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Posts tagged: Civil Rights

Black History Beyond February: REE’s Enduring Commitment to Communities of Color

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (center) tours the Mandela Foods Cooperative run in West Oakland by Mandela Marketplace Inc., a non-profit organization that has used USDA funding to help develop the community-owned grocery store, as well as community farm stands and a food distribution program. Mandela MarketPlace's projects have brought 500,000 pounds of fresh produce into low-income West Oakland.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (center) tours the Mandela Foods Cooperative run in West Oakland by Mandela Marketplace Inc., a non-profit organization that has used USDA funding to help develop the community-owned grocery store, as well as community farm stands and a food distribution program. Mandela MarketPlace's projects have brought 500,000 pounds of fresh produce into low-income West Oakland.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In recognizing February as Black History Month, President Obama called officials to “…reflect on our progress…” and “recommit to advancing what has been left undone.” At USDA, this topical charge is simply how we do business all year. We can’t adequately expand economic opportunity through innovation, promote sustainable agricultural production, or protect our natural resources without recognizing our past and tackling the challenges of today. Our Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area’s engagement with the African-American community is not confined to a calendrical month; it is a thread in the institutional tapestry of broader dedication to service through agricultural research and education. Read more »

On the Right Side of the Promise

As a school kid during the first years of desegregation in the public schools of Austin, Texas, much of my experience of the world around me was shaped by color. I saw and experienced firsthand how discrimination and inequality can stunt and hold back too many Americans–not only through violence, but the more subtle, life-altering trauma of discrimination.

I’ve also seen how inclusion and understanding have the power to lift up individuals and communities and help them heal. Read more »

We Are the Bridge: Rural Development Carries Forward Civil Rights Legacy

Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah stands at the head of the historical trail where marchers began their trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge enroute to Montgomery, Alabama seeking voting rights for African-Americans.

Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah stands at the head of the historical trail where marchers began their trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge enroute to Montgomery, Alabama seeking voting rights for African-Americans.

On my first trip as the Under Secretary for Rural Development, I visited Alabama and Mississippi. It seemed fitting for me to begin my trip in Selma, Alabama given the historical significance of the location. The march from Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., embodied our most human desires: to be treated fairly, to be heard, to be treated with decency-to not be denied access and opportunities due to the color of our skin, our gender identity, our gender expression or our political identity.

I was raised in Oregon by my father, an immigrant from Ghana and my mother, an Iowa farm girl. Standing there in Selma, the sacrifices made by those before me came into focus. As an African-American woman, I’m now very honored to be at an agency that plays an important role in bringing new investments to rural America. Read more »

USDA Office of Communications Marks 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by Asking “Where Were You?”

U.S. Army Major General Charles E. Williams, (Retired) gives the keynote address at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Communications (OC) celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 at USDA in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

U.S. Army Major General Charles E. Williams, (Retired) gives the keynote address at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Communications (OC) celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 at USDA in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Where were you? Fifty years ago when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where were you and what were you doing? That was the question asked last week as a capacity audience filled a conference room at the USDA Whitten Building to commemorate the passage of this landmark legislation. The observance, sponsored by USDA’s Office of Communications, attracted dignitaries including USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary Malcolm Shorter, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Ed Avalos and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien.

The featured speaker was retired Major General Charles Williams, who now serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Tuskegee University. Read more »

June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT Communities

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.

June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.”  With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future. Read more »

1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities: Ensuring Access to Higher Education and Opportunity for All

Earlier this week I caught up with Tom Joyner on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to announce $35 million in grant support for high quality research, teaching and Extension activities at 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Tom, a graduate of Tuskegee University, and I discussed how these additional resources will help support exciting new opportunities and innovative research at 1890s institutions.

These grants are just a small piece of USDA’s nearly 125 year partnership with 1890s schools to support cutting edge research, innovation and student achievement. Since 2009 alone, USDA has awarded $647 million to 1890s schools.

In addition to highlighting the great work of these universities with Tom Joyner, I also joined Congresswoman Marcia Fudge—a champion of education and an extraordinary advocate for underserved Americans—to announce the designation of Central State University, a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio, as a land-grant institution. Read more »