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The People James Baldwin Knew

The People James Baldwin Knew
The celebrated writer moved between many worlds, becoming close friends with major figures — from Marlon Brando to Toni Morrison — in art, activism and beyond.

By Nancy Hass
Published Dec. 11, 2020
Updated Dec. 17, 2020
This story is part of T’s Book Club, a series of articles and events dedicated to classic works of American literature. Click here to R.S.V.P. to a virtual conversation, led by Ayana Mathis, about “Go Tell It on the Mountain” on Dec. 17.

It is impossible to read the work of James Baldwin — who often wove memorable details from his life into his fiction, plays and essays — and not want to learn more about the man. Born in Harlem in 1924, Baldwin reached the height of literary success soon after the publication of his first few books, while also becoming a vocal and visible advocate for the civil rights movement beginning in the late 1950s. Known for being a magnetic speaker, with his wide eyes and mercurial temperament, Baldwin was also an irresistible presence and very clearly an intellectual star few could rival. Throughout the decades, he became friendly with a dazzling array of different writers, artists, activists, actors, musicians and more — all people whose lives he touched and who, in turn, helped to shape his own. Below, a primer on 10 individuals Baldwin encountered and, in his way, kept close until his death in 1987.

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Richard Avedon

ImageA spread from Taschen’s 2017 reprint of “Nothing Personal,” Richard Avedon and James Baldwin’s 1964 collaboration on the American experience.
A spread from Taschen’s 2017 reprint of “Nothing Personal,” Richard Avedon and James Baldwin’s 1964 collaboration on the American experience.Credit…Courtesy of Taschen
While Baldwin lived in Harlem in the late 1930s with his mother, stepfather and eight younger siblings, one of his teachers at the local junior high school was the Harvard-educated Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen, who likely influenced the budding writer to attend his alma mater, DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. A prestigious all-boys public institution at the time, it counts among its alumni dozens of 20th century luminaries, including the painters Barnett Newman and Romare Bearden, the electronics pioneer Avery Fisher and the literary critic Lionel Trilling. It was there that Baldwin found succor amid a fierce coterie of intellectually fecund, largely working-class Jews. Much of his energy was channeled into the school literary magazine, The Magpie, where one of its editors was Richard Avedon, the son of a Jewish Belarusian immigrant, who would become one of the dominant fashion photographers and portraitists of the 20th century. A year older than Baldwin, Avedon was not only visually gifted — he started taking pictures at age 12, using his father’s Brownie box camera — but an accomplished poet; as a senior, he took first prize in a citywide high school poetry contest. The two boys, both sensitive, came from high-tension homes. The Depression had cost Avedon’s father his retail dress business, and the photographer’s beloved sister, Louise, would soon begin a descent into mental illness. Baldwin’s preacher stepfather was perpetually angry, overwhelmed by his large family, and en route to madness, as well. But in high school the boys blossomed, collaborating on a magazine that showcased stylish Art Deco-inflected graphics and modernist verse. After high school, Avedon joined the merchant marine, Baldwin decamped to Greenwich Village, and they largely fell out of touch.
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A photo from the June 1941 DeWitt Clinton High School yearbook, the Clintonian, showing students involved in publications, including Richard Avedon (circle left) and James Baldwin (circle right).
A photo from the June 1941 DeWitt Clinton High School yearbook, the Clintonian, showing students involved in publications, including Richard Avedon (circle left) and James Baldwin (circle right).Credit…Via the June 1941 Dewitt Clinton High School yearbook
Then, in 1962, Avedon, by then famous for his work in Harper’s Bazaar and Life, was asked to photograph him. The shoot sparked “Nothing Personal,” a revelatory 1964 monograph in which Avedon’s photographs are accompanied by a 20,000-word essay by Baldwin. The project, as the critic Hilton Als put it, brought together four aspects of contemporary American life: civil rights, mental health, Black nationalism and the transfer of cultural power from Old Hollywood to the rock ’n’ roll generation; portraits of Allen Ginsberg and Marilyn Monroe are juxtaposed with shots of the American Nazi Party and patients in an asylum. Baldwin’s text, which is only loosely connected to the photographs, includes lucid reflections on how television advertising mirrors the zeitgeist, and the ordeal of being stopped and frisked while showing a white European friend around New York City. The book limns how the two men, so different in their origins and art, were remarkably similar in profound ways. As Als points out in his introductory essay to a new edition of the book from 2017: both were perennial outsiders, “menaced, and so, therefore, perceived as menacing despite their commercial and critical success; they knew power could be positive and effective but was ultimately illusory, fake.”

Beauford Delaney

James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney in Paris, circa 1960.
James Baldwin and Beauford Delaney in Paris, circa 1960.Credit…Courtesy of the Estate of Beauford Delaney and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
“I learned about the light from Beauford Delaney,” began Baldwin’s introduction to the catalog for a 1964 exhibition of the work of the Knoxville, Tenn.-born modernist painter at Paris’s Galerie Lambert, “the light contained in every thing, in every surface, in every face.” Baldwin had been a 16-year-old student at DeWitt Clinton when he first met the 39-year-old Delaney in 1940, introduced by Emile Capouya, a fellow classmate and contributor to The Magpie who would one day publish works by Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Primo Levi. Capouya figured that his friend Baldwin, who was struggling with his identity, would find common ground with the artist, whose studio was located at 181 Greene Street. Delaney, Baldwin would later write, “was the first walking, living proof for me that a Black man could be an artist.” Delaney was a paternal figure who disabused Baldwin of the notion that jazz was sinful, and played Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller and Bessie Smith for the boy on his scratchy record player. Queer and closeted, Delaney lived a complicated, compartmentalized life: in the Village, where he felt freer to be himself than with his more conservative friends in Harlem, he moved in bohemian circles, developing friendships with artists such as Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Beauford Delaney’s “Portrait of James Baldwin” (1945) in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Beauford Delaney’s “Portrait of James Baldwin” (1945) in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.Credit…© Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, court-appointed administrator; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Beauford Delaney’s “Dark Rapture (James Baldwin)” (1941).
Beauford Delaney’s “Dark Rapture (James Baldwin)” (1941).Credit…© Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, court-appointed administrator; courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY
Baldwin remained a constant in the painter’s life, however. In 1948, when Baldwin was 24, he left the United States for Paris, fleeing American racism. Five years later, Delaney joined him there, extending what was to be a vacation into a permanent stay. In 1955, the painter relocated his studio to Clamart, a southwestern suburb, a move thought to support his mental health, which had started to decline. Throughout, Baldwin was loyal to his friend. When Baldwin moved to the South of France, Delaney, who died in 1979, spent weeks sitting at his easel in the writer’s garden. During Delaney’s time in France, his work, once primarily colorful figuration, reflected his deepening interest in abstraction. “In a warmer time, a less blasphemous place,” Baldwin wrote, “[Beauford] 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.”

Marlon Brando

James Baldwin and Marlon Brando at the Lincoln Memorial during the August 1963 March on Washington. Posing with them are Charleton Heston (left) and Harry Belafonte.
James Baldwin and Marlon Brando at the Lincoln Memorial during the August 1963 March on Washington. Posing with them are Charleton Heston (left) and Harry Belafonte.Credit…AP Photos
In 1943, Delaney introduced a 19-year-old James Baldwin to Connie Williams, a Trinidadian restaurateur who had just opened Calypso Restaurant — whose patrons would include Tennessee Williams and entertainers such as Eartha Kitt and Paul Robeson — in a basement space on Macdougal Street. Hired as a waiter at Calypso, which had live music and dancing, Baldwin mixed with the bohemian clientele. Among the habitués who befriended the erudite young server was the writer Henry Miller. But the occasional customer with whom he may have developed the most enduring friendship was Marlon Brando, who was born the same year as Baldwin and had followed his two older sisters to New York that year and become a student of Stella Adler at the New School’s Dramatic Workshop. The men may have even shared a space together for a brief time. (Brando, who had a lifelong talent for offbeat friendships, would later become roommates with a childhood pal from Evanston, Ill., the proto-nerd character actor Wally Cox).

Brando and Baldwin bonded over a passion for racial and social justice and for the theater, forging a connection that lasted through the decades. It was Brando who, in 1952, fresh off his star-making turn in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” lent Baldwin, who had just finished writing the manuscript for “Go Tell It on the Mountain” in Switzerland, the money to fly to New York to meet the Knopf executives who wanted to publish his semiautobiographical novel. The two men were — along with Charlton Heston — among the most recognized presences on the podium at the 1963 March on Washington and, in 1966, when the actor visited the writer in Istanbul during one of Baldwin’s frequent stints in Turkey, a local friend ferried Brando in his compact car in an unsuccessful attempt to elude photographers. When the author James Grissom interviewed Brando in 1990 for a book about Tennessee Williams (“Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog,” 2015), the conversation veered unexpectedly: “If you wish to ask me what I cared about most now — if you ask me to state what was important or lasting,” he told Grissom, “it would have to be that I walked and sat and dreamed next to a man named James Baldwin. James — or Jimmy — knew how to analyze, place, describe, repair and destroy things — all in the right way and for the right reasons. Baldwin, as I liked to call him, taught me to think in a piercing way about things far more important than scripts or contracts or poems — he taught me to look into and understand people and their motives and their identities. And I didn’t always like what I saw, but it led me toward something that might be called freedom.”

Medgar Evers

James Baldwin and Medgar Evers read a newspaper together in Mississippi, 1963.
James Baldwin and Medgar Evers read a newspaper together in Mississippi, 1963.Credit…Steve Schapiro/Corbis/Getty Images
Just hours after President John F. Kennedy gave his historic civil rights address in June 1963, a speech that had likely been spurred by the pressure that Baldwin and other leaders had exerted on the administration, the writer’s friend, 37-year-old Medgar Evers, Mississippi field secretary for the N.A.A.C.P., was shot in the back and killed in his driveway by Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist and Klansman. Evers had been the target of several other assassination attempts in the months before. Baldwin observed that Evers seemed resigned to the fact that he would die from his activism. One imagines that Evers might have hoped, at least, that his wife, Myrlie, and children, always nervous for his safety, would not have to witness his death, or that it would take months for his killer to be convicted, rather than 31 years. Although Baldwin was already deeply involved with the movement by then — he had first met Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 while touring the South on assignment for Harper’s and The Partisan Review, and had, over the years, developed a complex relationship with Malcolm X — he had only known Evers for five months. They met that January in Jackson, after the Congress of Racial Equality had sent the writer on a lecture tour of the Deep South. Evers invited him along to interview bystanders to the killing of a Black man by a white shopkeeper — an experience that Baldwin found terrifying; the young civil rights leader also told him of the tree he had walked past daily in his childhood, draped with shreds of clothing from a man who had been lynched there.

A 1964 telegram from Charles Evers to James Baldwin requesting his presence at the trial for the murder of Medgar Evers.
A 1964 telegram from Charles Evers to James Baldwin requesting his presence at the trial for the murder of Medgar Evers.Credit…Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
The image, and Evers’s reconciled attitude to the possibility of his own violent and untimely death, had a profound effect. Baldwin’s memory of the last time he saw Evers, at the activist’s small ranch home, where he had gone to sign some books for the family, is among the most transfixing points in Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” premised on “Remember This House,” Baldwin’s unrealized book about King, Malcolm X and Evers, for which only 30 pages of notes exist. Completing the project would have required Baldwin to travel back down to places like Selma, Ala., and Jackson, Miss., to interview the widows and children of slain leaders. The writer, by then suffering from the esophageal cancer that would kill him in 1987 at 63, was not in any shape to do it. He had become increasingly depressed about the state of American race relations. By the 1980s, according to his former literary assistant, David Leeming, who became his biographer, Baldwin’s outlook was one of “general pessimism” about the “unlikelihood of the white world’s changing its ways.”

Miles Davis

The trumpeter Miles Davis at the Jazz à Juan Festival, July 1963.
The trumpeter Miles Davis at the Jazz à Juan Festival, July 1963.Credit…Pierre Fournier/Sygma, via Getty Images
Both Baldwin and the epic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis considered themselves to be guarded people, in possession of a kind of “artistic shyness,” as Davis once described it in his 1989 autobiography, wary of other people taking up too much of their time. Davis even thought they resembled each other enough to be brothers. A mutual friend introduced them in the ’60s, and when the musician played gigs in Cap d’Antibes and at the yearly Jazz à Juan festival, he stayed for a couple of days at Baldwin’s farmhouse in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, an idyllic town in Provence. They were in awe of each other at the beginning. (“He was so goddamn heavy, all those great books he was writing, and so I didn’t know what to say to him,” Davis would recall. “Later I found out that he felt the same way about me.”) Baldwin had long been enamored of the musical process. “The man who creates the music,” he wrote in the 1957 short story “Sonny’s Blues,” “is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air.”

Despite their similar reputations as mercurial, the men, in fact, came from divergent backgrounds: Davis, who had attended Juilliard, was the son of a dentist and grew up in East St. Louis, Ill. But they had each developed elaborate personas that helped them navigate celebrity and a hostile white world. When they were together, however, those boundaries receded. “We would just sit in that great big beautiful house of his telling all kinds of stories,” Davis recalled. “Then we would go out to that wine garden he had and do the same thing.” Baldwin’s death shook the famously unflappable Davis. Quincy Troupe, who helped Davis write his autobiography, recalled the day he told the trumpeter that Baldwin was gone. “He was convinced that among all his friends, Jimmy would outlive him. I thought I saw tears welling in his eyes but, if there were, Miles covered it up well by going to the bathroom. One thing is certain: Miles Davis wasn’t going to let me or anybody else see him cry. But I think on this cold December day in 1987 Miles Davis was crying in the bathroom for his great friend now gone, Jimmy Baldwin.”

Richard Wright

Richard Wright at the cafe Le Tournon in Paris, circa 1950s.
Richard Wright at the cafe Le Tournon in Paris, circa 1950s.Credit… Dominique Berretty/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
While Beauford Delaney was Baldwin’s idealized father figure (and the antithesis of his stepfather), the writer had a far more fraught bond with the novelist Richard Wright, his literary father. In 1944, Baldwin was 20 when he knocked on the Brooklyn door of the older writer, then 36. Four years earlier, Wright had become internationally known for “Native Son,” the harrowing tale of a young Black man who accidentally kills a white woman and then, while on the run, rapes and murders his own girlfriend. The novel, which sold 215,000 copies, focused attention on the relentless racism of modern America. Like Baldwin, Wright had a fraught childhood; he was born in a log cabin in Mississippi into a family of sharecroppers, with four grandparents who had been enslaved, and a father who would desert the family when the writer was five. He was bounced around to relatives’ homes throughout the impoverished delta, winding up with his severe Seventh Day Adventist grandmother, who forbade books other than the Gospels. Wright, a precocious student, had to work to support himself instead of attending high school. Eventually, during the Great Migration, he moved to Chicago, where he got deeply involved with the Communist Party and, in 1937, moved to New York. There, he developed a friendship with the writer Ralph Ellison and began successfully publishing short stories, including those in his 1938 collection “Uncle Tom’s Children,” with its harrowing description of lynchings in the Deep South.

The cover of the inaugural Spring 1949 issue of Zero: A Review of Literature and Art, which included Baldwin’s essay “Everybody’s Protest Novel.”
The cover of the inaugural Spring 1949 issue of Zero: A Review of Literature and Art, which included Baldwin’s essay “Everybody’s Protest Novel.”
Credit…Via Amazon
To the young, ambitious Baldwin, he was like a god. Over the course of the early years of their relationship, Wright — who moved to Paris with his wife and child in 1946, soon after the publication of his memoir “Black Boy” — read early drafts of Baldwin’s novel that would eventually become “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and helped Baldwin land a fellowship that launched his writing career. When Baldwin also moved to Paris, Wright introduced him to the influential editors at the new literary magazine Zero. But, in a stunning Oedipal feat, the 24-year-old’s first piece for Zero, published in 1949, was a fierce takedown of “Native Son” titled “Everybody’s Protest Novel.” In it, Baldwin skewered race-based political fiction, starting with Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852), made limp by the “wet eyes of the sentimentalist,” and lambasted Wright for making his protagonist Bigger Thomas a bookend to that portrayal, a cardboard character who merely reinforced the prejudice and stereotyping of Black people as subhuman, violent and trapped by circumstance. As Als noted in The New Yorker in 1998, the essay was “meant not only to bury the tradition of Black letters which had its roots in a Communism supported by white dilettantes but also to supersede Wright as the one Black writer worth reading in the largely white world of American letters.” Predictably, Wright felt betrayed, and although they stayed connected, they never fully reconciled. (Baldwin would later concede that it had been wrong to hurt Wright.) In “Alas, Poor Richard,” a 1961 essay he wrote after Wright’s death, at age 52 of a heart attack, Baldwin, searching to understand the complex friction between them called him “my ally and my witness, and alas! my father.”

Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry in her Bleecker Street apartment, April 1959.
Lorraine Hansberry in her Bleecker Street apartment, April 1959.Credit…David Attie/Getty Images
He called her Sweet Lorraine, a likely reference to the Nat King Cole version of the jazz standard, but also a tribute to her particular combination of steely intelligence and gentleness. They met in New York in 1958, when the writer and playwright, whom Baldwin would later refer to as “that small, dark girl, with her wit, her wonder and her eloquent compassion,” came to a theater workshop production of his melancholic gay-themed novel, “Giovanni’s Room” (1956). Baldwin, 34, was already famous, having published “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and his first collection of essays, “Notes of a Native Son” (1955); the 28-year-old Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun,” its title derived from “Harlem,” a poem by her mentor Langston Hughes, was about to debut on Broadway, making her the first African-American woman to have her work appear there. While the assembled mandarins attacked “Giovanni’s Room,” Hansberry — petite and relentless, a geyser of well-reasoned passion — defended Baldwin as a meteoric talent and a teller of naked truths. That they were both queer likely strengthened their connection even more. Over the course of his life, Baldwin wrote rhapsodically about many friends, especially those in the civil rights movement, but his recollections of Hansberry, who died in 1965 at 34 of pancreatic cancer, had an unparalleled luminosity and joy.

Their evenings together in her Greenwich Village apartment were full of arguments, booze and humor. Although she was a committed Marxist while he was untethered to a single ideology, together they became the literary conscience of the Black liberation movement. In 1963, in the wake of the publication of Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” she was among the people he took (along with others including Harry Belafonte, the psychologist Kenneth Clark and the singer and actress Lena Horne) to a historic and antagonistic secret meeting requested by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Despite a tsunami of rancor, the gathering, in which an enraged Hansberry suggested there was “no alternative except our going in the streets … and chaos,” contributed a month later to John F. Kennedy’s famed civil rights address. To Baldwin, she possessed a remarkable alchemy of femininity, dagger sharpness and fidelity to uncompromising ideals, which he found irresistible. “I would often stagger down her stairs as the sun came up, usually in the middle of a paragraph,” he recalled in Esquire in 1969, “and always in the middle of a laugh. That marvelous laugh. That marvelous face.” But the pair shared an ineffable isolation as well, born of their acute awareness of the racial oppression that hung like soot in the air, clinging to everything. “Her going,” he wrote, “did not so much make me lonely as make me realize how lonely we were. We had that respect for each other, which perhaps is only felt by people on the same side of the barricades, listening to the accumulating thunder of the hooves of horses and the treads of tanks.”

William Styron

William Styron at home in Roxbury, Conn., 1967.
William Styron at home in Roxbury, Conn., 1967.Credit…© Inge Morath/Magnum Photos
In September 1960, Rose Styron, the forbearing wife of the 35-year-old novelist William Styron, fielded a call to their home in bucolic Litchfield County, Conn., from Robert Silvers, an editor at Harper’s Magazine. Silvers, then 30, who a few years later would co-found The New York Review of Books, was working with Baldwin, 36, on an essay about Martin Luther King Jr. It was slow going; Baldwin, who had come back from France to work on the front lines of the civil rights movement, was feeling burned out in Greenwich Village. Could he come stay in the Styrons’ gracious 19th-century home? William Styron, a Virginian WASP descended from slave owners who had become famous in 1951 for his novel “Lie Down in Darkness,” was gestating the 1967 book that would at first gain him outrageous accolades and a Pulitzer Prize, and then bedevil him when critical opinion turned vicious: “The Confessions of Nat Turner.” The story of a violent 1831 slave revolt that resulted in more than 200 deaths and unimaginable carnage, the rarely discussed incident had been an obsession of Styron’s since adolescence.

Styron’s home in Roxbury, 2009.
Styron’s home in Roxbury, 2009.
Credit…Andrew Sullivan for The New York Times
Baldwin remained on the couple’s five acres in Roxbury for eight months, taking over the guesthouse that Styron used as a studio. He worked on the novel “Another Country” (1962) and may have even prepared to interview the Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad in Chicago for an essay that would be included in “The Fire Next Time” (1963). At night, after Rose put their young children to bed, the three adults would retreat to the living room, with glass doors that overlooked the property. There was a fire in the hearth and plenty of Jack Daniels. Sometimes other local literary friends would stop by, including Philip Roth and Arthur Miller. Though Baldwin later told The Paris Review, “It was a wonderful time in my life, but not at all literary. We sang songs, drank a little too much and on occasion chatted with the people who were dropping in to see us.” Before he left, Baldwin convinced Styron to take the leap that would eventually put him in the cross hairs of critical opinion: to write Nat Turner in the voice of the slave preacher himself. Upon its publication, everyone from John Cheever and Robert Penn Warren to Carlos Fuentes and Alex Haley breathlessly hailed the achievement but, six months later, the work was bitterly castigated as a racist tract that demeaned the Black folk hero. Styron was devastated at the publication, in 1968, of “William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond.” That spring, Baldwin, who had declined to contribute to the volume, moderated a debate between Styron and the activist and actor Ossie Davis, who was leading a protest against an upcoming film version of the book, which was never made. Rigorously tactful, Baldwin argued that Styron was well within his rights to enter into a “confrontation with his history.” No one, he told the audience, “can tell a writer what he can write.”

Marguerite Yourcenar

The French writer Marguerite Yourcenar at home on Mount Desert Island, in Maine, 1979.
The French writer Marguerite Yourcenar at home on Mount Desert Island, in Maine, 1979.Credit…© JP Laffont
The Provençal village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, about 10 miles west of Nice, traces its origins back to roughly 1000 A.D. But since the 1920s, the center of cultural life there has been a rustic family-owned inn called La Colombe d’Or. At first, it was the artists who came, in a sun-baked retreat from the dense scene of between-the-wars Paris. The owner, Paul Roux, who lacked much formal education but possessed exquisite taste, would encourage them to pay for meals or lodging with works. Over the years, the place became filled with pieces by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Fernand Léger, many of which still hang with an insouciance that belies a top-notch security system, on the scuffed plaster walls. By the 1950s, as the Cannes Film Festival started to take off, the inn would become the magnet for movie stars, rock gods, bon vivants and tourists that it remains today. So enchanted was Baldwin by the little hotel and the town that buzzed around it that, in 1970, he began renting an apartment there, eventually writing his novel “Just Above My Head” (1979) at Chez Baldwin. The Colombe d’Or — always more than a just a restaurant with rooms upstairs, the kind of place where you can spend the day by the pool, nibbling on a bouquet de crevettes and ordering another bottle of rosé — became his second living room.

While he often brought along house guests, including the singer Nina Simone and the actor Sidney Poitier, on other days he hung out there with a trio of regulars — the married actors Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, who had first met at the inn in 1949, and the aristocratic Belgian-born writer Marguerite Yourcenar, lionized for her novel “Memoirs of Hadrian” (1951). Montand co-owned Cafe de La Place across the street from the hotel, where there was a designated area for everyone to play pétanque, a lawn bowling game similar to bocce. It made sense that Yourcenar and Baldwin would get on; they were both philosophical writers with a strong moral and historic frame (and a theatrical affect); she, too, toggled between essays, novels and short stories. And, like him, she lived nearly all her life openly queer, mostly in the U.S. with her English translator, Grace Frick, from 1939 until Frick’s 1979 death; their white clapboard house in a tiny Maine village had obvious parallels to Baldwin’s refuge in Saint Paul-de-Vence. After Frick’s demise, Youncenar visited the French town with her traveling companion, a young gay man named Jerry Wilson. In 1983, she translated Baldwin’s play “The Amen Corner” (1954) into French, and when he received the Légion d’Honneur in 1986, a year before her death at 84, she was said to be in Paris, at his side.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison and Baldwin at the Founders Day celebration at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, 1986.
Toni Morrison and Baldwin at the Founders Day celebration at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, 1986.Credit…© Hakim Mutlaq
The novelist and professor Toni Morrison, who died in 2019, was only seven years younger than Baldwin but, as a writer, she belonged to the generation that came after his. Partly that was because while he had started publishing work in his early 20s, Morrison, who won the Nobel Prize in 1993, got a later start. Her first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” came out in 1970. She was 39 and working at Random House, a job she held for two decades, editing the works of Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara and Muhammad Ali. The two writers met in 1973 to discuss a potential book contract, which never came about. As they aged, their legends were burnished and they were asked about one another by journalists and critics. In 1987, the poet Quincy Troupe, who co-wrote Miles Davis’s autobiography as well as “James Baldwin: The Legacy” (1989), asked the dying Baldwin his thoughts about Morrison: “Toni’s my ally,” he said, “and it’s really probably too complex to get into … Her gift is allegory … in general, she’s taken a myth, or she takes what seems to be a myth, and turns it into something else. I don’t know how to put this. ‘Beloved’ could be the story of truth.”

Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison at James Baldwin’s funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, December 1987.
Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison at James Baldwin’s funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, December 1987.Credit…© Thomas Allen Harris, “Untitled” (Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou & Toni Morrison at James Baldwin’s Funeral at Cathedral of St. John the Divine), (1987)
In the tribute Morrison delivered at Baldwin’s funeral, her debt was clear: “You made American English honest — genuinely international. You exposed its secrets and reshaped it until it was a truly modern dialogic, representative, humane. You stripped it of ease and false comfort and fake innocence and evasion and hypocrisy. And in place of deviousness was clarity. In place of soft, plump lies was a lean, targeted power. In place of intellectual disingenuousness and what you called ‘exasperating egocentricity,’ you gave us undecorated truth. You replaced lumbering platitudes with an upright elegance. You went into that forbidden territory and decolonized it, ‘robbed it of the jewel of its naïveté,’ and un-gated it for Black people so that in your wake we could enter it, occupy it, restructure it in order to accommodate our complicated passion.” After Baldwin’s death, many considered Morrison an heir to her friend’s vast role in American life. She edited two collections of his writings among her lengthy oeuvre and in 2017 published “The Origin of Others,” a memoir and cultural exploration in the Baldwin mold.

Top photos and videos: Pierre Fournier/Sygma/Getty Images (Davis); © Inge Morath/Magnum Photos (Styron); Pond 5 (Baldwin car video); © Van Vechten Trust/ courtesy of the Beinecke Library (color Baldwin); Steve Schapiro/Corbis/Getty Images (Evers); Getty Images (Brando video) Dominique Beretty/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images; David Attie/Getty Images (Hansberry); Photofest (Avedon); © Bob Adelman Estate (Baldwin); © Hakim Mutlaq (Morrison); from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, © Estate of Beauford Delaney by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, court-appointed administrator; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY (Delaney Painting); Courtesy of the Estate of Beauford Delaney and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY (Baldwin/Delaney); Louis Monier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images (Yourcenar)

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Farmworkers face unique risks during coronavirus pandemic
Farmworkers in the United States are classified as essential workers.

One of the most confounding consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the problem of farmers bulldozing or dumping their crops at the same time as thousands of Americans line up at food banks dealing with a shortage of supplies.

With everyday Americans unable to keep up with demand despite organizing fundraising drives or collections to send trucks of wasted produce or milk where it is needed most, the largest groups representing farmers and food banks are asking for federal help. They have now called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to scale up efforts to the national level.

Lawmakers called on the USDA to provide “bold and innovative” solutions Friday to address the harm to farmers and the confusion over why food is being discarded while other Americans need help feeding their families.
MORE: USDA to try ‘out of the box’ solution to get food from farmers to food banks

No one knows how much food has been lost nationwide since restaurants, schools, hotels and other businesses have closed and stopped buying food in bulk, but farmers have reported dumping milk, plowing under vegetables and facing the possibility of euthanizing livestock if they can’t take animals to meat processing plants.

The USDA wants to address that issue with a new “farmers to families” program that will use federal money to pay farmers to box up and distribute their own product to food banks. Similar to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) box you might pick up from a local farm or farmers market, the donation will include fruits and vegetables, dairy products, cooked poultry or pork, or some combination of the three, and be provided to food banks at no cost.
PHOTO: People collect buckets and truckloads of potatoes Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at Ryan Cranney’s farm in Oakley, Idaho.
Pat Sutphin/Times-News via APPat Sutphin/Times-News via AP
People collect buckets and truckloads of potatoes Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at Ryan C…

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the program has the potential to address one of the reasons the pandemic has been so disruptive to the food supply chain, that big national producers and distributors can’t easily shift from delivering entire trucks of product to providing food in a way that’s accessible to consumers and doesn’t add work for food banks to repackage it.

“This program will not only provide direct financial relief to our farmers and ranchers,” Perdue told reporters in April. “Mr. President, it will allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance in this country to help our fellow Americans in need.”

The USDA is accelerating the process to decide which farmers will get part of the $3 billion available from the program. Submissions for contracts were due Friday and the agency said it would start granting them in time for the first food box deliveries on May 15. A USDA spokesperson said they received “an abundance of interest” in the program.

“Farmers to families” could be an experiment in a new model of agriculture that addresses the disruptions of the current emergency, but lawmakers, experts and advocates also warn that spending federal money to buy and donate food won’t solve all the ripple effects from the pandemic.
MORE: Friends come together to get free food across US from farms to those in need

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, wrote to Perdue on Friday asking that the USDA prioritize options for the program that will reduce food waste and allow producers and food banks to be flexible in adapting contracts to provide a variety of seasonal products.

Elizabeth Balkan, director of the food waste, food and agriculture program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that even though disruptions from the pandemic brought attention to the increased waste of products from farms, it’s a longstanding issue that the current system hasn’t fixed.

“Even in the best of times there’s enormous amounts of food waste happening upstream at the point of production or the farm level,” she said, citing estimates that billions of pounds of produce can go unharvested or unsold every year.

“The reason why we’re in this mess is because there’s so many intermediary points and excess food and it’s hard for excess food to get to the people in need in a straightforward manner,” Balkan said.
The USDA “Farmers to Families” program would pay farmers to box up produce, dairy, a…

Balkan said she’s still concerned prefilled boxes won’t stop all food from being wasted if producers aren’t matched up with organizations to distribute the food or if the contents of the boxes don’t match the foods families need. But she said the pandemic has made people appreciate the people that produce our food and that it could fuel a push for policies that help reduce food waste.

Miguel Gomez, an assistant professor at Cornell University who researches the food supply chain and distribution, said the program could show if our food system can adapt to entirely new ways of packaging and distributing fresh food that’s ready to go to market on a larger scale and address some of the weaknesses the current crisis has highlighted.

“I think these type of programs have the opportunity to develop the business as trustees and the supply chain expertise for businesses to really make good money innovating input distribution. It is a way, also, to diversify our food supply chain structure,” he told ABC News.

Gomez said one of the challenges in the current system is that big farming operations supply large retailers while small local farms can sell directly or via farmers markets, but there are fewer outlets for midsize producers and distributors that could be more flexible, affordable and resilient to change. While the food from this program will go to food banks where there’s the most need, Gomez said it could also change the food market for consumers as more families look for places to buy food directly if they’re scared or unable to go to grocery stores.

“I think it will be very interesting to see the ability or power of our food system to repurpose all that food that is there,” he said.
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Ryan Cranney poses for a portrait next to a mound of potatoes he's made free to the public, April 15, 2020, at his farm in Oakley, Idaho.
Friends come together to get free food across US from farms to those in need
President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, April 17, 2020.
USDA to try ‘out of the box’ solution to get food from farmers to food banks
A pile of zucchini and squash is seen after it was discarded by a farmer, April 1, 2020, in Florida City, Florida.
Farmers and food banks grapple with broken food supply chain

A nonprofit, Feeding America, anticipates 17.1 million people could face difficulty affording food as a result of the pandemic, in addition to the 37 million people who were considered food insecure before the crisis.

But advocates, including Feeding America, are concerned that when the national emergency is over, donations and government programs established during the pandemic could slow down even though the economy and families impacted financially will take years to recover.

The Trump administration’s previous policies on food assistance programs and other parts of the social safety net emphasized getting Americans back to work, citing the growing economy and low rate of unemployment. But with the economic downturn from the pandemic expected to last, advocates are pushing the administration and Congress to start expanding the social safety net as part of starting the recovery.
PHOTO: Hank Scott of Long & Scott Farms stands in a field of rotting cucumbers that he was unable to harvest due to lack of demand on April 30, 2020, in Mount Dora, Fla.
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Hank Scott of Long & Scott Farms stands in a field of rotting cucumbers that he was un…

The USDA said it has increased spending on SNAP benefits by 40% during the pandemic through state waivers to allow recipients to be automatically bumped up to the maximum benefit, provide school meals that can be picked up at home and deliver cash assistance to families in need.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said that while food banks need support and are playing a vital role in the pandemic, their role can’t compare to the long-term impact of federal spending.

“The truth is in best of times, they are less than one-tenth of the dollar amount of the federal nutrition assistance safety net,” he told ABC News.

He said the efforts to expand nutrition programs during the emergency might not be helping the people with the most desperate need, the lowest-income households that already receive the maximum amount of benefits or families that can’t get to schools or food banks to collect meals and groceries.
Pat Sutphin/Times-News via APPat Sutphin/Times-News via AP
Ricky Jones, operations manager at Magic Valley Quality Milk Transport, walks out the d…

Experts also say that providing families more money through programs like SNAP is better for the local economy because families spend their benefits at local grocery stores and spend the money they would otherwise use on food for other necessities.

Berg said anti-hunger advocates have been pushing for a 15% increase in SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus response bill. Democrats, like House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, said they want the USDA to support that increase as well as possible programs to expand food distribution and support organizations like World Central Kitchen, which has been providing money to restaurants to prepare and donate meals using their existing staff.

Katie Fitzgerald, executive vice president and COO of Feeding America, said that while food banks have more stock on hand because of government programs to buy excess food, they can’t sustain the push to help millions of Americans in need on donations alone.

“This is a problem that our food bank system, however strong and capable it is, is not able to solve on its own,” she told ABC News in April.

“It requires a massive government solution, through the various federal nutrition programs, TFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), other than child nutrition programs, and it has to include a SNAP solution.”

How Farmers are Helping Food Banks Feed America

How Farmers are Helping Food Banks Feed America
Credit: Feeding America
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By Vince Hall @vincehall

My father spent 30 years in the rice business and I remember driving a “bank out” wagon to transport the grain before I ever drove a car. From those rural roots I came to appreciate that farmers are the foundation of our nation’s food system, providing the nourishing foods we all need to lead healthy, happy lives. Farmers — through advocacy, fundraising and more — are also critical partners in our nation’s fight against hunger, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today I’m proud to serve Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Working together, in 2020 we provided a record-number of meals to our neighbors in need amid new challenges to putting food on the table: a once-in-a-generation pandemic made going to the grocery store an uncertain experience, food prices reached a 50-year high and unemployment rates rivaled those of the Great Depression.
When it comes to making the case for strengthening the nation’s food programs, farmers are some of our most effective supporters.

As Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs worked on the frontline to stem the rising tide of hunger, farmers were, and continue to be, at the side of food banks to help meet the skyrocketing need.

Even before the spread of COVID-19, food banks and farmers have worked hand-in-hand to keep plates full through programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Through TEFAP, the Agriculture Department purchases high-quality foods from U.S. farms. Feeding America, and other emergency food providers, then partner with states to provide households in need with nourishing foods

TEFAP is a significant win-win across the board. Farmers generate income from USDA food purchases and food banks receive a steady volume of nutritious food to distribute. Last year, the people we serve took home an astounding 1.7 billion meals from TEFAP purchases of food produced on American farms.

As hunger in the U.S. is magnified during COVID-19, it has become even more clear that the charitable food sector cannot do the work of feeding the nation alone. We also need deep investments in our nation’s federal nutrition programs, from TEFAP to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a program that provides nine meals for every one our food bank network provides.

Fortunately, when it comes to making the case for strengthening the nation’s food programs, farmers are some of our most effective supporters.

Organizations such as the American Farm Bureau have been critical allies in urging lawmakers to make use of every tool at their disposal to ensure no child goes to bed hungry and fewer families make impossible choices between paying rent and buying groceries. Last year, Farm Bureau and Feeding America teamed up to press USDA to quickly design and implement solutions to address growing hunger while national news programs broadcast images of agricultural goods being destroyed, due to pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions. Ultimately, this led to the introduction of the highly successful Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Beyond advocacy, Farm Bureau used its successful #StillFarming campaign to shed light on how farmers are working overtime to keep our nation fed through uncertain times. AFBF has partnered with Feeding America to raise funds through the sale of campaign-themed merchandise to weather a perfect storm of increased demand, declines in food donations and disruptions to the charitable food system.

In November 2019, before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Feeding America Chief Executive Officer Claire Babineaux-Fontenot was a guest on the Farm Food Facts podcast, where she discussed the role of farmers in ending hunger: “Farmers in this country are the bedrock of this country, and so many farmers are doing so much already to help people facing hunger.” Claire’s words were true then and they are especially true today. As our network continues to help families have full lives and full stomachs, the role of farmers in helping us do that work cannot be overstated.

Vince Hall is interim chief government relations officer at Feeding America. Babineaux-Fontenot recently joined AFBF President Zippy Duvall for a FarmSide Chat podcast to discuss how communities have come together over the last year to ensure food is getting from the farm to those who need it most.

USDA Ensures Food, Funding during Pandemic

USDA Ensures Food, Funding during Pandemic

Judge orders L.A. City and County to offer Shelter to Everyone on Skid Row by Fall

Judge orders L.A. city and county to offer shelter to everyone on skid row by fall

Judge David O. Carter tours skid row with a police officer.
U.S. District Court judge David O. Carter tours skid row with LAPD Officer Deon Joseph on April 3, 2020. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
APRIL 20, 2021 UPDATED 4:15 PM PT
A federal judge overseeing a sprawling lawsuit about homelessness in Los Angeles ordered the city and county Tuesday to offer some form of shelter or housing to the entire homeless population of skid row by October.

Judge David O. Carter granted a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs in the case last week and now is telling the city and county that they must offer single women and unaccompanied children on skid row a place to stay within 90 days, help families within 120 days and finally, by Oct. 18, offer every homeless person on skid row housing or shelter.

It’s unclear whether the city and county will challenge the order, which also calls for the city to put $1 billion into an escrow account — an idea that has raised concerns among city officials.

The ruling argues that L.A. city and county wrongly focused on permanent housing at the expense of more temporary shelter, “knowing that massive development delays were likely while people died in the streets.” That element of the order underscores the judge’s skepticism of a core part of L.A.’s current strategy to tackle homelessness.


“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” Carter wrote in a 110-page brief sprinkled with quotes from Abraham Lincoln and an extensive history of how skid row was first created.

Read the full injunction here

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets.” Last year more than 1,300 homeless people died in Los Angeles County.

In the last homeless count in January 2020, more than 4,600 unhoused people were found to be living on skid row — about 2,500 in large shelters and 2,093 on the streets. They account for only slightly more than 10% of the city’s overall homeless population, and it’s not clear what Carter’s order might mean for other parts of the city.

The judge wrote that “after adequate shelter is offered,” he would allow the city to enforce laws that keep streets and sidewalks clear of tents so long as they’re consistent with previous legal rulings that have limited the enforcement of such rules. That appears to only apply to skid row.

He also ordered the county to offer “support services to all homeless residents who accept the offer of housing” including placements in “appropriate emergency, interim, or permanent housing and treatment services.” The costs would be split by the city and county, he said.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said Tuesday that city lawyers are reviewing the order. He declined to comment further.

Skip Miller, partner at the Miller Barondess law firm, which is outside counsel for the county in the lawsuit, said the county is “now evaluating our options, including the possibility of an appeal.”

Previously, the county had asked to be removed from the case, arguing that it was about the city and that the county was aggressively responding to homelessness without any direction from the court. It cited efforts that included spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually through the Measure H sales tax and developing innovative strategies such as Project Roomkey in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Project Roomkey is a state program that provides temporary funding for cities and counties to rent hotel rooms for homeless people during the pandemic.

The push for an injunction “is an attempt by property owners and businesses to rid their neighborhood of homeless people,” Miller said.

David Barker, 56, is visiting with his friend living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. David is not homeless but he works in the area. Because of the coronavirus pandemic city and county workers are working to move people living on the street inside.

L.A. plans nearly $1 billion in spending to address homelessness under Garcetti plan

April 19, 2021
“There is no legal basis for an injunction because the county is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on proven strategies,” he added.

Matthew Umhofer, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, said he and his clients were ecstatic. Carter’s call for action was what they had been looking for when they filed the case, he said, and why they sought out Carter, who had overseen similar cases in Orange County in recent years, to preside over it.

“This is exactly the kind of aggressive emergency action that we think is necessary on the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles,” Umhofer said.

The Alliance is a coalition of downtown business owners and residents that filed the case in March 2020, accusing the city and county of breaching their duty to abate a nuisance, reducing property value without compensation, wasting public funds and violating the state environmental act and state and federal acts protecting people with disabilities.

Carter’s order came the day that Mayor Eric Garcetti released his budget for the next fiscal year, which includes nearly $1 billion in spending on homelessness. The longtime federal judge also ordered “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow forthwith.”

Of the $1 billion in homeless spending planned by Garcetti, more than a third would come from Proposition HHH, the 2016 bond measure to build permanent housing for homeless residents. Garcetti aides said they expect the city will be building or developing 89 HHH projects over the next fiscal year, for a total of 5,651 housing units.

Whether Carter’s order will disrupt those activities is unclear. In his order, the judge said he wants a report in 90 days of every developer receiving funds from HHH, as well as new regulations to “limit the possibility of funds being wasted.”

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Garcetti declined to say whether the city would file an appeal of the order, saying he first wants to read it. But he suggested that Carter’s order could slow down the construction of HHH projects.

“Roadblocks masquerading as progress are the last things we need,” he said.

David Barker, 56, is visiting with his friend living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. David is not homeless but he works in the area. Because of the coronavirus pandemic city and county workers are working to move people living on the street inside.

Can L.A. really clear homeless people from skid row by October? Here’s what we know

April 20, 2021
Because the $1 billion for homelessness doesn’t yet exist — some of it hasn’t arrived from Washington and none of it has been approved by the City Council for the coming year — Garcetti said he also fears the city will be asked instead to put some other source of money in the escrow account.

Carter has also asked for a number of reports from city and county officials about how money for combating homelessness has been and is currently being spent. He has also ordered that the city and county cease any sales or transfers of city or county property before such reports are provided.

The lengthy ruling also skewered corruption scandals involving housing projects, “excessive delays and skyrocketing costs” under the HHH bond measure, and L.A.’s failure to seek federal reimbursement for Project Roomkey rooms.

Councilman Kevin de León, whose district includes skid row, welcomed the judge’s decision. Although L.A. needs more clarity about setting aside $1 billion, he said, the tight timeframe to offer shelter or housing to skid row residents “lights a fire under the city to act with a real sense of urgency and to match the rhetoric with real outcomes to save lives.”

“It’s a strong shot across the bow — and he is expecting action,” de León said. “Not continued negotiations or studying everything to death.”

Pete White, executive director of the skid row-based Los Angeles Community Action Network, which is an intervenor in the case, said his organization had “grown concerned that politicians are using this litigation to justify investment in emergency shelters instead of housing.”

“We all know that shelters won’t solve our housing crisis, and they definitely won’t address the structural racism that got us here in the first place.”

Skid row activist and resident Jeff Page echoed White , saying the tight window for moving people means they won’t be going to permanent housing but instead to “dorm style living that in and of itself is problematic.” What’s needed, he said, is more permanent housing in the neighborhood to be built as quickly as possible.

“We need more housing here. We need more services,” he said.

In his order, Carter outlined historic forms of discrimination that had cut Black people out of housing opportunities, including redlining, segregated systems of assistance during the Great Depression, highway construction that displaced Black families, and criminalization that has disproportionately affected Black communities.

Racial inequity has continued to color government handling of the crisis, Carter concluded, opining that current city and county policies “compound and perpetuate structural racism, threatening the integrity of Black families in Los Angeles and forcing a disproportionate number of Black families to go unhoused.”

The judge has previously compared the situation to the aftermath of the seminal civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Education, saying there are times when the federal judiciary may need to act “after a long period of inaction by local government officials.”

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, called the 110-page order a “deep dive into the problems of homelessness in Los Angeles and an expression of Carter’s frustration with how the city and county have responded to this crisis.” She noted that judges in the South during the 1950s and 1960s had used similarly expansive injunctions to make desegregation a reality and in other cases to implement prison reform.

She wasn’t sure how a higher court might rule if this case ends up getting appealed but said it was “certainly a landmark decision.”

“It is an open question whether the appellate court will step in,” she said. “As Judge Carter acknowledges, there is usually a hearing before such an order. However, he has loaded up his decision with facts that he says obviate the need for a hearing. The judge has made a bold move.”

News of the injunction had not trickled down to the streets of skid row Tuesday, but people reacted favorably when informed of it. Hasan Saleem, 58, who was sitting outside his tent on 6th Street, said he would take housing “right away” if offered, even if it takes 180 days. Still, he remained skeptical.

“I wouldn’t mind waiting if it was true,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

“It’s better than how they used to do it when they just take your stuff and put you to jail,” said Peaceful Bolden, who was standing with a small group across the street from the Los Angeles Mission. “At least they’re trying.”

But Bolden said she did not think housing alone would be enough.

“Some of these people are just refugees from whatever life they used to have,” she said. “They need mental health. They need hospice, some of them. A lot of them don’t want to leave because they don’t want to be under anyone’s rules.”

Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, had heard the news and hailed it as the “wall of reality” that the city and county are finally running into.

“It’s what I came to Union Rescue Mission to accomplish,” Bales said. “I’ve always wanted to decentralize skid row and regionalize Services throughout the County. My hope is this will do that.”

How the Clintons Robbed and Destroyed Haiti

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza, African Exponent, Feb. 18, 2020

The imprint of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton is indelible. The couple’s presence and impact on the Caribbean island have brought nothing but prolonged despair for the Haitians. Their elusive and opaque deals in the country have not done anything to alleviate the country out of poverty depths. The purported interests of helping Haiti from its myriad of problems have only caused stagnation in Haiti.

The presence of Bill Clinton, who also served as the president of the United States together with his wife who served as the Secretary of State during Obama’s tenure can be traced back to the 90s. Their interests in Haiti are not a new phenomenon. If not, their interests in Haiti have almost become irrevocably entrenched and have had far-reaching consequences in the lives of ordinary Haitian citizens.

Their history with the country dates back to 1975 when they had their honeymoon there. If there is an unpopular couple in Haiti, it definitely has to be the Clintons; for they are held in contempt and in despicable terms. What the Clintons did is unforgivable to the Haitians.

The devastating 2010 earthquake left Haiti in tatters. The country’s economy reeled under the biting and excruciating effects of the earthquake. Because of their history with Haiti, the Clintons seized this chance in the interests of “assisting” Haiti in its times of unparalleled difficulty. But their involvement with the earthquake relief programs was the final proof Haitians needed to show that the Clintons’ true intentions with the country were to rob it for their own parochial interests.

Over 220,000 Killed in Quake
Bill Clinton’s influence in Haiti ranges from the 1990s agricultural policies in Haiti that destroyed the country’s rice industry to the meddling in internal affairs and finally to the earthquake. There is a sense of permanency attached to the Clintons’ name as regards their activities in Haiti, particularly the Clinton Foundation.

When the earthquake struck, the global response was to send in donations to Haiti. But of course, that needed a commission that would be designed to have an oversight role as regards the disbursement of the various relief packages pouring through. The Clintons stepped up to lead the global response. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) was brought into life and Bill Clinton was selected to be its co-chair. At that time, Hillary Clinton was still the Secretary of State and thus responsible for channeling USAID relief spending to Haiti.

One could not have found an escape from their influence. Bill Clinton co-chaired the commission alongside Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Some $13.3 billion was pledged by international donors so that Haiti could be rebuilt and the lives of Haitians uplifted.

The IHRC was comprised of two parts: one that had the foreigners and one led by the Haitian Prime Minister. Bill Clinton chaired the foreign part and it had all the donors; they had to the IHRC $0.10 billion over two years or forgive $0.20 billion of Haitian debt. Each and every decision made by the Haiti section of the commission had to be endorsed by the foreign section. And Clinton was at the helm of the foreign part of that commission.

As the money found its way into the possession of the IHRC, it increasingly became arrogant and opaque. The only thing that came out of the post-earthquake relief plans was the construction of an industrial park called Caracol, which cost $300 million. The US was also amenable to financing a power plant. The belief held by the Clintons and their allies in terms of rebuilding Haiti was premised on employing short-term plans espoused in the foreign aid industry that the US had imposed on Haiti all these years.

They hoped that Caracol would sizeably attract foreign businesses for the reconstruction of the country’s badly fractured economy. It was the same old policy that did not care about the pertinent issue of creating long-lasting projects that would eventually help the poverty-stricken Haitians. The foreign-aid industry plans are concerned with benefiting the international players, the private contractors.

The industrial park is considered a very big flop by the US. Worse still, several hundred farmers were evicted from there in order to make way for the 600-acre park. Too much emphasis was placed on “outside players” instead of the Haitian government to effect change.

Clinton at Grand Opening
As such, the jobs that Caracol was expected to make fall far below the reality on the ground. The post-earthquake efforts by the Clintons, particularly Caracol, was a damning failure that did nothing to lift the Haitians out of their misery but only lined the pockets of big firms. South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co, which is the main employer at Caracol, gifted the Clinton Foundation with donations between $50,000 and $100,000.

The IHRC had little to show for all the money that came through except the Caracol industrial park. Not much reconstruction in Haiti was done. Where did all the money go? The Clinton Foundation has refuted claims that it had influence in the running of the IHRC, saying, “Since 2010, the Foundation has worked on the ground in Haiti with a range of partners – helping more than 7,500 farmers lift themselves out of poverty; improving the Haitian environment by planting more than 5 million trees and installing more than 400 KW of clean energy; and supporting women through literacy training and job skills for over 2,000 women,” when responding to the BBC.

It has been speculated some of the money that came through the commission found its way towards sponsoring Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign which she lost to the incumbent Donald Trump in 2016 but this is an area she has always been evasive about when probed. They become allegations without proof but to Haitians the more she dodges the question, the more she becomes suspicious and pernicious to the interests of Haitians.

It is estimated that the IHRC collected over $5.3 billion over two years and $9.9 billion in three years but Haitians still find themselves mired in abject poverty. A US Government Accountability Office report circumvented the issue by deciding not to find any iota of wrongdoing, but the gravity of the failure made them mention that the plans by the IHRC, co-chaired by Bill Clinton, “did not align with the Haitian priorities.”

The failure by the IHRC to rebuild Haiti is still haunting Haiti. The failed agricultural policies by the US made sure Haiti, a country that produced its own rice, would be reliant on US food to the extent that Haiti imports food from the US. Foreign aid is continuously pumped into Haiti, and no plan is made to bolster the country’s own capacity to rebuild and produce.

Haiti is still run on which business finds favor with the US, and while the Clintons were in charge of the US, they presided over all these failed policies. It is high time the onus to build Haiti shifts back to the government.

Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti?

ByValerie Helm Global NewsPosted January 20, 2020 1:42 pm Updated January 20, 2020 3:13 pm

Click to play video: ‘How were Canadian donations to Haiti 2010 earthquake relief spent?’
Haiti has received billions of dollars in relief over the years from around the world, after the devastating earthquake of 2010. So how were Canadian donations spent? – Jan 13, 2020
When Haiti was rocked by an earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, images of despair and damage struck a chord with people around the world.

American journalist Jonathan M. Katz has closely analyzed the money pledged and how much was actually disbursed. He reports the global response totalled US$16.3 billion in pledges for rebuilding and recovery efforts. Other estimates, including from the L.A. Times, pin it at US$13.5 billion. In the month following the earthquake, Canadians donated $220 million to eligible organizations, which was matched by the federal government. From 2010 to 2018, Canada contributed $1.458 billion, which does not include the $220 donated by Canadians.

A small boy sits outside the tent he lives in with his family in Canaan, Haiti, January 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
A small boy sits outside the tent he lives in with his family in Canaan, Haiti, January 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
Photojournalist Barry Donnelly in Canaan, Haiti, Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Photojournalist Barry Donnelly in Canaan, Haiti, Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
“We’re still living in that same moment in that same time,” Guillano Louis, who lives in Port-au-Prince, tells Global News on the streets of the capital.

READ MORE: Haiti 10 years later — Temporary tent city turns into makeshift community for 300,000

In the area of Canaan, a two-hour drive northeast of congested Port-au-Prince, some families still live in tents set up as a temporary measure for displaced residents after the earthquake. A family of seven sleeps in a threadbare tent, without access to running water, electricity or public services such as education. Some of the children were born in these conditions.

A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti. (Valerie Laillet)
A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti. (Valerie Laillet).
Canaan, Haiti. Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Canaan, Haiti. Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
With 10 years gone by, there are questions from the international community about the lack of progress.

“The headline should be, ‘We screwed up,’” says Katz, reflecting on the global response.

He explains that the international community didn’t keep its promises.

Katz was inside his home in Haiti when it “buckled along with hundreds of thousands of others.” In his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, he claims Canada disbursed $657 million in the 20 months since the quake, but only about two per cent was channelled to the Haitian government.

Global News reached out to Global Affairs Canada for confirmation of the figures provided by Katz. In a statement, the department says it is “unable to confirm this figure, as we are not aware of the methodology that was used to arrive at this amount.”

“Canada’s international assistance to Haiti is channelled through international or Canadian partners whose financial capacity and integrity have been verified,” the statement says.

Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? – image
Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? – image
Katz says there’s the notion that governments should not foolishly give money to countries filled with corruption. The Haitian government is widely accused of corruption, mismanagement and misinformation, right down to the number of people it says died in the earthquake. The government estimates 316,000 people died and 200,000 people were injured, figures many believe to be inflated. The BBC cites a draft report commissioned by the U.S. government that puts the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000. Many news outlets report 220,000 lives were lost.

In Port-au-Prince, many Haitians lament their current situation. A vendor selling patties, who did not want to be identified, told Global News she is fed up with the government’s inaction. She says she never saw any of the food and supplies distributed, and believes the government kept things for itself.

Louis, who works in security and was in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake, echoes that sentiment. He says the earthquake is still fresh in the minds of Haitians.

“There’s been no real progress,” he said.

He believes the Haitian government is to blame and voiced that “someone needs to say something.”

Vendors in Port-au-Prince days before Haiti marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly)
Vendors in Port-au-Prince days before Haiti marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly).Courtesy: Barry Donnelly.
Guillano Louis walks by a vendor in Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly)
Guillano Louis walks by a vendor in Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly). Courtesy: Barry Donnely
In a statement released on the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said the government still lacks “the basic infrastructure and services to support the people of our country.”

“The initial flurry of attention received from the international community quickly quieted down, with many of the financial pledges not delivered — causing devastating consequences for our recovery,” he said. “Little of the aid that was received ended up in Haitian hands and much of the money that was so generously given was not spent on the right projects and places.”

Katz says there’s a lot of noise about corruption in places like Haiti, but little of the aid is actually going to Haiti. Often, foreign donors choose to give to NGOs due to fears of corruption by the Haitian government.​ But some NGOs are also accused of mismanagement.

In 2015, NPR and ProPublica released their findings into the US$500 million raised by the American Red Cross for relief efforts in Haiti. ProPublica’s headline read: “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes.” According to NPR, their investigation found a number of “poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success.”

Aid for Haiti
FILE – A Brazilian soldier of the MINUSTAH force gives food to Haitian children orphaned by the 2010 earthquake, at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince on March 3, 2013. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images
Katz explains that foreign aid is “a misnomer.”

“It’s usually not aid and it’s not given to foreign countries,” he said.

Katz says that with Canadian aid agencies, as with other aid agencies, a lot of the funds go to Canadian staff, salaries and travel and that the material is purchased in the donor country. He also says people believe that so much money should have fixed everything, but a lot of the money that was pledged wasn’t delivered.

FILE – This Monday, July 11, 2011, file photo shows silhouettes of UN peacekeepers from Brazil at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
FILE – This Monday, July 11, 2011, file photo shows silhouettes of UN peacekeepers from Brazil at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo).
NGOs poured into Haiti to assist, but it’s unclear how many have been on the ground. There are varying reports placing the number of NGOs in the country to as low as 3,000 and as high as 20,000. While NGOs play critical roles in providing basic necessities and health services to people facing difficult times, there are questions as to who oversees them.

The Centre for Global Development has been calling for the implementation of national guilds that would set a national mandatory requirement for NGOs to be registered, and possibly include a code of conduct that would keep their missions in line with one another. It also calls for practices such as annual reports and audited financial statements.​

Vocational school in Carrefour, Haiti, built in honour of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher. (Courtesy: Antony Robart)
Vocational school in Carrefour, Haiti, built in honour of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher. (Courtesy: Antony Robart).
Canadians responded in the days, months and years after the earthquake. A vocational school was built in memory of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who died in the quake.

Gilles Rivard was the Canadian ambassador to Haiti from June 2008 to October 2010 and January 2014 to September 2014. He was in the country when the earthquake struck and says Canada had a fantastic team for the mission. He says Canadian teams brought in food, flew out some 6,000 Haitians and built a new road and a new hospital.

“Now people are complaining that this hospital is not functioning well,” Rivard said. He says if the “Haitian government doesn’t send doctors or nurses to take care of the poor people that suffered, there is nothing Canada can do. But we’re criticized for that.”

READ MORE: 10 years after, Michaelle Jean laments flawed response to devastating Haiti quake

FILE – Haitians struggled to rebuild after the earthquake rocked their fragile island in 2010.
FILE – Haitians struggled to rebuild after the earthquake rocked their fragile island in 2010.
Rivard points to issues with UN institutions. He says they “don’t always co-ordinate among themselves.”

“So you can imagine the situation,” he said. “And I think it’s a big problem; the co-ordination and also what we request from the country, the numerous reports, evaluation, audit and so on. They don’t have the capacity to respond.”

READ MORE: Child victims of Haiti earthquake find hope at orphanage with Canadian ties

Rivard says Haiti needs support from Canada and the U.S., who are main donors.

“Canada does a lot,” he said. “The problem is that if you don’t do enough, you’re going to be criticized. And then if you do too much, they’re going to be accused of telling Haitians what to do. That’s the dilemma.”

Rivard says there is a lot of fatigue from countries that are trying to help Haiti.

“You feel that there is no real progress in terms of governance, of economic situation and so on. So that’s that. See, that’s a vicious circle.”

Dorcius Fritzner speaks to Global News journalist Antony Robart (Courtesy: Valerie Laillet).
Dorcius Fritzner speaks to Global News journalist Antony Robart (Courtesy: Valerie Laillet). Courtesy: Barry Donnely
Father of two Dorcius Fritzner makes his living in Haiti’s capital by shuttling people on his motorbike. He told Global News he’s frustrated with the government. Fritzner says resources in Haiti are barren, likening it to a desert. Issues he points to include children not able to attend school, trouble accessing clean water, unemployment and gas shortages.

READ MORE: ‘We’re living that day’ — A decade later, Haitians remember devastating 2010 earthquake

FILE – A demonstrator walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2019.
FILE – A demonstrator walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2019.REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Port-au-Prince architect Philippe Léon says the political turmoil and instability has hindered rebuilding efforts. He points to the number of times the government has changed hands; three different presidents and an interim government in the last decade.

“One hundred to 150 years of construction was destroyed, including the presidential palace that was nearly 100 years old,” he said. “It wouldn’t take five to 10 years to rebuild.”

Haiti’s Notre-Dame cathedral is still in ruins 10 years later. (Valerie Laillet)
Haiti’s Notre-Dame cathedral is still in ruins 10 years later. (Valerie Laillet).
Janurary 12, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Janurary 12, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
Still, he says, not much has been done. Léon says a lot of the new construction has been in the private sector and a lot of it is half-built. He points to projects like the Village Lumane Casimir, with 1,500 units. Only about half of the units are built, due to a lack of funds.

How were Canadian donations to Haiti 2010 earthquake relief spent?
Child victims of Haiti earthquake find hope at orphanage with Canadian ties
Léon says Haitians have been building out of necessity. Instead of waiting for the government, people have been building their homes over time.

READ MORE: Haiti earthquake survivor goes from orphanage to Oklahoma business analyst

More than one million people were displaced by the earthquake. In Canaan, about two hours from the capital, tents were set up to temporarily house displaced residents. But today, some people still live in the very tents that were put up 10 years ago. Others have built homes out of whatever they could find; wood and tin homes cover the mountains. A number of residents have built their homes out of cement blocks. People in Canaan have built a makeshift community with homes out of various materials, schools for those who can afford it, churches and grocery stores.

Léon says the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince are covered with dwellings, with no roads or order. He says when you fly into or out of Haiti at night, you can see all of the lights emanating from homes, snake roads and lack of organization.

Katz says when it comes to Haiti, people often try to find a single villain. Bill and Hillary Clinton are often singled out. But Katz says “what failed was the system.”

“This should be a wakeup call.”

He says inequality, much more than the earthquake, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery
National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery
Over the last year, Léon hasn’t worked on any housing projects due to the political instability and violence in his country. He said there’s no work to be had in new builds. Instead, he’s been working on building fences, steel doors and other measures to make homes impenetrable by rioters. At his office, his windows are covered in wood to fend off rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Léon says the problem with Haiti is that the country is “managing misery.” Poverty, a lack of education and fighting for political power are some of the main issues. He says a lot of things other countries take for granted, Haiti cannot. Everything from water to electricity to roads are systems people have to build themselves, and in challenging circumstances.

Léon believes the development of a country “can only happen through its own people, through people who believe in it and support it.” He says the 10th anniversary of the earthquake is time for a ‘bilan,’ an assessment on the progress so far: “counting the blessings and counting your mistakes.” Léon, who is now in his 60s, says he hopes to see a better Haiti himself.

How Haiti is coping 10 years after a devastating earthquake
Haiti earthquake survivor goes from orphanage to Oklahoma business analyst
Haiti Earthquake 10 years later: Reminders of deadly quake still present in Port-au-Prince
Haiti 10 years later: Temporary tent city turns into makeshift community for 300,000
10 years after, Michaelle Jean laments flawed response to devastating Haiti quake
Hotel in Haiti a story of resilience a decade after devastating earthquake

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

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

Change will never come without political participation – SHARE THIS ARTICLE!
This Piece Originally Appeared in www.democracynow.org

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. Transcript

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

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




March 14, 202012:06 AM ET
Maria Godoy at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley) (Square)

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.
Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
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.

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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.”

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

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




April 3, 20201:16 PM ET
Heard on Morning Edition
Dan Charles

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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.
Nati Harnik/AP
Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET on April 10

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 dump thousands 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.”

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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.