Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

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Let's talk...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A level playing field... from genocide and slavery to justice

A great story about a family's visit to Cuba that might have some relevancy to northern Minnesota when it comes to affirmative action and "level playing fields"

Brad (Editor Bemidji Pioneer);

This story below provides a little different take on affirmative action than what Irene Folstrom alluded to in conversation with you. I thought you might be interested in this.

Maybe it’s time for the Bemidji Pioneer to do a similar story about a family or two on the Indian Reservations to find out if affirmative action has a role to play in the Bemidji area. You obviously let Irene Folstrom be the voice in opposition to affirmative action; now let’s hear from some families living in poverty whose people had their land and resources stolen out from under them through a campaign of murderous genocide that included hanging and shooting people and burning them out of their homes as the remaining survivors were encircled with guns and canons pointing at them while members of their families dangled from the hangman’s noose as all the good Christian people gathered for a picnic to watch as the treaties were “read,” “negotiated” and “signed.”

In my opinion you did a great disservice in publishing your interviews with Irene Folstrom as if her having screwed Tiger Woods now qualifies her to speak on these topics like affirmative action; after all, had she not screwed Tiger Woods you would never have sought out her opinion about anything and even when you sought out her opinion you allowed her to write the story since you never pressed her for any facts or explanations.

Why don’t you go take a ride around the reservations asking people if they think they are ENTITLED to jobs where they spend their money and what they pay their taxes to support--- jobs at the Bemidji Regional Event Center come to mind.

I’m really wondering why the Bemidji Pioneer has never editorialized in support of the need and necessity for the City of Bemidji to have had an affirmative action policy developed, implemented and enforced for the BREC since anyone who even takes the time to read Executive Order #11246 understands that it was created for just such public works projects as the BREC. Maybe the question should be asked another way: If not for projects like the BREC why was Executive Order #11246 ever signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson?

It is just mind-boggling, that instead of writing a Bemidji Pioneer editorial against affirmative action, yourself; you used Irene Folstrom to carry your message in opposition to affirmative action for you.

Come on, Brad; have the courage to place the views on affirmative action of the Bemidji Pioneer in writing right on the Editorial Page for all to see.

Does the Bemidji Pioneer really believe that a bunch of racist and bigoted politicians should be allowed to pick and choose upon their whim when the law of the land should be enforced or not enforced? Or don’t you think Executive Order #11246 is the law of the land… here we have Judge John G. Melbye having asked the Plaintiff suing over lack of enforcement of affirmative action what law there was making it mandatory to require an affirmative action program to be created, administered, monitored and enforced when he is looking right at Executive Order #11246.

If there has ever been a time that Executive Order #11246 should be enforced on any project in Bemidji, Minnesota, certainly, any person with an ounce of common sense would have to conclude that affirmative action should be enforced on this massive public works project because if it isn’t required to be enforced on the BREC, we know its enforcement will never be required on any project in Bemidji or Beltrami or surrounding counties.

Maybe you should ask Irene Folstrom to tour the Bemidji Regional Event Center with you and have her explain what she thinks of no Native American workers (and 95% of the Native American Indian population is working class even though 65% to 80% are presently without jobs.

Come on Brad; Irene Folstrom has announced her candidacy using her claim to fame that she screwed Tiger Woods just like a lot of his other satisfied girlfriends and you don’t even question her about her statements in opposition to affirmative action? Here you have this 2012 candidate before you and you don’t ask her opinion as to how she thinks the playing field should be leveled without affirmative action? If you don’t want to put these questions to Irene Folstrom, maybe you should put these questions to her good friend the sitting state senator, Mary Olson or representative John Persell.

By-the-way; how does it come to be that the Bemidji Pioneer has its top reporter available to go out to interview Irene Folstrom who voices her opinion about affirmative action, but a reporter isn’t available to cover what is very likely the biggest and most important civil rights and human rights case that will ever be heard in Beltrami County Courts and that case involves affirmative action--- the very issue you allowed a person to comment on who claims she will be running for public office in 2012. Come on Brad, how damn stupid do you think the readers of your newspaper are that they do not wonder why they are not hearing about the most important civil action to be brought before a Beltrami County District Court Judge because the reporter is covering the story of a woman who thinks her having been satisfactorily screwed by Tiger Woods is more important news to print than this court case that will determine whether or not an entire race of people who have been discriminated against for hundreds of years is now entitled to jobs at the Bemidji Regional Event Center their taxes and purchasing power have created?

Brad, check out the story below which concludes with this: “The early U.S. economy so relied on slavery that it fueled a boom, making America an attractive destination for immigrants, they maintain.” I sometimes wonder if this economy would ever have developed at all had not the land and resources been stolen out from under First Nation’s Peoples. Slavery was one of the crimes against humanity that enabled this country to become the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth--- but, we both know there was and continues to be an even greater crime against humanity and there you sit in a newspaper office right on top of this greatest crime story of all and you are out interviewing Irene Folstrom who intends to run a political campaign based upon her “tell all experiences” with Tiger Woods who just happens to be one of the most lucrative investments of the Indian Gaming Industry whose clients continue to profit from this horrendous crime against humanity--- it wasn’t John McCarthy that encouraged you to cover the Irene Folstrom/Tiger Woods story instead of the real story playing out in Judge John Melbye’s Beltrami County Courtroom, was it?

Irene Folstrom was happily screwed, so we hear from you; what you aren’t telling us about is all the carnal details about who is getting f&^*#@.

Alan L. Maki

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer March 31, 2010


LA MADRUGA, Cuba - James DeWolf Perry VI's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather used African slaves to grow coffee on this rocky hillside outside Havana, and to him its thorny weeds and small sugar plots feel haunted.

"Do you feel the ghost of James DeWolf out here?" asks Katrina Browne, Perry's distant cousin.

"Yes," he replies, drawing out the word in a long, awkward breath.

Both are descendants of the DeWolfs of Bristol, Rhode Island, who became the biggest slave-trading family in U.S. history, shipping well over 11,000 Africans to the Americas between 1769 and 1820. It was a business that made the family patriarch, James DeWolf, America's second-wealthiest man.

The cousins came to Cuba this week as part of a visit by the U.S. replica of the 19th-century slave ship Amistad - which on Wednesday wrapped up a 10-day educational mission to the island.

For Perry and Browne it's been a journey into their family's troubling past that is far more personal than scouring genealogy records or government archives.

Between 1790 and 1821, more than 240,000 enslaved Africans were brought to Havana, according to customs data, including the 53 captives who rebelled aboard the original Amistad in 1839, seizing the ship and sailing up the U.S. East Coast. The Supreme Court eventually granted them freedom - an inspiring end to a shameful chapter in America and Cuba's shared history.

Perry and Browne visited the sugar-growing, cattle-raising town of La Madruga, 30 miles southeast of the capital, hoping to find vestiges of what was once a family plantation called "Mount Hope."

"To gaze at these hills, to be in his fields, on the land that was his holdings, it's another way to make a tangible connection," Perry, a Harvard University Ph.D. candidate concentrating on the Rhode Island slave trade, said of James DeWolf.

"There's no hiding the reality when you see the land."

Browne, who made a documentary of her ancestors' rum-for-slaves business, noted how the royal palm trees swaying in the hot breeze matched drawings in the diary of one of the family's overseers.

"It's sheer evil," she said.

Some of what likely encompassed Mount Hope is now land controlled by Cuba's armed forces. But a dusty back road, deeply rutted by tractors and horse-drawn carts, leads to stony highlands described in family records.

There isn't much there now, apart from scarecrows guarding cane fields and banana trees, and an occasional cow. A nearby village is known today as "La Esperanza," or "Hope," though locals are unsure whether the name has anything to do with the DeWolfs.

James DeWolf owned Mount Hope until his death in 1837. He represented Rhode Island in the U.S. Senate, and though the state outlawed the slave trade in 1787, it continued to profit enormously for decades afterward - belying the popularly held belief that slavery was strictly a southern phenomenon.

Most of the DeWolfs' African captives were sold at auction in South Carolina or Havana. If prices in the U.S. fell, the family would work the slaves on at least five Cuban plantations producing coffee, sugar and molasses until they could fetch higher prices.

Perry said the Cuban operations were a key source of income, but mostly served as a side business to stoke the DeWolfs' U.S. slave trade operation.

The U.S. banned the slave trade in 1808, but Browne said family letters indicate the DeWolfs continued dealing in African captives until the 1840s by going through Cuba. They also got help from a DeWolf brother-in-law, who served as a customs inspector in Bristol - thus ensuring family slave ships continued to come and go.

Browne wrote, co-directed and co-produced "Traces of the Trade," a 2008 documentary detailing how her ancestors used a Bristol distillery to make rum, which they traded for African captives.

She learned of the DeWolf past 14 years ago, when her 88-year-old grandmother compiled a family history. Browne began digging and found she had been exposed to her family's ugly secrets as a child. A favorite family nursery rhyme "Adjua and Pauledore," she discovered, was really about child slaves James DeWolf gave his wife for Christmas one year.

"Everything I learned just got worse and worse," she said, "and flew in the face of my image of my family as good, sensible northerners."

For her documentary, Browne contacted 200 DeWolf descendants. In 2001, she, Perry and eight other cousins retraced the so-called "Slave Triangle,"
traveling from Rhode Island to the coast of Ghana and then to Cuba.

While on the island, they used machetes to hack through jungle south of Havana, reaching ruined walls and other relics of another family plantation called "Noah's Ark."

For that trip, Browne hired a Cuban producer who put together a film crew, obtained necessary government permits and scouted locations.

This time, the communist government was even more cooperative - as it often is on U.S. historical projects, especially those exploring unsavory aspects of America's past.

Authorities granted Browne and Perry special access to archives, and the pair was featured on state television. That support helped them search customs books for records of Bristol-registered vessels at Cuba's National Archives and to screen her documentary. When shown the film, some Afro-Cubans choked back sobs.

Perry and Browne, both 42, say they did not inherit proceeds from the slave trade because family records indicate James DeWolf's immediate descendants squandered the fortune within two generations.

"To that, I say, 'Thank goodness.' I would not want to find out that I grew up wealthy because of that," Perry said.

Still, he said there is no doubt his family name and roots opened educational and professional doors. Other branches of the family did receive large inheritances, and establishing whether any of DeWolf's thousands of descendants got slave proceeds is difficult.

Browne said 140 of the 200 relatives she contacted for the documentary didn't respond. Many who did expressed concerns, including worries activists might demand reparations.

Browne supports payments to Americans of African descent to "level the playing field," not "out of guilt, but grief," though she is not in favor of cutting personal checks to individuals.

"The idea is 'repair'," she said. "And that is best done through more systemic efforts - public and private - to help people access the American dream."

While both she and Perry have worked to uncover their family's role, they say no Americans - even those whose descendants came to the U.S. after slavery was abolished - should feel unaffected. The early U.S. economy so relied on slavery that it fueled a boom, making America an attractive destination for immigrants, they maintain.

"None of us," Perry said, "are untouched by the legacy of slavery today."

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell Phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

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