeing the deathbed, horrible suffering and killing of human beings, and they are learning to associate this killing and suffering with entertainment, pleasure, their favorite soft drink, their favorite candy bar…

Operant conditioning firing ranges with pop-up targets and immediate feedback, just like those used to train soldiers in modern armies are found in the interactive video games that our children play today. But whereas the adolescent Vietnam vet had stimulus discrimination built in to ensure that he only fired under authority, the adolescents who play these video games have no such safeguard built into their conditioning….

Today a similar process of systematic desensitization, conditioning and vicarious learning is unleashing an epidemic, a virus of violence in America. (Grossman)

Grossman states, then, that for the military there are some constraints on killing requiring only killing under authoritative directives. But this is not so for youth who become desensitized with the video games in which they are usually alone looking at and playing these games and, therefore, there are no authorities in the room insisting on some controlling directives.

Suggestions to prevent the impact of video games

While the Harvard Medical School offers varied findings on the impact of video games, still they provide some suggestions of what parents can to do prevent the potential impact of the these games.

What parents can do

Parents can protect their children from potential harm from video games by following a few common sense strategies – particularly if they are concerned that their children might be vulnerable to the effects of violent content. These simple precautions may help:
  • Check the ESRB rating to better understand what type of content a video game has.
  • Play video games with children to better understand the content, and how children react.
  • Place video consoles and computers in common areas of the home, rather than in children’s bedrooms.
  • Set limits on the amount of time youths can play these games. The AAP recommends two hours or less of total screen time per day, including television, computers, and video games.
  • Encourage participation in sports or school activities in which youths can interact with peers in person rather than online.
Video games share much in common with other pursuits that are enjoyable and rewarding, but may become hazardous in certain contexts. Parents can best protect their children by remaining engaged with them and providing limits and guidance as necessary. (Harvard Medical School 2010)


Needed changes in the availability of weapons is a major factor to alter all tragic mass killings yet every time these massacres occur the Congress and the White House fail to act on gun control. This is unconscionable!

It is also true, however, that most of our youth and Americans, generally, have been living in a culture prone toward learning about and/or being exposed to violence in any number of ways as mentioned. This can and does desensitize as well as alienate our youth. It can also impede what could or should be a process for all of us the learn about being respectful and compassionate toward the other, regardless of wherever in the world others might live.

The video games and movie culture has to change.

Perhaps, as in the repetitive way that the military trains with kill, kill, kill, we can instead develop some kind of repetitive training that focuses on kindness, compassion and justice. Yes, I know what many of you are thinking about that suggestion, as in, it would be wishful thinking on my part and I am sure you are correct but it is something I think we need to explore.

As the Axial sages centuries ago taught us, it is “the ‘act’ of compassion” that is significant in an era of violence, or any era for that matter.  All of us, I think, need to explore ways we can alter our culture, otherwise the violence and the killing of our children and others is likely to continue.

The British scholar Karen Armstrong describes of the essential message from the Axial Age in her 2006 book “The Great Transformation: the Beginnings of our Religious Traditions” she notes the Axial sages stressed the importance of compassion. In the violent age in which they lived, the sages recognized the importance of controlling conflict and aggression through compassion. She says, it was the central message of the most profound spiritual leaders from about 900 to 200 BCE – the likes of Confucius, the Buddha, Socrates, Jeremiah, Mencius and others. Later Jesus (“love your enemies”) and the Prophet Muhammad offered the same message. The great Rabbi Hillel said the ultimate message of the Torah was the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) and everything else was commentary.

Armstrong also said that the Axial sages insisted that “saying” you were compassionate was inconsequential – it was the “act” of compassion that was significant. The importance of compassion was obviously magnified in a time of strife. It was, in fact, compassion outside ones own group that was also essential and of significance.

Social behavior has to be learned, however. Armstrong said the Buddhists recognized that humans have to cultivate being compassionate, particularly for those outside their group.

In the 20th century, it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who noted that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Along that line, I am inclined to think that violence anywhere is a threat to a peaceful life anywhere.

And regarding new technologies and sitting in front of a computer video game with our youth learning how to be violent, there are better things we can do with our time, and our youth’s time and that is learning to love and be respectful of other human beings.

I will close with an excerpt from Dr. King’s Nobel Prize speech in 1964 in Sweden where he mentions technological changes that, in today’s world, would include video games.

This evening I would like to use this lofty and historic platform to discuss what appears to me to be the most pressing problem confronting mankind today. Modern man has brought this whole world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future. He has reached new and astonishing peaks of scientific success. He has produced machines that think and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. He has built gigantic bridges to span the seas and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies. His airplanes and spaceships have dwarfed distance, placed time in chains, and carved highways through the stratosphere. This is a dazzling picture of modern man’s scientific and technological progress.
Yet, in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. (Martin Luther King

Trade? Trump Blames the Victims

No, Mr. Trump don’t build a wall!
End the huge corn subsidies to US corporate agribusiness
and support small farmers in Mexico and the United States!
Heather Gray
January 31, 2018
Justice Initiative 

In his “State of the Union “address last night, Trump continues to make insulting comments about Mexicans and stating he wants to build a wall. I guess he wants to emulate Israel with its wall against the Palestinians. Nevertheless, build a wall? This is insane! Instead, he needs to look at the impact of US policies on Mexican farmers and workers as well as workers in the US. It’s the US policies that need changing, and in particular the huge inappropriate farm subsidies for the US corn industry.When NAFTA was being negotiated in the 1990s, many of us were concerned about the impact this would have on small farmers in Mexico. We already knew a couple of disastrous provisions in the NAFTA agreement that would prove fatal to Mexican farmers. First was the loosening of export provisions to Mexico allowing US subsidized corn to then flood the Mexican market. Second, and for the first time, Mexico was allowing foreigners to purchase land. Our fears of the disastrous outcomes were realized.

I have spent most of my communications career working with Black farmers across the southeast US. It didn’t take long, after NAFTA, for us in the South to witness the changes in the region. Mexicans from rural Mexico were flooding into the United States and black farmers were hiring them to work on their farms and learning Spanish so they could speak with these workers.

So what happened?

First of all, it’s important to note that Mexico is the creator of corn. Corn was first created some 5,000 to 7,000 thousand years in Mexico and it took about 1,000 years for it to reach North America. Oddly and ironically enough, it is now this corn brought to the US from Mexico that is presently destroying Mexico’s indigenous corn infrastructure. In the ideal world, the ancient Mexicans should never have allowed the north Americans to have knowledge of the corn plant.

Mexico has been renowned for its huge variety of indigenous corn – and healthy corn, I might add. The Mexican corn has been grown in healthy soil with no chemicals whatsoever. And now NAFTA has impacted nearly all of this important heritage.

Under NAFTA, American agribusiness has been able to dump its subsidized corn on the Mexican market with disastrous results. Here’s from the New York Times:

The more than $10 billion that American taxpayers give corn farmers every year in agricultural subsidies has helped destroy the livelihoods of millions of small Mexican farmers, according to a report to be released on Wednesday….

Mexico, the birthplace of corn, opened its borders to American corn exports after signing the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. Within a year, corn imports from the United States doubled and today nearly one-third of the corn used in Mexico is imported from the United States. The United States is the biggest exporter of corn in the world and the biggest exporter of corn to Mexico. (2003 – New York Times)

As a result of this cheap and unhealthy corn being dumped on the Mexican market, some 2 million Mexican farmers were forced off the land. Mexican farmers could not compete with this cheap corn and, I might add, the corn from the US was largely GMO and chemical laden. This imported corn has also dramatically and negatively impacted the health of Mexicans. Again, here’s from the New York Times:

As heavily subsidized U.S. corn and other staples poured into Mexico, producer prices dropped and small farmers found themselves unable to make a living. Some two million have been forced to leave their farms since Nafta. At the same time, consumer food prices rose, notably the cost of the omnipresent tortilla.

As a result, 20 million Mexicans live in “food poverty”. Twenty-five percent of the population does not have access to basic food and one-fifth of Mexican children suffer from malnutrition. Transnational industrial corridors in rural areas have contaminated rivers and sickened the population and typically, women bear the heaviest impact.

Not all of Mexico’s problems can be laid at Nafta’s doorstep. But many have a direct causal link. The agreement drastically restructured Mexico’s economy and closed off other development paths by prohibiting protective tariffs, support for strategic sectors and financial controls. (2013 – New York Times)

So not only did NAFTA have a disastrous impact on Mexican farmers and the health of Mexicans, it also impacted workers in the United States, as well as leading to more crime and a lot of this is linked directly to American agricultural subsidies of the huge US corn agribusiness being dumped on the Mexican market. Once again from the New York Times:

Nafta’s failure in Mexico has a direct impact on the United States. Although it has declined recently, jobless Mexicans migrated to the United States at an unprecedented rate of half a million a year after Nafta.

Workers in both countries lose when companies move, when companies threaten to move as leverage in negotiations, and when nations like Mexico lower labor rights and environmental enforcement to attract investment.

Farmers lose when transnational corporations take over the land they supported their families on for generations. Consumers lose with the imposition of a food production model heavy on chemical use, corporate concentration, genetically modified seed and processed foods. Border communities lose when lower environmental standards for investors affect shared ecosystems.

The increase in people living in poverty feeds organized crime recruitment and the breakdown of communities. Increased border activity facilitates smuggling arms and illegal substances. (2013 – New York Times)


So, Mr. Trump you want a “fair and reciprocal” trade policy? You are instead blaming the victims of US policies. And is this being “fair and reciprocal”? I think not.

And regarding trade policies, where are the small Mexican farmers in the mix? Why have their concerns, both by the US and Mexican negotiators, not been considered?

And, Mr. Trump, when reviewing the NAFTA agreement, are you finally going consider ending the huge subsidies to corporate agribusiness that are destroying small farmers in Mexico and also not helping small farmers in America. If you want to help farmers in America here’s another idea.  How about offering a sizable portion of the $10 billion to support small farmers and organic farmers in the United States? That would benefit the American economy and the health of Americans, as well, and make America “great” as you say!

But the fact is, it’s way past time to end these huge agribusiness subsidies, although the harm they have already done is immense. Rather than blaming Mexicans in the United States and wanting to build a dreadful wall, here’s another idea if you want to be “fair and reciprocal”. Instead of $10 billion in subsidies going to US agribusiness, how about the $10 billion going to the 2 million Mexican farmers forced off their land and to the Black community in America as reparations for the harm done to them by US policies! Now that could be considered “fair and reciprocal”!

Here’s a video about Mexican corn and the impact of these US corn subsidies:

The World According to Monsanto

Contamination of corn in Mexico by Monsanto

Learning from Rashid Nuri: About George Washington Carver

 It’s not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success”  George Washington Carver. 
January 22, 2018


George Washington Carver in 1906.
Photo: Frances Benjamin Johnston [Public domain], via
Wikimedia Commons

Below is the audio and transcription of a 2016 interview with urban farmer Rashid Nuri about George Washington Carver (c1864-1943).

George Washington Carver was hugely influential in Rashid’s life as he was for countless individuals in the South, the nation and the world. As Rashid notes, it was Carver who saved the South through his brilliant assessment of the damage “king” cotton was doing to southern soil. The constant year after year of cotton production was “mining” the soil and depleting it of it’s natural resources and life. Rashid explains how Carver introduced the important practice of rotating crops to add nutrients back into the soil and subsequently how Carver discovered countless uses of some of these crops for the industrial world.

It was Booker T. Washington who, as president of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama (now Tuskegee University), wisely invited Carver to Tuskegee in 1896 to head the Tuskegee Agriculture Department. Due to his scientific accomplishments, it didn’t take long for Carver’s reputation to spread throughout the world. Carver began  receiving requests from the likes of Henry Ford to help in the car industry; the Russians also requested help from Carver with their cotton production, as well as others who desired access his brilliance. Nevertheless, Carver chose to stay at Tuskegee until his death in 1943.

In admiration, President Franklin Roosevelt chose to visit
George Washington Carver at Tuskegee – 1939

At various meetings and conferences at Tuskegee, I have been fortunate to meet some of those who knew Carver at Tuskegee, as well as to many times visit  the Carver Museum at Tuskegee University.

We, in the South, are blessed Carver came our way and chose to stay in the South, while engaging in his brilliant scientific endeavors and simultaneously serving others through his compassionate humanity. But it is important to stress yet again that his work “saved the South” which included all farmers, both black and white, and farmers throughout the world. He taught and served us all.

Below is information about Rashid Nuri’s background.

At the community radio station WRFG-FM in Atlanta, Georgia, I have a radio program entitled “Just Peace”, that I have been producing for more than two decades. In addition, however, my professional career has been in agriculture working with Black farmers across the South. So, I decided quite a few years ago that in addition to the vast array of justice issues I cover on the show, that it was important to provide listeners with information about food. Not only about the politics of food but most importantly “how to grow it”.

This was inspired thanks to Atlanta’s organic urban farmer Rashid Nuri who created the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. I had realized that if there was anyone in Atlanta, the United States or virtually anywhere in the world who understood the breadth of the history, the politics of food, and about organic production altogether,  it was Rashid Nuri.

With a degree from Harvard University in Political Science and a masters degree in Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts, he is certainly well qualified to put it mildly. As an ‘organic’ farmer he said he had to unlearn virtually everything he acquired from the Soil Science degree, and I understand that as well.

In addition to all of this, in the 1990s Rashid worked under Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Espy (the first Black Secretary), as the Director of the Commodity Credit Corporation. Rashid had also lived and worked on agriculture issues in Africa and Asia for a number of years.

As you can see from all this impressive background, Rashid’s breadth of both the knowledge and analysis of the politics and history of food is significant. We are blessed he decided to create his organization here in Atlanta. So, since 2011, I have been interviewing Rashid once a month about agriculture and also opening the phone lines for listeners to ask questions about the topic at hand or organic production techniques, etc.

The 2016 interview with Rashid Nuri was by me, Heather Gray. First, here is the audio of the interview with Rashid and below is an edited transcription.

2016 Audio of Interview with Rashid Nuri

Edited Transcribed Interview –
Learning from Rashid Nuri

About George Washington Carver


     Carver talked to the plants? No, the plants talked to Carver. He would get up in the morning and take his walk in the fields and listen. You know we do that in our garden here. The plants will tell you what they need, when they need it.  

Rashid Nuri


Heather Gray – Tonight we’re going to focus on George Washington Carver. Now Rashid one of your major influences or mentors in agriculture, whether you actually knew him or not, is George Washington Carver. When were you first aware of him?

Rashid Nuri – Oh, I was very young. Much of my life I’ve read biographies and history which is what I’m interested in. I remember a series of blue hard covered books, and George Washington Carver was one of those. And this was 60 years ago. So I’ve been aware of him for much of my life. The awareness has increased over the years.

I’ve gone through different phases of my own learning and education in agriculture. George Washington Carver is more than an icon. He’s a multi-dimensional man. The levels of contributions he has made to not only America but to the world is absolutely amazing. We began to build upon the legacy that he established so many years ago.

Heather – Amazing in what sort of way? But, first let’s first talk about who he is.

Rashid – George Washington Carver is a shaman – a very spiritual man. He was a plant scientist trained in Iowa. And Booker T. Washington brought him to Tuskegee at the end of the 19th century and he was at Tuskegee until he died in January of 1943.

And his impact on American agriculture and American industry, social relations, all of these were absolutely amazing. He single handedly saved the South. A lot of folks think of him only having worked with Black people because he was at Tuskegee but the impact of his contribution literally saved southern agriculture.

Southern agriculture was built around cotton. And cotton, at the time that he started doing his work at Tuskegee, was just about played out. The boll weevil was eating it all up. They didn’t know what to do.

Carver came up with a solution, which was crop rotation.This is simple stuff that we know now and certainly implement in our natural urban agricultural work. Some of the big farmers don’t do it very much, but to a certain extent they all do.

The standard catechism of agriculture is that you rotate your crops and he’s the one that introduced it. He introduced soybeans, sweet potatoes, and he introduced peanuts into the rotation with cotton and that brought the soil back and saved the South.

(Southern farmers) were mining the soil by planting the same thing over and over and the plants were weak because the soil had been mined. It’s why the boll weevil got in there and spread, so they were scared about the boll weevils and didn’t want to see them come back.

Carver showed them how to take care of the situation.

Heather – And again it was largely because when they rotated the crops it fixed nitrogen in the soil?

Rashid – On no, it did more than fix nitrogen. It added organic materials into the soil. It brought nutrients back into the soil by having crop rotations.

You know the relationship we have with plants is amazing. You’ve got the complexity and you’ve got the simplicity. Everything on the planet is dependent upon the sun. But we can’t live on the sun directly. The energy through the sun is accumulated through our plants and then we eat those plants and animals and that’s how we get our sun.

But the symbiosis that exists between the sun, the earth, the water…all of these coming together, that’s what makes it work.

So, yeah, you fix nitrogen back into the soil, but you could add chemical nitrogen rather than through crop rotation, so its others elements that are important. Again, it’s all the other elements that come into play that’s important. It’s the “organic” material that you need to put in the soil to make sure the soil is alive. If you put chemicals in there you’re going to kill it – the soil.

So therefore you need to have life-giving elements added to the soil and Carver showed them how to do that through the rotation of legumes such as peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans.

Heather – So, Rashid I was reading something about Carver today that I hadn’t read before about his work. With the crop rotations it so energized the soil for farmers in Alabama so that there was an excess amount of peanuts and sweet potatoes to the point that they couldn’t sell all of the crops they were producing. So Carver started looking at other ways to use these crops.

Rashid – He looked at ways that those crops and their bi-products can be utilized. He gets credit for inventing peanut butter – he really didn’t. But there are hundreds of other things that he did for using these products as in plastic and paint in so many different ways.

Carver also had a wagon that he would ride around in and go out to see the farmers. So, in a lot of ways, he was an extension agent and he’s a hero.

He really was an amazing man – an amazing man.

And the sacrifices he made personally in order to be able to do this work…Most people don’t know and are absolutely shocked to find out that first and foremost he was a eunuch. He was castrated. That’s why they allowed him to go to school with white people in Iowa because he was not a threat. You know Carver was born a slave and he was educated and the only way he could be educated is if he was castrated. This is not what was uncommon at that time but the depravity of that is not discussed, as it would place a lot of guilt. So here was this great man and the sacrifice that he made for his career, his people for the world to give up his manhood. You can go research – there are only four instances where his voice was recorded and he had a tiny itty-bitty voice.

Many years ago I was in Los Angeles doing urban agriculture there and we did a George Washington Carver celebration over at USC – the University of Southern California – and this man came down from Marin County to be our keynote speaker. I wish I could remember his name.

He was working on a book about Carver and in my opinion would probably be the most comprehensive biography that would have been done because he made a point of going around and speaking to every person who’s alive that had a connection to George Washington Carver. That’s an immense responsibility and task. I asked him “Are you going to put in the book the fact that he was castrated?” He said he didn’t know. My opinion to him and still is that you need to because if you are going to write a tome that is as well documented as what you’re telling me you’re going to do and do not include it – if your book is the most referenced there is and you leave that out it’s going to go down as “the” history and it’s going to exclude an important factor – things that people out to know about this man. I hope I put enough guilt on him that he’ll put it in there. But that’s something to consider.

Heather – I always so enjoy talking about George Washington Carver. Here’s a quote from Carver that I think you use quote or part of this quote, Rashid. He said, “It’s not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success” George Washington Carver.

– It’s more than a quote I use sometimes. If you get an email from me that last line is on every email I send out and I firmly believe that – “It’s simply service that measures success.” I so believe that. Most people who know me know that when I leave you or you leave me I going to tell you “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Because I think that is being of service. Being of service is what you’re supposed to do.Heather – I also want to ask you about the spiritual connection George Washington Carver had with plants. And I want to read this quote from something today I was reading about Carver.“The degree of Carver’s impact extends beyond his agricultural contributions, encompassing his service to help others obtain a higher quality of life. Carver contributed to the economic improvement of the Southern farmer by offering alternative crops beneficial to them and their land….Though Carver prides his success on service, his environmental contributions were substantial. He conscientiously utilized bio-based products and industrial products made from renewable resources rather than those made from scarce or non-renewable resources. Environmentally, his contributions were viewed by some as an agricultural revolution (Stanley 1996; Holt 1943). He was an extraordinary man who recognized the natural relationships of living things, both plants and people.

He was a deeply religious man who treasured the world of nature and saw himself as a vehicle by which the secrets of nature could be understood and harnessed for the good of mankind. That was his mission in life, and his reward for performing this mission was the simple knowledge that he was performing well God’s will.” (Kremer 1987, 17)

Rashid – Amen!

Heather – But it is also said, Rashid, that he talked with plants.

Rashid – You never had that experience?

Heather – I haven’t but my sister has.

Rashid – We live in a world that is so reductionist and we don’t understand the whole. Organic, to me, means “whole.” Human beings on the earth today – we are disconnected from the soil, disconnected from the natural world. We feel we are superior to the natural world and thus attempt to conquer nature instead of being in harmony and in tune with nature. The plants and the animals – all of them form a community that existed long before we got here and they’ll be here long after we’re gone.

All those folks who say that they’re concerned about climate change and how we’re going to destroy the earth? I’m not worried about that at all. I’m really not. Cause the planet has been here and it’s been strong for gazillions of years. Mankind has only been here for 15 minutes. And the real problem is that if we don’t take care of the environment around us, it may kill us. It’s the human beings that are going to have the problem, not mother earth. Mother earth has been here and it’s going to be able to continue.

So, if we understand the relationships between the plants and the earth and the sun and the water, we would have much more of a greater respect for what’s around us and our connections and inner actions with it.

Carver talked to the plants? No, the plants talked to Carver. He would get up in the morning and take his walk in the fields and listen. You know we do that in our garden here. The plants will tell you what they need, when they need it. And all you have to do is pay attention, open your eyes, open all of your being to be able to receive the information that’s coming in. Plants have a way of communicating with each other. This is why natural urban agriculture works.

We don’t have to worry about the pesticides and the chemicals out there because those plants will take care of themselves. If some kind of disease gets in there through the micro-rise of the fungi, that’s under the soil web, they are able to communicate and say “Whoa, something’s coming to get us, let’s gird up.” So they get ready and protect themselves. So they might have some sacrifice and that happens in any war. You’re going to have some casualties. But what you have to do is to protect the community and the plants are able to do that.

You get out into the woods? Man, you’re going to have different kinds of trees – hardwoods and evergreens that are there. One part of the year they switch back and forth, feeding each other and they do – they literally talk.

The most important part of the garden is around on the edges, because you may turn that soil over in the middle and that’s why you want to minimize how much you turn that soil because you don’t want to go in there with big tillers because that’s like putting everything into a blender. You’re breaking up all the life that’s there.

If you look at our garden we have semi-permanent beds. There are only four feet wide. So that the micro-rise – the little white fine fungus – they can communicate with each other. If I’ve got a big huge field that I’ve been spinning over and understand how the life starts around the edges, the wider that field is, the harder it will be for those things to communicate. That’s why if you go out to those big chemical farms – those large commercial farms – those soils are dead. You can’t find an earthworm, a mealy bug, a roly-poly, a centipede…nothing is in that soil that’s going to bring life to it. So that’s why it becomes a chemistry set. You add the chemicals to make those plants grow and they add the chemical nitrogen in it.

We owe that particular science, that reductionist science, to a man named Dr. Justus Von Liebig – that’s a hell of a name! Justus Von Liebig who, back in the 1850s, discovered a couple of things. He’s the man who came up with vitamins, vital amino acids, he broke that down and he able to isolate what are the principle elements and he called it the “law of the minimum”. What are the minimum things that you need to make the plants grow? That discovery enabled him to come up with the whole concept of N, P & K – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) to make things grow or appear to grow. But what comes out of there is steroid, plastic food. That’s what you see in the grocery store. They have no taste. And you want to add hybridization to that list of steroid food such as GMO’s. You then have with food that is worthless. It’s really rough.

Heather – Not necessarily good for us either!

Rashid – My opinion, and I think the science will bear this out even more in the future, is that the human body has not evolved to the place where it can metabolize these de-natured foods. And that’s a problem.

So back to Carver. Yeah, Carver would listen to those plants. They would tell him what to do. What would work. Because he was spiritual. He opened himself. He allowed himself to commune with nature. And if you use the language of communing with nature you’re communing with God. Being with those plants is a meditative form. It’s a whole other realm if you let yourself go and try to establish that connection that you have with the plants and the soil.

Heather – You had asked me and I said I hadn’t talked with plants. So what is your experience with communing with plants Rashid? Can you expound upon that any further?

Rashid – Well, I can tell you about a rose garden – 30,000 rose bushes and I saw rose petals out there. Every morning I’d get out around sun rise and I’d go out and cut roses and there were little people out there running around in the middle of garden. I don’t know how deep you want to get into this. Whatever is the intelligence that has created this sphere in which we live – God, Allah, etc. – that energy that permeates throughout gaia – mother earth – is there. And I think it’s up to us to tune into it.

The creation is magnificent. Look at the intelligence. Did you ever look at the pictures from the Hubble telescope to see all those galaxies and millions of stars millions of light years away in the universe – I don’t know if it’s expanding or contracting – whichever way it’s going – it’s huge. There’s so much out there. For those who have a solipsist orientation, and think the world revolves around the planet earth, are fools, in my opinion. There’s so much out here that we should be aware of and try to find our connection to it. It comes down to where each of us stand and how we conduct ourselves in relationship to all of this creation that is around us. You can’t miss it.

Heather – I was talking about my sister talking with plants. So my sister’s name is Grace and she is, in fact, full of grace. In any case, she has told me that at times when she’s talked with plants she’s seen the leaves move.

Rashid – Oh yeah. We look at a plant. We look at vegetation and we think they’re just sitting there. They ain’t doing nothing. If you put it on slow motion camera and speed it up and watch and see how they move, how they react…. Michael Pollan wrote a wonderful article about the intelligence of plants that was in the New Yorker magazine last year. I keep a copy on my desk and send it out to whoever is interested.

You know that character Flash – in that comic book character, Flash is zooming around so that you can hardly see him move. Well, that’s how we are to the plants. Humans are zooming around them.

But the plants are very much alive and conscious. There’s the “secret life of plants” – several books have been written about that subject. You cut them they feel and you can see them react when they’re cut. Our emotional responses affect the plants that are around us. The plants also affect us. The aromas – all of the fragrances that we use in aromatherapy come from plants. Look at the effect that they have on us in the concentration that they’re used. So you can see that if you take the time to look at, and study, you will see plants react.

Heather – Now, I want to mention something about this. There is a farmer I heard of in Saskatchewan in Canada. So his crop would have been huge, probably a mono-crop production – probably wheat or oats. But what he found was that in order to enhance the production of his crop he would get these loud speakers that he would put around the field and he would play Beethoven or Bach or something. And apparently it had a profound effect on these plants. Does that make sense to you Rashid?

Rashid – Oh, absolutely. Music is the healing force of the universe. Anywhere you go in the creation you’re going to have music, you’re going to hear sounds. So yeah, if you get the right vibration…and if you also understand from physics, everything has a vibration. So if you play music that has the same frequencies as those plants you’re going to be effective.

Heather – How do you know the frequencies of plants?

Rashid – Intuitive. Here’s a way to look at it. You like music. Isn’t there some music that you find soothing, it helps you to spur your creativity, it calms you, relaxes you. And there’s other music that excites you. And then there’s some dissonance out there that will just drive you crazy. It’s all the same. Part of the problem is we try to separate ourselves from plants and animals and see ourselves as so much different from them when in fact they have higher senses than we do.

Heather – That’s interesting.

– I think so – that’s my opinion.Heather – When you’re talking about the reductionist mentality toward plants how do you define that?Rashid – You know I talked about Von Liebig. When he can reduce the plant needs down to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – that’s reductionist. And it’s isolated certain elements and it’s not correct. When they started using ammonium phosphate and the nitrate out in the field as fertilizer that’s reductionist. That was gunpowder they’re using. So the war manufacturers say, “Well, we’ve made good money during the war, now what can we do to keep our plants running?” And they put that gunpowder out into the fields. That’s reductionist. I could go on and on.Let me say also that right now the leaves are falling off the trees and don’t take those leaves and put them in some bags so that the trash man gets it. Collect those leaves and put them in your backyard and compost them so you can put them back into soil to grow your food next Spring. This is a leaf collection time.And I’m so happy these leaves are falling down, that gives us material. When you’re working on a farm you always want to have water and material around if you’re going to grow food the way we do.

Heather – Thank you so much again, Rashid!

Race, Intelligence and the Corporate Plunder of Africa


Heather Gray 
January 21, 2018
Justice Initiative International  
I first wrote this article below in 2014 for Counterpunch, but I have revised it somewhat. I decided to send it out given Trump’s latest statement about “shit hole” countries that unbelievably included Africa. As noted in this article, Trump’s statement should be turned on its head and instead of these kinds of criticisms by the likes of Trump, the west needs to instead start learning from Africans as well as the likes of Australian aborigines in order to continue to survive on Mother Earth. The west has been too abusive and yes “shit hole” like to both the environment and other human beings to give any rationale that the west is in any way intelligent compared to other far more traditional societies.
But we do have models out there to learn from as somewhat shared below, and we should take advantage of this wisdom for the well being of all.  For example, the European Australians are finally realizing that it’s way past time to begin learning from Australian aborigines regarding how to appropriately survive in the Australian climate.  And some westerners are finally also realizing that what’s important is to be respectful of Mother Earth and attempt to live in harmony with it rather than abusing it with chemicals, as well as inappropriate and climate impacting energy sources, such as oil and gas, etc.,  if human beings are to survive on the planet in the long run.
Let’s face it, the very first university in world was in Africa – the University of Timbuktu:
Long before the European Renaissance, Timbuktu in Mali ranked high alongside great empires in Ghana and Songhai.
The University of Timbuktu in Mali was situated in a city that was already thriving in the 12th century.
The city of Timbuktu had the most universities in any nation. It was proof of the talents, creativity and ingenuity of the African people.
It was also the highly sophisticated North African Black Moors (Muslims) who, when ruling the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) for 700 years (711 to 1492), finally brought Europe out of the Dark Ages.  (Telsur)
Immigration?  Africans are far better educated than most other immigrants – including those from Norway, as well as those US born – here’s from the the LA Times:
(Regarding Trump)… he clearly does not have a clue about Africa and of the qualifications of Africans immigrating to the US. They are generally far better educated than US born Americans and other immigrants as well. For example, of the 1.4 million Africans over the age of 25 coming to the US since 2010, 41% have bachelor degrees, compared to 30% of all other immigrants, 32% of the US born population and 38% of the 19,000 immigrants from Norway.
African immigrants are also more likely to have graduate degrees. Of the 1.4 million since 1980, 16% had “a masters degree, medical degree, law degree or a doctorate, compared with 11% of the U.S. born population.” (LA Times)
The following is what I wrote about the corporate plunder of Africa in 2014.
Race, Intelligence and the Corporate Plunder of Africa
In the August 12, 2014 Issue of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik wrote the following:
“Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History”, is the new book by science writer Nicholas Wade that asserts a genetic basis for certain human behaviors and distinguishes them by race. It’s been widely panned in book reviews, especially by experts in the fields of science and social science touched on by the work.

Reviewers have cited scientific errors in the book, but typically aim more directly at Wade’s conclusions.

The most newsworthy reaction to the book has just come from the genetic sciences community, in the form of an open letter signed by (as of this writing) 143 senior biologists and geneticists from around the world, decrying what they say is Wade’s “misappropriation of research from our field to support arguments about differences among human societies.”

They write: “Wade juxtaposes an incomplete and inaccurate account of our research on human genetic differences with speculation that recent natural selection has led to worldwide differences in I.Q. test results, political institutions and economic development. We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not.”

Wade’s book was well timed for the gathering in August 2014 by President Obama of African leaders with U.S. corporate leaders and others in Washington to further explore incursion of U.S. corporations in Africa. The book in a sense offers the justification of corporate take-over and land grabbing of the continent, as in, “intelligent” people should control the land.

When I was a high school student in the early 1960s in Atlanta there was some study presented to my “white” high school colleagues and me about intelligence along these same lines presented by the outrageous Nicolas Wade. Even then, at age 16, I knew this was not correct. I spoke out in the class about this and criticized it.  My teacher was nonplussed by my comment. I suspected some inappropriate manipulation was going on here and I was right. I usually think of this kind of analysis as a way for whites to assuage their guilt of abuse of others and justifying this abuse by making the point they are more intelligent. What nonsense! If this sort of so-called intelligence makes for abusive behavior then forbid anything of us should have it!!!

But then explaining differences in human groups was what Jared Diamond explored in his book ” Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” (1997). He was attempting to address differences in acquisition of buildings, various and sundry structures, written language and so on and especially weapons accumulation…and, in fact, ultimately imperialist ventures and violent abuse of others throughout the world which, unfortunately, distinguishes European behavior. China also evolved similarly.

It goes back to agriculture according to Diamond – it is the fount of it all. Its mass production is thought to have started in Iraq some 13 thousand years ago. It led to the diversification of human societies (i.e. farmers, philosophers, builders, scientists, etc.), the creation of written language and then villages, city states, nations and on because food was assured – people didn’t need to hunt for it or gather it as before. They could stay situated.

Diamond maintains that virtually every human group attempted to domesticate what was available to them – both plants and animals – but what made the difference is climate and, essentially, the latitude or longitude where humans lived. When the agriculture methods and domesticated animals moved north of Iraq, or when the humans in the north developed domesticated animals and crops themselves, there was a huge latitude in the plains of central Asia from Europe to China that allowed the crops and animals to acclimatize themselves. When the weather changed during the year, humans in this latitude made sure the food was stored and protected. It was protected often by weapons they developed for this purpose or to hunt on the open plains, so that the availability of the food was not a problem in difficult times of the year. (I maintain weapons systems by the west developed thousands of years ago have got out of hand!!!)

The point is, however, that all human groups are intelligent and what makes the difference in terms of what “things” they might have developed is determined by their needs and environment with the primary goal being able to adapt to their environment and to survive.

Africa is huge longitudinally. Because of that, as crops and animals from Iraq started moving down the continent it took thousands of year to acclimatize to the various longitudinal levels. Food was readily available throughout the year in the tropics. And they didn’t necessarily need their food to be stored in the same way as the weather was not radically changing as compared to the northern climates. Besides they were engaged in their own local production of food as well as hunting and gathering as most human groups have done for time immemorial.

Australian aborigines also attempted to domestic plants available to them, but this was not a long-term viable option given the dry Australian climate. When I lived in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s someone said to me, “The aborigines aren’t anything – what have they built?” And I thought at the time, “So that’s the criteria. What human groups have built or made seems to be what gives the impression of intelligence.”

Whereas the fact is, as mentioned, that what’s ultimately important and intelligent is being able to adapt to your environment. Believe me, Europeans could not survive in the stark Australian desert without Australian aboriginal assistance. Europeans didn’t have the collective intelligence on knowing how to do this.

Virtually all human groups will figure out a way to adapt to their environment but some humans abuse the environment as we in the west have done and are doing. Interestingly enough, however, in Australia for thousands of years the aborigines learned to adapt to the varying water shortage dilemma. Now, because of water and environmental problems in Australia and Australian European abuse of the environment, Australians of European descent are trying to garner the wisdom of the ancient and accumulated aborigine knowledge. Here is a link to an article about this entitled “Living Wisdom: Aborigines and the Environment” by Olga Gostin and Alwin Chong (1994).

But herein lives the difference in attitude of the European worldview versus aborigines as from the above ” Living Wisdom” article. It is critical to understand this difference.

“The European world view tends to separate the spiritual, natural and human domains whose characteristics and attributes are ever open to challenge, debate and reinterpretation.  In this lies another important distinction between the two cultural traditions as expressed in attitudes towards knowledge.  In the Aboriginal world view, knowledge is an extension of the cosmic order and comprises the accumulated wisdom of the group since time immemorial, handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.  This does not mean that the body of knowledge is changeless or finite, but rather that changes and additions become incorporated into the collective wisdom of the group.  The individual acquires this knowledge progressively and cumulatively during a lifetime punctuated by periods of intense learning now described in many parts of Australia as “going through The Law”.  Knowledge is acquired both by imitation in day-to-day contact with peers and older persons, and by bestowal by specialist older persons.

Knowledge is acquired both by imitation in day-to-day contact with peers and older persons, and by bestowal by specialist older persons. The latter is often undertaken in a highly charged ritual setting, which is both secret and separate from those who are not undergoing the same experience. It does not invite debate or challenge. The individual progresses through these stages of specialised learning and graduates as a different person with new knowledge, new privileges and new responsibilities. This change in status is universally accepted by the group whose acceptance enforces the person’s new role and responsibilities, derived directly from having tapped into the ancient wisdom of the group. At present the diversity of Aboriginal Australia is such that not all Aboriginal people necessarily access the same sources of knowledge. Even so, the role of older persons and kin groups in passing on knowledge remains very important.

The European quest for knowledge, by contrast, is markedly different in character. It is essentially an individual search driven by specialist interests backed by open access to the accumulated knowledge of past generations stored in libraries. The cosmic order has itself been secularised and the quest is to establish verifiable facts and theories in an atmosphere of detached critical analysis and intellectual debate.


‘This impersonal academic tradition is a far cry from the highly ritualised bestowal of knowledge upon a neophyte by the custodians of ancient wisdom. The end product of the two traditions results in a very different reading of the environment and a different perception of what, in the West, is identified as technology and science and. in Aboriginal culture, is celebrated as ancient wisdom and traditional skills. This is not to say that Aboriginal people did not or cannot think about the environment in a scientific or rational way. They can and do.(Living Wisdom)

I maintain that those of us of European descent are, if anything, arrogant and misled to think we have intelligence that can challenge the wisdom of the likes of the Australian aborigines and Africans. We have largely abused our gift of life and land by thinking that we can challenge and control nature. We can’t. We have not been respectful of it. Some have referred to GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) by likes of Monsanto as “God Move Over”. Indeed.

The consequences of our European abuse of nature are immense and regard even the survival of the planet as we know it.

Just recently in Atlanta I was talking with some friends about south Georgia. There are some beautiful marshlands in the area. It was brought up that all of the land was at one point underwater – all of it part of the ocean. This, of course, includes all of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, the Carolinas and on. Indeed one of the oldest mountain ranges in the country are the Appalachian Mountains in the south that evolved some 480 million years ago. By comparison, we human beings are primates and we evolved in Africa some 6 to 2 million years ago.

The life and land were gifts to us and yet we have abused this gift. We, primarily those of us of European descent, have polluted the land and air. We have thought we could control nature and manipulate it at will rather than being respectful of it and communing with it. And now we are beginning to lose it all thanks to our abuse. The ocean, for one, is reclaiming the land in Georgia and Florida and all over the world we are witnessing loss of island land and countless other environmental challenges because of this abuse. This is thanks to climate change largely brought on by environmental reaction of our massive chemical abuse used in agriculture and transportation. And you call this intelligent behavior? I think not. We have tried to separate ourselves from nature and we are suffering from the consequences of the arrogance and, in fact, considerable lack of intelligence and understanding of the world in which we live.

Nicolas Wade needs to get a grip on history and knowledge of human groups and their evolution. He obviously knows nothing. And further African leaders and all of us should be incredibly cautious of the American corporate demands and investment in the huge African continent for the sake of Africans, their well-being and safety, and for the planet itself.


The Atomic Plague – Hiroshima 1945

In his farewell address to the nation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warns the American people to keep a careful eye on what he calls the “military-industrial complex”
that has developed in the post-World War II years. (History)
Excerpt – Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower,
January 17, 1961
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger
our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. (Yale)


Ruins of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall on August 6, 1945.  
January 16, 2018
Justice Initiative International

On January 17, 1961, 57 years ago today, President Dwight Eisenhower warned Americans about the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, his warning remains relevant 57 years later. This is evident, for one, in the huge US military budget along with the rhetoric of President Donald Trump with his outrageous challenge of Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

U.S. President Donald Trump escalated his standoff with North Korea over its nuclear challenge on Tuesday, threatening to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people and mocking its leader, Kim Jong Un, as a “rocket man.” (9/16/17 – Reuters)

That we need to once again look back at the horrifying repercussions of the nuclear bombs is a sad state of affairs. The US, in fact, has been the only country to use this destructive weapon when the American military dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

If there is any discussion about nuclear bombs at all it should be that the world needs to now and forever ban this weapon altogether.  The existence of nuclear weapons remains a threat to the world.

Below are two articles by the first journalists reporting on Hiroshima in 1945, but first some background information.

The United States dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 5, 1945 and on Nagasaki on August 7, 1945. It took some three weeks for the world to know about the excessive injuries, death and despair to the Japanese people as a result. There were two journalists who first reported on the tragedy. One was Leslie Nakashima, the United Press International Japanese-American reporter with his August 27, 1945 article; and Wilfred Burchett, the Australian reporter for London’s The Daily Express with his September 5, 1945 article.

It is largely reported that Burchett was the first to report on the tragedy. But instead, it was Nakashima whose article was written, as mentioned, on August 27, 1945 that was also in the New York Times on August 31, 1945.

In 1995, 50 years after that dreadful event, I visited Hiroshima, Japan and its impressive Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum. The message of a call for peace at the museum was profound. In fact, the appeal from the people of Hiroshima to the world is best reported by Leslie Nakashima who visited Hiroshima again in 1985 –  40 years after the bombing.

Nakashima wrote that while the “thriving, modern city” then boasted a population of more than 1 million, the citizens had not forgotten the “horror of the bombing.”

“Their appeal is simple and sincere: Abolish nuclear weapons. Their slogan reflects that sentiment: ‘No more Hiroshimas.'” (UPI)

About Leslie Nakashima

Leslie Nakashima

The first news dispatch on the devastation of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb was filed by Hawaii native Leslie Nakashima (Japanese name: Satoru Nakashima), a Japanese-American. Various records and the accounts of those who knew him reveal that Mr. Nakashima filed his report via the United Press news agency on August 27, 1945. His article was printed in the New York Times on August 31 and in other publications. For many years the first report sent overseas from Hiroshima was believed to have been that of Wilfred Burchett, a correspondent for a British newspaper, but his report was filed eight days later.  

Nakashima, who worked on the copy desk at the Japan Times, filed the first personal account of the scene to appear in American newspapers. He gave the report to a correspondent for UPI, known then as United Press. Nakashima worked for UP’s Tokyo bureau until it closed after the United States entered the war in 1941.
He traveled to Hiroshima not just to get the scoop, though; he wanted to make sure his mother was still alive. Nakashima, his wife and two daughters had left the city just two weeks before the atom bomb dropped. His mother stayed behind.“As I trod my way through the debris wondering if my mother was still alive, I realized the reality that Hiroshima city had been destroyed through the stupendous destructive power of a single atomic bomb,” he wrote.Nakashima found his mother’s house — a little more than two miles from the city center — with walls smashed in and the roof shattered. But she was safe.

After the end of WWII, Nakashima found himself in a delicate diplomatic situation. After the United States entered the war, he had his Japanese citizenship reinstated – which he had renounced in favor of U.S. citizenship when he was 23, a multi-part series on the Hiroshima Peace Media website said.

He attempted to regain his American citizenship after the war, but to no avail. His editors at UPI even petitioned the U.S. State Department, but Nakashima ultimately remained in Japan, writing for UPI until his retirement in 1975.

Nakashima died in 1990 at age 88, but before he did he wrote once more about his personal experience in Hiroshima in 1945. On the 40th anniversary of the bombing in 1985, he said it was hard to remember the city as it had been in the war. (UPI)

About Wilfred Burchett

Wilfred Burchett

Wilfred Burchett is perhaps the greatest journalist and war correspondent Australia has ever produced. He was also one of the most controversial figures of the Cold War, both in Australia and overseas. Burchett published more than 30 books, and this volume brings together extracts from most of these, spanning the entire breadth of his career, from before World War 2, through Hiroshima, Eastern Europe, Korea, Russia, Laos, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Angola, Rhodesia and other areas from which Burchett reported. The book presents these fields of reportage chronologically, and thus serves not only as a significant historical overview of the period, but also as a reader in Cold War journalism. (Cambridge)

Regarding the atomic bombing in Japan, I also encourage looking at the film about Burchett entitled “Public Enemy No. 1” directed and produced by David Bradbury. It provides original footage of the devastation of the people in Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb and more of Burchett’s remarkable journalistic career.

About Public Enemy No. 1: A portrait of maverick Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, who served as a war correspondent in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Delves into the controversy Burchett created by his firm conviction that the West was wrong in Korea and Vietnam. Burchett insisted he was exercising his journalistic responsibility in reporting the truth, but his critics labeled him a traitor and his country exiled him. Blue Ribbon winner, American Film Festival. (Public Enemy No. 1)

                            Articles by Leslie Nakashima and Wilfred Burchett

Below are the 1945 articles about Hiroshima written by Leslie Nakashima on August 27, 1945 entitled “Hiroshima as I saw it” and by Wilfred Burchett on September 5, 1945 entitled “I write this as a warning to the world.


Hiroshima as I saw it

by Leslie Nakashima
August 27 1945
United Press International Archives 

HIROSHIMA, Japan, Aug. 27 (UPI) — That the atomic bomb, more than Russia’s entry into the war, compelled Japan to surrender as she did on August 15 instead of waging a showdown battle on the Japanese mainland is a justifiable conclusion drawn after one sees what used to be Hiroshima city.

I’ve just returned to Tokyo from that city, which was destroyed at one stroke by a single atomic bomb thrown by a super flying fortress on the morning of August 6.

There’s not a single building standing intact in the city — until recently of 300,000 population. The death toll is expected to reach 100,000 with people continuing to die daily from burns suffered from the bomb’s ultra-violet rays.

I arrived in Hiroshima at 0500 on August 22, to find out about my mother who lived in the outskirts of Hiroshima city.

Alighting from the train I found that Hiroshima Station, which was one of the largest in western Japan, had gone out of existence.

The only thing left was the concrete platforms. Fragmentary parts of the walls of the brick building that constituted the old section of the station also told of the severity of the destruction caused by the atomic bomb.

Getting out into the open I was dumbfounded with the destruction before me. The center of the city immediately to the south and west of the station had been razed to the ground and there was sweeping view to the foot of the mountains to the southeast and north of the city.

In other words, what had been a city of 300,000 population had vanished.

So far as I could see there were skeletons of only three concrete buildings still standing in the city’s chief business center. They were the seven stories of a former department store, a five-story newspaper building (the former building of the Chugoku Shimbun), and a two-story bank.

Except for parts of brick gates and burnt out underground air raid shelters there remained no trace whatsoever of private dwellings.

I also found very little galvanized iron left, which was most significant inasmuch as every other Japanese city hit by fire bombs was found after the fires were out to be littered with so much galvanized iron as to give the impression that Japanese dwellings were mainly constructed from this material.

The sight before me as I headed for the outskirts of the city where my mother lived was virtually an unbelievable one.

It was unbelievable because only a fortnight before I had seen the city intact when I evacuated my wife and two daughters to central Japan.

Except for one or two bombs dropped on separate occasions by B-29s, Hiroshima city had not been subject to heavy incendiary bomb attacks although smaller cities in western Japan had been hit hard.Kure, a naval station nearby, had been the target of a heavy fire bomb attack on several occasions and people in Hiroshima had been wondering why their city had not been attacked.

Here, however, as I trod my way through the debris wondering if my mother was still alive, I realized the reality that Hiroshima city had been destroyed through the stupendous destructive power of a single atomic bomb.

Two miles (3.2 km) from the city’s center I found the dwellings heavily damaged?many of them crushed as if from heavily descending pressure.Another half a mile (0.8 km) distant and I found walls of dwellings smashed in and roofs shattered to attest to the power of the bomb’s air pressure.

Such was the condition of my mother’s house but I found her safe. She said she was weeding grass in a relative’s vegetable field about two miles (3.2 km) to the southeast of the city on the morning of August 6, when she saw the flash.

She immediately threw herself face down on the ground. She said she heard a terrific explosion and getting up, she saw columns of white smoke rising from all parts of the city high into the sky.

She said she then started running to her home as fast as she could because she didn’t know what was coming next. Why she suffered no burns from the ultra violet rays of the bombs is amazing.

Mrs. Hatsunobu Watai, who formerly lived in Honolulu, said she’s alive today because of her bad leg. Together with neighbor she left her home in the city’s outskirts about 0800 to go to the dentist.

Because of the bad leg, she fell behind her neighbor. About 0815 when she was about two miles from the city’s center she said she saw a bright flash in the sky, and immediately threw herself behind the rice standing in a paddy. And thus she avoided being burned by the bomb’s rays.

The next moment, however, she heard a loud explosion and saw white columns of smoke shooting up into the sky. It was “living hell” she said and she fled and sought shelter in some vegetable fields.

The neighbor who had gone ahead, however, suffered severe burns in her face and body and died. Mrs. Watai’s husband, also formerly of Honolulu, was at Hiroshima railway station at the time of the atomic bomb, but miraculously escaped with his life.

Watai said when he saw the flash overhead he threw himself face downward on the ground and remembered many people walking over him.

He then ran into the station building but the building began to crumble and he rushed out in time to save his life.

Miraculously he suffered no burns but he became sick from inhalation of the bomb’s gas, for which he is still taking treatment.

A school in the suburbs near my mother’s home has been turned into a field hospital to care for the people who suffered burns. But the majority of the cases are held to be hopeless. Many of them are unidentifiable. Even at this hospital, two or three patients are dying daily.

Even in this locality some three miles (4.8 km) from the city the leaves of vegetable plants have been scorched, causing the fear that the plant may eventually die.

Two weeks after the atomic bomb was dropped I still found the devastated city to be deserted. No attempt has been made to restore the streetcar transportation system.

And no attempt has been made to rehabilitate the city in any way. Warnings that people would take sick from the effects of uranium, which had seeped into the ground, kept people away from the destroyed area.

In this connection it has been reported that a number of soldiers doing salvage work have fallen ill, and therefore such work has been discontinued.

From such developments a fear has risen among Japanese authorities that reports from American sources that such bombed areas will be impossible for human habitation for 75 years may well be true.

I walked through the devastated area for two hours, looking for the ruins of the home of a friend on August 22 and then waited at Hiroshima Station for three hours on August 23 for the Tokyo bound train.

During this interval it is likely that I inhaled uranium because I’m still troubled with a loss of appetite and the least little exertion finds me tired.

The death toll was particularly heavy, I was told, because the governor of Hiroshima prefecture had issued a call for people on labor service to come out that day to haul away the lumber of buildings torn down to make fire escape routes in case of air raids.

Thousands of middle school boys and girls were accordingly victims and the number of those missing is astounding.

The Japanese authorities at first tried to minimize the effects of the atomic bomb but since the unconditional surrender they have been releasing full details.

The Fair Observer
August 24, 2014(In 1945 Wilburn Burchett) traveled 400 miles from Tokyo alone and unarmed carrying rations for seven meals – food is almost unobtainable in Japan – a black umbrella, and a typewriter.

“I Write This as a
Warning to the World”

by Wilburn Burchett
The Daily Express
London, September 5, 1945


In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly – people who were uninjured by the cataclysm – from an unknown something which I can only describe as atomic plague.

Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world. In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show.

When you arrive in Hiroshima you can look around and for 25, perhaps 30, square miles you can hardly see a building. It gives you an empty feeling in the stomach to see such man-made devastation.

And so the people of Hiroshima today are walking through the forlorn desolation of their once proud city with gauze masks over their mouths and noses. It probably does not help them physically. But it helps them mentally.

I picked my way to a shack [sic] used as a temporary police headquarters in the middle of the vanished city. Looking south from there I could see about three miles of reddish rubble. That is all the atomic bomb left of dozens of blocks of city streets, of buildings, homes, factories and human beings.

Still They Fall

There is just nothing standing except about 20 factory chimneys – chimneys with no factories. I looked west. A group of half a dozen gutted buildings. And then again nothing.

The police chief of Hiroshima welcomed me eagerly as the first Allied correspondent to reach the city. With the local manager of Domei, a leading Japanese news agency, he drove me through, or perhaps I should say over, the city. And he took me to hospitals where the victims of the bomb are still being treated.

In these hospitals I found people who, when the bomb fell, suffered absolutely no injuries, but now are dying from the uncanny after-effects.

For no apparent reason their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out. Bluish spots appeared on their bodies. And the bleeding began from the ears, nose and mouth.

At first the doctors told me they thought these were the symptoms of general debility. They gave their patients Vitamin A injections. The results were horrible. The flesh started rotting away from the hole caused by the injection of the needle.

And in every case the victim died.

That is one of the after-effects of the first atomic bomb man ever dropped and I do not want to see any more examples of it. But in walking through the month-old rubble I found others.

The Sulphur Smell

My nose detected a peculiar odour unlike anything I have ever smelled before. It is something like sulphur, but not quite. I could smell it when I passed a fire that was still smouldering, or at a spot where they were still recovering bodies from the wreckage. But I could also smell it where everything was still deserted.

They believe it is given off by the poisonous gas still issuing from the earth soaked with radioactivity released by the split uranium atom.

And so the people of Hiroshima today are walking through the forlorn desolation of their once proud city with gauze masks over their mouths and noses. It probably does not help them physically. But it helps them mentally.

From the moment that this devastation was loosed upon Hiroshima the people who survived have hated the white man. It is a hate the intensity of which is almost as frightening as the bomb itself.

“All Clear” Went

The counted dead number 53,000. Another 30,000 are missing, which means “certainly dead”. In the day I have stayed in Hiroshima – and this is nearly a month after the bombing – 100 people have died from its effects.

They were some of the 13,000 seriously injured by the explosion. They have been dying at the rate of 100 a day. And they will probably all die. Another 40,000 were slightly injured.

These casualties might not have been as high except for a tragic mistake. The authorities thought this was just another routine Super-Fort raid. The plane flew over the target and dropped the parachute which carried the bomb to its explosion point.

Many people had suffered only a slight cut from a falling splinter of brick or steel. They should have recovered quickly. But they did not. They developed an acute sickness. Their gums began to bleed. And then they vomited blood. And finally they died.

The American plane passed out of sight. The all-clear was sounded and the people of Hiroshima came out from their shelters. Almost a minute later the bomb reached the 2,000 foot altitude at which it was timed to explode – at the moment when nearly everyone in Hiroshima was in the streets.

Hundreds upon hundreds of the dead were so badly burned in the terrific heat generated by the bomb that it was not even possible to tell whether they were men or women, old or young.

Of thousands of others, nearer the centre of the explosion, there was no trace. They vanished. The theory in Hiroshima is that the atomic heat was so great that they burned instantly to ashes – except that there were no ashes.

If you could see what is left of Hiroshima you would think that London had not been touched by bombs.

Heap of Rubble

The Imperial Palace, once an imposing building, is a heap of rubble three feet high, and there is one piece of wall. Roof, floors and everything else is dust.

Hiroshima has one intact building – the Bank of Japan. This in a city which at the start of the war had a population of 310,000.

Almost every Japanese scientist has visited Hiroshima in the past three weeks to try to find a way of relieving the people’s suffering. Now they themselves have become sufferers.

For the first fortnight after the bomb dropped they found they could not stay long in the fallen city. They had dizzy spells and headaches. Then minor insect bites developed into great swellings which would not heal. Their health steadily deteriorated.

Then they found another extraordinary effect of the new terror from the skies.

Many people had suffered only a slight cut from a falling splinter of brick or steel.

They should have recovered quickly. But they did not. They developed an acute sickness. Their gums began to bleed. And then they vomited blood. And finally they died.

All these phenomena, they told me, were due to the radio-activity released by the atomic bomb’s explosion of the uranium atom.

Water Poisoned

They found that the water had been poisoned by chemical reaction. Even today every drop of water consumed in Hiroshima comes from other cities. The people of Hiroshima are still afraid.

The scientists told me they have noted a great difference between the effect of the bombs in Hiroshima and in Nagasaki.

Hiroshima is in perfectly flat delta country. Nagasaki is hilly. When the bomb dropped on Hiroshima the weather was bad, and a big rainstorm developed soon afterwards.

And so they believe that the uranium radiation was driven into the earth and that, because so many are still falling sick and dying, it is still the cause of this man-made plague.

At Nagasaki, on the other hand, the weather was perfect, and scientists believe that this allowed the radio-activity to dissipate into the atmosphere more rapidly. In addition, the force of the bomb’s explosion was, to a large extent, expended into the sea, where only fish were killed.

To support this theory, the scientists point out to the fact that, in Nagasaki, death came swiftly, suddenly, and that there have been no after-effects such as those that Hiroshima is still suffering.


“It so happened that step by step and almost accidentally, I had achieved a sort of journalistic Nirvana, free of any built-in loyalties to governments, parties, or any organizations whatsoever. My loyalty was to my own convictions and my readers. This demanded freedom from any discipline except that of getting the facts on important issues back to the sort of people likely to act – often at great self-sacrifice – on the information they received. This was particularly so during my reporting from Vietnam, the most important of my career, far too important to be swayed by dictates from outside or above. Over the years, and in many countries, I had a circle of readers who did not buy papers for the stock market reports or strip cartoons, but for facts on vital issues affecting their lives and their consciences. In keeping both eyes and both ears open during my forty years’ reporting from the world’s hot spots, I had become more and more conscious of my responsibilities to my readers. The point of departure is a great faith in ordinary human beings and the sane and decent way they behave when they have the true facts of the case.”

– Wilfred Burchett, At the Barricades

*[The above essay is adapted from Rebel Journalism: The Writings of Wilfred Burchett, with permission by George Burchett.]

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   

January 15, 2018
Justice Initiative International
Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

Today is the King Holiday in America with countless communities in the country celebrating the great man. The first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration in America was, in fact, in 1986, yet the actual holiday itself was approved by Congress in 1983. Starting in 1984, I was fortunate to work for Coretta Scott King at the “Martin Luther, Jr. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change” in Atlanta, first as a researcher and then as the Director of the Non-Violent Program. There were countless memorable experiences for me while working for Mrs. King and one in particular, but first some history.

In the mid-1980s, I was attending many meetings with Mrs. King, along with other staff members, King Center board members, and local and national civil rights leaders, about the efforts around the country to celebrate the first King Day holiday and what we would do in Atlanta. Frequent visitors were, of course, civil rights legendary leaders such as John Lewis, Andrew Young, Bernard Lafayette, Joseph Lowery and James Orange, to name a few. One of our frequent visitors was also Walter Fauntroy, who was the delegate to the US House of Representatives from the District of Columbia’s at-large district. Many of them were always coming and going consistently at the Center regardless of holiday preparations, but to say this was an exciting time is putting it mildly.

When the holiday was first celebrated in 1986, and as part of the King week celebration, Mrs. King asked me to organize an International Anti-Apartheid Conference to be held at the King family’s Church, Ebenezer Baptist, located next to the King Center. I did precisely that and it was a powerful event with countless anti-apartheid national activists in the country attending and speaking. You could just feel the excitement in the air both about the King holiday itself in addition to this representation of the important collaboration of the international movement for justice.

But for those of you not in Atlanta, I want to share something about the King Center and the surrounding neighborhood. The King Center is located on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta close to downtown Atlanta in what is one of the major historic Black communities in the city. Much of the area is now, appropriately, a National Park. Mrs. King, in fact, created the “Martin Luther, Jr. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change” in 1968 in the basement of her home in Atlanta, which was the very year Dr. King was assassinated. Her home on Sunset Avenue was close to the Atlanta University Center some distance from Auburn Avenue. In 1981, Mrs. King moved the King Center to its present location on Auburn Avenue.

Martin Luther, Jr. King Center for Nonviolent Social Change
Dr. King’s Birth Home

A block away from the King Center, on the same side of the street, is Dr. King’s birth home built in 1895.

Also, next to the King Center itself is the renowned Ebenezer Baptist Church that was the King family church. While the church was created in 1886 by the freedman, Pastor John Andrew Parker, he was followed by Pastor Alfred Daniel Williams in 1894. The present location  and building of the church on Auburn Avenue was in 1914. Then Dr. King’s father, Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., became the pastor of Ebenezer in 1931. Interestingly, Alberta, Reverend King, Sr. ‘s wife, was the daughter of Pastor Williams. Sadly,  Alberta King was killed by a lone gunman at Ebenezer in 1974 while she played the organ at the service.

Martin Luther King, Jr. served as co-pastor at Ebenezer with his father from 1960 until his death in 1968.

Subsequently, in 2000, Ebenezer Baptist Church was designated as a National Historic Site and, in 1999, a new Ebenezer Baptist Church had been built across the street.

Further down Auburn Avenue from the King Center was the headquarters of the Southern

Dr. King outside SCLC

Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Created in 1957, SCLC served as the activist arm of King’s civil rights advocacy.

Mrs. King always told me that the role of the King Center was to train individuals in non-violent social change and that the activist work was that of SCLC, where those trained in non-violence could be involved or inspired regarding additional work in the movement. To me, this was a wise designation of responsibilities.

The Auburn Avenue area also includes residential housing, shops, music clubs, restaurants, and other major churches, such as Big Bethel AME Church and Wheat Street Baptist Church, etc.

Dr. King was raised in this vibrant neighborhood and when he died, he was brought back home. His tomb is located on the King Center grounds next to Ebenezer Baptist and surrounded by what is referred to as the reflecting pool. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in America. The tomb of Mrs. King, who died in 2006, is now next to her husband.

Tomb of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the King Center
My office at the King Center was located in the back of the building so when I sat at my desk I could look out directly at Dr. King’s tomb and would often see throngs of people visiting the site.

One cold January day in the 1980s, when there was snow and ice on the ground and virtually no cars or individuals on the streets or sidewalks, I went into work anyway. Hardly anyone else was at the King Center that day.

As I sat at my desk, I looked outside yet again to view Dr. King’s tomb. No one was outside. Then suddenly an elderly black gentleman walks by my window and up the few steps to the reflecting pool and close to Dr. King’s tomb. He then kneels in front of the tomb with his head down, as in prayer. The image of him is still ingrained in my consciousness. It was such a beautiful gesture.

I’ve always wondered what was likely going through this gentleman’s mind and I’ve asked some friends for ideas of a metaphor of sorts to describe this devotional expression. Invariably and not surprisingly the response is that he wanted to take this opportunity to honor and thank Dr. King for his leadership, his sacrifice, his transformative service to those in need and those seeking justice in Atlanta, the United States and the world.  I’ve also wondered, did he grow up with Dr. King in the Auburn Avenue area? Was he acknowledging a long time friendship? I don’t know.

I have thought also that this gentleman wanted some time alone with Dr. King and to communicate in whatever way was possible with the spirit of the great man and to honor him.

My friend William Small from South Carolina responded with this note:

I used to have in my office a picture of a young black boy, with his shoe shine box shining, the shoes of a white adult male wearing western boots.  The boots created a sense of geography, the activity contributed a sense of time.  I had next to that picture a picture of an old Black man sitting on the steps of a house in a poor environment.  The steps upon which he rested suggested Baltimore of maybe Philadelphia.  Life in a sense had not been very kind, his labors had produced little in the way of sustainable gain or reward.  I juxtaposed those photos because of their interactive impact.  Not because of what they said singularly, but because of the questions they raised collectively.  Could the young boy with all of his early entrepreneurial will be the old man on the other end of a life experience? What might the range of intervening factors be?

The image that you described to me generates the same kind of thought. Reverence to whom? Hope or desperation? Resolve or resignation?  Where would life lead the old gentleman when he stood up?  How would he be viewed standing in contrast to the concerns extended to him in a prayer posture?  What in his life would be new or energizing in a sense of opportunity regeneration?  As importantly, what was the impact on you the observer that has impressed this image in your consciousness for almost half a century?

What was the impact on me in witnessing this beautiful moment? To me this singular gesture of humility suggests what I, and many others, have likely thought and felt about Martin Luther King. Love was central to King. If he did not like what someone did or how oppressive they might be, he would say, “I love you, but I don’t like what you do.” Love is powerful and Dr. King, of course, knew it. So, even apart from his profound leadership, speeches and analysis of the problems faced in the world, he was and remains a spiritual force in taking a stand for and loving humanity and all of us as individuals and many of us, and likely the elderly gentleman as well, know and knew precisely that reality. It is likely, in return, that the elderly gentleman that day was expressing his love for Dr. King. Or whatever might have been the reason for his gesture, his humility has empowered me ever since and I respectfully revere Dr. King and the elderly gentleman who remains forever in my consciousness.

Learning from Rashid Nuri: The History of Industrial Agriculture and its Impact 

But the interesting parallel here is that the food is grown from the same source
of war material – ammonium nitrate. So corn becomes the bullets.”
Rashid Nuri


Below is the audio and transcription of a July 2011 interview with urban farmer Rashid Nuri about both the history and impact of industrial agriculture.

The importance of understanding this history cannot be over-stressed. Rashid wisely begins by sharing the history of the west’s conceptualization of “the way that we think about ourselves and our relation to the material world that exists around us.” He notes that prior to this “man had a much closer relationship to nature than he does today.” He then comments about how this altered conceptual framework in our attitude toward nature has impacted agricultural science and systems that has both negatively effected our lives and has ultimately not been good for humans and the world overall. Rashid emphatically states also that rather than objectifying nature and trying to control it, it’s important to be in harmony with it because, for one, it can’t be controlled anyway and also nature will strike back.

Rashid stresses that it is by being in harmony with the natural world that we can grow healthy food for us all rather than using the dangerous, poisonous and unhealthy chemicals as applied in industrial agriculture.

And finally, and importantly, he says that vis-a-vis industrial agriculture that what’s important is to create the “alternative” which he has done in his natural urban agricultural work.

As from the transcribed 2012 interview with Rashid entitled “Interview: Learning from Rashid Nuri: Rebellions & Revolutions: Usually It’s about Food“, below is information about his background.

At the community radio station WRFG-FM in Atlanta, Georgia, I have a radio program entitled “Just Peace”, that I have been producing for more than two decades. In addition, however, my professional career has been in agriculture working with Black farmers across the South. So, I decided quite a few years ago that in addition to the vast array of justice issues I cover on the show, that it was important to provide listeners with information about food. Not only about the politics of food but most importantly “how to grow it.”

This was inspired thanks to Atlanta’s organic urban farmer Rashid Nuri who created the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. I had realized that if there was anyone in Atlanta, the United States or virtually anywhere in the world who understood the breadth of the history, the politics of food, and about organic production altogether,  it was Rashid Nuri.

With a degree from Harvard University in Political Science and a masters degree in Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts, he is certainly well qualified to put it mildly. As an ‘organic’ farmer he said he had to unlearn virtually everything he acquired from the Soil Science degree, and I understand that as well.

In addition to all of this, in the 1990s Rashid worked under Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Espy (the first Black Secretary), as the Director of the Commodity Credit Corporation. Rashid had also lived and worked on agriculture issues in Africa and Asia for a number of years.

As you can see from all this impressive background, Rashid’s breadth of both the knowledge and analysis of the politics and history of food is significant. We are blessed he decided to create his organization here in Atlanta. So, since 2011, I have been interviewing Rashid once a month about agriculture and also opening the phone lines for listeners to ask questions about the topic at hand or organic production techniques, etc.

The July 2011 interview with Rashid Nuri was by me, Heather Gray, along with questions from co-producer Nadia Ali. The edited transcription of the interview is below.

July 2011 Audio of Interview with Rashid Nuri 


 Transcribed Interview (Edited) – Learning from Rashid Nuri
The History of Industrial Agriculture and its Impact
We think that we can try to dominate and control rather than be in harmony with the natural order of things…Those chemicals kill everything that’s in the soil.

It’s supporting a system of agriculture production that is killing the earth.      

Rashid Nuri

Heather Gray – Tonight we’re going to be talking with Rashid Nuri about industrial agriculture and compare that to, of course, natural or organic production. Rashid, I want to go into a bit of a history of this with you.

Rashid Nuri– Sure. Where do you want to start?

Heather – That’s a really good question because I know you know this so well. But I guess we should start at the beginning, right? Let me couch this in some sort of way by saying that throughout the history of agriculture we have been farming naturally, and then in the past century and a half this started to change a bit.

Rashid – Actually, it was a little before that. Let me try to explain. A very dear friend of mine gave me a book recently. It was an adult story but it began, “once upon a time” and I think that’s where we should begin. Once upon a time, man had a much closer relationship to nature than he does today. We’ve lost that closeness to nature. There are reasons why that has been lost, primarily because we have changed the way that we think about ourselves and our relation to the material world that exists around us. Let me take a minute to explain.

There are a lot of folks who come up to me and say “Oh, Rashid you’re a master of this and a master of that.” And I explain, “No, as long as I’m living, I’m going to continue to learn.”

At about 1600 (15th century), whenever Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was around, he created a new way of thinking. It was Newtonian physics, Newtonian mechanics. And what happened is, rather than looking for ways to be in tune with nature and the core of nature, man got to the point where he thought he could control and dominate nature. And the reason is that they were able to look at the universe and put numbers to it and be able to predict what was going to happen. And it was thought this was the way to approach all of agriculture and all of life.

The metaphor is this. If a watch is broken and you are able to take the watch apart and then you can see where all the parts fit, if there is one part that’s broken you can put it back in and make the clock work again.

But nature doesn’t work quite like that.

We are in an age now of wave theory, quantum mechanics as a way of looking at the universe. How this has been interpreted is that scientists today feel as though they can take apart nature and put it back together better than nature can do itself. And this is what we’ve done with agriculture. This is what we’ve done with all the life around us.

We think that we can try to dominate and control rather than be in harmony with the natural order of things. So this same paradigm has been brought to agriculture.

Then we skip forward to the 150 years ago you’re talking about. There’s a German called Justus von Liebig (1803-1873) who in his laboratory learned there were certain nutrients that plants needed at a minimum in order to be able to grow plants. He narrowed it down to nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Having isolated those elements for the leaves and the roots he stated a theory, which is called the theory (law) of the minimum. Whichever nutrient is available to the plants and then the minimum amount will determine that plant’s ability to grow.

So with that knowledge you go out and put fertilizer on the plants – not thinking about the soil – not thinking about the life in the soil – and isolating the plants from the soil and saying “We know more than God does.” So again, the thinking was that if we add nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to these plants, then we will be able to grow things.

And they did this for a long time, but it doesn’t work because there are certain elements that have been left out. They left out all the micro-organisms and micro-nutrients in the soil that, in combination, there is a symbiosis between all of these elements that helps plants to grow. So the scientists have taken over agriculture production instead of people looking at nature and seeing what nature has provided and how nature works together.

What they have done is say “we know better than nature does and we’re going to control or dominate what happens in the soil.” That has got us where we are today.

Nadia Ali – When you say it got us where we are today, are you speaking about all of the countries and agricultural communities on the planet or just the western ones?

Rashid – Well, that’s a very good point. I’ve got a book here called “Stuffed and Starved” by Raj Patel. And he’s talking about the hidden battle for the world’s food system. And what you’re finding all over the world is that western thought processes about agriculture have been exported all over the world. Everywhere you look. This is why you have a rush in Africa now to acquire that land. Africa has all the resources for everybody and the Chinese are coming in and trying to get it. Americans are invading through Libya to try to get the land. Arabs are buying all this land so they can export commercial agriculture and continue to dominate the populations. It’s a re-colonization of Africa. So, no, it’s not just America, and the western system its being exported all over the world. And that’s a problem.

When the dust bowl in America happened before the Second World War, during the depression, there were a lot of factors that came together. But agriculture production was reduced because of droughts. People didn’t have irrigation.

And then the Second World War war ended and you had all these surplus chemicals and all the chemical manufacturers and the munitions manufacturers wanted to keep making money. War is a very, very profitable enterprise. It has only been America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan where you had recession and wars at the same time. That’s never happened in history before. Generally, people make money and countries do very well when they’re dominating and winning wars.

After the Second World War they had all this ammonium nitrate left over that you use for gunpowder. What are they going to do with it? They said, “Wow! Let’s sell it to the farmers.” So they give it to the farmers and the farmers grow more crops, but the chemicals also kill everything that’s in the soil. Nevertheless, they’re still able to grow more crops.

Then they start subsidizing crops. It’s a very simple but complicated system if you understand it. They – the government – subsidize the production. Then, they use that surplus production to dominate the world politics by using food as a weapon around the world rather than guns. But the interesting parallel here is that the food is grown from the same source of war material – ammonium nitrate. So corn becomes the bullets.

– What do you mean ‘food as a weapon’? How does that work?Rashid – We’ll give you food if you do what we tell you to do. You have a lot of countries that were devastated after WWII. People need food. They have to eat and if your whole economy has been destroyed the Americans said, “we’ll give you food if you let us invest in your country and if you follow our rules.” They used the Public Law 480 program that came to fruition in the late 40s and early 50s, which was “Food for Peace“. You give us that political agreement that we asked for, and we’ll ship you tons of food.What does that do? It provides shipping transports to make money; the farmers make money because the prices get subsidized; the grain companies make money. Everybody makes money accept the folk in countries who are receiving the food. And then, in addition that food, there is an exchange for the raw materials in the countries receiving the food, and the raw materials are brought back to the United States to continue the industrialization process. It’s insidious.Along with this use of the chemicals in the food, you had the US government subsidize breeding programs with grains. And the principal grains around the world are corn, wheat, rice and then there’s cotton as well. Those are the four that really stand out that are commercial crops around the world.Heather– And they are generally called commodities, right?Rashid – Yes, they are commodities. They started breeding programs to hybridize the food and then they standardized it so that all corn is the same size and harvested at the same time.Then we had a man named Norman Borlaug. I have a hero and an anti-hero in agriculture. George Washington Carver is my hero. And Norman Bourlag is my anti-hero. This is the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the Green Revolution (see note #1 below) – thinking it was helping people.

But what Green Revolution has actually done is it has created greater poverty around the world rather than riches. The only folks that have become rich are the grain companies and the chemical companies that provided the inputs. The farmers themselves are starving. This is why you’ve got all the suicides today in India because of their relationship with Monsanto (and all the chemical laden seeds and fertilizers being sold to Indian farmers).

Henry Wallace sent Borlaug to Mexico where Borlaug began to conceive of the green revolution. Henry Wallace was Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture and he also ran for president back in the 40s. He had two terms as Secretary of Agriculture under Roosevelt.

These men were well intentioned. But the results of their thought processes and the paradigms in which they worked are where we ended up. This is why I talked about the science of the Newtonian mechanics that is of the thought and concept that we can dominate nature rather than be in harmony with it.

Heather– There’s an “assumption” that we can dominate nature.

Rashid – That’s very correct. There’s an “assumption” that we can dominate nature and we’re finding out every day that you can’t. Just look at the natural disasters that we’ve just witnessed in this century alone. This should let people know that you can’t dominate nature. The best that you can do is be in harmony with and in tune with nature which is the essence of natural urban agriculture.

So the hybridization (see note #2 below) of the crops means there’s certain things you have to have. You have to have fertilizer; you have to have chemicals for the pests; and you have to have irrigation.

Heather – Now when you’re talking about hybridizing you’re talking about this effort to sort of standardize crop production so you have corn that’s the same height and you have the same type of corn and so forth, right?

Rashid – That’s right. There’s some science behind that. The problem with hybridization is that the seeds (see note #3 below) cannot be put back in the ground. You can’t save your seeds and put them back the next year as farmers has always done. You can’t save a 10th and put it back the next year. So what you put back is going to be a throwback from the previous generations of seeds where the seeds have been crossed genetically and thus that keeps farmer in debt to and beholden to the seed companies that provide them with new seed that they have to pay for.

Heather – Whereas, since time began farmers have always saved their seed for next year’s crop.

Rashid – That’s exactly right. That’s where the concept of tithing comes from. Historically, you plant a crop and every 10 seeds you get back you save one and you eat the other nine. That’s where the concept came from. All through the Bible…this is what happened in Egypt with David and Joseph and those folks. That’s why churches have tithing now. It makes good sense. So with hybridization you can’t tithe. You have to go back to the seed company and you have to have the inputs for the seeds and monocrops to produce effectively – the chemicals – you’ve got to have the fertilizer, you’ve got to have the pesticides.

One of the major problems with hybridized food and monocrop culture, is that it is the antithesis of what you find in nature. You go out in the woods and you see everything growing. There’s a biodiversity – an echo-diversity. You’ve got all kinds of plants. You’ve got tall plants, short plants, trees, forests wherever you are. You’ve got the savannahs, the tall grasses, the short grasses. The grasses change over seasons. Just as the fruit goes through the season when you start in the summer and start off with berries and cherries, peaches and apricots, nectarines and eventually, in the Fall, you get your apples and your pears. The same thing happens out in the plains and the prairies where the grass grow. You have different kinds of grasses that grow at different times of the year. You have a biodiversity…and an echo-diversity.

You go to any of these countries that are practicing commercial agriculture and you see one thing in the field and that’s it.

Heather – Let’s talk a little bit about having that one crop in the field and also why farmers are committing suicide. But in the natural state of growth, we have an incredible diversity. So when there is that “sameness” as in having one crop in the field, it creates problems in any number of ways. What are some of those problems

Rashid – If you get a disease a “dis-ease” or an insect that’s going to eat it up everything and your crop is gone – the insects are saying “here’s lunch, let’s eat” – and in these circumstances the whole field is the same thing, the same crop – there is no diversity. Whereas if you have diversity out there – a diverse biosphere – you’re going to have good insects and bad insects. The good insects will ward off the bad ones. You have the different plants growing next to each other – companion planting – and the plants will repel insects and repel disease. It creates a balance that stays in harmony. You’re always going to lose some, but you don’t want to put yourself into a position of losing it all. And the easiest way to lose it all is to have one thing – one crop – out there. That’s the old nursery rhyme – “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” And this is what we have done in commercial agriculture – we put all of our eggs in one basket. So, therefore, you have to keep coming in with chemicals and keep spraying it with all the fertilizers to make it grow and with lots of water to keep it because you can’t do it without water. And it all becomes very precarious.

Heather – Years ago when there were problems with cotton growth, what was said I think was that the reason there was such a massive problem with this is that cotton was a monocrop. In other words there was tons of cotton in one field that provided the opportunity for the boll weevil to attack it.

Rashid – Yeah, I’ve got to tell you a little joke. The man from the department of agriculture called me up yesterday. The agriculture commissioner came out to visit us some time ago and we told him we had some cotton plants planted down there at the Wheatstreet Garden. So he wanted to have this man come out and trap the boll weevil that we may have on our cotton downtown. I said “well my friend it didn’t grow so you don’t have to worry about that.” But they were so concerned because they have eliminated the boll weevil in Georgia.

But the reason you have the boll weevil is multifaceted. One, farmers were monocropping. Cotton was the only thing they grew every single year. They mined the soil. They were not concerned about creating biological life in the soil. The soil is a living thing. It’s all a part of Mother Earth. You have to feed the soil. The soil is alive. You go out in woods and see the humus around and you’re going to find all kinds of like rolly-pollies, centipedes, millipedes, earthworms – there’s life out there – spiders, and all kinds of stuff that makes that soil alive. There’s mycelium in there, all kinds of micro-bacterias that are growing in the ground to make that soil alive – a living breathing thing.

You go out into the cotton fields and the soil is dead because its been mono-cropped. They were not enriching the soil. This is why George Washington Carver is so important. He taught folks about crop rotation and adding organic material back to the soil so the soil could be healthy and grow.

The boll weevil just sat here waiting every year. The boll weevils couldn’t wait for that cotton crop – some more cotton – let’s go get it! As a farmer you can’t allow for that. You have to rotate the crops and then the boll weevil would say, “Oh man, what is this soybean doing here?” This is one of the ways you can fool insects is by rotating of your crops. Keep moving the crops and the insects around.

Heather – What about genetically modified seeds – GMOs?

Rashid – It’s a very simple proposition. Rather than hybridizing/cross breeding plants where you have to go back a couple of generations to get the seed, scientists are taking genes and splicing them into the seed so that they will get the characteristics the chemical company wants. The principle one is BT Cotton – Bacillus thuringiensis – BT is a bacteria that kills bugs. Now, I will use BT but I don’t want a seed that has it in it. I will use the bacteria – it’s natural – to kill soft worms. I don’t use it very often because our soil is good, by God’s grace – let me knock on wood.

But they’ve taken these chemicals and…let me make it more simple… and use cotton as an example. They have round-up ready cotton. Round-up  (see note #4 below) is a herbicide that kills all broad leaf plants. If you don’t want to have weeds in your field, you hoe your field. You don’t want to have something like weeds in your field to compete with the thing you’re trying to grow. So they’ll have round-up ready corn, round-up ready cotton, round-up ready soybeans that Monsanto has created. So they’ve inserted this gene into the seed itself so that it will kill all of the broad leaf weeds that emerge in the garden. So the only thing that will come up are the corn, cotton and soybeans.

Heather – So this adds more chemicals to the soil, more chemicals to the food that we’re eating and so forth. But you need to talk about what Monsanto is.

Rashid – Monsanto is a very large chemical company. They and DuPont are probably the biggest ones that make these agriculture chemicals. They invented round-up some years ago that is very efficient in keeping the broadleaf weeds out of the farmland. So they spray from airplanes, they spray it with tractors, they spray by hand. You can buy round-up to spray the cracks in your sidewalk. Round-up is the (main) drug for killing weeds.

Heather – What is it doing to us? To the soil, to the people, to global warming?

Rashid – It’s supporting a system of agriculture production that is killing the earth. Those chemicals kill everything that’s in the soil.

Heather – And it’s getting into our groundwater?

Rashid – Everywhere. Most often before they even plant they’ll go into the fields and with chemicals kill all the weeds that are there. Then they add the round-up to kill the things as they emerge from the soil so you just have the plants. And all of this requires fertilizer, tremendous amounts of irrigation, and pesticides. And every year you plant again, the plants and the insects become more and more resistant to all these chemicals.

Heather – So, I think this is really important because this demonstrates how nature will resist this science-based agriculture. You can’t dominate nature.

Rashid – To lead into where these suicides are coming from, you’ve got these farmers – as in India – who are convinced to use this new technology, which is making money for folks back here in the west. In using this new technology they borrow the money to put the crops in, and instead of making money they become further and further in debt.

In order to grow these crops it takes a tremendous amount of capital. So, if you’re farming on a very large scale, and can live on a small margin, because of the volume that you’re creating, you can make money. But if you’re a small farmer and you’ve been convinced to use this new technology that is foreign to your farming history, you have to go borrow money to put in this crop. You have to do this instead of saving seeds you had from last year and putting those seeds back in the ground – this is a problem.

One of the books I read about agriculture is by Sir Albert Howard – it’s called “An Agricultural Testament“. He spent many years in India using elephant dung to grow food.

Heather – And it was very effective, I’m sure.

Rashid – And the irony is that I’m using elephant dung now to grow food. That’s the principle ingredient we’re using.

Nadia – I’m curious about where you’re getting the elephant dung.

Rashid – Zoo-doo.

Nadia – That’s what I was hoping.

Rashid – No, we don’t have any elephants down there. Here talking about India – they would collect the dung from any place. From the animals that you have from the farm and use that as a fertilizer – pigs, cows, horses, mules, goats, chickens – all that and even human manure. In other places in the world people use their own waste to put back in the ground to feed the soil. But I wouldn’t touch it in this country. The simple reason is you think about what you put down the toilet your very self and if you would want some of that going back into your foods – no, I don’t think so.

Heather – So you’re talking about the chemicals in our diet – like the prescription drugs, etc. is another serious problem.

Rashid – So back to the farmer that would use the waste from his farm. He would also use the hay in his farm to make compost that he would put that back in the ground and grow his food. He would also save the seed from the previous year. He had a system of subsistence. Some people did well and they lived…they lived.

Heather – Most of these farmers, as in India, have never had to borrow money like this before and they were historically self-sufficient in that sense.

Rashid – So the west will say, “try our system it will work. Look what kind of yields you will get, but it’s going to cost you this much to get it.” Then each year you come back you’ve to get more and more of the fertilizers. You have to pay for the irrigation systems as you’ve got to make sure you have enough water because you can’t use these new technologies in agriculture without sufficient water.

The seed companies are also still trying to breed seed for drought areas – drought resistant seed and their having trouble with this.

This is still in the same Newtonian mechanic paradigm of science – as in thinking we know what the constituent parts are so we can take it apart and put it back together in a way that we can dominate nature. It doesn’t work.

Nadia – Rashid, I have two questions. One deals with irrigation that you’ve mentioned several times now that these hybrid genetically altered seeds require irrigation, but wouldn’t you need irrigation anyway? Doesn’t everything need water to grow? The second is, you’ve mentioned India several times. Is this unique to India right now or is this occurring around the globe.

Rashid – I’ll do the second one first. It is occurring elsewhere in the world but you have some of the most stark examples of this in India – folks committing suicide. You also have farmer’s associations and unions that have decided to protest the imposition of these western companies in India.

As far as irrigation is concerned, yes, you have to have water but you need more water with this high technology because it’s the technology that underlies it all. Part of the requirement is to use lots of water to get the chemicals down in the soil, to hold them down, and to help them uptake to the plants. You need more of it in order to get it done. The water’s not just to go down to the roots, the water’s got to get the stuff up into the plants so it takes more to suck it up.

Nadia – That makes sense. There is a caller on the line.

Caller (1) – Rashid, do you know of the company that produced the Agent Orange? And are you familiar with the incident in Bhopal, India where there was an incident with that chemical company that wiped out the entire village?

Rashid – What was Agent Orange? It was a chemical that killed all the crops and harmed the people. It’s a perfect example of the problem we have with this. Agent Orange was one of the most financially successful chemicals ever created and it was designed by Monsanto. The same people that are bringing the round-up into commercial agriculture. (see note #5 below)

Heather – Wasn’t Agent Orange first used in Vietnam?

Rashid – Yeah, that’s where it was used to defoliate the trees so they could see the Vietnamese as they were walking along the paths. With all the foliage in the tropical area you could not see the down to the forest floor. But if you defoliated it all then you could get the helicopters up there are that could spot the troops as they were moving along. But what did the Vietnamese do? They built tunnels – they went underground and you still couldn’t see them.

Heather – We need to say however that the problems with Agent Orange in Vietnam has been immense. The land has been destroyed.

Rashid – Not only the land, but the people got cancers and all kinds of bodily disease because of their exposure to Agent Orange. But from a business point of view it was one of the most successful campaigns that Monsanto had. They sold it to the government. So like I said, war is good for the economy.

As far as Bhopal, India is concerned it was agriculture chemicals that were being manufactured there. The plant exploded and poisoned all the people in a wide radius around the plant and killed tens of thousands of people. (Note: The plant that exploded was owned by Union Carbide and the explosion took place in 1984).

Nadia – My question has to do with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in this country. Can you explain please why if Monsanto and the chemicals it produces and other chemicals and companies like Monsanto, if they are so dangerous to us and to the planet that we’re living on, why are these things allowed by the FDA?

Rashid – It really is quite simple. They own them. You can buy a politician. And with all due respect to my political colleagues who may be listening, the American political system is for sale. He who gives big bucks gets what he wants. And the food and Drug Administration will not test to see if something is healthy. They will say that based upon the information they have received from the manufacturer who has agreed that they have tested these things, we feel that this is safe. There’s no safety there. Let me say that again. Just like an audit that you get from an accountant, based upon the information that has been provided to us, we think this is a good audit. We think this is a good chemical that we think ought to be able to come out to our people – to be sold to the people.

And you’ve got to also remember that companies send their representatives to Washington to be able to lobby within the government and take their seats within the government to represent their interests.

The US Trade Representatives? A couple of people in the higher rungs of that office all came out of the agriculture chemical industry. And you’ll find this throughout the US Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency – the very companies that are doing the polluting and destroying the planet have their representatives helping to make the decisions in Congress, and in the executive branch.

In Congress, if I give you $50,000 campaign contribution or through a political action committee and you get re-elected and you know what my point of view is on a subject, you’re going to listen to me because you want to get that money again so you can get re-elected. It’s an insidious system, but it’s the one we have. What do we do? We have to create the alternative.

Nadia – We have another caller.

Caller (2) – How are you doing brother Rashid? I respect the work you are doing in a basic and essential part of life that is just overlooked by everybody. It is very important. I just wanted to add this input. I have friends who have lived in the city of Atlanta all their lives. I’m a transplant as you may be able to tell. I know people who lived here as children and they told me there used to be a lot of fruit trees and a lot of trees that you could get food from that were growing wild in the metropolis and that this has disappeared.

And what you said about Agent Orange and things like that. I can remember when I was growing up in my native land and they had planes going over and putting these chemicals in that would kill mosquitos, for example, and I just think there was a larger plan to that in killing all these fruit tees so you could buy these foods from the store. I am thinking of that because of what you say regarding the political elements in these big cities, especially and with you being an expert, I wonder if you could give a little more information on that?

Rashid – He’s right. I’m not sure what I can add to that. There are a lot of political machinations that go on – people trying to control and dominate not only the world of nature, but the people in the world and a lot of it is quite insidious.

Again, we can sit up and rail against this, like the young man, but what I decided is that I need to create the alternative.

Here on the program on WRFG and the grace that you’ve given me with the opportunity to talk with folks on Just Peace, we can try to educate folks and help them to have a better understanding of these paradigms and how they effect us. But the real action comes from what are you going to do about it. And from my point of view, it is to create Truly Living Well where we are growing food naturally.

The brother talked about trees that used to be there. You come down to our site and we’ve got fruit trees at every site we have. It’s very important. If you come to me and say I’ve got 10 acres of land, I would say take half of it a grow fruits trees. That’s the first thing you should do and then start growing vegetables. Get your long-term food in. It is called edible landscaping. If you want to sit and have some shade there’s beautiful trees out there – why not get a fruit tree so you can eat it as well as get shade. That apple could hit you in the head and you could eat it and have your lunch. You don’t have to stay in the hammock all day. But let that land be productive.

I think grass is one of the greatest waste of resources that you could possibly have – there’s more fertilizer used on golf courses and lawns than there is in agriculture.

Caller (3) – Rashid, I am so glad you are on the show. My understanding from doing some research is that the PLU’s for the GMO’s starts with the 4 letters for it being a food and number 9 is for organics and number 8 tells you its conventional. It would be good if you could break down for the listeners what that is. My question also is, do you think chemtrails are a part of Monsanto’s dirty work.

Rashid – Yeah there’s a lot there. First the PLU’s are the codes that you find on the food – like cherries are 4045. I happen to know that because I like cherries.

Heather – What is the PLU?

Rashid – The PLU (Price Look-Up Code) is the standard number for any place you go in the country or perhaps in the world. If you go to the cash register or the self check-out you can put in the number of the commodity, it’s the same number at any store that you go in to. Once you know those numbers than its standardized and you can use that in any store across the country and I think around most of the world.

She’s right. The 9 is for organics. But the problem with that is this. The USDA organic standard is a patented phrase. It’s something that you buy. It’s oxymoric to me to have organic food at Walmart that was produced in China that would have an organic stamp on it. The Chinese have been busted out already for faking it and then you find this food right here in this country. And then you have US commercial farmers growing organic food as a market niche and their food is right next to the Chinese food so there’s a problem with that organic terminology.

The only way you’re really going to know what you’re getting in your food is to grow it yourself or go to someone you know who is growing the food for you.

Part of the work we do is to help people attain horticultural literacy. I think it’s extremely important for people to know who grows their food, the quality of their food and where their food comes from. If you come to our site you’re able to get food, you can see it right there in the ground growing and you’re able to bring it home.

So, just because it’s labeled organic doesn’t mean that it’s healthful and safe for you. You’ve got to know what it is.

And I would contend that anything that you buy that has more than five ingredients is not food. Somebody in a laboratory has created it. A carrot is a carrot. An apple is an apple. A collard green is a collard green. There’s no label on it that says this collard green is made up of all these different things that we put together. So just because that label says that it’s organic that does not mean that that is the best thing available to you.

What they’ve been able to create in America is these food scientists and the government has been able to create this perception that this food is good and it’s not necessarily so.Caller (4) – More and more when I go to the store and want to buy some fruit none of them have seeds anymore – not even the watermelons. Is there anywhere we can get fruits that have the seeds that have been grown the way we’re used to it?

Rashid – Yes, isn’t that an anomaly that you’re going to have watermelon that has no seeds? Or a grape that has no seeds in it? How is it going to reproduce itself? It’s a freak. You don’t find anything like that in nature. The best place to buy food is at the local farmer’s market and there are many around town.

Heather – Rashid, you can apparently buy organic beef but apparently it’s defined as organic beef if that cow ate organic corn rather than being grass-fed beef.

Rashid – I call that “in-put substitution” as the commercial farms put the cows in a feedlot, feed them grains and they’re still grain fed. Think about it. For those of you old enough to remember when they started this grain fed beef campaign back in the late 60’s early 70’s and then they got the nation hooked on this thing. When cows eat grass, that’s all they need. That’s the best argument you could have for a vegetarian. The biggest animals in the world – all they eat is grass.

Nadia – Rashid, you just said that grass was a waste of land.

Rashid – No, golf courses and grass in front of your house is a waste. If you’re raising chickens or if you’re raising cows I approve of that grassland.

Caller (5) – I want to give thanks to brother Rashid for the information that he’s giving. It is very, very real and very deep. If I want to grow my own trees what is the best way to tell the conditions of the soil.

Rashid – The key indication of the quality of your soil is the number of the earthworms that you find. If you don’t find any earthworms you know the soil is dead. Earthworms are going to come into healthy soil. That’s the best way to tell the quality of your soil. You’ve heard me say that if you build it they’ll come. If you build that soil and start adding organic material to it – adding compost to it – the worms will all of a sudden appear. I don’t know if they come out of the air or not but they’ll appear. I promise you this.

Heather – So as always, thank you yet again, Rashid!


• Note #1: The Green Revolution: The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution”, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers…

Health effects of the Green Revolution: The consumption of the pesticides used to kill pests by humans in some cases may be increasing the likelihood of cancer in some of the rural villages using them. Poor farming practices including non-compliance to usage of masks and over-usage of the chemicals compound this situation.In 1989, WHO and UNEP estimated that there were around 1 million human pesticide poisonings annually. Some 20,000 (mostly in developing countries) ended in death, as a result of poor labeling, loose safety standards etc. Wikipedia


• Note #2: Hybridization is the process of crossing two genetically different individuals to result in a third individual with a different, often preferred, set of traits.Plants of the same species cross easily and produce fertile progeny. … Such plants are referred to as cross-pollinated plants. Plant Life


• Note #3: The “hybridizedseeds (such as corn, soy, etc.) are created in laboratories by seed companies. It is not possible to replant these hybridized seeds. So rather than saving seed for next year’s crop, as farmers have always done, farmers have needed to purchase the seeds from seed companies. This represented, in the 20th century, a major power shift from the individual farmer’s control over production to corporate control.)

• Note #4: Glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine) is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is an organophosphorus compound, specifically a phosphonate. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops….While glyphosate and formulations such as Roundup have been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide, concerns about their effects on humans and the environment persist. Many regulatory and scholarly reviews have evaluated the relative toxicity of glyphosate as an herbicide. Wikipedia

• Note #5: Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical, one of the tactical use Rainbow Herbicides. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It is a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, the chemical has caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed. Wikipedia

When the Fig Leaves Fall

January 12, 2018
Justice Initiative International
Fig Tree
Events and developments in American politics, over the last quarter of a century have affirmed the principle that “no lie can live forever”. I attribute three particularly significant events to the truth of that principle which is now resulting in the “unmasking” of the character and soul of this nation. For many Black and oppressed peoples in this country the myth of “American Democracy” has been distinguishable from the realities of life for a long time. For others here and around the world, the illusion persisted, often camouflaged by race, class, geography or other divisive factors. The myth being that “democracy”, social justice and equitable access to equal opportunity were the hallmarks of America’s social and political institutions. Work hard, keep your nose clean and you can be anything that you want to be. That was the predicate for the American dream. Patriotism also helped fuel the illusion. The issues of national morality and social purpose were subsumed in patterns of national behavior which made money and hegemony more important than the measure of concern that America was prepared to assign to human interests and moral development. My country right or wrong became the mantra that was recited to seal the deal and cement the right to exploit, oppress and establish greed and power as the directional markings on America’s moral compass.

When lies are well structured and taught early, it is easy for the victim to believe that the problem is in some personal short coming of self. When the weight of oppression and the punishment for dreaming too large or without apology is swift and severe, it is also likely that the oppressed will resist rebellion, at least until the burden becomes unbearable or the illusion is shattered by some other event or occurrence. When that happens, the fig leaf falls away and the truth which has been couched, covered and concealed becomes exposed and undeniably apparent. The tree then stands naked, vulnerable.

Following this analogy the election of America’s first African American President, The Citizens United Supreme Court decision and the advances in technology have stripped the veneer of democratic concerns from the American political process. That which is now visible, as a consequence of these developments has become patently clear. The illusion of America’s overarching preoccupation with democracy, which framed the political landscape for centuries and provided the glue that minimized the erosive visual effects of “politics by division” has now been stripped bare. The soul of America is now visible to a smaller world and to a more sophisticated world audience. The politics of today, and the stage on which the performance takes place, reveals rather than conceals the faults and flaws of what was once the most respected and powerful nation on earth. These revelations have created a new twenty first century definition of “national power”.

The election of the first African American President of the United States quickly shattered the popular notion that over the years America had made tremendous progress in the effort to secure racial justice for all of its citizens. Americans Black, white and other were anxious to digest the notion that progress is the absence of conflict.   We were quick to forget that sustainable progress is the absence of conflict plus the presence of justice and the respect for all things human. In the human relations arena, it is Justice, which is essential to a meaningful and sustainable definition of the human progress.

After the Republican Party leadership hurriedly and publicly committed to insure America, and the world, that President Obama would not have a successful presidency, and after the police killing of unarmed Black men, women and children seemed to proliferate with impunity; the eagerly recited, but utterly foolish, notion that American society had become a race neutral social order was quickly dispelled. The raw racist attitudes and animus towards Black people that have been consistently displayed and tolerated by a silent and active majority of Americans, and now fueled by Donald Trump the 45th President of the United States; make it unarguably clear that America still has no equal respect for Black People or black interests. I invite the reader to contrast the recent outrage expressed over “sexual harassment claims” with the “yawn” attributed to the consistent destruction and systemic under development of Black life, opportunity and interests at home and abroad. The attitudes and policies that operate to perpetuate this injustice are rooted so deeply in American culture until the rape and sexual harassment of Black women, the criminalization of Black men, and the destruction of Black families are permanent and significant components of the American statistical profile.

It is an insufficiently acknowledged fact that the election of an African American President of the United States of America has reenergized white racist activism in a way which comfortably takes much of this nation back to the nineteen fifties and sixties. This rapid regression in attitude and climate exposes the pseudo- progress in race and human relations that has been America’s “Achilles heel” for every century of our national existence. An examination of America’s foreign and national policies as practiced today when subjected to a global review reflects little difference in substance from the policies and practices historically employed against Native Americans or Africans. Policies and practices which were asserted brazenly and without apology were the hallmarks of America’s quest for world domination. Independent of what the vocabulary might have suggested at an earlier point in history, today Capitalism and Democracy have become too closely associated with notions of western world domination as certainly as “the enterprise of war in the twenty first century” has become the euphemism for the further exploitation and subjugation of human rights and human interests, and profiteering- particularly among the darker citizens of the world.

Orwellian “double speak” is now the dominant language of American political discourse. 1984 has come and left its mark. Elected officials speak it. The media speaks it. The oligarchs speak it. Unfortunately, too large a segment of the public has not bothered to learn the language. Perhaps this is a failure of our public school systems to teach the skills essential to effectively participate in the political process?   The enduring permanence of these failures compels one to draw the conclusion that these short comings are not unintentional.

The Citizens United case decided by United States Supreme Court in 2010 has proven and continues to reveal what perhaps is the major impediment to democratic participation, by American citizens in the political process. Time has proven that this decision simply “mocks” the spirit of the 1st, 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments of the United State Constitution. This Supreme Court’s decision arguably rests among the best evidence on record that the unalterable commitment of the real rulers of this nation, is a commitment to oligarchical rule and not to the principles of “Democracy” as reflected in the idea of ‘one person one vote’. The recent rash and rush of activity in red states to restrict voting rights and opportunities only serve to divert attention from the profoundly negative and transformative impact of the Citizens United case on the universal/historical definition of voting. The importance of voting is not in the act itself. Voting is only important, in a constructive sense, if it occurs in an integrity based system, which guarantees that one’s vote is weighted equally with other votes casted in the same process. The irony of the American political system as it is currently operating is that the 1st amendment is being interpreted so as to violate the spirit and intent of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. The path taken to create this condition was about as subtle as the path taken by the founding fathers when their greed and selfishness produced Daniel Shays’ Rebellion. The saga of American Democracy also stands to affirm the principle that “history does repeat itself”.

The innocuous restraints on the practice of real democracy in America have been constantly reinforced by a persistent commitment to insure the presence of three critical conditions which now define “politics in America”. Condition number one is to insure that money becomes the life blood of the electoral process; condition number two is to insure that the institutions that control the economy are included in the process by giving them the same citizen status as the individual citizens who work for them; condition number three is to equate the ability to “buy the process” with the right of the traditional citizen to cast a ballot. That process would get a red flag in most forms of competition where fairness was a concern.

The courageous and creative response by citizen groups to match “corporate spending” with private donations, in order to compete for a voice and political space is admirable and has had limited success. In the final analysis, however, I contend that this practice only feeds the machine and consequently contributes to the more rapid deterioration of fundamental democratic principles. Democratic outcomes, by definition, should not be determined by economic influence. Such practices pervert the best potentials of capitalism and democracy.

In light of the above, it should come as no surprise that the recent action taken by the Federal Communication Commission to remove the net neutrality protections that were in place to insure public access to the internet and free speech was hurriedly adopted. This is just one more of many subtle but significant actions taken by the Trump Administration to erode the strength and value of American democratic institutions. One sees with increasing frequency the rush by the Legislature and the Executive branches of government, to hurriedly pass major pieces of legislation, and execute executive orders, without sharing the content or impact of their actions with the people or communities that will be effected. These are the very same communities whom they purport to represent. This practice makes it crystal clear that the contemporary American political system is neither democratic nor representative.  Is this the acceptable model for 21st century American Democracy? This political model is little more than an additional defensive grant of power and privilege to the oligarchs and the privileged who have finalized the sale of the government, with themselves emerging as the permanent owners.

This process insuring the erosion of democratic institutions in America has profound global implications. Significantly it empowers public media- “Fourth Estate” in ways which passively diminishes the importance of public democratically generated political discourse. One need only reflect on the ease with which America has been able to dupe its citizens into supporting the invasion of foreign nations on slogans, half- truths and outright lies. There must always be an informed citizenry if there is to be a reasonable check on government authority. The decision by the FCC which accelerates the process by doing to the internet what has been done to public education in America must not be accepted by the public as unalterable. The less powerful democratic American institutions become, the weaker America will continue to become.

When the scope of public discourse is dominated by concerns with entertainment value and corporate profits and when normal decency and civility is in turn celebrated and projected as a major victory; it is time for any healthy society to expand and not constrict the opportunities for public dialogue. When the President of the United States for whatever reason, deems it fit to publicly attack the United States Justice Department, America needs more public discussion, not less. When rumors float about the United States Government creating a Private Army to fight the Nations wars instead of the regular United States Army, let us not restrict the opportunities to converse on the subject. When there is talk of creating a private “CIA” to spy on the Official CIA and the President is in a rant about “fake news” and verbally attacks individual citizens with whom he disagree or feels might disagree with him, I submit that in America we need more public oversight and not less.

When these conditions are present, the largest threat to American democracy and “citizen freedom” is not the Russians or the North Koreans, or even Isis? The largest threat to the future of a healthy and respected America is America’s inability to exorcise the forces of greed and racial bigotry from its social and political agenda and to replace those vices with an agenda that seriously seeks to repair the damage of past transgressions and serve as a bulwark against their reoccurrence in the future. The world is watching and the fig leaves are falling at a rate which says “a new season is rapidly approaching”.

Dr. William Small, Jr. is a retired educator, and a former Board Chairman and Trustee at South Carolina State University.

Part Two: “Democracy in America?” What is it?

Note: We in the southern part of the United States have been blessed with institutions that promote democracy and collective activity. Harry Boyte in his article below entitled “What is Democracy”  makes reference to the  Highlander Folk School Center founded in 1932 by the renowned Myles Horton. Almost all major civil and human rights activists in the South have at one point been to the Highlander for workshops and discussions. For example, Rosa Parks had just come back from a Highlander event when she refused to leave her seat on the bus in Montgomery in 1955 and therefore launching the 1950s-1960s Civil Rights Movement leading to the end of Jim Crow. Southern activists know the importance and power of collective action. Below are comments from Harry Boyte who worked for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a staff person for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the early 1960s. He has subsequently been involved with “citizenship schools” in America. As he wisely notes from his article below with reference to the Greek philosophers, democracy is more than voting – it’s collective strength, respect for the other and collective action

(Democracy is essentially) “… collective strength and ability to act…and, indeed,  
to reconstitute the public realm through action.”
January 10, 2018
Justice Initiative International

In her last blog in our conversation in Education Week, Deborah Meier explored ways the schools she founded in New York and Boston sought to implement democratic decision making. These are important questions, but I’d argue that voting and other decision structures are tools – and when they work well, symbols for democracy. They’re not the essence of democracy.

So, “what is democracy?” And related, why, in the American context, did democracy have overtones of immensity? “A word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened…a great word, whose history remains unwritten,” as Walt Whitman put it in Democratic Vistas.

Democracy means agency, citizen power, capacity of people to act to build a common life. In a time of bitter electoral division, when tools replace substance, remembering the larger meaning is crucial.

This brings me back to the “Citizenship Education Program,” CEP, in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King’s organization which I worked for from 1963 to 1965.

CEP organized “citizenship schools” across the south, informal learning sites drawing from Danish folk school traditions. Myles Horton, co-founder of Highlander Folk School which birthed the citizenship school movement, travelled through Denmark and was inspired by the folk school philosophy, “education for life.” N.F. S. Grundtvig, the Danish philosopher of folk schools, saw them as sites for “the fostering of all our vital efforts.” Grundtvig emphasized individual awakening and the potential of all occupations to contribute to a flourishing society.

Citizenship schools, like Meier’s schools, were based on respect for the intelligence and other talents of everyday citizens. They included, of course, tools like elections for struggle against segregation. Restrictive voting disempowered people. More broadly they emphasized developing agency, capacity of people of all backgrounds for action on collective problems of all kinds (at one point a group of poor whites led by “Preacher Red” attended the Dorchester training center in Georgia, as Dorothy Cotton, SCLC’s CEP director, describes in her book If Your Back’s Not Bent).


Thus citizenship schools taught nonviolence, community organizing skills, literacy to help people overcome restrictive voting procedures. They were full of singing. Like Grundtvig, they conveyed love of country built through the labors of ordinary people, strange to postmodern, cynical ears (“We love our land, America!”), while also identifying with freedom struggles around the world. They described figures in black history who made people proud. Overall, the curriculum stressed the potential of people to act. I have the SCLC Citizenship Handbook from 1964 and look at it often. 

Septima Clark, an early teacher and philosopher of citizenship schools, said that the purpose was “To broaden the scope of democracy to include everyone and deepen the concept to include every relationship.” Here, the citizen is a co-creator of an empowering democratic way of life.

Dorothy Cotton sings a song which conveys this idea: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Everyone has potential. There is no outside savior. Education is about “freeing the powers,” a phrase of Jane Addams. Citizenship schools are “freedom schools.”

Democracy as agency is radically different than the shriveled sense of “democracy” in today’s public discussion, where tools substitute for substance. The larger meaning is hollowed out. The collapse of content feeds a diminished view of human potential, a mood of scarcity, a sense that we’re in a dog-eat-dog fight for shares of a shrinking pie. All the candidates for president on both sides define democracy as elections, though there are hints at something more – Bernie Sanders’ “political revolution,” John Kasich’s reminder that Republicans and Democrats are neighbors.

It’s helpful to go back to the Greeks. According to Josiah Ober, the Greek classicist, the Greeks saw democracy as agency, the capacity to act (Ober’s book,  Democracy and Knowledge, is one of my favorites). In his essay “The Original Meaning of ‘Democracy’: Capacity to Do Things, Not Majority Rule” (Constellations 2008) Ober analyzes the roots of “democracy,” demos, whole people, and kratia, power.

In modern usage, observes Ober, power is assumed to mean “a voting rule for determining the will of the majority.” But he shows that for the Greeks “demokratia …more capaciously, means ‘the empowered demos … collective strength and ability to act…and, indeed, to reconstitute the public realm through action.”

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Peter Levine, a leader in our movement called “civic studies,” based on agency and citizens as co-creators, has a book from Oxford by this title.

It will be great to see schools integrate democratic decision making into cultures and practices which have agency-building as their aim. What might schools – and societies – look like with a view of democracy that means human potentialities for action? And work to realize it.

Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy, Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College

Harry Boyte is the Senior Scholar in Public Work Philosophy at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University. He is the architect of the center’s public work approach to civic engagement and democracy, and the creator of Public Achievement. Boyte has worked with a variety of foundations, and non-profit, educational, and citizen organizations in the United States and abroad concerned with community development, citizenship education, and civic renewal.

Boyte served as a senior advisor to the National Commission on Civic Renewal and presented research findings at a Camp David seminar on the future of democracy. He is the author of nine books on citizenship, democracy, and community organizing, and his writings have appeared in more than 100 publications including the New York Times, Perspectives on Politics, Kettering Review, and the Wall Street Journal. In the 1960s, he worked for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a field secretary with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the Civil Rights Movement.

Areas of expertise

Civic engagement; theory and practice of democracy; citizen politics; citizen professionalism, international democracy promotion; national service initiative.