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GOV. PHIL MURPHY’S DIVISION OF INVESTMENT, ALONG WITH BLACKROCK ALTERNATIVE ADVISORS & CLIFFWATER LLC SUED FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, RETALIATION AND FRAUD BY NEW JERSEY’S MOST PROMINENT BLACK ASSET MANAGER

For Immediate Release

NEWARK, NJ – Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s Department of the Treasury, Division of Investment (DOI), BlackRock Alternative Advisors, and Cliffwater LLC, were named as Defendants in a federal lawsuit filed today. Wigdor LLP filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of Blueprint Capital Advisors on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

The Complaint details allegations against the Defendants regarding their misappropriation and improper use of proprietary information obtained from Blueprint, a Black-owned firm. Blueprint alleges that, in the course of investment-related due diligence with DOI and Cliffwater, confidential information and trade secrets regarding their business plans and a new and innovative investment program designed and developed by Blueprint called “FAIR” was improperly handed over to BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, whose executive management is predominantly composed of white men.

“Blueprint was exploited for its innovative and advantageous business concept and its status as a Black-owned firm was used as a justification for this injustice,” said Lawrence M. Pearson, a partner at Wigdor LLP, the firm representing Blueprint. “As the Complaint makes clear, a DOI official admitted the discriminatory reason for Blueprint being cast aside for BlackRock, whose own CEO has acknowledged its serious shortcomings regarding diversity. Through their alleged actions, BlackRock and the New Jersey DOI both betrayed the public trust and did their best to hobble a promising minority-owned business.”

As the Complaint states, the DOI and Cliffwater, including various involved individuals who are named as Defendants personally, are accused of promising a contractual relationship and $500 million investment to Blueprint in exchange for the exclusive right to adopt Blueprint’s FAIR program.  Blueprint received requests that went far beyond normal due diligence documents, including business plans, profit and loss projections, fee models and spreadsheets, negotiating methods, term sheets and prospective client lists, which Blueprint judiciously guarded through, among other things, non-disclosure agreements, employee confidentiality agreements, disclaimers, and watermarks on documents.

After Blueprint transferred over one thousand pages of confidential information in over one hundred emails and participated in over 50 conference calls and meetings, the Defendants never proposed Blueprint to the State Investment Council.  Instead, after giving multiple excuses for delays in the approval process, the DOI secretly transferred Blueprint’s trade secrets to BlackRock and proposed BlackRock usurp Blueprint’s FAIR program and intellectual property.

As Blueprint alleges, in the aftermath of the revelation that Blueprint’s investment opportunity and confidential information had been misappropriated, a New Jersey official admitted to Blueprint that the State of New Jersey’s State Investment Council “is not a fan of doing business with women-owned or minority-owned firms.” The official also told Blueprint that, if the firm was ever going to be approved, its materials had to be cleansed of any mention of its Black-owned status.

The suit alleges improper use of a confidential business idea, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, racial discrimination and retaliation, and other claims.

“As our complaint states, when Blueprint approached the Murphy Administration and the DOI about its wrongdoing, which was documented, the DOI refused to investigate the matter and instead retaliated against Blueprint in a way seemingly designed to destroy the firm,” said Jacob Walthour, Jr., Blueprint co-founder and CEO. “The industry should recognize that years of attempts by Blueprint to address this situation were ignored and rebuffed by the Defendants.  Sadly, even today, a Black-owned firm like Blueprint has no voice and to get justice from the powerful Murphy Administration, Wall Street’s biggest firm, and one of its more influential institutional consultants, it was necessary to file this complaint in a court of law.”

Under the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy, the DOI has not approved a new minority- or female-owned investment manager in his first 24 months in office. Nor has the administration hired a Black or Latino investment officer.  According to the Complaint, Blueprint’s leadership was told that “investing in minority-owned firm’s is against our fiduciary responsibility,” by a senior Murphy Administration official in July 2018.

At least six current and former New Jersey state employees are involved in the lawsuit’s allegations, including:

  • Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Treasurer, State of New Jersey
  • Dini Ajmani, Assistant Treasurer, State of New Jersey
  • Samantha Rosenstock, former Head of Investments, Division of Investment
  • Jason MacDonald, former Senior Portfolio Manager at Division of Investment
  • Christopher McDonough, former Director of the Division of Investment
  • Corey Amon, Director of New Jersey’s Division of Investment

To see the full complaint, click here.

“The events of the past four years have caused Blueprint, each of its employees, and their families tremendous pain – not just financial pain but emotional pain,” said Jacob Walthour, Jr., co-founder of Blueprint Capital Advisors. To have someone deny you because you are Black is both humiliating and humbling. I have been doing this for 30 years and my track record, titles, reputation and success meant nothing here. It’s really simple. They liked Carrie and my idea. For factors outside of our control, they just didn’t like us.”

“Sadly, the treatment of Blueprint is indicative of how things really go down when no one is looking,” Walthour said. “There is an entrenched ‘good old boys’ network in Trenton and the DOI that has never worked to the benefit of minorities or women,” concluded Walthour.

Senator Ron Rice, Chair of the New Jersey Association of Black Legislators called on the Murphy Administration to launch a formal investigation into the allegations a year ago and again in 2020, but Murphy has so far resisted. Rice said in a letter addressed to the administration, “What happened to Blueprint and Mr. Walthour, over the course of the last four years, appears to be a modern-day lynching and is a stain and a black eye on the State of New Jersey. . . I believe the neglect of his request to be heard and meet face to face never would have happened if Mr. Walthour were not African-American.”

Blueprint Capital Advisors is seeking declaratory, injunctive and equitable relief to obtain a court order that Defendants correct and reverse their alleged discriminatory practices, as well as monetary damages.

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Blueprint was founded in 2015 by Jacob Walthour Jr. and Carrie Pickett. The two sought to provide clients with an investment vehicle focused on reducing the costs associated with alternative investment strategies. Collectively, Mr. Walthour and Ms. Pickett have over fifty years’ experience working for some of the most prestigious firms in the financial services industry.  They worked together in the investment management division of Cowen & Company prior to founding Blueprint Capital Advisors.

Contact: Jennifer Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org,

 

This Statement Can Be Attributed to Jennifer Farmer, on Behalf of Michael Render, pka Killer Mike

ATLANTA – Following a heartfelt speech during a press conference with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michael Render, publicly known as Killer Mike, has been inundated with media calls and requests for comment. His personal publicist, Jennifer R. Farmer, issued the following statement detailing that Mr. Render will not grant additional interviews at this time:

“It’s been said that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What you witnessed last night was a heart overflowing with pain and frustration of being constantly told to wait on freedom. Freedom is not just being able to walk around unencumbered. It is being able to live without fear that one will be gunned down without reprisal or justice. It is knowing that you can earn a living wage and care for yourself and your family. It is seeing an end to systemic racism. Watching Black men and women, even children, killed by police over and over again is heartbreaking, and it is heavy. It is especially difficult to be asked to process one’s emotions on an open stage. This is not a theoretical exercise. It is a lived one.

“At this time, Mike will not comment further. We know that this issue is important, and we urge you to go to grassroots leaders and seek comment from them. Examples include:

  • Next Level Boys Academy in Atlanta
  • Latonya Gates, PAW Kids in Atlanta
  • Zakiya Sankara Jabar in Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Rev. Ben McBride and Pastor Michael McBride in Oakland, California
  • Mary Hooks, Southerners on New Ground in Atlanta
  • Ash-Lee Henderson, Highlander Center in Tennessee
  • Montague Simmons in St. Louis, Mo.

“These are people and the organizations they represent who are doing the heavy lifting, and we recognize and applaud their leadership.”

 

Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Killer Mike and T.I.’s Bankhead Seafood Serves First Responders

For Immediate Release

May 19, 2020

ATLANTA – Seeking to support first responders amid the coronavirus pandemic, Michael Render, publicly known as Killer Mike, and Tip “T.I.” Harris, have partnered with the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Foundation and WellStar Atlanta Medical Center South to serve meals to firefighters and healthcare workers through their Bankhead Seafood food truck.

The Bankhead Seafood food truck, went to Atlanta Fire Station 22 on Wednesday, May 20, and will go to WellStar Atlanta Medical Center South on Friday, May 22. Firefighters from stations  16, 22 and 38 (which are all near Bankhead Seafood) were served.

“Everyone says “thank you” to first responders. This is an opportunity to put action behind our words of appreciation,” Render said. “These are true community heroes and we want to show them we value their work and sacrifice.”

The May 20 and May 22 events follow a May 6 effort where Render and Harris teamed up with the community enrichment organization, PAWkids and served meals to 500 Atlantans. The meals were provided by Mercedes Benz. The duo also delivered cash, groceries and other household items to several families in Atlanta’s Grove Park neighborhood.

Render is a Grammy award-winning rapper, businessman, activist and one half of the Hip Hop duo, Run the Jewels. Harris is an actor, Grammy award-winning rapper, businessman, and activist. The duo partnered with Noel Khalil, and purchased Bankhead Seafood in 2018 from Mrs. Helen Harden. They launched a food truck earlier this spring in advance of the reopening the restaurant in 2021.

WHO:                         Bankhead Seafood, Atlanta Fire Rescue Foundation, WellStar Atlanta Medical South

WHAT:                      Bankhead Seafood Food Truck Meal Service to First Responders

WHEN:                      Wednesday, May 20 at Atlanta Fire Station 22

                                    817 Hollywood Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

Friday, May 22 at WellStar Atlanta Medical Center South

1170 Cleveland Avenue, East Point, GA

Fire Station 16 and Fire Station 38

Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

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Following the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, Urges Black People to take Second Amendment Rights Seriously

For Immediate Release

May 7, 2020

Following the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, Urges Black People to take Second Amendment Rights Seriously

ATLANTA – The African American community is again grieving after a triggering and graphic video depicting the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man gunned down while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia. Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, an activist, businessman, Grammy Award-winning rapper, and one half of the Hip Hop duo, Run the Jewels, issued the following statement:

“Black people in this country, please take full advantage of your Second Amendment rights. People of color, people who are not in the majority in this country, please take shooting, training, and the protection of your rights seriously. The police cannot always get to you on time, and the world is not a just place. Further, the police are sometimes in collusion with the perpetrators of your demise.

“The only person you can count on to protect yourself and your family is you. God gave you the right to use whatever tools available to defend your rights. This is what Michael Lynn, Jr. did earlier this week when he and a group of law-abiding men and women escorted Sarah Anthony, a black legislator, to the Michigan state capitol following protests there by throngs of heavily armed white residents. I applaud those Black and Brown men and women for their courage and bravery at a time when it is needed most.

“There isn’t a day that goes by where my wife and I go out the door without being armed. We take gun ownership as seriously as we do tend to our garden. God gave us the right to use all available tools to defend ourselves and that is what we intend to do.

“I don’t want to say things that could be inflammatory or hurtful. But I encourage people who look like me to buy a pistol, buy a rifle, train, and to carry your weapon in places where it is legal to do so.

“Beyond Ahmaud Arbery, and the horrible crime that those dirty, evil men did, I want Black people to join his family in defending his legacy and ensuring that it is capped by justice. I want us to ensure that the evil men who killed him (and the police who killed Sean Reed) spend the rest of their lives in jail.

“My wife and I send our deepest condolences to Ahmaud Arbery’s family, and to Sean Reed’s family. We stand in solidarity with those who chase justice. Love and respect.”
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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Artist, Producer and Former Empire TV Series Songwriter, Sixx John Speaks Out Following Death of Ahmaud Arbery

For Immediate Release

May 7, 2020

Artist, Producer and Former Empire TV Series Songwriter, Sixx John Speaks Out Following Death of Ahmaud Arbery

Las Vegas, NV – Following newly released video footage depicting the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man who was gunned down while jogging near Brunswick, Georgia, artist, songwriter and producer Sixx John re-released a song he penned in 2018 lamenting fatal shootings of African Americans. The main bar of Sixx’s “Cotton” says “If you don’t want US in the U.S., you should have picked your own damn Cotton. One too many bodies (Dropping), look what we embodied (Mobbing). From the valley streets to Compton, where we don’t get to see no options.” The song is set to a backdrop of images of civil rights activists being attacked in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to releasing the song on his Instagram account, Sixx issued the following comments:

“I wrote the song Cotton because I got tired of seeing Black people murdered by police and others without justice. Even though I wrote Cotton in 2018, the song is still relevant.

“I have to ask, ‘At what point will things change?’ and ‘Is there even hope for change?’

“Arbery’s killing reflects a broader disdain for Black lives. His death reinforces a concern among Black people, that Black lives aren’t valued. Of course, it’s not just Arbery, it’s not just Georgia. Black people are killed at alarming rates by police and vigilante violence.

“Ahmaud Arbery was participating in a popular American sport when he was killed and the father-son duo who killed him have yet to be apprehended. It doesn’t get more egregious than this. I am not sure how anyone who claims to love freedom and justice could be comfortable with the knowledge of this man’s killing or the broader assault on Black people.”

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Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Tip “T.I.” Harris and Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, Team Up with PAWkids, Serve Meals to 500 Atlanta Residents & Gift Select Families with $500 in Cash and Food for Two Weeks

For Immediate Release

May 6, 2020

Tip “T.I.” Harris and Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, Team Up with PAWkids, Serve Meals to 500 Atlanta Residents & Gift Select Families with $500 in Cash and Food for Two Weeks

ATLANTA – Entertainers, businessmen and activists, Tip “T.I.” Harris and Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, today partnered with PAWkids, a community enrichment organization, and served meals to 500 Atlanta residents. The meals consisted of chicken fried rice, fruit and dessert and were sponsored by Mercedes Benz, which distributes more than 1,000 meals weekly to PAWkids, who then serves the food to families in Atlanta’s Grovepark community.

“In any crisis, Black people confront dual challenges. We deal with the challenge of racism, and we deal with the crisis itself. COVID-19 is no exception. What we saw today was an overwhelming sense of need, but also a sense of hope. We are investing in that hope and belief that tomorrow can be better than today,” Harris said.

After serving meals, the Grammy Award winners went to the homes of unsuspecting families and delivered $500 in cash, food for two weeks and personal hygiene products. The families whose homes the entertainers visited were identified by PAWkids’ founder and executive director, Latonya Gates.

“The collaboration with PAWkids is an indication of the relationship Bankhead Seafood hopes to maintain with the local community where both me and Tip grew up,” Render said. “We know there are a lot of people suffering from food insecurity, and giving back is not only our responsibility but our pleasure. An added honor is supporting PAWkids, whom we like to call earth angels.”

Bankhead Seafood’s owners (Harris, Render and Noel Khalil) have grown especially fond of PAWkids, who offer social and emotional supports to children and families. PAWkids’ office sits on property owned by Bankhead Seafood, which allowed the organization to host the food giveaway on Bankhead Seafood’s parking lot.

“I see a lot of Black organizations struggling for a lack of resources,” said Gates. “COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to serve our people. We are doing this through the support of large companies who have given up power and are allowing community-based organizations such as PAWkids to serve our people. This has allowed me to maintain employment during this crisis and decrease food insecurity.”

Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

Photo credit: Freddy O

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In Meeting with High School Students and Staff, Activist, Rapper and Entrepreneur Michael Render, pka Killer Mike Explains His, Tip ‘T.I’ Harris’ and Noel Khalil’s Vision for Bankhead Seafood

For Immediate Release

Feb. 28, 2020

Contact: Jennifer R. Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org

In Meeting with High School Students and Staff, Activist, Rapper and Entrepreneur Michael Render, pka Killer Mike Explains His, Tip ‘T.I’ Harris’ and Noel Khalil’s Vision for Bankhead Seafood

ATLANTA, GA – As Black History Month comes to an end, three notable Atlantans are taking extraordinary strides to ensure black futures. In a press event at Frederick Douglass High School, Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, detailed his, real estate developer Noel Khalil, and actor, Grammy Award winning rapper, and serial entrepreneur Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris’ vision for reopening Bankhead Seafood.

On behalf of his co-owners, Harris and Khalil, who were unable to attend, Render paid homage to the restaurant’s original owner, Helen Harden, before making space for her to address the crowd of more than 100 people. The event was held at Frederick Douglass High School, where Render and Harris attended. Their former classmate,  Atlanta Chief Judge Asha Jackson, also attended the event and offered remarks in support of Harris and Render’s accomplishment. 

Notably, Daniel Moss, chief people person of HBCU Connection, traveled from Columbus, Ohio to mark the occasion and support the opening, by announcing scholarships for a limited number of Frederick Douglass High School students interested in attending a Historically Black College or University.

“When I was growing up, Mrs. Harden would prepare huge meals and sell them for $5 each,” said actor, activist, rapper and entrepreneur Tip “T.I.” Harris. “For people with limited financial means, this meant the difference between eating with dignity and experiencing the degradation that comes with lack. While Mrs. Harden was running a business, it was clear that she cared about the community. She is a model for the type of business owners we want to become, and a blueprint for the culture we want to have in the restaurant.”

“When you have a business owner and a restaurant with this sort of legacy, someone who ran a restaurant for fifty years, you do not let it slip away,” said activist, rapper and entrepreneur Michael Render, pka Killer Mike. “Mrs. Harden wanted the restaurant to remain in the community and it’s our duty to help her dream become a reality. The job of my generation and future generations is to pick up where our elders, people like Mrs. Harden, left off.”

While the group will break ground on the actual restaurant later this year, the food truck for the restaurant will be operational in weeks.

“We aren’t out-of-state investor with zero connection or compassion for the surrounding community,” said developer and Bankhead Seafood co-owner Noel Khalil. “We are neighbors who are not only committed to the restaurant, but to the people in it – our peers, friends, relatives and acquaintances.”

“Having grown up in the same neighborhood where the restaurant is located, we purchased Bankhead Seafood as part of a broader commitment to bring jobs and opportunity to a place many of us have long called home,” Khalil concluded.

About the Owners

Noel Khalil is a noted developer, affordable housing advocate and founder and principal of Columbia Residential, LLC.

Michael Render is an activist, Grammy Award winning rapper and businessman. He is the host of the Netflix special, “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike,” and one half of the hip hop duo, Run the Jewels.

Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris is an actor, Grammy Award winning rapper, art curator, entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist.

Internationally known and accomplished, Render and Harris have made a practice of seeking frequent counsel from civil rights leaders, neighborhood elders and businesspeople. Khalil is the duo’s long-time mentor.

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The Poor People’s Campaign: United Nations Must Address President Trump’s War Crimes

For Immediate Release

Jan. 9, 2020

The Poor People’s Campaign: United Nations Must Address President Trump’s War Crimes

Leaders Request Meeting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Raleigh, NC — Following the assassination of Iran’s General Qassim Soleimani, and retaliatory ballistic missiles fired at two U.S. housing bases in Iraq, faith leaders and moral advocates today appealed to the United Nations. The faith leaders demanded the United Nations hold President Donald Trump accountable for war crimes and for violating a UN Charter. They also requested a meeting with the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. Their appeal was an effort to prevent further escalation of violence in the Middle East and in the United States.

“Indeed, these are dark and dangerous days,” said the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, executive director of the Kairos Center and national co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “The lives of poor and marginalized people all over the world hangs in the balance. As a pastor, a bible lover and scholar, a mother and daughter, I hold my breath as the world teeters on the brink of war. People are urging Congress to reclaim its constitutional power to determine war and peace. Communities are coming out in record numbers protesting impending and already existing war. As moral leaders, as poor people, who are disproportionately impacted by war, and leaders in the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, stand with these movements. We are making connections between war, militarism and peace and the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy and the distorted narrative of Christian nationalism. Internationalism must be at the core of our activism in the U.S.”

“As moral advocates and faith leaders, we are appealing to the United Nations to take up the responsibilities of its Charter to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” said Bishop William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach, pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church and national co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “President Trump’s recent reckless actions in the Middle East, have not only bypassed Congress, violated our constitution and placed U.S. soldiers at risk, coupled with his assassination of General Qassim Soleimani, a leader of a sovereign country, was itself an act of war. His direct threat to commit 52 new war crimes attacking Iranian civilian and cultural sites shows his disdain for international law. He has violated international law and ignored a host of international treaties. By threatening harsher sanctions, when what is need is more diplomacy, the U.S. President is making clear that his threat of war remains, and this is a violation of our deepest religious values that call us to be peacemakers and not peace breakers.”

In a letter to the United Nations explaining their request for U.N. intervention, Bishop Barber, Rev. Dr. Theoharis, and two dozen signers, noted:  “we believe that the United Nations, alongside mobilized social movements of poor and marginalized and committed people, must respond to these violations of human rights, the violations of international law, the threats of more war crimes to come.”

“Throughout this country people are urging Congress to uphold their constitutional power to determine when we go to war and when we stay at peace,” said the Rev. Dr. Robin Tanner, National Director for Religious Affairs, Repairers of the Breach, and minister with Beacon Unitarian Universalist Church in Summit, NJ. “We demand a halt of escalation and accountability for our president and government. We know that accountability must come from within the United States and from the international community. If the United States is permitted to violate our core agreements as global citizens, then the very elemental promises that preserve the peace we do have, will dissolve. As religious leaders, we would be hypocrites to the core tenants of our faith to be silent in the face of such reckless, immoral and unlawful actions. We see the inaction and the enabling of our government, the silence of those who hold elected office and the refusal to take meaningful action to pull us back from the brink of war. We call upon the United Nations for intervention.”

The leaders discussed their concerns via a January 9, 2020 conference call. To access audio from the call, email Jennifer Farmer, jenniferr@spotlightpr.org.

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The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber to Join Actress and Activist Jane Fonda for “Fire Drill Friday”

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Founder of the Forward Together Moral Movement, to Join Actress and Activist Jane Fonda for “Fire Drill Friday” 

Goldsboro, NC – The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of Repairers of the Breach and national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, today announced his participation in actress and activist Jane Fonda’s “Fire Drill Friday” protest on Friday, December 20 in Washington, D.C.

The Rev. Dr. Barber was architect of the Forward Together Moral Movement, which launched Moral Mondays. The weekly protests brought North Carolinians from all walks of life together in a fusion movement to challenge injustice and ensure that immoral laws were not passed under the cover of night. The protests began with just a couple dozen people in April 2013 and grew to the tens of thousands in short order.

“We never take protest lightly,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of Repairers of the Breach and national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. “But there comes a time when gentle admonition is insufficient. We are joining Sister Fonda with the hopes further raising the interlocking injustices of ecological devastation, which Greta Thunberg and other youth strikers have so passionately fought against, the war economy, systemic poverty, systemic racism and the distorted moral narrative championed of religious nationalism.”

Fonda has held weekly actions in protest of climate change and in support of climate refugees since Oct. 2019. She has said she was inspired to host the weekly actions after watching the Rev. Dr. Barber’s Moral Monday protests, a series of weekly protests at the North Carolina General Assembly, and Greta Thunberg, who famously said, in reference to climate change, that ‘our house is on fire and we should act like it’, and the Youth Climate Strike movement which Thunberg began. Thunberg was named TIME’s 2019 Person of the Year.

Rev. Dr. Barber’s participation in Fire Drill Fridays comes amidst the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival’s, “We Must Do MORE” tour, a nine-month, 25-state tour to mobilize, organize, register and educate people for the movement who vote. The tour, which kicked off in Sept. 2019 in El Paso, TX, and just held its seventh tour stop in San Francisco, CA on Dec. 11. The We Must Do MORE tour highlights the plight of the poor and build momentum towards a Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on June 20, 2020. The Rev. Dr. Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary are national co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

WHO:             Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II

Actress Jane Fonda

WHAT:          Fire Drill Friday

WHEN:          Friday, December 20, 2019

WHERE:       Washington, D.C.

 

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Killer Mike Destroys the Oligarch in Fiery Remarks at Bernie Sanders’ Justice Town Hall

Killer Mike Destroys the Oligarch in Fiery Remarks at Bernie Sanders’ Justice Town Hall in Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, NC – – In a Bernie Sanders’ Justice Town Hall event in Charlotte, NC, activist, rapper and businessman Michael Render, pka Killer Mike, brought the audience to their feet with a fiery statement on the need to repudiate the oligarchy. His remarks followed comments from organizer and co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Mrs. Naeema Muhammad who shared that fecal waste from over 10 million pigs is reportedly spread across Eastern Carolina, a harmful practice that she said began after Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

The text to Render’s remarks is below and you can watch him speaking here and here:

“[Bernie] Sanders is the only politician I have seen in recent years who is not a member of the oligarchy. He is not a member of a special interest club. He does not accept money from people who then overcharge you for medicine. He does not accept money from companies that will charge you $80 for a CD once your child is in prison for a bullshit marijuana charge, while the politicians who help put your child there, children sit on the boards of marijuana companies. He’s the only guy. So, my question starts to be at this point, ‘why aren’t you voting for him?’ Why aren’t you voting for someone who does not wish to be your king, your emperor, or despot, or tyrant?

“What’s wrong with us, that we can look at television and see a tyrant? You see a fascist on television. You see someone saying that if they are removed, civil war will start. That is a threat. That is not a suggestion. That’s telling my people to arm up. And if you aren’t willing to take that down through the ballot box, then we certainly gotten what you deserve, and that’s a casino owner. Anything goes in a casino.

“The question is ‘how far will your morality let you go, before you wake up?’ You shouldn’t have to get to Hong Kong levels. It shouldn’t have to be like in Paris, where you’re fighting in the streets. But you should be willing to. And the government should know that I am willing to. I am willing to fight. I am willing to fight with all my might. And if we have not done that… If the government does not fear us in a year, we have failed ourselves.

“If politicians don’t act, we have failed Mrs. Muhammad as her neighbor. If another black man is incarcerated from marijuana, while the oligarch’s children sits on the [marijuana] boards, we have failed.  It is time to get mad as hell. It is time to focus your anger. It is time to let the light of joy, of happiness and love focus into a fine laser and pinpoint every evil in our system and eradicate it now. Vote these bastards out of office and elect one another. It is not about “I,” it is about us. It is not about him, [pointing to co-panelist Phillip Agnew], it is about him. It is not only about the lovely Mrs. Muhammad; it is about us. You, me, us, we, yall, all of us, should be marching to the polls and taking 10 people. Because if we aren’t, then we have bowed to our masters and your philosophy should be to kill them politically.”

From North Carolina, Render will travel with Senator Nina Turner, national co-chair for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign, and Phillip Agnew, organizer and Bernie Sanders surrogate, to Greenville, South Carolina. He will meet with Rev. David Kennedy of New Missionary Baptist Church and tour The Echo Theater, which he is transforming into a cultural center. Rev. Kennedy’s work is portrayed in the movie, Burden which stars Forest Whitaker and will be in theaters in February 2020.

Render is a Grammy-Award winning rapper and one half of the rap duo Run the Jewels, whose single “Legend Has It” recently went gold. Render is also host of the Netflix series, “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike,” co-owner, with his wife Shana, of the SWAG Shop Barbershops in Atlanta, Georgia and a two-time volunteer surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential bid.

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