Festival offers soulful music of hardship and triumph

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The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival features Ole Timey Blues artists on Saturday and Ole Timey Gospel artists on Sunday. There is no contradiction in the appreciation of both. As the elders tell it: The wailing blues tell the stories of our struggles, hardships, heartaches, lost loves and lost lives. The prayerful gospel music lifts the stories of our faith, determination, perseverance and How We Made it Over. Many of the founding festival musicians are no longer with us, including Willie King, Bo McGee, Jesse Daniels, George Conner, members of the Echo Gospel Singers, members of the Tishabee Male Chorus, members of the New Gospel Travelers. Shown above are festival founders Clarence Davis, Lemon Harper, Burlie and Liz Daniels, who, along with many others, will be with us at this year’s festival, Saturday August 26 and Sunday August 27 on the Old Courthouse Square in Eutaw, AL.

Black Belt Folk Roots Festival celebrates 42nd year

festival story.jpgWhere else can you smile and sway to ole timey blues, enjoy the delicacies of right-off-the grill barbecue and polish sausages, feast on freshly cooked country dinners with assorted pies and cakes and then top it all off with hand churned homemade ice cream.
All this and more is happening at the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday August 27 on the Old Courthouse Square in Eutaw, AL.
In its 42nd year of community celebration, the festival will again feature down home blues music, old timey gospel, traditional foods, handmade crafts and special events for the young people.

Saturday’s events are scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with Ole Timey Blues and dancing featuring musicians Clarence Davis, The Liberators, Jock Webb, Davey Williams, Russell Gulley, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Jock Webb, Lil’ Jimmie Reed and others.
The handmade crafts available at the festival are traditional quilts and other needle works; baskets from white oak, pine needles and corn shucks. The assortments of down-home foods include soul food dinners, barbecue, fried fish, chicken and skins, Polish sausage, homemade ice cream, cakes and pies; snow cones, Italian ice, and more.
Ole Timey Gospel is reserved for Sunday’s festival beginning at 2:00 p.m. and featuring the The Echo Juniors, The Melody Kings, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, New Generation Men of Promise, Sons of Zion, Greene County Mass Choir and many others. “The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is home coming time in the region. Many families, class reunions and social clubs plan their annual activities to coincide with the festival’s schedule,” stated Dr. Carol P. Zippert, festival coordinator. “The festival brings together musicians, craftspersons, storytellers, food specialists, community workers – all who are considered bearers of the traditions and folkways of the West Alabama region,” she explained. “This is a festival where people truly celebrate themselves – their joys and struggles and especially ‘how we made it over,’” Zippert states.
According to Dr. Zippert, the two day festival is open to the public free of charge. The hours are Saturday, August 26, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday August 27, 2:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is supported in part by the Black Belt Community Foundation, and other local contributors.
The festival is produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture. There is no admission fee for the festival events. For more information contact Carol P. Zippert at 205-372-0525;
Email: carolxzippert@aol.com

 

Newswire : Mike Espy to receive Witherspoon Award at Federation’s 50th Annual Meeting celebration

Mike Espy
Mike Espy

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund will celebrate its 50th. Annual Meeting on August 17 to 19, 2017. The organization was founded in 1967, by 22 cooperatives and credit unions, arising from the Civil Rights Movement, serving low-income farmers and rural people in the South.
On Thursday evening, August 17, Attorney Mike Espy of Jackson, Mississippi will receive the 16th annual Estelle Witherspoon Lifetime Achievement Award at a fundraising banquet at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Interstate 495 in Birmingham. Estelle Witherspoon was the Manager of the Freedom Quilting Bee in Alberta, Alabama and a founding member of the Federation.

Mike Espy served as the first Black Congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction, from 1987 to 1993. In 1993, President Bill Clinton selected him to be the first African-American and the first Secretary of Agriculture from the Deep South. Today, Espy heads the Mississippi office of the law firm of Morgan and Morgan and was involved in the Pigford Black Farmer Discrimination lawsuits against USDA.

Espy has worked closely with the Federation in all of his professional pursuits. As a Mississippi Congressman he co-sponsored the “Minority Farers Rights Bill” and helped to get several of its major components, including the Section 2501 Outreach Program, into the 1990 Farm Bill. As Secretary of Agriculture, he worked closely with the Federation on the efforts to bring greater civil rights concern to the department. As a lawyer, he worked closely with the Federation and our members on the Pigford lawsuit.

On Friday and Saturday, August 18 and 19, the Federation’s Annual Meeting will shift to the organization’s Rural Training and Research Center, near Epes in Sumter County. Friday will be a day of workshops, presentations and celebration of the Federation’s half century of work and achievements on behalf of Black farmers and landowners. Friday evening there will be a fish-fry, wild game tasting and other dishes from the regional membership of the Federation.

On Saturday, the Federation will hold a prayer breakfast followed by the organization’s business meeting, which includes reports from the Board of Directors, Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director, and state caucuses of the membership.

Cornelius Blanding said, “For five decades, the Federation has served its membership of Black farmers and other low income rural people across the South. We have held true to our mission and worked at the grassroots level to transform people and communities, many times in the face of racial hostility and economic exploitation, to win a better future with social and economic justice for our membership. I am proud to be part of the continuing legacy of the Federation and hope to lead it into the next half century of progress.”

Persons interested in attending the Estelle Witherspoon Awards Banquet and the 50th Annual Meeting should go to the organization’s website at http://www.federation.coop to register. Information is also available from the Federation’s offices in Atlanta (404/765-0991) and Epes, Alabama (205/652-9676).

Stacey Abrams runs to be Georgia’s first Black governor

BY: Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Stacey Abrams

Democrat Stacey Abrams entered the campaign for Georgia governor on Saturday with a pledge to expand pre-kindergarten programs and make technical college education free, promising she’d bring a “bold and ambitious approach” to state government that will invigorate the economy.
Abrams, who heads her party’s caucus in the Georgia House, said that as governor she’ll embrace the same knack for compromise with Republicans who have controlled the statehouse for more than a decade when she sees common ground. But she said she would stick to a fiercely progressive agenda on some of the biggest partisan divides, including efforts to restrict abortion or pass “religious liberty” legislation she views as discriminatory.
To emphasize that point, her announcement coincided with formal endorsements from Emily’s List, the influential left-leaning group, and Democracy for America, a progressive PAC with about 1 million supporters across the nation.
“Georgia is ready for a Democratic governor. My success demonstrates that difference doesn’t have to be a barrier,” Abrams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Southern politicians have to reject a notion that difference is a barrier and that we can’t all be committed to progress and equality.”
Abrams faces a fellow state legislator, Stacey Evans, in the Democratic primary of the wide-open race to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal. Four Republicans are already running: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams.
Democrats face long odds flipping the Georgia governor’s mansion, which has been in Republican hands since Sonny Perdue’s 2002 upset victory. But partisans hope to capitalize on the state’s changing demographics and the same angst over President Donald Trump that is propelling Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District race.
Abrams, 43, has made her pursuit of Georgia’s highest office no mystery, and she filed paperwork to run for the seat earlier this month. She is set to launch her campaign at a rally in Albany, a community that she said reminds her of her Mississippi upbringing.
The kickoff in Albany, a 150-mile drive outside of vote-rich Atlanta, was meant to symbolize not only her connection with rural Georgians but also the dichotomy in her own family.
Her sister Leslie Abrams, the first Black female federal judge in Georgia, lives and works in Albany. Her brother Walter, whom she has spoken little of publicly, is serving a prison sentence stemming from a drug addiction and a long-undiagnosed mental illness.
“I want a state that lifts up Walter and lifts up Leslie – and treats both as our children and our possibilities,” she said. “And I want to believe that when Walter finally returns, he’ll have the same opportunities for success that anyone has.”
Her background will play a prominent role in her campaign. Her parents struggled with poverty while raising Abrams and her five siblings in Gulfport, Miss. The family later moved to Atlanta, and Abrams graduated from Spelman College and Yale Law School.
She won an Atlanta-based seat in the Georgia House in 2006 and built a national profile as a leading voice for the party in the South. She has already received a flood of attention for her run: She would be the first black governor in Georgia – and the first black female governor in the nation.
Her opponents have long criticized her style and tone, as well as her willingness to negotiate with Republicans on controversial measures. One of her testiest decisions was support of a 2011 law engineered by Deal that slashed funding for the state’s HOPE scholarship program.
Evans, her Democratic opponent, called that day the darkest of her legislative career. Abrams said the rising costs of the lottery-funded program gave her little other choice but to seek a compromise.
“HOPE was dying,” she said, calling Deal’s initial proposal a series of “drastic cuts” that would have gutted the pre-kindergarten program. “If we had refused to work and help that program, we would have lost a generation of children who don’t get a do-over.”
She added: “Sometimes fighting for Georgians means working with the other side. I’m willing to risk my leadership to make certain that Georgians get what they need from their government.”
‘Finding innovative ways’
Abrams said she’ll campaign on a pledge to expand the state’s universal pre-k program, which now serves 80,000 4-year-olds, to also include 3-year-olds. She would urge schools to teach computer science courses earlier and back legislation to make technical college courses tuition-free.
“It’s about finding innovative ways to invest with what we have,” she said of how she would pay for it, adding that she’ll spend the next few months touring the state to talk with residents and community leaders to hone her policy.
Abrams might be best known nationally for the New Georgia Project voter registration group that she founded. It aims to register hundreds of thousands of left-leaning voters within the next decade – and has become a favorite target for state Republicans.
She also has another claim to fame: She’s a prolific author of romance novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery, and she wrote her first book while in her third year at Yale Law. She’s been known to insert characters from the Georgia political scene into her work.
More recently, Abrams has taken on kinship care as a cause, often talking about the problems her parents had navigating the legal maze after they took in a granddaughter – Walter’s daughter Faith – to raise.
The Democratic primary is shaping up to be an all-women contest that could determine the direction of the party: Should it appeal to moderates and independents who have drifted to the GOP, or should it double-down on mobilizing liberals?
Supporters of Evans, a Smyrna attorney who announced her campaign last week, hope she can attract voters in metro Atlanta’s fast-changing suburbs that once reliably voted Democratic.
Abrams also talks of broadening the party’s base, but one of her biggest strengths may lie in the traditional supporters of the Democratic Party: Black women make up the biggest bloc in Georgia’s Democratic electorate.
In the interview, Abrams said the state’s changing demographics – Georgia is expected to be majority-minority by the mid 2020s – will give Democrats a tantalizing opening next year.

Lawyers give opening statements in Cosby sex trial

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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Comedian Bill Cosby walks to the courthouse for the first day of his sexual assault trial, escorted by Keshia Knight-Pulliam, who starred as Rudy on the seminal, sitcom “The Cosby Show.” (Pool Photo)
NORRISTOWN—On the first day of the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial, Kristen Feden, a Montgomery County, Pa., assistant district attorney, said that Cosby’s own words, taken from police statements and a deposition, would be powerful evidence against him, including his acknowledgment that he used Quaaludes to have sex with women.
“These three friends will help you relax,” Feden quoted Cosby as saying to Andrea Constand.
Pointing to Cosby—even walking over to the defense table only inches away from the fallen entertainer—Feden referred to him as “this man” while describing his alleged actions with Constand, a former Temple University employee; Feden said that Cosby gave Constand pills, then assaulted her.
Feden said that Constand viewed Cosby as a trusted mentor and said that the case would be defined by, “trust, betrayal and the inability to consent.”
The assistant district attorney also warned jurors not to be “distracted” by Cosby’s celebrity as she pointed and jabbed fingers at the comedian and told the jurors that the man, once known as “America’s Dad,” was a rapist.
When Cosby’s lead attorney Brian McMonagle, presented jurors with his opening statement, he noted that he once was a prosecutor and that he was glad to represent Cosby, because he’s seen both sides and the “Let’s Do It Again” actor was innocent.
“They saw there was no evidence to bring a prosecution then,” said McMonagle, referring to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, run by Bruce Castor, who decided, in 2005, that there wasn’t enough, “credible and admissible evidence,” to file any charges
“So, why are we here?” McMonagle asked. He hammered home points about Constand’s inconsistent statements and her relationship with Cosby, before and after the alleged incident.
Then, in what proved to be the first bombshell of the case, McMonagle cited telephone records that show 72 calls between Cosby and Constand after the alleged January 2004 incident. A staggering 53 of those calls came from Constand, not Cosby, McMonagle said. “Yet, she told police initially that she had not tried to contact him. The conversations lasted 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or more.”
McMonagle continued: “You see a comedian who made us smile; somebody may see a flawed husband whose infidelities made him vulnerable to these accusations. Some of you will look over there and see a man and see someone who has seen greatness and someone who has suffered unendurable personal tragedy. I hope you will see just a citizen.”
Kelly Johnson, a former William and Morris Agency employee whose late boss worked for Cosby, was the only witness called to testify on the first day of the trial. Johnson testified that Cosby first wooed her and her parents—including her stepfather, a former Los Angeles Police Detective—then drugged and sexually assaulted her.
In a bungalow at a hotel in Beverly Hills, Johnson said that Cosby forced her to take a white pill after telling her that she needed to relax. Johnson said that she felt like she was under water and woke up on Cosby’s bed to find him behind her and making grunting sounds. Johnson said that she had lotion on her hand and Cosby made her touch his penis, she said.
“My dress was pulled up from the bottom,” she said, “and it was pulled down from the top.”
However, on a dramatic cross-examination, McMonagle highlighted various inconsistencies in Johnson’s statements and, for many of the defense’s questions, Johnson cited a lack of memory, despite the similarity in the questions that she had just answered for the prosecution. After she was excused, prosecutors sought to call Johnson’s mother to bolster her testimony. The defense objected leading to a hearing after the court session ended.
Cosby is charged with three, second-degree felony counts of aggravated indecent assault, which carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
“Cosby Show” co-star Keshia Knight-Pulliam arrived with the comedian to court on the first day. Knight-Pulliam smiled slightly and, at times, shared light moments with Cosby and his assistant. Knight-Pulliam starred as fan-favorite Rudy Huxtable, the youngest daughter on “The Cosby Show.” “Truth happens here,” Knight-Pulliam said with resolve in her voice, as she addressed reporters. “I am here, because true family supports even when things aren’t going so good.

A Noose was found in the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum

By: Aric Jenkins, Time Magazine
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A noose was found on the floor of an exhibition in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, leading museum officials to remove visitors from that section of the facility.
The rope — which was left in an exhibition on segregation — was the second time this week a noose was found on the grounds of a Smithsonian institution, BuzzFeed News first reported.
Park police investigated the incident and removed the rope, allowing the exhibit gallery to reopen within several hours, Smithsonian officials said, according to the Smithsonian magazine.
“The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity — a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans. Today’s incident is a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face. Our Museum is a place of learning an solace, a place to remember, to engage in important discussions to help change America,” Lonnie Bunch, the director of the museum, said in a statement.

On Saturday, a noose was found hanging from a tree outside of the Hirshhorn Museum — another Smithsonian institution that showcases contemporary art.
“I don’t know what to say,” Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told BuzzFeed after Wednesday’s discovery.”We do consider this one to be different,” she added. “In this case it’s clearly a message to the museum.”
Nooses were often used in lynchings of African Americans throughout the periods of slavery and Jim Crow laws and can be interpreted as a painful symbol of those eras of discrimination.
Park Police are continuing their investigation of both incidents, according to reports. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eutaw City Council approves proclamation honoring E-911

Mayor Steele and Eutaw City Council members present proclamation to E911 staff and officials and new officer’s : Tommy Johnson, Jr. and Christopher Gregory

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, the Eutaw City Council paid its March bills and claims, approved Good Friday as a holiday for the staff and approved a proclamation honoring the E-911 staff for National Public Safety Communications Week.
After taking these positive steps, the City Council and the Mayor began arguing about past issues and discussions.

The issue that precipitated the arguments was a motion by Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson to advertise in the newspaper for four weeks, the contents of a bill to be introduced in the State Legislature to change the selection process for members of the Board of Directors of the Eutaw Housing Authority to give the Council a role with the Mayor in appointing these board members.The Eutaw City Council, the Mayor and the city and county housing authority boards have been in an uproar for the past several months over who was properly appointed to the Eutaw Housing Authority Board and how to proceed with the merger of the city and county housing authorities.
Mayor Raymond Steele strenuously opposed the motion to advertise changes in the Alabama statute on the selection of members to a city housing authority. He said, “You are trying to take away powers given to me by the law, I am not trying to take away your powers as the City Council.”
Latasha Johnson replied that the purpose of her amendment was, “To share your role in appointing housing authority board members not to take away your authority.” She went on to say, “ In a way we are married for four years, the Council and you the Mayor and we need to learn how to work together.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell said he was concerned that the mayor seemed to want to have “a dictatorship over the City Council.” Powell indicated that he was still concerned that the Mayor would not accept documents that he provided showing that Veronica James was incorrectly removed from the Eutaw Housing Authority Board and should be reinstated.
Mayor Steele complained that the City Council was retaliating against him by proposing to change the legislation to share the power of appointing the Eutaw Housing Authority Board. The Council then voted 4 to 2 to approve advertisement of the bill proposed by Latosha Johnson. The Mayor and Councilman Bennie Abrams voted against the motion.
Mayor Steele raised the issue of revisiting the rules and procedures for community groups to use the National Guard Armory for meetings, social events and fundraisers. The mayor said that he would like to discuss his concerns about improving and maintaining the facility at the next City Council work-session scheduled for next Tuesday, April 18. Councilman Powell reminded him that community groups charging admission or raising funds at activities using the National Guard Armory needed to come before the City Council if they were seeking a waiver of the rental fees.
Mayor Steele said the air conditioning and heating system in the building needed to be updated and other improvements made to the building. The Council agreed that a community group that had reserved the Armory for a music concert on April 15 could proceed with their event.
Council members said that they approved payment of the bills and claims but wanted a better reporting of funds and a budget against which to approve expenditures in future meetings.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith asked about the status of enforcement of the vicious dogs ordinance. Mayor Steele said the Eutaw police were issuing summonses for people to register their animals and to see if sufficient space was available to keep the animals in the city. If the owners were not complying with the ordinance then the police were taking action to correct the problems with stray and vicious dogs.
Valerie Watkins, a resident in whose house there was a sewage back up asked when the City was going to make the repairs to her home. Mayor Steele said that he was working on the claims with the City’s insurance agent and would be able to respond soon.
In the public comment sessions, several citizens rose and spook to urge the Mayor and City Council to work more closely together.
David Spencer distributed a written letter to the Mayor and City Council members concerning his allegations of voter fraud in the October 2016 Municipal Election Runoff.