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May 7, 2014  

Under house arrest until a hearing May 16 on voter-fraud charges, the Rev. Edward Pinkney maintains a surprisingly upbeat demeanor, calling it “just the latest effort to beat us down in the battle we’ve been waging here.”

“Here” is Benton Harbor, Mich., an almost all-black town that has seen its population plummet from 45,000 to about 10,000 residents, 70 percent of them unemployed and 90 percent at or below the U.S. poverty level. But it is a “beachtown,” on the shores of Lake Michigan, and major corporations have their eyes on its real estate.

Whirlpool Corp. wants it all, Pinkney says, and it’s been very aggressive in getting its way—including co-opting local political leadership and paying off civil-rights organizations like the NAACP. His house arrest, he says, stems from his leadership of a campaign to recall the mayor, who he calls a “stooge of the corporations.”

The pastor of the nondenominational God’s House of Faith, discusses his abiding faith in the power of grassroots people to create change, even when the odds appear to be against them. They must be prepared—as he is, he says—to deal with “corruption and co-optation of their own.” 

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