A coalition of Black and Brown women across the country, created by Minnesota’s Black-led Wayfinder Foundation, are demanding accountability for the Brett Favre Mississippi welfare fraud scandal. The women launched a national change.org petition on Sept. 27 calling for Favre to be held responsible for the $8 million in public funds he diverted from social welfare recipients to his personal and business projects.
Instead of supporting the ending of the ongoing Jackson, Mississippi water crisis and helping families in poverty, the State of Mississippi instead chose to fill the former Vikings/Packers quarterback’s bank account.
The petition serves as an open letter to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. Activist Diana Freelon Foster called it “a call to action for all anti-poverty, anti-racist, liberal and religious organizations across the state of Mississippi and nation to band together.”
The MSR asked activist, lawyer, and Wayfinder Foundation Executive Director Nekima Levy-Armstrong about the coalition’s origins. “Our coalition came together by connecting with the women who are from the Delta Region of Mississippi,” said Levy-Armstrong. “They had previously brought forward their concerns about the Jackson water crisis, and we stayed in contact.
“As more and more information came out about the egregious actions of Brett Favre and what appears to be a cover-up, we became more and more incensed and frustrated. He is seemingly getting away with this.
“Low-income Black women, particularly working-class single Black moms, are the ones who rely upon these resources, but also are stereotyped as ‘welfare queens’,” continued Levy Armstrong. “So here you have a famous White man who was at the top of his game, financially and athletically, being allowed to steal from the poorest of the poor. And he is still being treated like a media darling in the midst of a crisis is such an egregious scandal.”
The coalition of Black and Brown women decided that Favre and his White male privilege would not go unchecked when it came to state resources. But he is not the only person they are demanding accountability from.
“[Favre’s] male privilege and celebrity status gave him access to the [Mississippi] governor and other high-ranking officials who orchestrated this… We want everyone involved in the scandal to be held accountable for what they did, and we also want corporations that are doing business with Brett Favre to withdraw from those business relationships.”
For Levy-Armstrong and the coalition, the unjust dispersal of funds to Favre comes in contrast to the lack of funds to impoverished families, exemplifying the complicity of government officials in perpetuating the country’s existing wealth gap.
“[Favre claims] he wanted this money for his daughter’s sports program, when you actually have people who are one meal away, you know, from not being able to live. Not to mention, in Jackson, where people don’t have clean water to drink, brush their teeth, or shower,” said Levy-Armstrong.
The coalition is still waiting on real solutions, not only for the blatant fiscal negligence in Mississippi, but most importantly, to the ongoing water crisis.
Levy-Armstrong relayed what the coalition members are seeing from Mississippi leadership. “We’re still waiting to see some concrete plans. What we see right now is a lot of finger-pointing. The governor is not approaching this with a sense of urgency and is really trying to blame the residents of Jackson for this situation that was far beyond their control and years in the making.”
We have progressed as a society due to the work and coalition building orchestrated by Black women. Now a new coalition nationally is being formed to address the issues and needs of Black and Brown families in Mississippi. These women stand on the shoulders of those like Fannie Lou Hamer, to continue the legacy of demanding Mississippi leadership fulfill their responsibility to poor and working-class families in the state.
Angela Rose Myers is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.