News Roundup

MLK memorial, Urban League honors, USDA allegations

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The King Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation are heading a project to build a monument for the civil rights leader. (Source: MLKMemorial.org)

King Family Under Fire Over Licensing Deal

Two of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children say they were not aware of the details of an $800,000 licensing deal with a memorial foundation building a statue in his honor, according to the Associated Press.

Bernice and Martin Luther King III acknowledged Wednesday that they favored the agreement between the King Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to build the monument, but insist that the monetary aspect of the deal was handled badly by their brother, Dexter King, and struck with no involvement from them.

“When we were made aware of it, it was already a done deal,” Bernice King told The Associated Press. “Our understanding was that this was about The King Center being able to survive.”

In a statement last week, the King estate said there was no fee charged for the use of the civil rights leader’s name, image, and words on the memorial, and that the licensing contract does not benefit King’s heirs.

In regard to when money was introduced in the deal, Bernice King said they had no knowledge of when that happened.
The siblings told the AP they have not been involved in decisions about their father’s estate since 2004, and that Dexter King has acted on his own for years as head of the estate and the center.

News of the deal sparked criticism this week, as one leading scholar said King would be displeased.

Harry Johnson, who serves as president of the King memorial foundation, said the fees were not a burden and that the foundation has a good relationship with the King family.

–Janell Hazelwood

Northern Virginia Urban League Honors B.E. 100s

0410_nb-urban-league_edited-1The Northern Virginia Urban League will honor area black-owned businesses at its annual awards dinner tonight. Eight businesses, listed in Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2008 annual report of the largest black-owned businesses, will be honored for excellence in leadership.

“Even in this recession, the business community has provided unprecedented support and the dinner has raised $450,000 in sponsorships that will help the league continue our work in financial education, foreclosure prevention counseling, and mentoring,” said Lavern J. Chatman, CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, in a press release.

More than $50,000 in college scholarships will be awarded to 10 area minority high school students. Over 800 guests are expected to attend the league’s sold out gala.

Among the honorees are two auto dealers, including BMW of Sterling (No. 18 on the Auto Dealer 100 list) and Infiniti of Chantilly (No. 52 on the list). Emerging businesses identified by the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce will present awards to the honorees.

–Marcia A. Wade

Vilsack to Review USDA Racism Complaints

usdaAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will create a task force to review some 14,000 civil rights complaints against the U.S. Department of Agriculture that had been filed since 2000.

“There have been unresolved claims. There has been a backlog of claims. I want to close the book on all of those claims,” Vilsack told the North American Agricultural Journalists.

In 1999, a landmark multimillion-dollar settlement was reached between the USDA and black farmers who said their applications for USDA loan and benefit programs were unfairly denied. Black farmers also alleged that the USDA failed to investigate complaints of bias. The USDA so far has paid out about $1 billion to compensate black farmers, but the department has yet to review about 3,000 of the complaints.

As a part of that review, the USDA will also suspend foreclosures under its farm loan program for 90 days to examine the loan granting process for possible discriminatory conduct.

–Marcia A. Wade

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