290 Page Subpeona Request for Production of Documents and Depositions for Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala “Kriminal Harass” Harris, the California Attorney General, Alameda County Superior Court Judges, District Attorney, and Department of Child Support Services are ALL involved in Admitted Embezzlement, Corruption, Fraud, Extortion Case of child support payments al-Hakim made in trust to the DA in their fiduciary capacity for the minor al-Hakim children depriving al-Hakim and the minor child of THOUSANDS of DOLLARS paid, then fraudulently and illegally charging al-Hakim with the crime of violating the child support statute for nonpayment!
The decades old conflict between Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim and Family with the Alameda County District Attorney (DA) and the Department of Child Support Service (DCSS) is among the most extensively told in the history of the American judiciary.
They embezzled my the money from al-Hakim’s daughters, one of which is Bari al-Hakim-Williams, who was a Legal Counsel, Global Infrastructure & Operations at FaceBook where she created the Diversity program until she left two years ago in 2018,  whom they tried to frame al-Hakim for it, and persecuted our Family for over 20 years when the Family ALL objected, agreed NOT to pay and refused to pay the stolen funds again. 
Wherein the DA suspended al-Hakim’s drivers license and revoked his passport for over TWENTY YEARS in an effort to force me to pay again, but more so just to put him in the “system” susceptible to ALL possible police, judicial, law enforcement whims of hate induced persecution, harassment, oppression, racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, Xenophobia and retaliation! They did this despite the fact that the District Attorney Bill Kleeman ADMITTED in a letter to the parents apologizing for their crimes, stopped the fraudulent theft of the child support, then doubled down and began stealing the money all over again three years later after the supervising DA died! You can read or download the letter here: https://www.box.com/shared/vny517fknk 
Kamala Harris was working with the DA’s office with all her friends directly involved in this Admitted Embezzlement, Corruption, Fraud, and Extortion Case!
As Attorney General “Kriminal Harass” and the Office of The Attorney General of The State of California substituted in as attorney of record in this case for the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services allegedly “in the interest of justice”. What justice is there in the Attorney General defending, concealing and thereby further complicitly committing the admitted willful and intentional extrinsic fraud upon the court; prosecutorial misconduct; willful and malicious prosecution; misconduct; conflict of interest; obstruction of justice; denial of due process under the law; willful and intentional fabrication and authoring false evidence; misstating and mischaracterizing evidence; misrepresentation and concealment of material facts with knowledge of the truth with the intent to induce the court’s act or reliance; harassment; and intimidation on behalf of District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, former DA Tom Orloff, Maureen Lenahan, Valgeria Harvey, counselors L. Lavagetto, Ms. K. Pendergrass, Ms. Adler, Kris Ferre, and accountant Mr. Lovelady and others unnamed in the DA’s office; various judges and Commissioner Oleon’s abuse of discretion, willful misconduct, conduct prejudicial, illegal ex-parte communications and bias that resulted in error.

Letter from District Attorney ADMITTING EMBEZZLED CHILD SUPPORT FROM al-Hakim

This was done to excuse and protect the Alameda County Department of Child Support Services from their ongoing conflict of interest in their alleging to represent the interest of Joette Hall, whom they had defrauded along with al-Hakim of the funds paid to the DCSS in trust for their minor child Bari.
al-Hakim  received a letter from Marina Soto, California Deputy Attorney General, dated June 1, 2017 regarding his Noticed Request for Documents served on Kamala Harris May 22 and 23, 2017. It was served on the Parties to provide the time to comply with previous Requests made subject to Rule 10.500; Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act; Brown Act- California Public Records Act Request (PRA), and Ethics Complaints.

Here you can view or download al-Hakim’s 290 page Subpeona and Request for Production of Documents served on the California Attorney General Kamal Harris.pdf


Here you can view or download al-Hakim’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request for Production of Documents served on the California Attorney General Kamal Harris.pdf


Feigning ignorance in the letter, she asks al-Hakim to clarify the request, if under PRA, wherein they will respond accordingly. Every one of you herein has done the exact same thing for years only to have the evidence of crime against you mount to a point of insurmountable!
As a result, al-Hakim clarified the Demand for Production of Documents for each of them therein that has had a previous request made. If there is no compliance in seven (7) days, we will file formal Request for Production of Documents and Depositions on each herein. He would start with Attorney Generals Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, and Ms. Soto.
On April 7, 2014, we filed and served a FOIA/Brown Act Request on Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Joan Kirtlan, Stephen Napolillo- Records Co-ordinators, and Custodian of Records.
By letter attached dated April 17, 2014, Brent Orick- Special Agent in Charge- Professional Standards Group, Division of Law Enforcement, acknowledging receipt of our PRA Request on April 7, 2014, therein requesting time to respond by May 1, 2014, in order “to consult with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having a substantial subject matter interest therein”. In a separate letter Soto made the same request for an extension of time to comply the very same day! The letter can be read or downloaded at:
AG Harris- Orick FOIA Response
AG Harris- Soto FOIA Response
Additionally, on May 6, 2014 and July 3, 2014 Orick left voice mail messages for me regarding the Attorney General’s response. The voice mail can be listen to or downloaded at:
May 6, 2014  https://app.box.com/s/kpnvn0lvx74bm8dahsc5vgd2686zfdyd
July 3, 2014  https://app.box.com/s/uexrxsxwjfkpavxdaetwqqk1z1wcev2j
By letter attached dated May 2, 2014, al-Hakim informed both Ms. Soto and Mr. Orick that the FOIA/Brown Act Request filed on April 7, 2014 and their acknowledged receipt from both dated April 17, 2014 that they have both for the Attorney General failed and refused to comply with ANY of the requested information as per the law by providing NO RESPONSE AT ALL. This implies that the original request they both made on April 17, 2014 at the conclusion of the required time to provide the information was totally disingenuous! The letter can be read or downloaded at: 
In an attached letter dated May 28, 2014, to Mrs. Harris, Ms. Soto, Mr. Orick and Custodian of Records requesting again that the Attorney General respond to the request, to comply with all relevant deadlines and other obligations set forth in FOIA and the agency’s regulations. 5 U.S.C. § 552, (a)(6)(A)(i); 26 a.F.R. § 601.702(c)(9)(ii). Pursuant to 26 C.F.R. § 601.702(c)(2)(i), I would prefer the responsive records be provided in an electronic format. Attorney General’s March 2009 FOIA memorandum, reiterating President Obama’s directive that in “the face of doubt, openness prevails.” Attorney General, Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies at 1 (March 19, 2009) (Attorney General Memorandum). They have yet to comply or even respond! The letter can be read or downloaded at: https://app.box.com/s/feolyhbt0rchngtugayi5cj8chr9mayj
But as any good politician has done, Harris has actually been involved in stealing child support from Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim’s minor child with an outstanding order! She not only worked in the DA’s office during the time this embezzlement was happening but then represented the Department of Child Support Services and the DA’s office AGAINST al-Hakim. 
Now 25 years later, that minor child that Kriminal Harass embezzled is Bari al-Hakim-Williams.
Bari al-Hakim-Williams has hosted and attended multiple fundraisers for Harris, even held at her home, that was promoted on
Shelton posted:
Fundraiser – Kamala Harris for CA Attorney General 
Saturday, 14 November 2009, 15:00
 At the Home of Bari and Jaime Williams – Oakland, CA 

Fundraiser – Kamala Harris for CA Attorney General 
Please join me at a fundraiser in support of my friend and colleague 


Saturday, November 14, 2009 3:00 – 5:00 pm 
Hosted by – 
Guest . . . . . . . . . $250 
If you are unable to attend the event, but would like to support. You can donate online by visiting: http://kamalaharris.org/donate/event/534. Please let me know if you donate via the website so that I can track your contribution. 
Thanks in advance for your support! 
Oddly enough Shelton is involved in the al-Hakim legal action against the City of Oakland in the Case of al-Hakim vs CSAA and Rescue Rooter, et. al. You can hear Demetruis Shelton, President of the National Bar Association and City Attorney employee’s Voicemail “Russo Received Trial Subpoenas!!!”
The Facebook posted article included photos of my daughter, Bari al-Hakim-Williams, whom had her child support, with President Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House and her Facebook employee photo. 
Bari al-Hakim-Williams, was honored for her fine achievements at the White House where she was hosted by President Obama and Michelle Obama, as one of the Nations “40 Under 40” top lawyers by the National Bar Association, among others. She was featured in Black Enterprise Magazine, discussing her plight as a minority and woman of color in a major corporation, in a commanding leadership position over men, lawyers and engineers, and the Diversity Program she founded at FaceBook. Her title there is Legal Counsel, Global Infrastructure & Operations at Facebook where she governs everything that is purchased. She created the Diversity program and talks about it here.

Here you can view or download al-Hakim’s 290 page Subpeona and Request for Production of Documents served on the California Attorney General Kamal Harris.pdf



pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 2031 (CCP 2031) on Responding Party: Custodian of Records for the Attorney General of California, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and in YOUR capacity as LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE Representing the Public Interest pursuant to Family Code Sections 17406-17407 for District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, Director of Child Support Services Matthew A. Brega, Custodian of Records for Alameda County District Attorney, and Custodian of Records for Department of Child Support Services, et.at.

PROPOUNDING PARTY:  Defendant ABDUL-JALIL al-HAKIM, his family members Harun al-Hakim-Miller, Patty Flenory, Jalil Omar al-Hakim, Bari al-Hakim-Williams, Joette al-Hakim-Hall, and their siblings; and the entities Superstar Management, The Genius of Randy Wallace, Inc., the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation, Nowtruth.org, eX-whY Adventures, their real property including but not limited to 7633 Sunkist Drive, Oakland, CA  94605, and all personal property (all herein after referred to as “ALL the Propounders and/or Propounders”)

RESPONDING PARTY: Custodian of Records for the Attorney General of California, Attorney General Kamala Harris and ALL former and current employees, agents, and contractors of the Attorney Generals office including but not limited to Peter Southworth, Robert Wilson, Marina L. Soto, Douglass M. Press, Paul Reynaga, Joan Kirtlan, Stephen Napolillo, Mark Argarin, Evan Westrep, Louis Verdugo, Jr., Richard M. Frank, Kimberly McCrickard, Melissa Weikel, Melissa Nelson, Vinh Ngo and former Attorney General Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown; and in YOUR capacity as LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE Representing the Public Interest pursuant to Family Code Sections 17406-17407 for the Custodian of Records for the Alameda County District Attorney, District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, Custodian of Records for the Department of Child Support Services, Director Department of Child Support Services Matthew A. Brega, former District Attorneys John Meehan, Tom Orloff, former DCSS Director Maureen Lenahan, Sue Eadie, Ms. Remelton, Ricca Alcantara, Mrs. Carlilse, Ms. Alder, Terry Simmons-Booker, Valgeria Harvey, Yolanda Smith, Ann Diem, L. Lavagetto, Ms. K. Pendergrass, Kris Ferre, Mr. Lovelady, Karen Campbell, Rock Harmon, Kamala Harris, Charlene Perry, Venus Johnson, Micheal O’Connor, David Stein, Kevin Dunleavy, Boydine Hall, Matt Golde, Bob Connor, Bruce Brock, Towanda Lee, Ms. Carlilse, the Alameda County District Attorney, Department of Child Support Services, Custodian of Records and ALL their previous and current employees, agents, independent contractors, consultants, representatives, lobbyist, experts, professional organizations, social organizations, charitable organizations, and professional services organizations, et.at. (all herein after referred to as “Responding Parties or Responding Party”); and 

Judge Holland declares Kamala Harris Guilt

ALL Related Parties include but are not limited to: The Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI); National Security Agency (NSA); the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Defense Security Service (DSS); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); U.S. Secret Service (USSS); U.S. Customs Service; U.S. Department of Motor Vehicles; U.S. Department of Consumer Affairs; U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice; U.S. Attorney General; U.S. Attorney’s Office; U. S. Federal District Court- including Northern Division; U.S. Department of Insurance;  California State Appeals Court, The California Attorney General; California Department of Corrections; California Department of Justice; California State Franchise Tax Board; California Department of Insurance; California Department of Corporations; California Secretary of State; California State Assembly; California State Senate; California Bureau of Automotive Affairs; California Supreme Court; California Commission on Judicial Performance; California Judges Association; California State Air Resources Board; California Department of Parks and Recreation; California State Board of Equalization; California Department of Child Support Services; California Department of Motor Vehicles; California Department of Consumer Affairs; California Highway Patrol; Alameda County Superior Court, including Appeals court and court administration; Alameda County Grand Jury; Alameda County District Attorney; Alameda County Department of Child Support Services; Alameda County Supervisors; Alameda County Sheriffs; Alameda County Public Health; Alameda County Counsel; Alameda County Administrator; Mayor of Oakland; Oakland City Council; Oakland City Attorney; Oakland City Auditor; Oakland City Administrator; Oakland Police Department; Oakland Public Works; Oakland Public Ethics Commission; Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency; Oakland Building and Permits Department; City of Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation; Mayor of Richmond, Richmond City Attorney; Richmond City Manager; The City of Richmond; Mayor of San Leandro, San Leandro City Manager; San Leandro City Attorney; Mayor of Alameda, Alameda City Attorney; Alameda City Manager; Contra Costa County Superior Court, including Appeals court; Contra Costa County Grand Jury; Contra Costa County District Attorney; Contra Costa County Supervisors; Contra Costa County Sheriffs; Contra Costa County Public Health; Contra Costa County Counsel; Contra Costa County Administrator; Hayward Police Department; East Bay Municipal Utilities District; Pacific Gas & Electric; AT&T; Comcast; Dish Network; former and current Oakland City Attorneys Jane Williams, John Russo, Randy Hall, Jim McIllevahe, Andrea Leal, Sophia Lee, Elizabeth Allen, Eliada Perez, Janie Wong, Barbara Parker, Deborah Walther, Arlette Flores-Medina, and former City Attorneys employee Pat Smith; Stephan Barber and others of the law firm Ropers, Majeski; Ronald J. Cook, Randy Willoughby, Alex Stuart, Bradley Bening and others of the law firm Willoughby, Stuart & Bening; William Jemmott and others of the law firm Wilson Elser; Todd Jones and others of the law firm Archer Norris; Daniel Crowley and others of the law firm Daniel Crowley & Assoc.; Fletcher Alford, Joel K. Liberson and others of the law firm Gordon & Rees; Sean O’Halloran and others of the Crone law firm Rozynko; Anne Brooks Harrigan and others of the law firm Grancell, Lebovitz; Yolanda Jackson and others of the law firm Jackson Alternative Dispute Resolution; the law firm of Caven, Cleaveland, Murray; the law firm of Jackson Harrigan; John Ratto and Dean K. Beyer, of ASU Group (formerly D. L. Glaze); defendants Rescue Rooter and Bay Area Carpet Cleaning; and retired Judges David Lee, Michael Ballachey, Judith Ford, Jacqueline Tabor and Richard Hodge; Kim Colwell, Jayne Williams and others of the law firm Meyers Nave; Appellate Judges Barbara Jones, James Richman, and Henry Needham; Alameda Superior Court Judges Frank Roesch, Barbara J. Miller, Leo Dorado, Robert Freedman, Yolanda Northridge, George Hernandez, Jon Rolefson, C. Don Clay, Winifred Smith, Leo Dorado, Stephen Pulido, Sandra Bean, Sue Alexander, Tara DeSautels, and Commissioners Boydine Hall, Taylor Culver, Glenn Oleon, Thomas Nixon, and E. Hendrickson; Federal Appeals Court Judge Jon Tigar; Ronald M. George of The California Supreme Court; Victoria Henley-Director-Chief Counsel, Yvette Trevino, Bernadette Torivio of The California Judicial Council; Ronald G. Overholt of The California Judges Association; Congressperson Barbara Lee, and staff Anne Taylor, Elaine McKellar, Lauren Riggs, Saundra Andrews, Leslie Littleton; the United States Attorney’s Office- Northern District of California Director HON. Melinda Haag; John Keker, Robert Van Nest, Jon Streeter, Holly Saydah, Joy Scharton and others of the law firm Keker & Van Nest; and ALL their previous and current employees, agents, independent contractors, consultants, representatives, lobbyist, experts, professional organizations, social organizations, charitable organizations, and professional services organizations (all herein after referred to as “ALL Related Parties or Related Parties“).

Here you can view or download al-Hakim’s 290 page Subpeona and Request for Production of Documents served on the California Attorney General Kamal Harris.pdf


Frederick Douglass On How Slave Owners Used Food As A Weapon Of Control

American writer, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass edits a journal at his desk, late 1870s. Douglass was acutely conscious of being a literary witness to the inhumane institution of slavery he had escaped as a young man. He made sure to document his life in not one but three autobiographies.

President Trump recently described Frederick Douglass as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.” The president’s muddled tense – it came out sounding as if the 19th-century abolitionist were alive with a galloping Twitter following – provoked some mirth on social media. But the spotlight on one of America’s great moral heroes is a welcome one.

Douglass was born on a plantation in Eastern Maryland in 1817 or 1818 – he did not know his birthday, much less have a long-form birth certificate – to a black mother (from whom he was separated as a boy) and a white father (whom he never knew and who was likely the “master” of the house). He was parceled out to serve different members of the family. His childhood was marked by hunger and cold, and his teen years passed in one long stretch of hard labor, coma-like fatigue, routine floggings, hunger, and other commonplace tortures from the slavery handbook.Article continues after sponsor message


‘Nurse, Spy, Cook:’ How Harriet Tubman Found Freedom Through Food

At 20, he ran away to New York and started his new life as an anti-slavery orator and activist. Acutely conscious of being a literary witness to the inhumane institution he had escaped, he made sure to document his life in not one but three autobiographies. His memoirs bring alive the immoral mechanics of slavery and its weapons of control. Chief among them: food.

As a young enslaved boy in Baltimore, Frederick Douglass bartered pieces of bread for lessons in literacy. His teachers were white neighborhood kids, who could read and write but had no food. At 20, he ran away to New York and started his new life as an anti-slavery orator and activist.

“Never mind, honey—better day comin,’ ” the elders would say to solace the orphaned boy. It was not just the family pets the child had to compete with. One of the most debasing scenes in Douglass’ first memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, describes the way he ate:

“Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. This was called mush. It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush; some with oyster-shells, others with pieces of shingle, some with naked hands, and none with spoons. He that ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place; and few left the trough satisfied.”

Douglass makes it a point to nail the boastful lie put out by slaveholders – one that persists to this day – that “their slaves enjoy more of the physical comforts of life than the peasantry of any country in the world.”

In truth, rations consisted of a monthly allowance of a bushel of third-rate corn, pickled pork (which was “often tainted”) and “poorest quality herrings” – barely enough to sustain grown men and women through their backbreaking labors in the field. Not all the enslaved, however, were so ill-fed. Waiting at the “glittering table of the great house” – a table loaded with the choicest meats, the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, platters of fruit, asparagus, celery and cauliflower, cheese, butter, cream and the finest wines and brandies from France – was a group of black servants chosen for their loyalty and comely looks. These glossy servants constituted “a sort of black aristocracy,” wrote Douglass. By elevating them, the slave owner was playing the old divide-and-rule trick, and it worked. The difference, Douglass wrote, “between these favored few, and the sorrow and hunger-smitten multitudes of the quarter and the field, was immense.”

The “hunger-smitten multitudes” did what they could to supplement their scanty diets. “They did this by hunting, fishing, growing their own vegetables – or stealing,” says Frederick Douglass Opie, professor of history and foodways at Babson College, who, of course, is named after the activist. “In their moral universe, they felt, ‘You stole me, you mistreated me, therefore to steal from you is quite normal.’ ” If caught, say, eating an orange from the owner’s abundant fruit garden, the punishment was flogging. When even this proved futile, a tar fence was erected around the forbidden fruit. Anyone whose body bore the merest trace of tar was brutally whipped by the chief gardener.

Frederick Douglass, circa 1879.George Warren/National Archives

But if deprivation was one form of control, a far more insidious and malicious one was the annual Christmas holidays, where gluttony and binge drinking was almost mandatory. During those six days, the enslaved could do what they chose, and while a few spent time with distant family or hunting or working on their homes, most were happy to engage in playing sports, “fiddling, dancing, and drinking whiskey; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable to the feelings of our masters. … It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas.” To encourage whiskey benders, the “masters” took bets to see who could drink the most whiskey, thus “getting whole multitudes to drink to excess.”

The nefarious aim of these revels was to equate dissipation with liberty. At the end of the holidays, sickened by the excessive alcohol, the hungover men felt “that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum.” And so, Douglass wrote, “we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field – feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.”

Douglass sounds even angrier at these obligatory orgies – he calls them “part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery” – than at other, more direct forms of cruelty.

“It was a form of bread and circus,” says Opie. “Slaves were also given intoxicated drinks, so they would have little time to think of escaping. If you didn’t take it, you were considered ungrateful. It was a form of social control.”

When he was about 8 years old, Douglass was sent to Baltimore, which proved to be a turning point. The mistress of the house gave him the most precious gift in his life – she taught him the alphabet. But when her husband forbade her to continue – teaching slaves to read and write was a crime – she immediately stopped his lessons.

It was too late. The little boy had been given a peek into the transformative world of words and was desperate to learn. He did so by bartering pieces of bread – he had free access to it; in Baltimore, the urban codes of slavery were less harsh than in rural Maryland – for lessons in literacy. His teachers were white neighborhood kids, who could read and write but had no food. “This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge,” Douglass wrote in one of the most moving lines in Narrative.

“This also shows the ingenuity of enslaved people,” says Opie, “and how they tricked and leveraged whatever little they had to get ahead.”

Today, when one thinks of Frederick Douglass, the image that springs to mind is of a distinguished, gray-haired man in a double-breasted suit. It is difficult to imagine him as a half-starved boy garbed in nothing but a coarse, knee-length shirt, sleeping on the floor in a corn sack he had stolen. As he wrote in Narrative, “My feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes.”

It is a heartbreaking image – redeemed by one little word, “pen.” A pen that he wielded with passion, clarity and irony to gash the life out of slavery.

Food Shortages? Nope, Too Much Food In The Wrong Places

Together Inc. food bank workers distribute food at a drive-through location in Omaha, Neb., last week. Disruptions in the agricultural supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic are making it difficult for food banks.

In recent days, top U.S. government officials have moved to assure Americans that they won’t lack for food, despite the coronavirus. 

As he toured a Walmart distribution center, Vice President Pence announced that “America’s food supply is strong.” The Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for food, Frank Yiannas (a former Walmart executive) told reporters during a teleconference that “there are no widespread or nationwide shortages of food, despite local reports of outages.”

“There is no need to hoard,” Yiannas said.

In fact, the pandemic has caused entirely different problems: a spike in the number of people who can’t afford groceries and a glut of food where it’s not needed. 

Dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Georgia have been forced to dumpthousands of gallons of milk that no one will buy. In Florida, vegetable growers are abandoning harvest-ready fields of tomatoes, yellow squash and cucumbers for the same reason. 

“We cannot pick the produce if we cannot sell it, because we cannot afford the payroll every week,” says Kim Jamerson, a vegetable grower near Fort Myers. Those crops will be plowed back into the ground. “We’ll have to tear ’em up,” Jamerson says. “Just tear up beautiful vegetables that really could go elsewhere, to food banks, and hospitals, and rest homes.”Article continues after sponsor message

The country’s food distribution system, in normal times, is a marvel, efficiently delivering huge amounts of food to consumers. But it relies on predictability, like a rail system that directs a stream of trains, on set schedules, toward their destinations. Now, some of the biggest destinations — chain restaurants, schools and workplace cafeterias — have disappeared, and supply chains are struggling to adapt.

Jay Johnson, with JGL Produce, a vegetable broker in Immokalee, Fla., is the kind of person who makes this system work — matching buyers with sellers. “You’re getting phone calls, text messages, emails, all day and all night,” he says. ” ‘What’s your price on this? What grade? Can you do a better deal?’ You’re doing all these micronegotiations throughout the day.”

On Tuesday, March 24, he says, that all changed. “Everything got quiet. Wednesday, the 25th, superquiet. Thursday, now we’re getting nervous.”

Normally, chain restaurants buy a steady supply of produce, week after week. But most have shut down — and did so just as Florida’s vegetable harvest shifted into high gear. “Now you’re sitting there with all this production, perfect weather, and everybody’s like, ‘Oh no,’ ” Johnson says.

He told vegetable grower Mike Jamerson, Kim’s husband, that “we’re in trouble here. And it’s to the point where I’m going to fill my warehouse up and I’m going to have to tell you to stop picking.” That’s when workers stopped picking yellow squash on Kim Jamerson’s farm. 

A week after Jamerson told NPR that they’d have to “tear up” their crops, the situation had improved a bit. Workers have resumed picking, but it’s now a “salvage operation,” Jamerson says. Workers are discarding vegetables that weren’t picked in time. The vegetables that they salvage will be sold at cut-rate prices, with some going to food banks.

Something similar has happened to dairy farmers. Milk sales in supermarkets have increased, but not enough to make up for the drop in sales of milk to schools and cheese to Pizza Hut. Factories that make milk powder can’t take any more milk. So some milk cooperatives have told their farmers to dump the milk that their cows are producing. 

The situation is especially dire for Florida’s tomato growers, who sell 80% of their production to restaurants and other food service companies, rather than to supermarkets. “Think about all the sandwiches that people eat at lunch when they go out. Burgers, or salads at restaurants,” says Michael Schadler, from the Florida Tomato Exchange, which represents some of the state’s largest growers. “Many of those food service items have tomatoes.” 

Schadler says growers already are “walking away from big portions of their crop,” writing off huge investments. 

Meanwhile, food banks and pantries are having trouble supplying enough food to people who need it, including millions of children who no longer are getting free meals at school and people who’ve lost jobs in recent weeks.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, a network of food banks and charitable meals programs, says that these programs normally receive large donations of unsold food from retail stores. In recent weeks, though, as retailers struggled to keep their shelves stocked, “we’re seeing as much as a 35% reduction in that donation stream from retail,” Babineaux-Fontenot says.

Food banks are trying to claim more of the food that is stranded in the food service supply chain, either through donations or by buying it. 

“We are capturing some of that. I know we’re not capturing all of it, but we have a whole team of professionals whose job is to try to make sure that we capture as much of it as we possibly can,” Babineaux-Fontenot says. “So we’re having conversations with major restaurants. We’re having conversations with major producers, with trade associations, the whole gamut.”

Kim Jamerson thinks “it’s just a shame” to have enough food, but not be able to get it to the people in need. “A woman who’s got two kids how can she live on unemployment, go into a grocery store and pay 90 cents for a cucumber? She just can’t do that.”

Part of the problem is that it takes labor to move produce from one place to another, and people are still figuring out who will pay for that. Jamerson says she can’t afford to pay workers to pick a crop that will be donated. She wants the government to step in, provide workers or the money to pay them, and make sure food gets to where it’s needed. “The government could send the food to the hospitals, the rest homes, to the food banks, to the churches,” she says.

Jay Johnson, the produce broker, says there are signs of hope. The food banks in Florida, he says, are starting to buy some of his vegetables and figuring out new ways to distribute them. 

They asked Johnson to pack some vegetables in smaller packs, so food banks don’t need so many volunteers to repack them. “They’re understaffed, and don’t have warehouse space, and they’re having to think creatively,” he says. 

“I see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel here,” he says, adding that he won’t make money on those sales to food banks. Farmers won’t either, but at least they’ll be able to keep their workforce employed until, hopefully, better times arrive.

Judge Blocks Rule That Would Have Kicked 700,000 People Off SNAP

Critics had called on the Department of Agriculture to suspend implementation of the new food stamp restrictions, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect April 1.

In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.

The rule change would have required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits past three months. It would also have limited states’ usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. The preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was adopting the rule change in December, but critics have called on the department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule.Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://e1edf8f6d2e972f2da50da0c223f83a4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

While the rule applies to “able-bodied adults without dependents,” anti-hunger advocates note that category can include parents who don’t have primary custody of their kids, youths who have recently aged out of foster care and some low-income college students.

In her ruling, Howell cited concerns raised by the spread of coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable Americans. “Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential,” she wrote.

The change to SNAP is now blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit by 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City.

“This is a major victory for our country’s most vulnerable residents who rely on SNAP to eat,” D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who co-led the coalition behind the lawsuit, said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s rule would have forced hundreds of thousands of people who could not find work, including 13,000 District residents, to go hungry. That could have been catastrophic in the midst of our current public health emergency.”

“At a time of national crisis, this decision is a win for common sense and basic human decency,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who co-led the coalition with Racine, said in a statement. Her office noted that the change would have denied SNAP benefits to more than 50,000 people in New York City alone.

“As we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic,” James said, “the effects of this rule would be more destructive than ever.”

“Huge Victory”: Black Farmers Hail $5B in New COVID Relief Law to Redress Generations of Racism

Change will never come without political participation!

A major provision in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill aims to address decades of discrimination against Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian American farmers who have historically been excluded from government agricultural programs. The American Rescue Plan sets aside $10.4 billion for agriculture support, with about half of that amount set aside for farmers of color, and allocates extra federal funds to farmers who were “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has faced accusations of racism for decades, but little has been done to address the problem of discrimination in farm loans. John Boyd, a fourth-generation Black farmer and president of the National Black Farmers Association, says the new funds begin to address issues he has been fighting for 30 years. “This is a huge victory for Black farmers and farmers of color,” says Boyd.

Food Banks Get The Love, But SNAP Does More To Fight Hunger

People load their vehicles with boxes of food at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank earlier this month in Los Angeles. Food banks across the United States are seeing numbers and people they have never seen before amid unprecedented unemployment from the COVID-19 outbreak

Millions of newly impoverished people are turning to the charitable organizations known as food banks. Mile-long lines of cars, waiting for bags of free food, have become one of the most striking images of the current economic crisis. Donations are up, too, including from a new billion-dollar government effort called the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Yet many people who run food banks are ambivalent about all the attention, because they know the limitations of their own operations. They point to a stream of food aid that’s far more important than food banks: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Food banks actually have two separate functions. They provide food to people who need it, but they also find new homes for food that might go to waste — often because farmers and food companies haven’t been able to sell it. This second job can be unwieldy and labor-intensive.

Take, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new food bank donation program. It was set up, in large part, to relieve distress among farmers and food companies who can’t find places to sell their products — like Borden Dairy, a Dallas-based milk processor which saw demand plunge when restaurants and schools closed in mid-March. The company couldn’t find buyers for all the milk its farmers were producing, and asked some of them to simply dump the surplus.Article continues after sponsor message

Too much milk

As part of the new USDA program, though, Borden Dairy won a $137 million contract to send 44 million gallons of milk to charitable organizations, mainly food banks.

Tony Sarsam, Borden Dairy’s CEO, says it “gives a sense of purpose and meaning to this organization. And it’s also important because we work with so many independent farmers. It gives them stability.”

More than a hundred companies got similar contracts from USDA, worth a total of $1.2 billion. They include wholesale distributors of fresh produce and meat. More contracts are coming, with the department expecting to spend about $3 billion on this new program. It has become an emergency buyer of surplus food, and the purchase price includes money to transport the food to food banks.

Sarsam and other companies who’ve won USDA contracts now have to figure out how to give away these products. It means setting up a new and mostly unfamiliar supply chain. “We have to get off to the races, and find connections in the charitable community that can take our products. We’ve been on the phones non-stop,” he says.

It’s more complicated than one might imagine. “Cold storage is a big deal; not everybody has enough cold storage for it,” Sarsam says.

So far, he’s only found takers for about 10% of the milk that the company needs to give away to earn that full paycheck from the USDA.

Robin Safley is on the receiving end of these donations. She’s executive director of Feeding Florida, an association of twelve food banks. Those organizations deliver food to a couple of thousand small non-profit groups that hand it out to people at temporary distribution points known as food pantries.

“First of all, we’re grateful, right?” Safley says. “Grateful in a lot of ways.”

But the logistics of getting food to the right place at the right time is a challenge even in normal times. Throw in social distancing, volunteers worried about their safety, and a wave to potential donations from USDA-funded companies, and it gets downright daunting.

“That means we have new people to deal with. How many trucks are they sending, and where are they sending them?” Safley says. “We don’t want them to stack up on some of the other trucks that we have moving.” She compares it to solving a Rubik’s cube.

The USDA has a separate program that buys commodities and donates them to food banks, but it’s smaller than the new effort, amounting to roughly half a billion dollars worth of food donations each year.

There is, however, a whole different way to help people get the food: Simply distribute money that people can use to buy groceries.

Money instead of food

This is what makes SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, so effective. Last year, 35 million people received $55 billion in SNAP benefits, down from a peak of 47 million people and $76 billion in 2013. The program, which falls under the aegis of the USDAdelivers roughly nine times more food to people than the entire Feeding America network, which includes food banks.

Jess Powers, who’s worked with several food assistance programs, says that this method — transferring money, rather than bags of produce — is better in a lot of ways. For one thing, she says, “it’s just more efficient.” SNAP recipients simply pay for groceries using an electronic benefits card. Also, people have more freedom to buy what they need, and the money they spend helps local businesses.

“It has this multiplier effect in communities, and it’s actually a better economic value because it creates economic activity,” Powers says. Unlike the new USDA commodity purchases, though, SNAP does not solve the problems of farmers who’ve lost restaurant sales due to the pandemic.

Food banks themselves, in fact, are among SNAP’s biggest fans. “Those of us in the anti-hunger community, we truly believe that SNAP is far and away the most important component of our social safety net against hunger in our country,” says Craig Gundersen, an economist at the University of Illinois who also works with Feeding America.

Yet SNAP doesn’t enjoy the same bipartisan applause as food banks. Over the years, many politicians — mostly conservatives — have tried to restrict access to the program, citing relatively small scale abuses by recipients.

Before the current crisis, the Trump administration had moved to cut access to SNAP for hundreds of thousands of people. It has since put those moves on hold, and it is allowing states to increase SNAP benefits to families that currently don’t get the maximum amount. Some anti-hunger groups are calling on the USDA to go further, and boost the maximum amount of SNAP benefits that people can get.

Gundersen says food banks do have a big role to play, and they have some distinct advantages. Unlike SNAP, anybody can show up and get food, with no proof of citizenship required and no complicated application procedure. “People may run out of money at some point over the course of the month, and they have their local food pantry where they can go get more food. Wonderful!” Gundersen says.

But food pantries aren’t big enough to do what SNAP does. Even with billions of dollars worth of extra food donations, they mainly just fill in the gaps.

Puerto Rico struggles with less

Puerto Rico, however, is in a notably different situation than the rest of the country. Instead of SNAP, Puerto Rico has a program called the Nutrition Assistance Program, which delivers significantly less aid to people on the island. And unlike SNAP, which spends more money when more people qualify for benefits, Puerto Rico’s program has a fixed budget, which means that in tough times, like today, each deserving person has to make do with less assistance.

As a result, charitable organizations in the territory have been shouldering a bigger share of the burden, and a leading food distributor in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean Produce Exchange, will soon be delivering food to them under a new USDA contract worth $107 million.

Gualberto Rodriguez, the company’s president, says he’s gotten used to working with community organizations. After Hurricane Maria, the company also delivered food to them under contracts with the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re a much poorer community here. So one thing we have is just a lot more webs of help that are embedded in our community,” he says. “These are not strangers taking care of strangers. These are our neighbors taking care of neighbors. So it’s a very special thing that happens when we go through these situations in the Caribbean and in Puerto Rico, in particular.”

But when asked whether it would be better to transfer money instead, so that people could buy food from local businesses, Rodriguez paused.

“It’s a great question,” he said, finally. “I believe the commercial system works really well, if you empower people with the money to buy from it. It creates entrepreneurial activity where people figure out a way to address the needs of that person who has purchasing power. So I think it would [be better.]”

Inequality & Structural Racism in the Food System

Addressing racism must be at the core of what we do as an anti-hunger community, and we cannot end the cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease without changing the fundamental systems and policies which perpetuate racial and other forms of inequality.

We’ve been watching the news, horrified, for the last year. As police violence runs through every state, it’s clear that this is what racism looks like in America.

The reality is that racism is also fundamental to why many of our Black neighbors don’t have enough to eat. With decades of discriminatory policy that have led to poorly-funded schools, higher unemployment, lower homeownership, and worse access to food, it’s no surprise that double the number of Black households face hunger as compared to white households. The staggering economic effects of COVID-19 are set to make that even worse.

Our mission to end hunger must include taking action on racism. So, non-Black allies, we invite you to join us in recommitting to fighting racial discrimination and violence in all its forms.

Five quick actions to take right now as an ally for Black lives:

  1. Donate to the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation and NOWTRUTH.ORG‘s “War on Human Inequities” (WOHI) – a nonprofit project of the two. See more below.
  2. Get educated on how you can be a better ally. Here’s an anti-racist reading list to get you started.
  3. Learn more about why tackling racism is so key to ending hunger in America.
  4. Talk to your kids about anti-Black racism and police violence. Start with this great guide.
  5. This is the only beginning of the road to justice for George Floyd and many. many others. Sign the #JusticeForFloyd petition and take a stand on excessive police violence.

Black Lives Matter, and we must stand with those demanding justice, accountability, and action to confront the racism and inequality that lead to police violence and hunger alike. We’re hopeful that, together, we can make a difference.

AMWF and NOWTRUTH.ORG‘s “War on Human Inequities” (WOHI) recruits and develops leaders from low income backgrounds and organizes campaigns to address economic survival issues that people face. The WOHI agenda includes:

  • Funding essential community services through progressive taxes
  • Food Insecurity
  • Judicial Reform
  • Social Justice Reform 
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Workers’ Rights
  • Affordable Housing
  • Health Care
  • Equal Education
  • Welfare Reform
  • Living Wage and Equal Pay
  • Immigrant Rights
  • Environmental justice

AMWF bases its work on the following principles:

  • Unity. WOHI is committed to building an organization that brings together activists from varied segments of the community by uniting families on welfare, senior citizen activists, rank-and-file union leaders and community activists into one organization.
  • Multi-issue. WOHI is building a multi-issue organization that adds strength and helps support the efforts of other single-issue organizations. By working collaboratively with progressive legislators and other social action groups around the state, WOHI has developed a multi-issue agenda called the “War on Human Inequities”, which addresses such issues as Food Insecurity, Judicial Reform, Criminal and Social Justice Reform, revenue, tax reform, jobs, wages, child care, health care, housing, education, and the safety net.
  • Power in grass-roots organization. The key factor determining the ability to make a difference in the community is the size of its network of grass-roots activists. Whether building support for the initiatives of constituent organizations or developing independent campaign, WOHI seeks to empower ordinary people to change social policies that affect their lives. The WOHI organizing approach focuses both on developing commitment and leadership of people new to social activism, and on working with existing activists and organizations to strengthen their effectiveness.

1) Judicial Reform to END the Grand Systemic and Endemic Corruption; Social Justice Reform to END the Grand Systemic and Endemic Corruption of which Systemic Racism is a part; 

2) Criminal Justice Reform; Gun Violence;

3) COVID-19 & Our Communities; 

4) a. Hunger and Food Insecurity;

4) b. Homelessness; 

5) Racial Injustice, Equality, Racial Justice is Education Justice, Support Ethnic Studies Programs, Black Lives Matter Barber Shop, Islamophobia, Xenophobia;

6) Wealth Inequality, Income Gap, Poverty and Basic Needs;

7) Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline; School Safe Zones; Protecting Students’ Civil Rights; Facing Hate and Bias at School, Teen Violence and Abuse, Teen Depression and Suicide, Youth Alcohol Usage, Transportation; 

8) Immigration, Refugee Crisis, Families Belong Together, Dreamers;

9) Healthcare, Obesity, Smoking;

10) Climate Justice Reform

11) Voting Rights;

12) Sport and Athletes Human Rights



The underlying racism of America’s food system: Regina Bernard-Carreno at TEDxManhattan

Impacts of Gentrification on Food Insecurity

Impacts of Gentrification on Food Insecurity

A video documentary researching the impacts of gentrification and urban renewal on the availability of food in Church Hill, the oldest neighborhood in Richmond, VA.

Bridging indigenous knowledge and science to end hunger | Muthoni Masinde | TEDxUFS

Bridging indigenous knowledge and science to end hunger | Muthoni Masinde | TEDxUFS

Muthoni reveals how indigenous knowledge is crucial for small-scale farmers, food security in Africa and the creation of effective solutions for managing the agriculture in rural areas that are plagued by droughts and mass hunger. The talk explores bridging recent technological innovation with indigenous knowledge, through the ´ITIKI´ computer science tool which can predict meteorological data inexpensively and accurately and assist local farmers. Muthoni Masinde is a computer scientist with B.Sc, M.Sc and Ph.D computer science degrees from the University of Nairobi, the Free University of Brussels and University of Cape Town respectively. She is currently Head of the Department of IT at the Central University of Technology. One of her greatest research achievements is the development of a novel tool to predict droughts in Africa. The tool taps into the rich African indigenous knowledge on natural disasters and augments it with ICTs. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Black Food Matters: Race and Equity in the Good Food Movement | Devita Davison | Change Food Fest

Black Food Matters: Race and Equity in the Good Food Movement | Devita Davison | Change Food Fest

In this video: Devita Davison, director of marketing and communications at FoodLab Detroit, shares the story of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, explaining the barriers there still are today for food entrepreneurs of color. FoodLab Detroit is transforming Detroit’s local food economy by supporting a diverse community of food businesses and allies working to make good food a sustainable reality for all Detroiters. About: Devita Davison, a native of Detroit and granddaughter of a preacher, lived almost 19 years in New York before moving back to her hometown of Detroit in 2012. Her words are not just letters strung together; they are vessels for love and fight, heart ache, wisdom, and profound joy. To say she wears her heart on her sleeve is an understatement; whether decrying injustices in the food system or expounding on the beauty of a ripe strawberry in summer, her passion for food justice is palpable. Stay up to date with all our Quickbites and exciting projects from Change Food! http://changefood.org Change Food is a grassroots movement creating a healthy, equitable food system. We provide various levels of expertise to organizations that are not getting sufficient support yet are creating real, replicable change. In addition, through conferences, events and special projects, Change Food raises public awareness and connects various parts of the food movement. Want to get to know us more? Get our monthly newsletter: http://bit.ly/signupCF Support us on Patreon!: http://bit.ly/PatreonCF Like us on Facebook: https://facebook.com/ChangeFoodFollow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/changeourfood Like us on Instagram: https://instagram.com/changeourfood LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/7427675 Google+: https://plus.google.com/+ChangeFoodOrg

Systemic Racism in Our Food System

Systemic Racism In Our Food System

The incredible Pam Koch talks about our broken food supply and much more in the new episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, which is up now https://DrMarkHyman.lnk.to/PamKoch

District Attorney Grants New Trials to 22 Defendants, Reversing Legacy of a Brutal Judge

  • BY CALVIN JOHNSON, Retired Chief Judge, New Orleans
Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams talks with the media announcing an unprecedented and sweeping legal action that his office waived all objections to new trials for 22 state prisoners convicted by split juries between the years 1974 and 2014 on the Orleans Parish Courthouse steps Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

When District Attorney Jason Williams’ office told me he would grant 22 defendants convicted by nonunanimous juries new trials, I was amazed. I didn’t know the event would trigger so many memories. That Williams started this in Section G, Frank Shea’s court, was intentional.

I watched Shea brutalize defendants there. It is easy to focus on those tried within minutes, as the article does (Terrance Knox’s 1996 murder trial, during Shea’s waning months in office, lasted three hours) but every day he jailed people for little or nothing.

He single-handedly contributed to mass incarceration and intergenerational trauma. Think about those young people he put in jail for little or nothing. They went into jail as children and they came out labeled as criminals. There was a simple reason: Once stamped with a felony conviction, they were doomed for life.

Worst was the media, print and electronic, who portrayed him as a crime-fighting hero. Shea’s speed on the bench was the stuff of legends. In 1975, he purportedly held 168 jury trials, and the following year the Louisiana Legislature commended him for “silencing long-winded, redundant attorneys.” In 1984, Shea held six felony trials in a single day, The Lens reported.

A hundred and sixty-eight trials in one year mean few if any of those received what our Constitution requires — effective assistance of counsel. They received no representation at all because there was not a real public defense system.

The media couldn’t care less. They perpetuated Jim Crow and racism, created a mindset in New Orleans and Louisiana this was a good thing. In keeping with his need to achieve his trial results, he never appointed the Tulane or Loyola Law Clinic, supervised by me, to represent anyone in his court. He literally said to me, “Why are you here? You don’t represent anyone in this court.” My reply: “I just came to watch.”

At Williams’ news conference, former District Attorney Ed Tarpley, of Alexandria, who led the fight for the unanimous jury constitutional amendment, shared these thoughts: God hates injustice. And let me tell you that Louisiana has lived through generations of injustice and this is our chance to change that. And what this man has done here today is a step forward to restore true justice in Louisiana and fight the generations of injustice that have plagued the citizens of our state too long.

This is a new day for New Orleans and Louisiana. We have the power legally and morally to correct past wrongs. John P. Nelson, director of the Loyola Law Clinic, said “It’s never too late to do what’s right.” This is Williams’ time but — more importantly, our time — to do what’s right.


Retired Chief Judge

New Orleans

Ten Lessons for Talking About Race, Racism, and Racial Justice

Ten Lessons for Talking About Race, Racism, and Racial JusticePrograms

Communications and culture have the power to move hearts and minds in ways that facts and advocacy often cannot. We understand this challenge — and built an intersectional communication lab so that, together, we can deliver messages and narratives that speak to Americans’ best selves.

As we strive to improve conversations about race, racism, and racial justice in this country, the environment in which we’re speaking seems to be constantly shifting, which shows that these conversations are more important than ever. We’ve put together some advice on finding entry points based on research, experience, and the input of partners from around the country. This is by no means a complete list, but it is a starting point for moving these discussions forward.

Please note that while there are many reasons to communicate with various audiences about racial justice issues, this memo focuses on messaging with the primary goal of persuading them toward action. There are many times when people need to communicate their anger, frustration, and pain to the world and to speak truth to power. Doing so may not always be persuasive, but that obviously doesn’t make it any less important. Since we’re considering persuasion a priority goal in this memo, please consider the following advice through that lens.

1. Lead with Shared Values: Justice, Opportunity, Community, Equity

Starting with values that matter to your audience can help people to “hear” your messages more effectively than dry facts or emotional rhetoric would. Encouraging people to think about shared values encourages aspirational, hopeful thinking. When possible, this can be a better place to start when entering tough conversations than a place of fear or anxiety.

Sample Language:

Sample 1: To work for all of us, the people responsible for our justice system have to be resolute in their commitment to equal treatment and investigations based on evidence, not stereotypes or bias. But too often, police departments use racial profiling, which singles people out because of their race or accent, instead of evidence of wrongdoing. That’s against our national values, it endangers our young people, and it reduces public safety. We need to ensure that law enforcement officials are held to the constitutional standards we value as Americans—protecting public safety and the rights of all.

Sample 2: We’re a better country when we make sure everyone has a chance to meet their full potential. We say we’re a country founded on the ideals of opportunity and equality and we have a real responsibility to live up to those values. Discrimination based on race is contrary to our values and we need to do everything in our power to end it.

2. Use Values as a Bridge, Not a Bypass.

Opening conversations with shared values helps to emphasize society’s role in affording a fair chance to everyone. But starting conversations here does not mean avoiding discussions of race. We suggest bridging from shared values to the roles of racial equity and inclusion in fulfilling those values for all. Doing so can move audiences into a frame of mind that is more solution-oriented and less mired in skepticism about the continued existence of discrimination or our ability to do anything about it.

Sample Language:

It’s in our nation’s interest to ensure that everyone enjoys full and equal opportunity. But that’s not happening in our educational system today, where children of color face overcrowded classrooms, uncertified teachers, and excessive discipline far more often than their white peers. If we don’t attend to those inequalities while improving education for all children, we will never become the nation that we aspire to be.


A beautiful thing about this country is its multiracial character. But right now, we’ve got diversity with a lot of segregation and inequity. I want to see a truly inclusive society. I think we will always struggle as a country toward that—no post-racial society is possible or desirable—but every generation can make progress toward that goal. – Rinku Sen, Race Forward, to NBC News[1]

3. Know the Counter Narratives.

Some themes consistently emerge in conversations about race, particularly from those who do not want to talk about unequal opportunity or the existence of racism. While we all probably feel like we know these narratives inside out, it’s still important to examine them and particularly to watch how they evolve and change. The point in doing this is not to argue against each theme point by point, but to understand what stories are happening in people’s heads when we try to start a productive conversation. A few common themes include:

  • The idea that racism is “largely” over or dying out over time.
  • People of color are obsessed with race.
  • Alleging discrimination is itself racist and divisive.
  • Claiming discrimination is “playing the race card,” opportunistic, hypocritical demagoguery.
  • Civil rights are a crutch for those who lack merit or drive.
  • If we can address class inequality, racial inequity will take care of itself.
  • Racism will always be with us, so it’s a waste of time to talk about it.

4. Talk About the Systemic Obstacles to Equal Opportunity and Equal Justice.

Too often our culture views social problems through an individual lens – what did a person do to “deserve” his or her specific condition or circumstance? But we know that history, policies, culture and many other factors beyond individual choices have gotten us to where we are today.

When we’re hoping to show the existence of discrimination or racism by pointing out racially unequal conditions, it’s particularly important to tell a full story that links cause (history) and effect (outcome). Without this important link, some audiences can walk away believing that our health care, criminal justice or educational systems work fine and therefore differing outcomes exist because BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color) are doing something wrong.


“The widely-discussed phenomenon of ‘driving while black’ illustrates the potential abuse of discretion by law enforcement. A two-year study of 13,566 officer-initiated traffic stops in a Midwestern city revealed that minority drivers were stopped at a higher rate than whites and were also searched for contraband at a higher rate than their white counterparts. Yet, officers were no more likely to find contraband on minority motorists than white motorists.” – The Sentencing Project publication, “Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: A Manual for Policymakers”[2]

“Native Americans and Alaska Natives are often unable to vote because there are no polling places anywhere near them. Some communities, such as the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada and the Goshute Reservation in Utah, are located more than 100 miles from the nearest polling place.” – Julian Brave NoiseCat, Native Issues Fellow at the Huffington Post[3]

5. Be Rigorously Solution-Oriented and Forward-Looking.

After laying the groundwork for how the problem has developed, it’s key to move quickly to solutions. Some people who understand that unequal opportunity exists may also believe that nothing can be done about it, leading to “compassion fatigue” and inaction. Wherever possible, link a description of the problem to a clear, positive solution and action, and point out who is responsible for taking that action.

Sample Language:

Sample 1: Asian Americans often face particularly steep obstacles to needed health care because of language and cultural barriers, as well as limited insurance coverage. Our Legislature can knock down these barriers by putting policies in place that train health professionals, provide English language learning programs, and organize community health centers.

Sample 2: The Department of Justice, Congress, local and state legislatures, and prosecutors’ offices should ensure that there is fairness in the prosecutorial decision-making process by requiring routine implicit bias training for prosecutors; routine review of data metrics to expose and address racial inequity; and the incorporation of racial impact review in performance review for individual prosecutors. DOJ should issue guidance to prosecutors on reducing the impact of implicit bias in prosecution.[4]


“Organizing to achieve public policy change is one major aspect of our larger mission to create freedom and justice for all Black people. Our aim is to equip young people with a clear set of public policy goals to organize towards and win in their local communities.” –BYP 100, “Agenda to Keep Us Safe,” website[5]

6. Consider Audience and Goals.

In any communications persuasion strategy, we should recognize that different audiences need different messages and different resources. In engaging on topics around race, racism, and racial justice, this is particularly important. We all know that people throughout the country are in very different places when it comes to their understanding of racial justice issues and their willingness to talk about them. While white people in particular need anti-racism resources and messaging that brings them into conversations about racism, there exists uncertainty or inexperience in other groups when it comes to talking about, for instance, anti-Black racism, stereotypes around indigenous communities, or anti-immigrant sentiments that are highly racialized. In strategizing about audience, the goal should be to both energize the base and persuade the undecided. A few questions to consider:

Who are you hoping to influence?Narrowing down your target audience helps to refine your strategy.
What do you want them to do?Determine the appropriate action for your audience and strategy. Sometimes you may have direct access to decision makers and are working to change their minds. Other times you may have access to other people who influence the decision makers.
What do you know about their current thinking?From public opinion research, social media scans, their own words, etc.
What do you want to change about that?Consider the change in thinking that needs to happen to cause action.
Who do they listen to?Identify the media they consume and the people who are likely to influence their thinking. This may be an opportunity to reach out to allies to serve as spokespeople if they might carry more weight with certain audiences.

7. Be Explicit About the Intertwined Relationship Between Racism and Economic Opportunity and the Reverberating Consequences.

Many audiences prefer to think that socio-economic factors stand on their own and that if, say, the education system were more equitable, or job opportunities more plentiful, then we would see equal opportunity for everyone. Racism perpetuates poverty among BIPOC and leads these communities to be stratified into living in neighborhoods that lack the resources of white peers with similar incomes. That said, we need to be clear that racism causes more and different problems than poverty, low-resourced neighborhoods or challenged educational systems do and that fixing those things is not enough. They are interrelated, to be sure, but study after study, as well as so many people’s lived experiences, show that even after adjusting for socio-economic factors, racial inequity persists.


Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a new study that traced the lives of millions of children.

White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households.

Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.[6]

8. Describe How Racial Bias and Discrimination Hold Us All Back.

In addition to showing how discrimination and unequal opportunity harm people of color, it’s important to explain how systemic biases affect all of us and prevent us from achieving our full potential as a country. We can never truly become a land of opportunity while we allow racial inequity to persist. And ensuring equal opportunity for all is in our shared economic and societal interest. In fact, eight in ten Americans believe that society functions better when all groups have an equal chance in life.[7]

Research also shows that people are more likely to acknowledge that discrimination against other groups is a problem – and more likely to want to do something about it – if they themselves have experienced it. Most people have at some point felt on the “outside” or that they were unfairly excluded from something, and six in ten report that they’ve experienced discrimination based on race, ethnicity, economic status, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or accent.[8] Reminding people of this feeling can help them think about what racism and oppression really mean for others as well as themselves.

Sample Language:

Virtually all of us have been part of a family with kids, some of us are single parents, and many of us will face disabilities as we age. Many of those circumstances lead to being treated differently – maybe in finding housing, looking for a job, getting an education. We need strong laws that knock down arbitrary and subtle barriers to equal access that any of us might face.


“Discrimination isn’t just an insult to our most basic notions of fairness. It also costs us money, because those who are discriminated against are unable to make the best use of their talents. This not only hurts them, it hurts us all, as some of our best and brightest players are, in essence, sidelined, unable to make their full contributions to our economy.” – David Futrelle, Economic Reporter in Time Magazine[9]

“Racial inclusion and income inequality are key factors driving regional economic growth, and are positively associated with growth in employment, output, productivity, and per capita income, according to an analysis of 118 metropolitan regions. … Regions that became more equitable in the 1990s—with reductions in racial segregation, income disparities, or concentrated poverty—experienced greater economic growth as measured by increased per capita income.” – PolicyLink publication, “All-In Nation”[10]

9. Listen to and Center the Voices of BIPOC.

As social justice advocates, we should be accustomed to centering the voices of those who are most affected by any issue. It should go without saying that when talking about racism, that BIPOC should lead the strategies about how to counter it and dismantle white supremacy. This means:

  • Taking cues from anti-racist BIPOC leaders on things like preferred language and strategy;
  • Reducing erasure and unpaid labor by giving credit and/or compensation to BIPOC who have sparked movements, coined terms, tested and spread language and so on; and
  • Being vigilant in ensuring that those who have power in our movement share that power with BIPOC, particularly those whose voices have been marginalized and those who experience multiple barriers due biases that affect them intersectionally on many levels.

Centering anti-racist BIPOC voices does not mean expecting members of each group to relive their particular oppression by describing it — or examples of it — for the benefit of the larger movement.

It also does not mean expecting only BIPOC to speak out about racism and oppression. There is room for many voices and a role for different people with different audiences to do the work of changing the narrative about race in this country.

10. Embrace and Communicate Our Racial and Ethnic Diversity while Decentering Whiteness as a Lens and Central Frame.

Underscore that different people and communities encounter differing types of stereotypes and discrimination based on diverse and intersectional identities. This may mean, for example, explaining the sovereign status of tribal nations, the unique challenges posed by treaty violations, and the specific solutions that are needed. At the same time, we need to place whiteness in the context it deserves: as a part of the larger whole and not the center of it. Too often even well-meaning language assume white as the “norm,” which implies that anyone else is an “other.”

Sample Language:

The United States purports to revere the ideals of equality and opportunity. But we’ve never lived up to these ideals, and some of us face more barriers than others in achieving this because of who we are, what we look like or where we come from. We have to recognize this and move toward the ideal that we should all be able to live up to our own potential, whether we are new to this country, or living in disadvantaged neighborhoods, on reservations that are facing economic challenges, or in abandoned factory towns.


“We affirm our commitment to stand against environmental racism and to support Indigenous sovereignty. Across the United States, Black and Brown communities are subject to higher rates of asthma and other diseases resulting from pollution and malnutrition; as demonstrated recently not only at Standing Rock but also through the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Our neighborhoods are more likely to have landfills, toxic factories, fracking, and other forms of environmental violence inflicted on them. We will not let this continue.” – Million Hoodies, blog[11]

“At best, white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are ‘different’ in case it offends us. They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universal. I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do.

They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not to really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong.” – Reni Eddo-Lodge, author[12]

“The internment was a dark chapter of American history, in which 120,000 people, including me and my family, lost our homes, our livelihoods, and our freedoms because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. … ‘National security’ must never again be permitted to justify wholesale denial of constitutional rights and protections. If it is freedom and our way of life that we fight for, our first obligation is to ensure that our own government adheres to those principles. Without that, we are no better than our enemies. … The very same arguments echo today, on the assumption that a handful of presumed radical elements within the Muslim community necessitates draconian measures against the whole, all in the name of national security.” – George Takei, actor, in the Washington Post[13]

Applying the Lessons

VPSA: Value, Problem, Solution, Action

One useful approach to tying these lessons together is to structure communications around Value, Problem, Solution, and Action, meaning that each message contains these four key components: Values (why the audience should care, and how they will connect the issue to themselves), Problem (framed as a threat to the shared values we have just invoked), Solution (stating what you’re for), and Action (a concrete ask of the audience, to ensure engagement and movement).



To work for all of us, our justice system depends on equal treatment and investigations based on evidence, not stereotypes or bias.


But many communities continue to experience racial profiling, where members are singled out only because of what they look like. In one Maryland study, 17.5% of motorists speeding on a parkway were African-American, and 74.7% were white, yet over 70% of the drivers whom police stopped and searched were black, and at least one trooper searched only African American. Officers were no more likely to find contraband on black motorists than white motorists. These practices erode community trust in police and make the goal of true community safety more difficult to achieve.


We need shared data on police interactions with the public that show who police are stopping, arresting and why. These kinds of data encourage transparency and trust and help police strategize on how to improve their work. They also help communities get a clear picture of police interactions in the community.


Urge your local police department to join police from around the country and participate in these important shared databases.



We’re a better country when we make sure everyone has a chance to meet his, her, or their potential. We say we’re a country founded on the ideals of opportunity and equality and we have a real responsibility to live up to those values. Racism is a particular affront to our values and we need to do everything in our power to end it.


Yet we know that racism persists, and that its effects can be devastating. For instance, African American pregnant women are two to three times more likely to experience premature birth and three times more likely to give birth to a low birth weight infant. This disparity persists even after controlling for factors, such as low income, low education, and alcohol and tobacco use. To explain these persistent differences, researchers now say that it’s likely the chronic stress of racism that negatively affects the body’s hormonal levels and increases the likelihood of premature birth and low birth weights.


We all have a responsibility to examine the causes and effects of racism in our country. We have to educate ourselves and learn how to talk about them with those around us. While we’ve made some important progress in decreasing discrimination and racism, we can’t pretend we’ve moved beyond it completely.


Join a racial justice campaign near you.



We believe in treating everybody fairly, regardless of what they look like or where their ancestors came from.


But what we believe consciously and what we feel and do unconsciously can be two very different things and despite our best attempts to rid ourselves of prejudices and stereotypes, we all have them – it just depends how conscious they are. All of us today know people of different races and ethnicities. And we usually treat each other respectfully and joke around together at work. But for most of us – Americans of all colors – the subtle or not so subtle attitudes of our parents or grandparents, who grew up in a different time, are still with us, even if we consciously reject them.


Personally, I look forward to the day when we can all see past color—all of us, white and black, brown and Asian. To do that, we all have to be aware of what’s going on in our own heads right now. And how that collective bias has shaped our history and where we are now.


But we’re just not there yet. Let’s make it a priority to get there. [14]


[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/envisioning-enacting-racial-justice-rinku-sen-force-behind-race-forward-n459996

[2] The Sentencing Project. Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: A Manual for Policymakers, 2008

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/13-native-american-issues_us_55b7d801e4b0074ba5a6869c

[4] https://transformingthesystem.org

[5] http://agendatobuildblackfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/BYP100-Agenda-to-Keep-Us-Safe-AKTUS.pdf

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/19/upshot/race-class-white-and-black-men.html

[7] The Opportunity Agenda/Langer Associates. The Opportunity Survey, 2014.

[8] Ibid.

[9] http://business.time.com/2013/02/19/discrimination-doesnt-make-dollars-or-sense/

[10] https://www.policylink.org/sites/default/files/AllInNation-book.pdf

[11] http://millionhoodies.net/million-hoodies-in-solidarity-with-standing-rock/

[12] Reni Eddo-Lodge: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, The Guardian (May 31, 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/news/audio/2017/may/31/why-im-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race-podcast

[13] George Takei: They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims Washington Post (November 18, 2016). https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/18/george-takei-they-interned-my-family-dont-let-them-do-it-to-muslims/?utm_term=.8e15097e3b44

[14] Modified from messages tested in Speaking to the Public about Unconscious Prejudice: Meta-issues on Race and Ethnicity. Drew Westen, Ph.D. March 2014

Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim Exemplifies Beauford Delaney’s Masterful Portraits

Beauford Delaney (1901-1979) “Portraitist of the Famous

“Perhaps I should say, flatly, what I believe–that he is a great painter, among the very greatest; but I do know that great art can only be created out of love, and that no greater lover has ever held a brush.”

James Baldwin (1924-1987), writer,
friend of artist Beauford Delaney

Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim, c.1971oil on canvas

Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim, c.1971

Beauford Delaney, hailed as the most important African-American artists of the 20th century, whose life appeared to symbolize the mythical artistic existence of privation and relative obscurity, that show a retrospective of “uninhibited colorist (though never an unintelligent one)” that is “apotheosized” and whose talent and “free, open and outgoing nature” engendered admiration from everyone whom was fortunate enough to encounter him as he was THE darling of the international culture scene in New York and Paris. James Baldwin called him his “spiritual father.”

Remembering THE Greatest artists of the 20th century, the ‘amazing and invariable’ Beauford Delaney, the “Portraitist of the Famous”, who’s masterpieces are trumpeted as cutting-edge work in Black aesthetics, stylistic evolution from representation to pure abstraction, with new and radical theories with his techniques and expression of the politics of Black arts, affording him his very own, singular serious stature among abstract expressionists, transforming the critical landscape into a growing interest in his creation of “Black Abstraction”!

For more than a decade, Delaney showed compelling, vibrant images of energetic life: produced engaging abstract works, portraits, landscapes, and abstractions celebrated for their brilliance and technical complexity with his dramatic stylistic shift from figurative compositions of life to abstract expressionist studies of color and light, powerful works of art and culture, illuminate some of Delaney’s most innovative years and firmly place his work among the dominant art movements of the day.

The fascinating Beauford Delaney is a Modern artist who produced engaging portraits, landscapes, and abstractions celebrated for their brilliance and technical complexity with his dramatic stylistic shift from figurative compositions of New York life to abstract expressionist studies of color and light following his move to Paris in 1953, illuminate some of Delaney’s most innovative years and firmly place his work among the dominant art movements of the day! 

The career of Beauford Delaney (1901-79) was mainly working with Expressionism, Harlem Renaissance who’s first exhibition was New Names In American Art: Recent Contributions To Painting And Sculpture By Negro Artists at The Renaissance Society in Chicago, IL in 1944, and the most recent exhibition was Art Basel Miami Beach 2020 – online viewing only at Art Basel Miami Beach in Miami Beach, FL in 2020. Beauford Delaney is mostly exhibited in United States, but also had exhibitions in Germany, United Kingdom and elsewhere. Delaney has 10 solo shows and 79 group shows over the last 76 years (for more information, see biography). Delaney has also been in 7 art fairs but in no biennials. The most important show was Beauford Delaney: From New York to Paris at Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA in 2005. Other important shows were at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minneapolis, MN and The Studio Museum in Harlem in New York City, NY. Beauford Delaney has been exhibited with Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden. Beauford Delaney’s art is in 9 museum collections, at France at the Museum of Modern Art , École des Beaux-Arts, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, NY and The Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL, featured in Jet and Playboy magazines among others.

Beauford Delaney is ranked among the Top 10 globally, and in United States. Delaney’s best rank was in 1944, the artist’s rank has improved over the last 5 years, with the most dramatic change in 1992. 

Many of its prominent figures, who admiringly looked upon Delaney as their “Shaman” or “Yogi” and fondly referred to him as a “Black Buddha”, were described by his close friend, James Baldwin, as a “cross between Brer Rabbit and St. Francis of Assisi.” 

His list of friends and acquaintances including artists, World Leaders, politicians, activist, authors/poets/writers, intellectuals, filmmakers, promoted by numerous patrons of the arts, world Cultural Ambassadors, art gallery owners, befriended by notable figures, and musicians Stuart Davis — his closest painter compatriot — W.E.B. Du Bois (whose portrait he painted), Salvadore Dalí (whose portrait he painted), Countee Cullen, Louis Armstrong (whose portrait he painted), Duke Ellington (whose portrait he painted), Ethel Waters (whose portraits he painted), W.C. Handy (whose portrait he painted), Henry Miller (who wrote a tribute to him), John F. Kennedy (whose portraits he painted), Robert Kennedy (whose portraits he painted), Jean-Claude Killy (whose portraits he painted), Herb Gentry, Alain Locke, Cy Twombly, Sterling Brown,  Langston Hughes, Georgia O’Keeffe (who drew charcoal and pastel portraits of Delaney in 1943), Augusta Savage, Stuart Davis, John Marin, Pablo Picasso (whose portrait he painted), Richard A. Long (whose portrait he painted), John Koenig (whose portrait he painted), and Claude McKay were connected to Paris in various ways. 

Also significant is the impact of jazz, as exemplified by the avante garde “free jazz” music explosion of Ornettte Coleman, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Frank Wright, Bobby Few, Bill Dixon, François Cotinaud, Sunny Murray, Barney Wilen, Globe Unity Orchestra, Andrew Hill, Dave Burrell, Anthony Braxton, Leroy Jenkins, Grachan Moncur III, Malachi Favors, Claude Delcloo, Beb Guérin, Kenneth Terroade, Bernard Vitet, Lester Bowie, Jerome Cooper, Joseph Jarman, Joachim Kühn, Steve Lacy, Roscoe Mitchell, Robin Kenyatta, Michel Portal, Irène Aebi, Ronnie Beer, Kent Carter, Dieter Gewissler, Oliver Johnson, Famoudou Don Moye, Alan Shorter, Bernard Vitet, Jouk Minor, Byard Lancaster, Kenneth Terroade, Paul Jeffrey, Ronnie Beer, Sonny Sharrock, Pharoah Sanders, Black Harold, Johnny Dyani, Gary Windo, Rene Augustus, Joseph Déjean, Beb Guérin, Claude Delcoo, Clifford Thornton, Wayne Shorter, Sun Ra and His Intergalactic Research Arkestra, François Tusques, Alan Silva and the Celestrial Communication Orchestra.

Luminaries Josephine Baker, Bob Blackburn, Ed Clark, Bob Thompson, Marian Anderson (whose portrait he painted), Jacob Lawrence, Ella Fitzgerald (whose portrait he painted), Zora Neale Hurston, Alfred Stieglitz, Carl Van Vechten, Edward Steichen, Dorothy Norman, Anaïs Nin, art studio owner Charles Alston, Jackson Pollock, Vassili Pikoula, Henri Chahine (whose portrait he painted), Charlie Parker (whose portrait and music he painted.), James Jones, Jean Genet, Lawrence Calcagno, Cab Calloway, Elaine DeKooning, Palmer C. Hayden (whose portrait he painted), art dealer Darthea Speyer (whose portrait he painted) who had exhibitions of Delaney’s art at Paris’ Galerie Lambert in 1964. Others include artists Charles Boggs, Al Hirschfeld, John Franklin Koenig, Harold Cousins, Herbert Gentry (whose portrait he painted), Ed Clark, and Ellis Wilson, authors James Jones and Henry Miller (who was also a water colorist), Writers Richard Wright, Surrealist poet Stanislas Rodanski, Chester Himes, Ralph Ellison, William Gardner Smith, Richard Gibson, Lorraine Hansberry, Ted Joans, art historian Richard A. Long, and his friend Lynn Stone.

Delaney became close friends with another influential visual artist, Lawrence Calcagno. A white, abstract landscape artist from Northern California, it was an unlikely pairing when the two met in Paris. Yet the two men grew to share a close artistic bond, tied by their shared belief in the spiritual nature of painting and abstraction. They also became close personal friends, writing hundreds of letters to each other over Delaney’s later years, after Calcagno left Paris to return to America. In these letters, Delaney is at his most vulnerable and open, as he felt with a kindred spirit.

His closest lifelong friend, however, was James Baldwin — who, while fleeing a strict father at 16, looked up Delaney in the Village. He later called the artist his “principal witness.” Delaney was a kind of surrogate nurturing father to the writer. Judging by his 1941 Dark Rapture (James Baldwin), a steamy nude portrait of the 16-year-old writer (as well as from subsequent Baldwin portraits over the decades), Delaney seems to have been in love with the lithe young man 22 years his junior.

Indeed, while Delaney had not intended to settle permanently in Europe, he quickly realized he had found there a more hospitable climate in which to pursue his craft. Asked about his experience as an expatriate he replied, “Expatriate? It appears to me that in order to be an expatriate one has to be, in some manner, driven from one’s fatherland, from one’s native land. When I left the United States during the 1950s no such condition was left behind. One must belong before one may then not belong. I belong here in Paris, I am able to realize myself here. I am no expatriate.”

While Paris had in some sense liberated Delaney, there were sorrows he could not escape. “There always seems to be the shadow,” Delaney wrote to a benefactor, “which follows the light.” Although he was referring to the financial difficulties that plagued him throughout his career, the artist could also have been talking about his struggles with mental illness, which manifested as psychotic breaks and ghostly voices in his head, resulting in his confinement to a mental hospital at the end of his life. While Delaney was a mentor to Baldwin during the author’s early years, Baldwin later became Delaney’s protector, assisting him financially and emotionally. For an introduction to an exhibition in Paris in 1964 Baldwin wrote, “Perhaps I am so struck by the light in Beauford’s paintings because he comes from darkness—as I do, as, in fact, we all do.” The vibrant luminosity of Composition 16 is but one example of Delaney’s lifelong quest to find light in that darkness.

Many felt him to be the “Dean of African American Artists Living in Europe.” Although he never fully wanted this distinction most of Delaney’s works were close to being classified as abstract art. Beauford Delaney died in Paris at age 78 on March 26, 1979.

Delaney lived and worked in Paris for many years and much of his work was neglected until a retrospective in 1978 at the Studio Museum in Harlem.  During his absence, the French government, in an effort to collect delinquent accounts, sealed off his apartment and prepared to auction off his products of nearly a forty year career.  Many of his works were stolen and some had to be recovered by European Intelligence, the CIA/FBI. Had the works been sold, dispersed throughout Europe, the neglect may have been irreversible.

The painter Beauford Delaney (Knoxville 1901-1979 Paris) was lost to history for a time. Yet in the mid-twentieth century, Delaney was considered an important artist of his generation.

Following his death, he was praised as a great and neglected painter but, with a few notable exceptions, the neglect continued.

A retrospective of his work at the Studio Museum in Harlem a year before his death did little to revive interest in his work. It was not until the 1988 exhibition Beauford Delaney: From Tennessee to Paris, curated by the French art dealer Philippe Briet at the Philippe Briet Gallery, that Delaney’s work was again exhibited in New York, followed by two retrospectives in the gallery: “Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective [50 Years of Light]” in 1991, and “Beauford Delaney: The New York Years [1929–1953]” in 1994.

Delaney disappeared from collective memory partly due to the racial bias of art history, which, among other things, meant that even while he was celebrated, it was less as a painter equal to his contemporaries than as some kind of Negro seer or spiritual black Buddha wherein he could not escape the long American night of racism. 

“Whatever Happened to Beauford Delaney?”, an article by Eleanor Heartney, appeared in Art in America in response to the 1994 exhibition asking why this once well regarded “artist’s artist” was now virtually unknown to the American art public. “What happened? Is this another case of an over-inflated reputation returning to its true level? Or was Delaney undone by changing fashions which rendered his work unpalatable to succeeding generations? Why did Beauford Delaney so completely disappear from American art history?” The author believed that Delaney’s disappearance from the consciousness of the New York art world was linked to “his move to Paris at a crucial moment in the consolidation of New York’s position as the world’s cultural capital and his work’s irrelevance to the history of American art as it was being written by critics” at the time. The article concludes, “Today [1994] as those histories unravel and are replaced by narratives with a more varied and colorful weave, artists like Delaney can be seen in a new light.”

In 1985 James Baldwin described the impact of Delaney on his life, saying he was “the first living proof, for me, that a black man could be an artist. In a warmer time, a less blasphemous place, he would have been recognized as my Master and I as his Pupil. He became, for me, an example of courage and integrity, humility and passion. An absolute integrity: I saw him shaken many times and I lived to see him broken but I never saw him bow.” Baldwin marveled over Delaney’s ability to emulate such light in his work despite the darkness he was surrounded by for the majority of his life. It is this insight of Delaney’s past, Baldwin believes, that serves as evidence for the true victory Delaney secured. Baldwin admired his keen ability to “lead the inner and the outer eye, directly and inexorably, to a new confrontation with reality.” He further wrote, “Perhaps I should not say, flatly, what I believe – that he is a great painter – among the very greatest; but I do know that great art can only be created out of love, and that no greater lover has ever held a brush.”

His work is sold in galleries for increasingly high prices, and his paintings hang prominently among modernist and postwar works in New York’s Museum of Modern Art [where his yellow Composition 16 (1954-56) was hung next to a work by Mark Rothko], the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery (notably a portrait of Baldwin). The American artist Glenn Ligon curated a 2015 exhibition at the Tate Liverpool titled Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions” that featured two works by Delaney (one a portrait of Baldwin) and put Delaney in the company of the Abstract Expressionists, next to a picture by Franz Kline.

Because his estate has been largely closed to scholars to the present day, and because his reputation waned after his death, critical writing about Delaney is almost nonexistent, even with the flourishing of Baldwin studies across disciplines. 

The Studio Museum of Harlem broke ground with the first major posthumous exhibition of Delaney on US soil with Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective (1979) and included the full text of Baldwin’s previously published essay “Introduction to Exhibition of Beauford Delaney Opening December 4, 1964 at the Gallery Lambert.” There have been other exhibitions of Delaney’s work since 2000 that include Baldwin in minor ways and whose catalogues have provided most of the critical work done recently on Delaney to date: these include Beauford Delaney: Liquid Light: Paris Abstractions 1954-1970, organized by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in 1999; Beauford Delaney’ at the Sert Gallery of the Harvard University Art Museums;  An Artistic Friendship: Beauford Delaney and Lawrence Calcagno at the Palmer Museum of Art at the Pennsylvania State University in 2001; The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow, organized by the High Museum of Art in 2002 and curated by Richard J. Powell, who contributed a groundbreaking essay about Delaney’s use of color; Beauford Delaney: New York to Paris (2005), organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art, whose robust catalog features several scholarly essays mentioning James Baldwin; Beauford Delaney: Renaissance of Form and Vibration of Color (2016) at Montparnasse’s Reid Hall and sponsored by Wells International Foundation and Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, along with Columbia Global Centers/Reid Hall Exposition; and Gathering Light: Works by Beauford Delaney (2017) at the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee. Aside from the catalogue essays from these and other exhibitions, the only monograph devoted to Delaney is the 1998 biography by David Leeming, Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney (1998). Leeming outlines the broad arc of Delaney’s life and artistic development while emphasizing the contrast between the artist’s vibrant social life and troubled inner life that led to his institutionalization in the late 1970s. It is encouraging to see, however, that references to Delaney are now appearing in cutting-edge work on Black aesthetics, such as Fred Moten’s theoretical work, and in reconstructions of LGBTQIA arts.

While previous Delaney exhibitions and publications have almost exclusively emphasized Delaney’s stylistic evolution from the 1940s to the 1960s, from representation to pure abstraction, as a function of his move from New York to Paris and/or his worsening mental health, the proposed symposium will put Delany into conversation with new and radical theories about the techniques and politics of Black arts, affording him some of the first serious treatment by academic criticism to date. Because of Delaney’s stature among abstract expressionists, the project will contribute to a growing interest in the past ten years concerning “Black Abstraction” in the arts, as evidence by shows at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery (2014), the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston (2014), Pace Gallery (2016), Anita Shapolsky Gallery and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. (2018). It is time to bring Delaney also into the sphere of queer theory, new Black aesthetics, and new theories of Black care that are transforming the critical landscape in academe and in which Baldwin is now frequently found.

But his life ended very much like it began. Even after the fame and notoriety, he was still a poor, black man with many struggles. Just like his art, Delaney’s life was filled with light and darkness. Highs and lows.

If you were to picture a counter-image to help balance that perception in one person, you could hardly do better than Beauford Delaney. He was black, he was gay, he was unpredictable, he was charismatic. He was an intellectual, and he was an artist, in fact a wildly colorful, creative and unpredictable abstract expressionist. He was cosmopolitan, connected to the world beyond, and adored in Paris and New York, where his paintings, some of them famous and very expensive, have been exhibited, even recently. 

Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim, c.1971

oil on Canvas

25 1/2″ x 21 3/8″ / 64.8 x 54.3 cm 

signed verso with Beauford Delaney Estate stamp


Beauford Delaney, Paris, France

Estate of Beauford Delaney, Knoxville, TN

Dr. Ravindra Varma Dantuluri, Knoxville, TN

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY


Beauford Delaney. Paris: Galerie Darthea Speyer, 1973. Exhibition catalogue.

Illustrated in black-and-white in a photograph with the artist in his studio, n.p.

Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, April 9 – July 2, 1978;

Museum of National Center for Afro-American Artists, Dorchester, MA, October 8 – November 4, 1978

Illustrated in black-and-white in a photograph with the artist in his studio and listed on the checklist as no. 13, n.p. (titled Portrait of a Man)


Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (c.1971) exemplifies Beauford Delaney’s masterful portraits in which he uses bold, contrasting color to express an arresting psychological and emotional likeness. With his signature yellow palette and expressive brushstroke, Delaney portrays his friend Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim.

Throughout his career, Beauford Delaney executed modernist and psychologically compelling portraits of friends,  acquaintances and patrons. Portraits of those he knew intimately, tended to be the most compelling and profound. Generally, Delaney’s portrait paintings tend to be modernist, melding representation with abstraction, sharing a strong affinity with the gestural luminous abstractions that dominated Delaney’s oeuvre after 1953. Even after Delaney evolved into an abstract expressionist painter upon his move to France in September 1953, he continued to paint portraits that were much more than straightforward depictions of his sitters. While the composition was defined by the subject, he executed modernist canvases defined by his relatively monochromatic fields of color and distinctive brushwork. Like Delaney’s landscapes, cityscapes and interiors of his Greene Street period of the 1940s and early 1950s, the faces, bodies and backgrounds of his portraits were vehicles for his personal language of abstraction. Art historian Richard J. Powell writes:

“In addition to his artistic commitment to abstraction, experimenting with painted surfaces in oil pigments, and delving into the visual effects and relational possibilities of color, Beauford Delaney was equally bound to an art of portraiture. The genre that first brought Delaney critical notice and a measure of success, portraiture exemplified his genuine love of people – all kinds of people – and his fascination with their outward appearances, personalities, minds, and auras. As seen in almost every early photograph of Delaney – whether in his crowded Greene Street studio or sitting alongside his work at the Annual Washington Square Art Fair – portraits largely defined his as an artist. Yet…portraiture was also a vehicle for sorting out an array of primarily visual issues: concerns of color and form that could easily be coupled with his painting a friend’s likeness or an esteemed individual’s spirit.”*2

Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim recalls meeting Beauford Delaney and sitting for his portrait in Paris in 1971, when al-Hakim was around twenty years old. al-Hakim was born Randy Wallace before converting to Islam and changing his name. 

Beauford Delaney and Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim with Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (c.1971), Jean Genet with Jean Genet in the upper right and Bobby Kennedy a little lower behind my left shoulder. Above Portrait is his “Little Totem of Light”, ca. 1966

Beauford Delaney and Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim with Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (c.1971), 1971

Curator Patricia Sue Canterbury writes of Delaney’s portraits of the 1960s:

“Delaney’s portraiture during the 1960s, although often regarded as a departure from the artist’s abstract explorations of light, was actually an extension of the same. As he had reassured viewers at the opening of his solo show at the Galerie Lambert in late 1964, abstraction and portraiture ‘were studies in light revealed – the light that have meaning to the individuals depicted…and the light considered directly as contained…in the abstract paintings.’ As the decade progressed, however, it is clear that any boundaries perceived between the two became increasingly blurred. Solid forms within the portraits dematerialized and the subject and the enveloping atmosphere seemingly shared the same atomic structure.”*2

Powell writes of Delaney’s use of a yellow palette:

“Delaney’s artistic preoccupation with the color yellow is governed by its capacity to illuminate a world in which poverty, inhumanity, lovelessness, mediocrity, and darkness threaten his soul and being. No stranger to assaults on the body and psyche, Delaney sought in his work and throughout his entire life to experience that state of perfect bliss in nature and society, to reach that nearly unattainable note or apogee of emotional discernment in the arts, and to know that ecstatic feeling of an ‘excessive and deliberate joy’ in life. Oddly enough, by placing himself and his audience in his dense and luxurious yellow zone, he realized these grand ambitions.”*3

Beauford Delaney in his studio and Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (c.1971) can be seen above Delaney

Photograph of Beauford Delaney in his studio as reproduced in the catalogue for the exhibition Beauford Delaney, Galerie Darthea Speyer, Paris, France, February 6 – March 2, 1973; Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim (c.1971) can be seen above Delaney to the right

Portraits by Beauford Delaney are in numerous museum collections including:

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL;

Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA;

Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA;

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI;

Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN;

Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, NY;

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY;

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY;

The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC;

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA;

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA;

SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA;

The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; 

Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN;

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA;

Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC;

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY;

Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA.


  *1-Richard J. Powell, “The Color of Ecstasy,” Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow (Atlanta: The High Museum of Art, 2002), 20-21

 *2-Patricia Sue Canterbury, “Transatlantic Transformations: Beauford Delaney in Paris,” Beauford Delaney: From New York To Paris exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2004), 65

 *3-Powell, 29-30 Powell, 29-30