Alabama New South Coalition holds Fall Convention

ANSC new state officers: L to R: Debra Foster, President, Everett Wess, First Vice President, Sharon Wheeler, Treasurer and Patricia Lewis Corresponding Secretary
ANSC Healthcare Panel: Rep. Merika Coleman speaking, Norma Jackson, Sen Malika Sanders Fortier and John Zippert ANSC past president.

On Saturday, November 2, Alabama New South Coalition held its Fall Convention at the RSA Activity Center on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery.
More than 200 delegates from around the state attended this 34th. annual convention of the predominately Black and progressive political and social change organization. The theme of the ANSC Fall Convention was “ Lifting our Values, our Voices and our Votes”.
The convention had three workshops on important voting issues; two mayors – Mayor Gary Richardson of Midfield and newly elected Mayor Tim Ragland of Talladega – addressed the luncheon. U. S. Senator Doug Jones also addressed the group about his service in Washington D. C. and plans for the upcoming 2020 election.
The members of ANSC approved a report from their Nominating Committee for new state officers for a two-year term beginning at the end of the Convention. Debra Foster of Calhoun County was elected President, Everett Wess of Jefferson County elected First Vice President, Ivan Peebles, Greene County, Second Vice-President (youth), Sharon Wheeler, Montgomery, Treasurer, Matilda Hamilton of Tallapoosa County for Recording Secretary and Patricia Lewis of Mobile for Corresponding Secretary.
The Healthcare Workshop heard from Rep. Merika Coleman of Jefferson County, Senator Malika Sanders Fortier of Dallas County and Norma Jackson of Macon County.
Rep. Coleman said, “Working people in Alabama deserve healthcare that is why we have been working to expand Medicaid for those whose income is up to 138% of the poverty level. This impacts over 300,000 people from all parts of Alabama. Governor Ivey promised that after we passed an increase in the gas tax that she and the Republican leadership in the Legislature would revisit the issue of Medicaid Expansion but they have not followed through. This is because they know it would involve an increase in the budget, which would have to be paid for with increase in taxes or some other changes.”
Senator Fortier, said, “Without Medicaid Expansion, 340,000 people in Alabama face terror in securing health care. They are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy. Our state is 5th worse in the nation, in our rate of infant mortality which is preventable with expanded healthcare coverage.” Fortier says she has been working with other Senators of both parties to find a solution to expand Medicaid. “ We need $158 million for year one and $30 million each year thereafter to fund Medicaid expansion in the state of Alabama. The Federal government provides 90% of the cost, under the Affordable Care Act and the state must match with 10%. We can find this money to cover 340,000 working adults, provide 30,000 new jobs in the healthcare field, keep hospitals, especially rural hospitals open, and improve the general health and wellbeing of our people in Alabama.”
Norma Jackson, Chair of the Macon County ANSC Chapter said, “We have a sickness-care system in Alabama not a health care system. We need to do more to take care of our own health alongside doctors, hospitals and others.” She suggested five steps: “eat fresh foods, drink clean water, breath fresh air, do exhilarating exercise and have rejuvenating rest for better healthcare that we can take responsibility for ourselves.”
The panel on Criminal Justice and Economic Development featured three speakers including Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa, County Commissioner Sheila Tyson of Jefferson County and Robert Avery of Gadsden.
Rep. England said, “Conditions in Alabama’s prison system are so overcrowded and bad that inmates are condemned to cruel and unusual punishment worse than the death penalty.” He said, “ The solutions lie in reducing the use of the system as a debtors prison, for those who cannot pay fines; more restorative justice, where prisoners are taught a skill in prison that they can use to make a living when they come out of prison, pay correction officers a fair wage, to attract better people and building more prisons to replace existing out of date and overcrowded prisons.”
Commissioner Tyson spoke to removing barriers to people to get workforce training and jobs with new industries. She said that she worked to change bus routes to go in low-income neighborhoods to increase participation by poor people in workforce training for new jobs coming into her district.
The third panel on Voting Rights was moderated by Faya Rose Toure and included: Robert Turner of Bullock County who stressed that a voteless people are a helpless people; Sam Walker of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma; Senator Bobby Singleton, who spoke to the issue that half of the registered Black voters in Alabama, do not turnout to vote; and Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, who spoke on his efforts to encourage people in jails, prior to trial and conviction, who are eligible to vote, to vote absentee and helping to restore the voting rights of previously incarcerated felons, under Alabama’s new Moral Turpitude Law.

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