3 Presidents Who Shaped Our Food System and the Role of African Americans in It

Many of our past presidents were farmers or ranchers at some point in their lives, but a handful of them significantly changed how we grow our food and eat it. We can’t examine that history, however, without also acknowledging the legacy of slavery. Let’s consider how three presidents shaped our food system—and how their interventions impacted African Americans.

1. George Washington: Agricultural innovation and slave-dependent farming

Post-presidency, Washington grew a variety of crops on his8000-acre Mount Vernon estate. Washington was an early proponent of composting for soil health and phased out tobacco (Virginia’s main crop then) for a diversified seven-crop rotation system including wheat, corn and legumes.

However, this work was only made possible by slaves. A slave-owner since age 11, when he inherited ten slaves from his father, Washington bought and sold black people throughout his life, reportedly treating them severely and separating family members  through sale. At the time of his death 317 slaves maintained his estate.

The devastating legacy of racial injustice at Mount Vernon is still with us, but it’s gradually being undone. Quakers purchased some of that land before the Civil War expressly to prove that farming could be profitable without slavery. Today, the site is occupied by the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Agriculture, whose work includes a mobile market delivering fresh, affordable produce to food-insecure neighborhoods in the Washington, DC area.

2. Thomas Jefferson: Crop experimentation and a legacy of slave-centered agriculture

On his Monticello estate, Jefferson experimented with 330 varieties of 89 species of vegetables and herbs and 170 varieties of the fruits. His trials often resulted in failure, leading neighbors to call him “the worst farmer in Virginia.” However, Jefferson shared seeds and soil health-building techniques, promoting commercial market gardening and spreading new crops that expanded the nation’s food traditions and palate.

Jefferson’s legacy, perhaps even more than Washington’s, is marred by his views on race and complicity in slavery. Jefferson embodied the inherent social contradictions at the birth of this nation that we have yet to resolve, by denouncing the institution of slavery while profiting from it. He owned some 600 slaves, employed brutal overseers, and fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings through a relationship that, by definition, couldn’t have been consensual. His goal of “improving” slavery as a step towards ending it was misguided, as it was used as an argument for its perpetuation

3. Abraham Lincoln: The USDA and the land-grant college system

Before his presidency, Lincoln advocated for technological advances and education for farmers. In office, he created the US Department of Agriculture (USDA, which he called “The People’s Department”) and signed the Morrill Land Grant College Act, which facilitated the transfer of public land to each of the states to establish colleges of agriculture and the mechanical arts.

Lincoln fought a war over slavery, issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and sent the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery to the states for ratification before his death in 1865. But it would be another quarter century before freed slaves in the former Confederate states would get the benefit of a land-grant education Lincoln envisioned. A second Morrill Act in 1890 required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion for its land-grant colleges, or else to designate a separate institution for students of color.

American Lung Association, National Urban League Partner to Help Communities Quit Smoking

Smoking is an addiction, and some groups have higher smoking rates including the African American community, where over 20 percent of adults report that they currently use tobacco. Today, the American Lung Association and the National Urban League announced a unique partnership to address health disparities in the African-American community by offering free quit smoking services. Funded through a $1 million grant from the CVS Health Foundation, this partnership will serve those who face a disproportionate burden of tobacco use and tobacco-related illness by giving access to the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program, a proven-effective smoking cessation program.

“We have made tremendous progress against tobacco addiction and the smoking rate is half of what it was in 1964, but not everyone has benefited equally,” said American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer. “Some groups have been historically underserved with tobacco control efforts and today have higher tobacco use rates as a result. It’s important that we address this disparity with partners like the National Urban League and CVS Health so that we can prevent and reduce tobacco-related illnesses in all parts of our society.”

Every year in the U.S., more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the country. Smoking can cause or worsen numerous diseases and conditions, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and more. In fact, tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African-Americans—heart disease, cancer and stroke—and causes 45,000 African-American deaths every year.

“The death rate from smoking-related illnesses is far higher among African-Americans than among the population in general, including lung cancer,” said National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial. “Some African-Americans have an especially hard time quitting because menthol cigarettes – marketed specifically to black communities – are more addictive, and they do not have access to the best resources to stop smoking. Thanks to this partnership with the American Lung Association and support from the CVS Health Foundation, we can address those barriers and offer support that will help more people become smoke-free.”

The American Lung Association will work with the National Urban League to promote and provide their proven-effective smoking cessation program, Freedom From Smoking®, to African-American communities in Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis and Washington, D.C. Freedom From Smoking has helped more than one million smokers quit and is offered in person, online and by phone. Participants will learn about building a quit plan, medications that can aid quitting smoking, lifestyle changes that support quitting smoking, how to manage stress and how to overcome relapse and become smoke-free for good.  Individuals in those communities that are interested in receiving support can visit Lung.org/nul or call 1-800-LUNGUSA for more information.

Support for the partnership between the American Lung Association and National Urban League is being provided through Be The First, CVS Health’s five-year $50 million initiative to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation and extend the company’s larger commitment to helping people lead tobacco-free lives. The American Lung Association and the National Urban League are among a roster of national organizations who are supporting CVS Health’s campaign to accelerate declines in rates of smoking and other tobacco use among teens and young adults.

“We recognize that the use and effects of tobacco use in multicultural communities are significant, and we want to play a leading role in reducing smoking in these communities,” said CVS Health Foundation President Eileen Howard Boone. “We are proud to help bring together the tobacco control expertise of the American Lung Association with the multicultural reach of the National Urban League to advance smoking cessation efforts in the African-American community and help people on their path to better health by living tobacco-free lives.”

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies, or individuals that have been able to end their addiction to tobacco, contact the American Lung Association at Media@Lung.org or 312-801-7628.

Montero Williams International Becomes One of the Largest African American-Owned Firms in New England

Syncom Group, a boutique consulting firm providing advisory, management, and real estate development services to government and commercial clients, today announced that it has acquired Laurel, Maryland-based firm BCS, Incorporated and has rebranded as Montero Williams International.

The newly formed entity specializes in energy, national security, and transportation. Its service offerings include technical and administrative support, communications and outreach, information technology, strategic planning and evaluation, and organization change and performance management. With nearly 150 employees, Montero Williams International immediately becomes one of the largest African American-owned firms in New England, with growth aspirations—including additional acquisitions alongside organic growth—on the horizon.

“Growing our organization and our capacity to provide a broader range of management and technology solutions was a strategic priority for us,” Montero Williams CEO Alan Williams said. “To that end, we identified precisely the right growth opportunity in acquiring BCS, Incorporated and chose this moment to rebrand ourselves and prepare for future growth.”

Williams, formerly Syncom Group’s founder and managing director, has a long track record of successfully guiding and advising private, public, and multilateral organizations. He has nearly 25 years of experience in management consulting, having served in an executive capacity at Accenture prior to founding Syncom. He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, Master of Science degrees in both management and real estate development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is completing his doctorate degree in organization change and leadership at the University of Southern California. In addition, Williams has studied at the American University in Cairo and is a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

“Looking ahead, our goals are continued excellence and service to customers and smart, strategic growth together,” Williams continued. “Aligning these two firms and building upon their successes will create a company that expands both the client base and types of projects the firm can pursue—and brings new opportunities to our teams, for which I am very pleased.”

African American Parents Are Finding New Ways to Invest in Their Children’s Futures


For African American parents, creating opportunities for their children through higher education is a top priority, according to a recent survey from Northwestern Mutual. To make this priority a reality, African American parents who have saved for their children’s higher education are finding creative ways to do so, with the majority (56 percent) pursuing additional sources of income through such pursuits as side jobs (part-time jobs, freelance work, odd jobs, etc.).

The company conducted the survey to better understand African American parents’ financial priorities when it comes to secondary education savings, including when they start saving; how they contribute to these funds; and the tools and strategies they use to save.

Respondents cited a variety of side jobs, including landscaping, catering, tutoring and more, which they use as supplementary income to save specifically for their children’s secondary education. When putting this money aside, the most common strategy these parents have used or are currently using to save for future education is a traditional savings account (55 percent). This is followed by 16 percent of these parents who use 529 plans, and 13 percent each are using either money market accounts or certificates of deposit.

While the survey shows these African American parents are strategically investing in their children’s futures, there are additional options they can incorporate into their long-term financial planning approaches to help make their money work as hard as they do.

“African American parents have big dreams for their families and secondary education marks an important milestone in this journey,” said Francisca Brown, director of African American market strategy at Northwestern Mutual. “Our research demonstrates these parents are committed to making these dreams a reality, and it’s our job to provide the information and strategies to help them get there.”

Resources such as 529 plans (qualified tuition plans) can provide a way for parents to both save and receive tax advantages, making their money work for them. According to the survey, 16 percent of these parents have or are currently using a 529 plan for saving. Consulting with a financial advisor is another important step for parents to integrate secondary education savings into their holistic financial plans, while keeping other goals on track.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Sixty-two percent of these parents began saving for higher education before their child was 10 years old.
  • Saving is multigenerational: 17 percent of respondents listed their child or children’s grandparents as other active contributors to their secondary education savings.
  • Forty-three percent of these parents expect grants will contribute to their child or children’s higher education, while 40 percent expect the same of academic scholarships. Thirty-five percent plan to rely on loans.

*About the Research
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 504 African American parents who saved for their child(ren)’s education. Fieldwork was undertaken Dec. 22-27, 2017. The survey was carried out online.

7 Ways Blacks Are Predictable And Oppressed

If you can predict the people, there are two main things you can do: make money off of them and remain superior to them. Below are ways we keep ourselves predictable.Image result for oppressed black people


In Participation – We have an abusive relationship with this institution. We lean towards cooperating as employees and customers only. Forget becoming investors or owners, and those who do otherwise are made to feel bad or as if they owe the other blacks something.


In Greed – We focus on micro success and disregard the value of the entire race. Explicit rappers call it “telling our story”, freedom of expression or art. But they only tell that story for a buck and fame through CDs and shows. You wouldn’t find them on Capitol Hill, in courtrooms as witnesses, or in private meetings with chiefs of police telling that same story for the mere “payment” of a better community.


In Presence – We live in our comfort zones; around other blacks, mostly. So when opportunities are prevalent across the country, or even the world, we are unable to take part. Too many of us have no clue how dire our situation is as a group because are always around people just like us.


In Power – Blacks have been known to be shortsighted. We grab at the quickest opportunity even when that opportunity diminishes the rest of us; those who aren’t in power become tired of trying to educate the ones who are.


In Protest – We aren’t willing to fight huge battles that yield substantial collective progress. We fight sporadically and momentarily. We would fight the mistreatment from other races but not for the progress and fair treatment from ourselves.


In Proprietorship – Our business types are largely predictable or weak in statue. They either operate from home, the trunk of our cars or focus on lifestyle. The true American fabric-type businesses remain elusive from our desires.


In Protection – We have great ideas but we leave them unprotected. Because we stay in survival mode, we only go after the low-hanging-fruit. We go for the easiest and cheapest thing to get into but don’t go a step further to protect its intellectual property. Others see it, protect it and flourish from it. Now, how many stories have we heard about this example?


Modifying what we are known to do we make us more elusive on who we can become.

Is a Black Facebook On The Horizon?

facebook, black people, black, african american, business, black businesses, black businesses matter

Facebook has catapulted into the media gaining the attention of investors & venture capitalists with its over 500,000 million users who account for 900,000 billion status updates and likes on a daily basis. It is an idea that was cooked up by Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 that hatched in 2004. Despite the legal hurdles he’s had to climb over, he was able to launch an IPO (Initial Price Offering) worth $100 Billion. Technically, Facebook is a part of the 1% that the Occupy Movement has been protesting. It is a company that is cashing checks worth tens of millions from GM, Ford and others totaling around $600 Million in 2011.

When it was a $50 Billion company, it employed 2,000 people, a fraction of the $1 Million people GM employed when it was a $50 Billion company. It is lean, innovative and for some, addictive. It needs less people to generate much more than some of our antiquated businesses. So can its model and innovative prowess come from the ranks of the black community? Let’s examine some of the highlights.

Zuckerberg was attending an Ivy League college when he decided to drop-out to build his vision. (Yes, we have our HBCUs but what would we tell one of our students attempting to drop-out to pursue a half-baked idea?)

Facebook provided no compensation to the visionaries that tirelessly worked to build it working out of the home of Zuckerberg. (Would we encourage college students to work for free or to “get a job!”?

Zuckerberg is not flashy. (Nothing to say here…)

Zuckerberg, the 28 year-old billionaire, rejected two offers to purchase his company, one from Yahoo! for $1 Billion and another from Microsoft for $15 Billion. (Are we wired to turn down a $1 Billion check?)

Zuckerberg doesn’t have any baby mamas and recently married his longtime girlfriend. (Have you seen the story of the 33 year-old man with 30 children? Here’s the link.)

The Facebook visionaries didn’t sabotage the company by stealing information to start their own or decided to become haters against anyone supporting him. (Nothing much to say here.)

Some would say that Facebook is causing societal disconnect, but when we say that, we must also say that Zuckerberg is one dedicated and focused individual.

So, do we have a culture in our community to produce the next Mark Zuckerberg or will we simply remain spectators and users of everyone else’s visions? It is important for us to demonstrate frugal focused behavior to our children so they mimic what we do? It is important for us to actually “water” the seeds of our ideas by investing our earnings into them.

I may not be the very next billionaire nor am I promised to become one before I die but I do know that I work hard to do right and do good by others. What about your overall behaviors? If they are copied by those around you will it make their lives better or worse? Will it make them average or accomplished?

Only you can answer these questions but know that until we are able to layout an environment where our children can blossom or one where our adults can achieve greatness, as the Facebooks go public, our community will remain private and we will forever be eye witnesses watching history made while we protest the 1% to be paid.