At the Greene County Board of Education’s virtual meeting on February 22, 2021, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones informed the board that he has created a School Reopening Committee to explore the conditions that will be favorable for face-to face instruction again. Jones stated that there will be no recommendation to the board to reopen schools until all employees have had the opportunity for vaccinations; the county’s COVID positivity rate has declined to a safer rate; a determination is made on the number of students to bring back at a time; and a summer school plan is explored to assist students to remain on grade level. Superintendent Jones noted that the committee will contact surrounding school districts that are currently providing face-to-face instruction, and what safety protocols are in place – what has worked well for them. “The committee will use this information to strengthen our re-opening plan, ” he said. According to the superintendent, the school facilities are already equipped with plexiglass dividers and hand sanitizers in all classrooms; foggers and other cleaning methods are employed on a regular basis, as well as a process to increase air flow throughout the building. Board member Veronica Richardson raised the question on a timeline for students receiving COVID vaccines. Dr. Jones agreed to seek information regarding state plans for student vaccinations. Jones noted that on Saturday, Feb. 20, over 200 citizens were vaccinated at the Greene County Health Department in Eutaw. The next scheduled dates for vaccinations are February 24 and March 3. He said that Greene County had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 11.4% for the previous 14 days. “This is a good sign, if we can just continue on this path,” he stated. The CSFO Ms. Lavanda Blair presented the snapshot financial report for December. She noted that the system is financially strong, even with the current decrease in property and sales taxes. She provided clarity on the budget adjustments involving carryover funds to the current fiscal year. The board approved the following recommendations presented by the superintendent. Personnel: Arnthena Hill, Special Education Consultant, for the remainder of the school year.* Administrative Services: January 2021 Budget Amendment; Payment of all bills, claims and payroll.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Mary Wilson was a friend to the Black Press of America, a neighbor to the world, and the radiance she exuded never seem to fade. At 76, the Supremes legend is gone too soon. Wilson died suddenly late Monday, Feb. 8, at her home just outside of Las Vegas. “I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes,” Motown founder Berry Gordy wrote in a statement emailed to NNPA Newswire. Gordy emphasized, “The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown.’ Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of number one hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others.” “I was always proud of Mary,” Berry Gordy concluded. “She was quite a star in her own right and continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes over the years. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva, and will be deeply missed.” Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, affirmed, “On behalf of NNPA Chair Karen Cater Richards and all of the 230 African American NNPA member publishers across the United States and the Caribbean, we pause solemnly today to pay tribute and our profound respects to the living memory, legacy and cultural genius of our beloved Mary Wilson. She loved and supported the Black Press of America, and we will always love and keep Mary Wilson’s transformative spirit in our hearts as the NNPA continues to publish truth to power in America and throughout the world.” In a 2020 interview on the Black Press of America’s “Fiyah!” livestream program, Wilson talked about her life and career and her long pursuit of having Florence Ballard memorialized with a United States Postal Service stamp.“People forget that Florence Ballard not only gave us our name, but she formed the group,” Wilson revealed on “Fiyah!”
“It was really Flo who formed us, and I want people to know that. I am putting together a program to get Florence Ballard a U.S. stamp, hopefully, so I want people to send their request and say something about Florence. All those hits were Florence, so when you listening to [The Supremes], it’s about Flo, so I want people who listen to those songs that bring back memories, think about Flo.” A singer, best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, mother, and grandmother, the legendary Mary Wilson made great strides on her inevitable journey to greatness. As an original/founding member of The Supremes, she changed the face of popular music to become a trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers, which all started with the wild success of their first number one song. Formed in Detroit as The Primettes in 1959, The Supremes were Motown’s most successful act of the 1960s, scoring 12 No. 1 singles. They also continue to reign as America’s most successful vocal group to date. Their influence not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul, and pop, but they also helped pave the way for Black artists’ mainstream success across all genres. Mary achieved an unprecedented 12 No.1 hits, with 5 of them being consecutive from 1964-1965. Those songs are “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again,” according to Billboard Magazine. In 2018, Billboard celebrated the 60th anniversary of Motown with a list of “The Hot 100’s Top Artists of All Time”, where The Supremes ranked at No. 16 and remain the No. 1 female recording group of all time. Jan. 21, 2021, marked the 60th anniversary of the day The Supremes signed with Motown in 1961. This year, Mary kicked off the celebration of the 60th anniversary of The Supremes. “With the same passion as she did singing with the original Supremes as well as with her solo career, the world-renowned performer was an advocate for social and economic challenges in the United States and abroad,” Wilson’s longtime publicist and friend, Jay Schwartz, said. “Ms. Wilson used her fame and flair to promote a diversity of humanitarian efforts, including ending hunger, raising HIV/AIDS awareness, and encouraging world peace. Mary was working on getting a U.S. postage stamp of her fellow bandmate and original Supreme Florence Ballard who passed away in 1976,” Schwartz said. In 2018, Mary’s longtime fight for the passage of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) came to fruition when it was signed into law on Oct. 11. The law modernized copyright-related issues for new music and audio recordings due to new forms of technology like digital streaming, which did not protect music recorded before Feb. 15, 1972, according to Schwartz. Her tireless advocacy for this legislation included trips to Washington D.C. to personally meet with Congress members to advocate for legacy artists gaining fair compensation when their songs are played on digital radio stations, Schwartz continued. “I think that The Supremes had a lot to do with the awakening of the world in terms of what blackness was,” Wilson said in her 2020 NNPA interview. “The whole world was watching Black people in a way they’d never seen.”
Mrs. Edna Chambers was the first Black Woman elected to the Greene County Commission
It’s that time of year when we go all out to publicly acknowledge who are are, from whence we’ve come and what we have accomplished as Black people. It is also at this time that we profoundly exclaim that truly learning and spreading our history and living ought to be done at least every month of the year, not just in February. Stories we don’t share with our children today will be lost. Our role is to share our stories, teach their significance and assist the children with the application to their lives. Since chattel slavery was abolished, except through imprisonment, the vote of Black folk has been the power to our voice. Black folk fought for the vote, we fought to use it, and we continue to fight to keep it and make it permanent. During Reconstruction in this country, the power of our vote produced Black state and national political leaders. Scholars have identified more than 1,500 African American officeholders who served during the Reconstruction Era (1865–1877). From 1868 to 1878 more than 100 African Americans served in the Alabama Legislature. Beginning in 1966, Greene County Alabama raised its voice and elected the first Black person to the Greene County Board of Education, Rev. Peter J. Kirksey; and the first Black person to the Greene County Democratic Executive Committee, Rev. W.D. Lewis. From then on, With 80% of the population, Black folk in Greene County focused on organizing and registering people to vote. With the assistance of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student National Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and amidst physical brutality and displacements from local white officials and citizenry, the raised voices of Blacks in Greene County in 1969, under the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA), elected the first Black County Commissioners: Rev. Vassie Knott, Mr. Harry Means, Mr. Franchie Burton, and Mr. Levi Morrow, Sr. That same year, Mr. James Posey and Mr. Robert Hines were elected to the Greene County Board of Education. The vote continued to power our voices in Greene County and in 1970, Rev. William M. Branch was elected the first Black Probate Judge in Greene County and in the nation. Rev. Thomas Gilmore was elected the first Black Sheriff; Mrs. Wadine Williams was elected the first Black Circuit Clerk. Robert Cook was elected the first Black Tax Collector. Rev. Harold Abner Milton was elected first Black Coroner in Greene County. Deacon John Head and Mr. Earsrie Chambers were elected to the Greene County Board of Education and Dr. Robert Brown was appointed the first Black Superintendent of Greene County Schools. In 1978, Rev. John Kennard was elected the first Black Tax Assessor in Greene County. Ms. Amanda Burton was appointed the first Black Woman on the Greene County Commission, to complete the term of her husband, Franchie Burton, when he passed. Mrs. Edna Chambers was the first Black Woman elected to the Greene County Commission. Mrs. Lula Cook was the first Black Woman appointed to the office of Tax Collector, when her husband, Robert Cook, passed. She was subsequently elected to that office.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Right-wing group attacks Capitol on Jan. 6 ( Photo by Hamil/Trice Edney Communications) and Insurrectionists carry Confederate flag in Capitol attack
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – A futuristic video circulating on social media early this week features the voice of President Donald Trump calling for a “Day of Reawakening” on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021. The three-minute video, which features images of people dressed in Trump t-shirts, hats and other paraphernalia concludes with the apparent voice of Donald Trump encouraging them to not be afraid and saying that “God will protect you.” This kind of rhetoric has heated up since the Jan. 6 violent insurrection in which thousands of vastly White Trump supporters showed up at the U. S. Capitol where thousands rioted, vandalized and assaulted police officers. Five people died as a result of the riot; including a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, who died from injuries he received while fighting off insurgents. Another officer, Howard Liebengood, died by suicide three days after the riot. Widespread reports, including from NBC and CNN, say the FBI has warned of more likely terrorist attacks, insurrections and riots leading up to the presidential inauguration and on that day, Jan. 20. These riots are being planned for all 50 capital cities as well as the U. S. Capitol. President Biden says he will still hold the inauguration outside of the Capital despite continued threats. A possible 15,000 National Guard troops are expected to guard the Capitol during the ceremony. People are being encouraged to watch the swearing in on television. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats and some Republicans are moving ahead with the impeachment of Trump for the charge, “Incitement of insurrection” for his verbal encouragement that resulted in the rioters storming the Capitol. He would be the first U. S. president to be impeached twice. Trump has repeatedly told his supporters the lie that his election “was stolen” from them. Members of Congress may also face punishment for their words that day, namely Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who doubled down on Trumps lie, claiming the election was stolen and led the vote against the certification of the Biden-Harris election. Some members of Congress insist that to also have been insurrection, which the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, Section 3, cites as a reason for expulsion from the seats they hold. The Fourteenth Amendment states: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.” The “Day of Reawakening” video went dead shortly after the social media website, Parler, was taken offline on Monday. Twitter and Facebook also shut down President Donald Trump’s accounts, blocking tens of millions of his followers. But tech experts believe these actions will simply drive Trump supporters and possible rioters to other more obscure platforms where law enforcement investigators can not easily track and monitor their organizational activities. A string of arrests has taken place since Monday, mainly of people involved in the Capitol break in and the threats on the lives of members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who they threatened to shoot, and also threats against the life of Vice President Mike Pence, who they threatened to hang for certifying the Electoral College confirmation of the Biden-Harris election. At least two Capitol police officers have been suspended and about 10 others are under investigation for their apparent involvement in the insurrection. Black leaders around the country, are calling for Trump’s immediate removal. They are also raising questions about why the Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies were not better prepared and more aggressive against the perpetrators as they have been against Black Lives Matter protestors. “What we are witnessing at this moment is the manifestation and culmination of reckless leadership, a pervasive misuse of power, and anarchy. This is not protesting or activism; this is an insurrection, an assault on our democracy, and a coup incited by President Trump,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson during the insurrection Jan. 6. “We must not allow President Trump to continue to place our nation in peril. The NAACP calls for President Trump’s impeachment so that he will never again be able to harm our beloved country, and more importantly, its people.”
Katrina survivor and activist Barbara Robbins and her 95-year-old mother are forced from their home of 52 years, because they never received rebuilding assistance!
News Analysis By: Zack Carter Preparing for the 10th Anniversary of Katrina the Poor People’s Campaign held a Truth Commission in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The organizer’s report cites the community’s action items, and the testimony of Barbara Robbins, with whom I had the privilege of working with for ten years, fighting for a just recovery after Katrina: “From the testimonies of these community leaders, the Saving OurSelves Coalition identified the following issues for action: • “Recover and repair the homes of Snows Quarters: Alabama Fisheries Coop leader Barbara Robbins was forced out of Safe Harbor after she became disabled. ‘We [in Snows Quarter, the African American community of Bayou La Batre]…Out of some 100 homes, only four of us received meaningful assistance. Since Katrina many of our homes flood after a hard rain and we can’t even flush the toilet. My living room floor is rotting. I am afraid my 90-year-old mother will fall through any day…”. (“A Truth Commission Begins in Bayou La Batre, Alabama”, by John Wessel-McCoy, Nov. 7, 2014/Kairos). https://kairoscenter.org/truth-commission-bayou-la-batre-alabama/
The Truth Commission also referenced a 10-page report submitted to the United Nations, five years after Katrina, authored by Louisiana and Mississippi activists which concluded on pp. 7-8:
‘The hurricane damaged communities in Alabama are the most overlooked areas by the U.S. Government, and are not mentioned in the U.S. Government’s reports to the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination regarding Hurricane Katrina” (Prepared by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (Louisiana, USA),and The Gulf States Human Rights Working Group (Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana) https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/gulf-coast-activists-report-the-un-human-rights-committee/
Barbara Robbins was one of the thousands overlooked, but she refused to give up on getting their home repaired. With years of savings from her meager wages as a seafood worker and with a lot of borrower’s debt, Barbara hired a contractor to repair the floors. But it was a scam, like that suffered by thousands of other Katrina survivors. A photo shows the problem of the floors separating from the walls, which forced their recent departure from where they lived since 1968. Barbara Robbins, now disabled, cares full-time for her mother in a small low-income housing apartment.
Floors separating from walls in Barbara Robbins home, photo by Barbara Robbins 8/29/20
On the 15th Anniversary of Katrina, Aug 29, 2020, Barbara told me their heartbreaking story:
“When I take Mother out, the only place she wants to go, and the only safe place where we can avoid the virus, is the driveway of our home in Snows Quarter. This is where she and my father raised six children in the 1960’s and 70’s. Mother wants to go into our house, but I have to remind her it is not safe anymore. So, we just sit there in the car and reminisce for an hour or so until she finally says, ‘Okay, I’m ready to go now.’” After an emotional pause in our interview Barbara continued: “Recently the bank approved me for a trailer to put next to our home that I still hope to rebuild. I was about to rush to our apartment and give Mother the great news, but I was then told the City of Bayou La Batre will not allow trailers, even on the property we have owned for 52 years!” “We never received any Katrina rebuilding assistance, like most of us in our Black Community. And that goes all the way back to our homeowners insurance agent who refused our claim, saying we were only covered for wind damage and not water damage even though Katrina’s 130 mph winds pushed the huge surge of water through our house, and on its return to the Gulf the surge sucked all our furniture out except the large freezer that jammed in the doorway.” The powers that be in our state tried to deflect Alabama Katrina survivors’ demands for justice with the coded racist-based lie that ‘all the aid is going to New Orleans.’ Then, less than two years after Katrina, an Alabama investigative reporter revealed: (”Katrina aid goes to condo buyers near the University of Alabama’s football stadium”, by Jay Reeves, AP, August 14, 2007, Tuscaloosa News,) https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/DA/20070814/News/606118146/TL
The previous month the same newspaper published my Op-ed based on testimony and data provided by neglected Katrina survivors collected by Mobile County, and supported by a strong legal opinion from a national Civil Rights organization: “……more than 2,000 Katrina survivors in Alabama still stuck in FEMA campers, and hundreds more doubled up in single-family homes, desperately waiting for Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds — allocated last summer — to be released. “ The state’s failure to provide for these citizens contradicts the federal funding program’s intent to assist low- to moderate-income people and violates Alabama’s own stated objective to address unmet needs,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C. (“MY TURN” by Zack Carter, Tuscaloosa News, July 15,2007) . https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/DA/20070715/News/606117785/TL We had also received a legal boost from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law who, on June 6, 2007 wrote a 4.5-page letter and shared their logo with three Alabama groups, and co-signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals. https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/lawyers-committee-on-civil-rights-under-law-al-activists-letter-to-state-of-al/
Thus, our coalition countered the racist propaganda and policies by uniting with Civil Rights organizations and historic African American communities in north Mobile hard-hit by Katrina, as well as Katrina survivors in Louisiana and Mississippi. See for example one of our brochures that includes several pages of riveting photos of destruction, and survivors testimonies, from north Mobile along a 30 mile stretch to the “Bayou” : (“Tour of Mobile County Katrina Survivors”. https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/flyer-for-tour-of-mobile-county-victims/
On the 2nd Anniversary of Katrina, Barbara Robbins, along with several carloads of Alabama Katrina survivors, Blacks, Asians, and Whites, attended the August 28, 2007 GULF COAST REBUILDING PROGRAM at the HBCU Dillard University in New Orleans. A featured speaker was Representative Maxine Waters. In the first two minutes of the CSPAN user video clip cited below, Representative Waters commended a Mississippi panelist for documenting unjust homeowner’s insurance companies’ schemes. She received a loud ovation after strongly stating: “it will take a revolution” to end these monopolized insurance companies’ corrupt refusal to pay claims (such as that suffered by Barbra Robbins!). Just after Rep Waters thunder, Derrick Johnson (now president of the NAACP) introduced me and the inhuman treatment of people in our state: “Zack Carter, Alabama has been largely ignored as it relates to Katrina damage you all suffered. What do you see the federal government’s response should be?”.https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4901931/user-clip-rep-maxine-waters-zack-carter My response was based on the, detailed evidence Alabama Katrina survivors had initiated, and then collected from licensed housing inspectors and summarized in a letter a Mobile County Commissioner, co-signed with us activists on July 7, 2007– documenting that there was only enough federal funds to repair or rebuild 15 – 20% of 1200 CDBG applicants who were accepted; and thousands more who missed the unjust two week, and barely publicized, deadline. (Mobile County and AL activists letter to Sen Shelby documenting Katrina damage) https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/mobile-county-and-al-activists-letter-to-sen-shelby-documenting-katrina-damage/ Barbara Robbins helped lead a Multi-Racial Coalition of Alabama Katrina Survivors
On the 4th Anniversary of Katrina Celebrating a Victory: Barbara and Gertrude Robbins are pictured with several other activists in an article on the award-winning blog Bridge the Gulf : “…in front of one of the 300-plus homes that were repaired or rebuilt in south Mobile County because of the grassroots advocacy and determined unity of all cultures, races, and creeds in The Bayou’ “.
Pictured left to right: Earl Presley; Stella Mae Smith; Paul Nelson, Zack Carter, Becky Barbour, Ernest Montgomery, Gertrude Robbins, Neece Presley, Donna Hunt, Danielle McKenzie, Phyllis Johnson, Barbara-Jean Robbins, Michael Robbins, Rosie Robbins. (Photo by Stefanie Bosarge, August 29, 2009)
“Struggle for a Home Struggle for a Home in Alabama’s Bayou”
The 15-minute video “Struggle for a Home Struggle for a Home in Alabama’s Bayou” documents how black, white, and Asian Alabama Katrina survivors joined in a decade-long active struggle for their human right to rebuild after Katrina. https://vimeo.com/55330965
Barbara Robbins is seen often in the video — including the above photo of the blistering speech she gave to the corrupt director at Bayou La Batre’s Safe Harbor in 2012, for rent gouging and evicting residents from this 100-home neighborhood built with $18 million from HUD and FEMA for homeless Katrina survivors. The “Safe Harbor” director’s response was to call the police on all of the Katrina survivors and activists gathered at this public meeting. Now in 2020, the same director and co-director recently resigned and are under investigation by the local sheriff’s office who told the press: ‘There is a substantial amount of money that comes in and not a dime has been used to improve or maintain the houses. there certainty appears to be a misappropriation of funds to put it nicely.’” (“Safe Harbor Landing raises concerns as MCSO launches investigation”, by Gaby Easterwood, WKRG, Sept. 20, 20.https://www.wkrg.com/local-news/safe-harbor-landing-raises-concerns-as-mcso-launches-investigation/ Ms. Robbins’s activism continues to this day, see the letter cited below to the present Mayor of Bayou La Batre from, Barbara Robbins, John Zippert, and me asking that he allow Ms. Robbins to place a trailer on her property as she continues to seek rebuilding assistance; and proposing a plan and for a housing cooperative that would restore the promise of affordable housing and rent-to-buy at “Safe Harbor”, dated Oct. 13, 2020. https://alafishcoop.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/letter-to-mayor-of-bayou-la-batre-from-barbara-robbins-john-zippert-and-zack-carter-oct-13-2020/
Barbara and Gertrude Robbins story is emblematic of the one million people who were displaced by the inhuman and racist policies that followed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which also and yet to be accurately calculated, greatly increased the initial death toll of some 2,000. And today, as we are hit with disasters from Coronavirus to Gulf Coast hurricanes Laura, Sally, Beta, and Delta to forest fires in California and Colorado, our human rights are increasingly trampled under Trump and the extreme racist influence of his senior advisor Steven Miller. By April of this year Trump and Miller had already cut FEMA’s budget in half — our country’s main relief agency – as they increased funding for their southern border wall and war on immigrants and their children, even separating nursing babies from their mothers! See: “FEMA Joined Coronavirus Fight with Posts Unfilled and Parent Agency Shifting Funds to Immigration” (Wall Street Journal, April 2020); see also “In the Midst of a War on the Coronavirus, Trump and Stephen Miller Redirect Funding to Their War on Immigrants”. (yuba.net, April 20, 2020) Trump and Miller are determined that survivors and victims of recent Gulf Coast Hurricanes will not be able to return to their homes in the same way that Hurricane Katrina survivors in Bayou La Batre and other Gulf Coast towns have not been able to return after a decade and a half. Many properties of Katrina survivors ended up in the hands of wealthy developers and casinos, a phenomenon documented in Naomi Klein’s 2007 book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”. Indeed, at the end of my interview with Barbara Robbins she told me a developer shamelessly offered a paltry amount for their property. Barbara rejected him and said: “I would rather see my home remain in ruins commemorating unjust Katrina policy”. ACTION ALERT: Please call Bayou La Batre Mayor Terry Dowdy at 251 824 2171 and ask that he allow Barbara Robbins to place a trailer on their property so she and 95-year-old Gertrude Robbins can return to the home she bought and loves.
About the author: Zack Carter is a community organizer who helped bring national attention to unjust Katrina and BP recovery policies. He was trade union activist in Mobile during the 1980’s and advocated for Labor to speak out against the Klan lynching of Michael Donald. He currently serves on the Steering Committee of the SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – A month after the 2020 presidential election, President-elect Joe Biden has begun to announce some of his appointments for potential cabinet and transition team positions. However, his early selections to the Biden team have prompted some criticism. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is often credited with reviving Biden’s candidacy after endorsing him in the Democratic primary in South Carolina, is among the most notable to express concerns about Biden’s initial appointments. “I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces,” Clyburn told Juan Williams, a columnist for The Hill newspaper, in regard to the lack of diversity in his selections currently. “But so far it’s not good.” These expressions from Clyburn and others, like NAACP President Derrick Johnson, indicated widespread concern in the civil rights community. Johnson had said on CNN that he was confused as to why Biden “has failed to confirm a meeting with the civil rights groups nearly a month after Election Day”. Due to the criticism about his current team picks, Johnson and representatives of a string of other civil rights groups met with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Tuesday, Dec. 8. On the day before that meeting took place, the Biden administration announced that he has selecretired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to be his secretary of defense. If confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black man to become secretary of defense. His other picks of African-Americans include Rep. Marcia Fudge as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Linda Thomas-Greenfield, ambassador to the United Nations, and Cecilia Rouse as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. But civil rights leaders, apparently pushing for secretary and director level positions, say Biden’s initial appointments and nominations are not enough. They push for appointments to additional key positions such as attorney general. Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, said a Black attorney general is one of his requests given the effort by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr to gut voting protections and Civil Rights. This has also been an explosive year for national protests against police shootings of Black people. “We need him to have an Attorney General that will immediately restore those consent decrees and immediately deal with the Voting Rights Act,” Sharpton said in a press briefing by the civil rights leaders following the meeting with Biden and Harris. “You can’t mourn John Lewis on one hand and not move to protect what he was fighting for and what he shed blood for on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.” An official with the Biden-Harris transition, speaking to The Hill, defended the team’s push for diversity, noting that 46 percent of all campaign staff were people of color and 52 percent were women. As well, Biden’s team noted that he is still in the early stages of appointments, having only named fewer than a quarter of the federal positions he plans to highlight. Both Biden and Harris told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a televised interview that they are simply “not finished yet” as Biden repeated his promise to appoint an administration with record level diversity that “looks like America.” After spending nearly two hours with Biden and Harris, the civil rights leaders said in a virtual press briefing that a new day is breaking in terms of African-Americans being in the White House after four hard years of Donald Trump. But they are taking a wait and see attitude. “Today the seven of us spent approximately one hour and 45 minutes with President-elect Biden, Vice-President-Elect Harris and Assistant to the President Cedric Richmond, discussing a range of very important issues relative to the transition of the future Biden administration and the challenges that this nation faces,” said Marc Morial, president/CEO of the National Urban League, who led the briefing after the meeting. “We talked extensively about the need for there to be a diverse cabinet, subcabinet and Presidential appointments,” Morial said. “The president-elect said that he intends to make history when it comes to the appointment of African-Americans and Hispanics to his cabinet and his subcabinet…and while we will not judge the ultimate outcome, to me it was refreshing to hear.” NAACP President Derrick Johnson; Sharpton; Sherrilyn Ifill president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; and Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, were also at the meeting. “There has been diversity with President-elect Biden’s initial appointments but before Rep Marcia Fudge was appointed to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development today there had not been any woman of color appointed to a statuary cabinet post,” said Campbell, also convenor of the Black Women’s Roundtable. Campbell added that one of her top concerns is how people of color are being treated in the Covid-19 Pandemic. “They need to look at the issue of implicit bias in terms of how they are screening people during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Campbell said. “I shared my own story with the President-Elect Biden of being a Covid-19 survivor and how after sent home with Tylenol only to be back in the hospital the next day in ICU.” Johnson said, “I am encouraged that this will be an ongoing dialogue and that racial equity will be a priority. We dedicated people who report directly to the President just like in cooperate America…It is important for our democracy to work for everyone and not just certain people.” Ifill said that she emphasized to the President-Elect about having a “Civil Rights agenda,” that would focus on voting and policing and I also raised the issue of what is happening in our prisons today in terms of COVID. We need a strong Attorney General who has a demonstrated record of criminal justice reform as well as Civil Rights.” In terms of the federal bench, not just at the Supreme Court, “but to think that the reforms that are needed through-out the federal judicial system. I think the President-Elect and the Vice-President-Elect clearly listened,” Ifill said. Clarke concluded, “Under the Trump administration Black people have been silenced, marginalized and ignored. This meeting was intended to make clear that racial justice must be at the center of the Biden-Harris administration’s approach to confronting the profound problems that we face in the nation. This meeting was intended to ensure that Black people will be listened to and this administration will respect our dignity and humanity.”
New York City lost a political giant as its first Black mayor, David Dinkins, has died, the New York Times reports. Dinkins, 93, died at his home on Monday night in the Upper East Side in the city where he served as its 106th mayor for one term from 1990 to 1993. A home health aide discovered Dinkins was not breathing and called 911, sources told the New York Post. Dinkins’s death comes just over a month after his wife, Joyce Dinkins, died at their home. She was 89. New York City elected Dinkins, a Democrat who unseated three-term Mayor Ed Koch, over Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani. Dinkins inherited a city with huge deficits and high levels of crime, and yet has been credited for improving housing in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx. Still, his mayoral career was marred by what many saw as an inability to grapple with rising racial tension in the city following the 1991 Crown Heights riots, which were sparked by acts of violence between Black and Jewish residents in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
Years after his tenure as the Big Apple’s leader, Dinkins became an elder statesman beloved by New Yorkers and fellow politicians. He also consulted for former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other former mayors, even those who sought to occupy the office. “I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mayor David Dinkins, and to the many New Yorkers who loved and supported him,” Giuliani wrote on Twitt“He gave a great deal of his life in service to our great City. That service is respected and honored by all.” Dinkins was a graduate of Howard University and Brooklyn Law School and was a member of the historically Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He leaves behind two children.
President-elect Joe Biden is already making good on his vow to have a presidential cabinet that “looks like America” by naming several people to key leadership positions within his upcoming administration. And while he’s being applauded for the racially diverse mix of choices, perhaps none was greeted as warmly as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who was tapped to be the ambassador to the United Nations. Biden’s announcement also made her the first Black person he selected to add to his cabinet. If her nomination is confirmed, Thomas-Greenfield would become just the second Black woman to ever be ambassador to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield was among five other people who Biden signaled would lead his foreign policy and national security team: Antony Blinken for the U.S. Department of State; Alejandro Mayorkas, a Latino, for the Department of Homeland Security; Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence; Jake Sullivan as National Security Adviser; and John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate, a new cabinet position. Thomas-Greenfield tweeted Monday that she was “privileged” and “blessed” to have been selected by Biden. “I’ve had the privilege to build relationships with leaders around the world for the past thirty-five years,” she tweeted. “As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I’ll work to restore America’s standing in the world and renew relationships with our allies. Blessed for this opportunity.” Her tweet garnered more than 9,000 likes within the first hour that it was posted. Thomas-Greenfield and the other people named Monday stand in stark contrast to the people Donald Trump nominated to lead his cabinet. She, like the others, has a wealth of experience in the fields of their respective departments. She is a career diplomat who has held comparably lofty posts in the U.S. government, including serving as ambassador to Liberia, as director-general of the Foreign Service and assistant secretary for African affairs. Much of her time in leadership positions in the State Department was during President Barack Obama‘s administration. Thomas-Greenfield was all but forced to retire in 2017 after Trump’s first Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began scaling back career diplomats at an alarming rate, firing most of the department’s senior African American diplomats in the process. At the time, Thomas-Greenfield said she felt targeted just because she had valuable experience as a member of the State Department. “I don’t feel targeted as an African American. I feel targeted as a professional,” Thomas-Greenfield said. There have already been four Black people to serve as ambassador to the United Nations. If Thomas-Greenfield is confirmed by a Republican-led Senate, she would become only the second Black woman to do so. Susan Rice, who is reportedly being considered by Biden to lead the State Department, served as the ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013 before she became the national security adviser from 2013-2017.
On Thursday, November 12th, the Greene County Commission held a special meeting to consider concerns with the operation and governance of the Greene County Ambulance Service. The meeting was called to respond to concerns raised by Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO of the Hospital, who was appointed to represent the Commission on the Board of Directors of the Ambulance Service. In an earlier Commission work session, Dr. Pugh voiced concerns over the fact that the Board of the Ambulance Service was not holding regular meetings, not having financial reports, and generally operating in an unaccountable manner. The Ambulance Service director moved its operational office from the Eutaw City Hall to the former Warrior Academy building without consultation and approval by the its Board of Directors. Members of the County Commission, including new Chair Roshonda Summerville, members Lester Brown and Corey Cockrell also said they were unaware that the Ambulance Service had moved from City Hall. Louis Jines, Chair of the Ambulance Board explained that the Board of Directors had not been meeting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Cockrel asked, “has the Board considered virtual meetings by phone or zoom”. Jines answered that the Internet service in his home area near Forkland was inadequate for virtual meetings. Walter Staples, a military veteran serving on the Ambulance Board said, “Since I have been on the Board our role was to maintain the vehicles and medical supplies. We don’t have enough money coming in to require a budget.” Dr. Pugh also indicated that the Ambulance Service had not picked up a patient recently from the Nursing Home who needed to be transported to Tuscaloosa for medical testing. Nick Wilson, Director of the Ambulance Service said he was overwhelmed with other cases that day and was not able to pick up the person because it was not an emergency call. Wilson also questioned whether it was appropriate to air these complaints in a Greene County Commission meeting. Commissioner Brown said the Commission would likely be sued if there was a serious problem and someone decided to sue the Ambulance Service.” Your board must meet, function and make decisions, follow your by-laws and act legally to avoid bringing complaints and lawsuits against the Ambulance Service and County Commission,” explained Brown. Dr. Pugh said, “This is why the board needs to meet, review finances and policies and resolve problems before they are brought to the County Commission.” Nick Martin and deputy chief, Zack Bolding, expressed some frustration with the process. “The County Commission gives the Ambulance Service only $28,000 toward our budget. We have had to raise money from other sources and private donors. In the 15 months that I have been director, no one from the County Commission has come to visit us at City Hall or Warrior Academy,” said Wilson. Commission Brown said, “If you hold Board meetings, like your by-laws require and you invite us, we will come. Two of us can come at a time. We invited you to a budget meeting and a working session to discuss the problems but you did not come.” The Commission’s counsel, Attorney Hank Sanders referred the Ambulance Board to its by-laws, “You have two members appointed by the Chair of the Commission, two members appointed by the City of Eutaw, and one each from the Towns of Forkland, Boligee and Union. All these political entities just had elections and the Mayors and the Commission Chair have the right to name your Board members. You need to check with them, get your board appointments and reorganize and operate properly under your by-laws.” Attorney Sanders further advised that, “Your by-laws provide for the Ambulance Board to make an annual report to the Commission and the public, at the end of each fiscal year, on your contracts, leases, association memberships, finances, capital and operating budgets; major activities; compliance with local, state and federal regulations; and a statement of goals and objectives for the next year.” The special meeting ended on a note of unity that the Ambulance Board would meet, reconstitute itself, discuss problems and plans and report back to the Commission and municipal entities with a clearer picture of its goals and needs for the future.