Shown above: Rev. Ricky McKinney, Tuscaloosa Municipal Court Judge; Judge England; State Rep. Chris England; Donna Foster; and State Senator Bobby Singleton.
On the grounds of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse where he served as Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge before his retirement earlier this year, Judge John H. England, Jr. was presented the Drum Major for Justice Lifetime Achievement Award by the Tuscaloosa County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Sunday, June 27, 2021. The Plaque was presented by SCLC Chapter President, Rev. James Williams and England’s son State Representative Christopher John England, Sr. Of all the presenters at the ceremony, Judge England’s seemingly greatest pride fell upon his grandson Christopher John England, Jr., who read his grandfather’s biographical sketch. England’s Pastor, the Rev. Anderson T. Graves, II, of Bailey Tabernacle C.M.E. Church in Tuscaloosa, was the keynote speaker. In lifting England’s undergraduate studies in Chemistry at Tuskegee University, Rev. Graves noted that a key feature of scientific equations is balance, and attributed that same characteristic of balance to Judge’s England life of service and contributions toward the wellbeing of others. Each presenter lauded England as a living legend and a trailblazer for his contributions to civil rights and generally for securing and protecting human rights. Representative Chris England delivered warm platitudes toward his Dad, also noting that the elder was known for embarrassing him as well as many others. Chris clarified that in that scenario of embarrassment, “…there was always a lesson and today I am very grateful for that.” The ceremony for Judge England included Donna Foster as Mistress of Ceremony; Welcome by Commissioner Reginald Murray (Tuscaloosa County District 4); Song by Reuben Harris, Jr. A reception followed at The Willie Clyde and Kay Rice Jones Education Building at Bailey Tabernacle C.M.E. Church. Judge H. England, Jr., who proudly claims his birthplace in the Alabama Black Belt, was born in Perry County (Uniontown) and attended public schools in Birmingham, AL. He is a 1969 graduate of Tuskegee Institute (University) with a BS Degree in Chemistry. In 1999, Tuskegee bestowed him with an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree. England served two years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman and later graduated from the University of Alabama Law School in 1974, and began his law practice. He and SCLC President, Charles Steele, were the first African Americans elected to the Tuscaloosa City Council in 1985. England served two terms and was Chairman of the Finance and Community Development Committee. When he was appointed to the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court in 1993 by Governor Jim Folsom, England became the first African American to hold a county-wide political office. He was re-elected to a full term in that office in 1994, where he served until he was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court by Governor Don Siegelman in 1999, the third African American to hold such a seat. England returned to the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County in 2001 and served continuously through his current retirement. Judge England currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama and in 2019 was the first African American to have a dormitory on the University’s campus named for him (John H. England, Jr. Hall). He takes a father’s pride and joy in the fact that he is the first African American UA Law School graduate to witness his three children graduate from the UA Law School: John H. England, III, U.S. is a Magistrate Judge for the Northern District in Alabama, April England Albright, is a Civil Rights Attorney in Atlanta and Chris England is an Alabama State Representative and Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.
Thursday- June 17, 2021, the City of Eutaw Police Department held a 1st Responders Parade on the town square, participants from Livingston, York, Demopolis, Moundville, Greensboro, Greene County and Pickensville and many other Police Departments and Fire Departments came out for the celebration.
There is no shortage of Black history being made in the year 2021. This time around, Vice President Kamala Harris has become the highest-ranking Black woman government official in U.S. history to make a foreign trip. Guatemala literally rolled out the red carpet as the first woman and first Black vice president of the United States touched down on Sunday for her maiden trip abroad for President Joe Biden‘s administration to address the immigration crisis at America’s southern border. However, not everybody in Guatemala was happy that Harris was visiting. The trip is part of Harris’ duties as assigned by Biden to figure out how to effectively — and humanely — handle the influx of migrants seeking citizenship following the massive failure in that arena by President Donald Trump and his administration, which separated families at the border, caged the children and deported the adults. Harris met with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei during a bilateral meeting to address the root causes of migration from Central America. The vice president was among multiple government officials from both countries to meet at the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura in Guatemala City. “The goal of the vice president’s trip is to deepen our strategic partnership and bilateral relationship with both the Guatemalan and Mexican governments to advance a comprehensive strategy to tackle the causes of migration,” Harris’ spokesperson, Symone Sanders, told CNN. While the talks got underway inside the opulent building that is the equivalent of Guatemala’s White House, protesters outside demonstrated against Harris’ presence in their country. Photos showed protesters carrying signs in English as well as Spanish that implored Harris to “mind your own business” and “go home” and saying she was “not welcome.” Back home in the U.S., Harris was the subject of false media reports centered on her new immigration role. A reporter with the conservative tabloid New York Post was forced to quit in April after writing without offering any proof that undocumented migrant minors arriving at the border were being greeted by American officials with copies of a children’s book written by the vice president. Previously, Harris hosted a virtual bilateral meeting on the same topic with Giammattei in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House on April 26. Following the meeting in Guatemala, Harris was scheduled to travel to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to “attend roundtable discussions with entrepreneurs and labor leaders,” NBC News reported. But considering the important role that Mexico plays with immigration to the U.S. — migrants traveling through Central America typically must pass through Guatemala before getting to Mexico, from where they cross into any number of border states like Texas, Arizona and California — chances are those talks will also address America’s migrant crisis while the vice president is in Central America. The meeting in Mexico may even touch on Trump’s infamous border wall that Democrats and the Mexican government alike vehemently opposed. Prior to Harris’ trip this week, other high-ranking Black American women to travel abroad for the U.S. government include Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, and Susan Rice, who served as former President Barack Obama‘s national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations.
Greene County can boast of extraordinary and consistent efforts to celebrate and commemorate significant social, political, and cultural change events that had positive impacts on all of Greene County and beyond, but Greene County has never celebrated Juneteenth. Through the efforts of Spiver Gordon, the county celebrates Greene County Freedom Day, July 29, 1969, when the 80% + Black population won a sweep of county political offices. Gordon also leads annual celebrations and commemorations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, birthday, January 15, 1929 and assassination, April 4, 1968. But Greene County has never celebrated Juneteenth. We have celebrated Kwanzaa in Greene County over 30 years and the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival for 45 years. But Greene County has never celebrated Juneteenth. We have Boligee Day and Maydays in Forkland and Union. But Greene County has never celebrated Juneteenth. Juneteenth (a contraction of June and nineteenth) also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day – is a holiday celebrating the emancipation of Black people enslaved in the United States. June 19, 1865 is the date Texas was forced to free enslaved Black people in the state, nearly three years after the initial Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln. Juneteenth is now coming to Greene County. According to President and CEO, Luther Winn, Greenetrack is sponsoring the First Juneteenth Celebration in Greene County. The events, scheduled for Saturday, June 19, 2021 on the grounds of Greenetrack gaming, County Road 208, will feature a Car and Bike Show at 2:00 p.m, garnering $500 to the winner in each category; Ms. Juneteenth Pageant at 4:00 pm, awarding cash prizes starting at $2,500 along with a Smart TV; and a free concert featuring Steve Perry and Ms. Jodi, beginning at 7:00 p.m. On June 19, 1865, Federal Troops forced Texas to free enslaved Black people, who should have been set free at the official close of the Civil War. The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought in Appomattox County, Virginia, on the morning of April 9, 1865, was one of the last battles of the American Civil War (1861–1865). It was the final engagement of Confederate General in Chief, Robert E. Lee, and his Army of Northern Virginia before it surrendered to the Union Army of the Potomac under the Commanding General of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the states in rebellion. The Civil War and enslavement of Blacks continued until Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865. Enforcement of the Proclamation generally relied on the advance of Union troops. Texas, as the most remote of the slave states, had a low presence of Union troops as the American Civil War ended; thus enforcement there had been slow and inconsistent before Granger’s announcement. Juneteenth is thus commemorated on the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army General Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery in Texas. Originating in Galveston, Texas, Juneteenth is now celebrated annually on June 19 throughout the United States, with increasing official recognition.
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.