“OCCUPY THE PGA” SET FOR MAY 27-31 IN BENTON HARBOR, MI
By Diane Bukowski
April 13, 2012
DETROIT – Rev. Edward Pinkney, president of the Benton Harbor, Michigan chapter of the NAACP, declared victory in Wayne County Circuit Court April 11 as he staved off the state NAACP’s plan to hold a midterm election April 14 to oust him and local chapter officers.
The courtroom was packed with Pinkney’s supporters, from Benton Harbor to Detroit to Pontiac. After a conference in chambers with Circuit Court Judge Brian Sullivan, the parties in the $100,000 civil suit against the NAACP agreed to postpone the election at least until after a hearing May 10 at 10:30 a.m., when attorneys will have filed their briefs.
Attorneys Elliott Hall and Buck Davis represent Pinkney. State NAACP Conference President Yvonne White appeared in court with her attorney John Johnson, formerly City of Detroit Corporation Counsel under Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. White works for General Motors at the UAW-GM building on Joseph Campau in downtown Detroit.
Pinkney said the Whirlpool Corporation, headquartered in Benton Harbor, is the elephant in the room.
“Whirlpool cut a deal with the state and national NAACP, through Marcus Robinson,” Pinkney said. “They said they would not support the NAACP as long as I am head of the Benton Harbor branch.”
Benton Harbor NAACP Secretary Joyce Smith said the company is angry because of plans by Pinkney and others to “OCCUPY THE PGA” in Benton Harbor May 23-27, 2012. The golf tournament is sponsored by KitchenAid, a subsidiary of Whirlpool. Robinson is a board member of Harbor Shores Community Development Corporation, among other titles.
“The State NAACP is violating its own by-laws and constitution,” Smith said. “They want to replace us with Whirlpool’s minions. The PGA is coming in May, and they hope we won’t be able to picket. They’re interviewing Benton Harbor citizens now for temporary jobs at the tournament.”
BANCO (Black Autonomy Network Community Organization), and the Occupy Movement are sponsoring Occupy the PGA. The Senior PGA tournament is to be held at the Harbor Shores Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, developed with Whirlpool’s support. It is part of a $750 million, 530 acre resort development with $500,000 condominiums.
The elected (but currently powerless) Benton Harbor City Commission has voted 4-2 to oppose the presence of the PGA in Benton Harbor. City commissioner Dennis Knowles said, “The reason I voted against the PGA is because of the non-inclusiveness of the residents that live in the city, the inner city….I’m saying that these people need a chance, in my neighborhood…they need a chance.”
Click on Newly elected commissioners resist state takeover FC to read article from the Final Call on the Benton Harbor Commissioners’ struggles.
According to community activists, corporate officials took part of the development’s land from the publicly-owned Jean Klock Park, which includes a gorgeous stretch of lakefront beach.
Pinkney and others from Benton Harbor have fought Whirlpool’s corporate grab of publicly owned land and displacement of the city’s poor Black majority residents for years. Meanwhile, Whirlpool has shut down its plants in Benton Harbor, Evanston, Indiana and other cities and moved them to Mexico, putting tens of thousands out of work.
In Evanston, the Vice-President of the Indiana state conference of the NAACP, Barbara Bolling, supported Whirlpool workers, not Whirlpool, at a 2009 rally.
Pinkney said Robinson, president of the Consortium for Community Development, a component of the Whirlpool Foundation-supported Cornerstone Alliance, sent out an email, quoted in a People’s Tribune article.
“The State Commission of the NAACP and their National Office has decided to undertake the reorganization of this chapter with the specific intention of revitalizing the leadership and membership body. Contact Marcus Robinson by cell at 269-277-7711 or by inbox at www.facebook.com/4marcusrobinson.”
The non-profit Cornerstone Alliance has assets of $32.3 million, according to its 2010 tax filing. The Alliance told the IRS the reason for its non-profit status is that it is “an organization that normally receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or from the general public.” (Click on Cornerstone Alliance 2010 990 to read entire tax filing.)
But the Alliance’s website says, “Traditionally, funding from the private sector constitutes approximately 92% of our overall funding base, with Whirlpool Foundation matching-within reason-whatever is raised by these community donations.”
State Senator Al Pscholka, a chief sponsor of the infamous Public Act 4, also known as “the Dictator Act,” is a director of the Alliance according to state records.
NAACP State Conference President White told VOD, “Our job as the NAACP is to protect voting rights. All we’re attempting to do is stay on the job and follow our constitution.”
White’s attorney Johnson contended in court that the last election held by the Benton Harbor chapter was improper.
But Pinkney challenged the state NAACP’s purported concern about voting rights.
“The NAACP is doing nothing to fight the emergency manager law,” Pinkney told VOD. “I emailed Yvonne White two years ago, and informed her this law is a major issue, and that we need to stop it before it gets to cities like Detroit. She did not respond. We feel Yvonne White needs to be replaced as state president.”
Over 50 percent of Michigan’s African-American residents now live in cities taken over by emergency managers or equivalent consent agreements. Benton Harbor was the first victim in 2009, with Flint, Pontiac, Inkster, the Detroit and Highland Park Public Schools, and now Detroit itself among the others.
Unelected emergency managers exercise total power over the cities’ assets, land, finances, workforce, and union contracts, with privatization and regionalization major goals. In Pontiac, the EM has put the city’s entire assets including 11 water plants on the auction block.
The law faces challenges including lawsuits, a referendum campaign, and a determination by the Democratic caucus of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that it is unconstitutional and violates the National Voting Rights Act.
Pinkney has also fought long and hard against police brutality and frame-ups in Benton Harbor. A judge sentenced him to a stretch in prison for quoting a Bible passage to him.
To contact Rev. Pinkney, call 269-925-0001 or go to bhbanco.org.