Press Release: January 16, 2002

 

4th National Black Land Loss Summit

"Steps to Healing the Land."

February 8 - 10, 2002 ,Atlanta, GA

Ramada Atlanta Airport South

I-285 & Riverdale Rd., Exit #60

 

WHY A SUMMIT?

In the United States, African Americans have been losing land at a rate of 9,000 acres per week. Between 1982 and 1992 alone, the number of Black operated farms nationwide fell over 43%, while many southern states saw a decline of over 50%. Additionally, many rural southern communities have endured environmental degradation, health risks and loss of economic vitality as part of a nationwide trend of environmental racism.

DISCRIMINATION and the USDA

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was created, 90% of the American people were farmers. At least 1 in 7 farmers was African American. The Federal Farm Loan Act became law on July 17, 1916, seeking to respond to the inadequacy of credit at reasonable rates for farmers. However, the money was dispensed by local county committees composed of white landowners.

As a result, by 1982 only 1 in 67 farmers was African American. According to numerous reports dating back to 1965, the root of the problems faced by Black farmers is found in the discriminatory practices of the USDA and its agents. Since the establishment of the Federal Farm Loan Act, the number of farms operated by African Americans has decreased by 99.9%!

Instead of looking to offer reparations, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, the USDA, and the Department of Justice played legal and political games with Black farmers, further undermining their dignity and self-respect. The Pigford v. Glickman Consent Decree has failed miserably and the struggle for survival has become more crucial. As of November 7, 2001 almost 40% of the Track A claims have been denied.

Our objectives for this year’s Summit are to:

· Stop and reverse African American agricultural land loss

· Increase the number of Black farm families in operation

· Assist more petitioners in the appeal process under the Consent Decree

· Increase awareness of the reparations issue

· Develop an inventory of what farm families produce

· Create a directory of all Black landowners in both rural and urban areas

· Influence or otherwise impact agriculture education at the secondary and collegiate levels

· Help farmers diversify for success

· Begin the healing of family and children

For more information call Gary Grant at (252) 826-2800.

Back to Main News Page

================================================================

Black-owned luxury resort to be built in Miami

CARA BUCKLEY
cbuckley@herald.com

January 16, 2002


Five years after netting the deal, eight years after the 1,000-day black
tourist boycott of Miami was lifted, R. Donahue Peebles has finally
made good on his promise to build a black-owned hotel in Miami Beach.
``The opening of our hotel allows Miami-Dade to say to the
African-American community, locally and nationally,
that a promise was made and a promise is being kept,'' said Peebles,
41,president of Peebles Atlantic Development Corp. and majority owner of
the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza. The hotel, scheduled to open early next month,
will be the country's first black-owned luxury resort, a lure that already
has snared the NAACP's 2003 conference.``African-American groups will look
for that kind of property,'' said Bill Talbert, president of the Greater
Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. ``We have it. Nobody else has
it. ''Still, Peebles has a challenging task ahead of him. Tourism is in the
doldrums, and opening any hotel right now is tough. And Peebles, a seasoned
real-estate developer, has seen his ambitious foray into building hotels founder
in all but two cases.But despite mixed success, Peebles, his voice booming,
swagger intact, insists that the Royal Palm will be a winner.``This hotel is a
cornerstone and a foundation,'' he said. ``It's a great statement and
great accomplishment. There should be more hotels like mine.''

AN ART DECO COMBO Gleaming in fresh coats of white and buttercup yellow paint, with
chunky Art Deco nuances poking out here and there, the Royal Palm blends
seamlessly into the Beach's parade of refurbished hotels. Made up of two Art Deco
hotels, the old Royal Palm and the Shorecrest, the new 422-room Royal Palm sprawls
between the beachfront and Collins Avenue just north of 15th Street,
yet another hotel in SoBe's hotel row.

But deeper currents make this hotel one of a kind. The hotel's construction was pivotal in a 20-point plan, drafted and agreed upon by activists, city officials and lodging executives, that
ended the black tourist boycott of Miami in 1993.The protest was triggered
by city officials' decision to not meet with visiting South African leader
Nelson Mandela in 1990. Cuban-American leaders were angered by Mandela's
support of Fidel Castro, and Jewish leaders were upset by his support of Yasser
Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

BOYCOTT COSTLY The boycott badly tarnished Miami's reputation and cost the county an estimated $20 million to $50 million in lost convention business and tourist dollars.But the
boycott also yielded good. One example was the creation of the Visitor
Industry Council, whose purpose is to expand African-American participation in
the county's tourism industry through mentorship programs and
scholarships. Another was the Royal Palm, the initiative's crown jewel.

``This was the prize,'' said Stu Blumberg, president of the Greater Miami & the
Beaches Hotel Association. ``It was the last one to be finished, but it was
the first one on the list.''

LOAN FROM CITY The city of Miami Beach provided a $10
million loan to build the hotel, an amount Peebles said was gobbled up
by unforeseen budget increases. He has 25 years to pay it back, on top of
$490,000 in annual rent, plus 20 percent of any gross over $17 million
each year for the next decade.

``When you look at the net impact,'' said
Peebles, ``the Royal Palm has not been subsidized by the city.''City of Miami
Beach officials said they fulfilled their side of the bargain, and said they
wish the hotel had opened sooner.``

It's been a construction site for much longer than anyone anticipated,'' City Manager Jorge Gonzalez said. ``He bought the property `as is.' If there were unforeseen conditions within that,
those become the responsibility of the buying party, Peebles.

''In 1998, Peebles boasted that he would build about 10,000 rooms in 20 hotels
coast-to-coast within five years. Two hotels resulted -- a Marriott Courtyard in
Washington, D.C., and now the Royal Palm -- but not the others, including a
calamitous convention-center hotel deal in Broward County and a hotel at the New
Orleans International Airport.

DEVELOPMENT FOCUS Peebles said his focus is back on
real-estate development, a business he was schooled in by his mother, Yvonne
Poole, whose real-estate appraisal company he joined in Washington, D.C.
Poole also introduced her son to a crucial ally, former Washington Mayor
Marion Barry, who appointed Peebles, then 23, to a powerful property
tax assessment board.

A skilled orator and dogged debater, Peebles went on to represent, successfully, commercial property owners, as well as himself. The call for a black-owned hotel drew him to Miami Beach. His successful bid on the high-profile project stimulated his appetite for the hotel
business.

FOCUS ON NORTHEAST The city required that a quarter of the hotel's
executives be African American, a figure that Peebles said he has surpassed. The
hotel will target groups and leisure travelers from the Northeast, according to
its manager, Jesse Stewart. Industry insiders say the hotel will easily
draw a good chunk of the African-American tourism market, worth $36 billion
last year.

``It's a good flag, a great address, an upscale brand that has a
loyal following certainly within the corporate market,'' said Scott Berman,
a hospitality analyst. ``But recession or no recession, the first year
of any hotel operation is the most difficult.''Unnerved by the economy's
straits, hotel lenders have gone into hiding, and financing has all but dried
up. According to Standard & Poor's Corp., delinquency rates on hotels'
mortgage payments doubled to 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. In
Florida, 13 percent of hotel loans with collateral were delinquent.

$50 MILLION DEBT Peebles said he'll be able to service the hotel's debt,
about $50 million of the total $84 million price tag, adding up to a
debt-to-cost ratio of about 60 percent.``That debt-to-cost ratio is good,'' said Chase
Burritt, an analyst with Ernst & Young. ``It means a hotel can withstand the
downturns like we're having now.
"

And Peebles' lenders said they are
resolute. ``Despite the negative impact that the terrorist attacks had on the lodging
industry, we feel that this property in particular has a very bright future
ahead of it,'' said Michael Leonard, senior vice president of real-estate
lending for Union Planters Bank. ``Our support for Don and the project is
unwavering.''

ROOMS AND CABANAS Peebles said he expects to gross $30 million the
first year, and said that despite the economic climate, average opening
rates for his rooms will approach $200 a night. Beachfront cabanas will fetch
the most, with rack rates ranging from $550 in the summer to $659 during the
peak season.

The Royal Palm has teamed up with the 800-room Loews to form a
1,222-room block that will go head-to-head with the 1,206-room
Fontainebleau Hilton for large meetings. Peebles said his hotel's and the Loews'
edge will be their location in the heart of South Beach, a two-block walk to the
million-square-foot Miami Beach Convention Center.

African Americans in the tourism industry said the hotel's history and luxury billing will
serve as a beacon. `The bottom line is it's breaking the barriers of an exclusive
club,'' said Andy Ingraham, president of Horizons Marketing Group and
head of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners and Developers. ``In
addition to being in a high-traffic area, it's one of the first joint ventures
between a major hotel company and an African-American company. It's a new
frontier.''


STATUS OF JOBS According to Ingraham, who tracks African American
employment in the hotel industry, black workers hold between 30 percent and 35
percent of hotel entry-level positions, but there are fewer than 60 black
executives in the nation's 30,000 full-service hotels. 

Fewer still are owners.
Just 36 of the nation's 80,000 limited- and full-service hotels are black-owned,
Ingraham found, along with about 40 smaller inns. ``For African
Americans, owning in the hotel industry has been an elusive dream,'' he said.
``The largest impediment has been access to capital. 

''Times are changing, slowly. Robert L. Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of Black
Entertainment Television, owns nine hotels within his RLJ Development group. Former
National Football League player Donnell Thompson's hospitality group owns six
hotels and is developing a seventh.But Peebles is the first African American
to build an $84 million hotel. And all eyes will be on him.``The proof will
be in the pudding whether he can deliver a quality product,'' said Gerry
Fernandez, president of the Providence, R.I.-based MultiCultural Foodservice
& Hospitality Alliance.``If he is successful, others will point and say, `I
can do that.' ''

Back to Main News Page

=================================================================

Press Release: January 18, 2002

Black Farmer Advocate to appear on "BET Tonight", Tuesday, January 22, 2002

(Please accept my apologies, but the program was not aired on Thursday, but I was informed that it will be aired on Tuesday, Jan 22, 2002 at 11:30 on BET.)

Peace, Doc

Farmer and Farm activist Tom Burrell and Rep. John Conyers are to appear on "BET Tonight" with Ed Gordon at 11:30 p.m. eastern time, 10:30 p.m. central. They will discuss the Black farmers’ loss of land and their lawsuit against the USDA as it relates to the issue of "Reparations".

"Leadership in the Black community is talking about receiving reparations based on something that happened over one hundred and fifty years ago where you have to prove your direct decent from a slave, and land is being taken from Black people by hook and crook as we speak. The government is taking land away from Black farmers now even after they had supposedly won a lawsuit to stop such foreclosures. How can we trust that same system to treat us fairly in a new reparations scheme?", asks Mr. Burrell.

Tom Burrell is the President of Southern Growers Inc. operating in Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. Mr. Burrell is also the President of the Tennessee Branch of the Black Farmers and Agriculturists Association (BFAA). BFAA in coordination with other farm advocacy groups are sponsoring the Fourth Black Land Loss Summit to be held from February 8-10, 2002 in Atlanta, Ga.

Back to Main News Page