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.
Oct. 26, 2020 (GIN) – For many, the memories of rogue Nigerian soldiers firing live ammunition at hundreds of peaceful protesters in Lagos, killing at least 12 people, will be hard to forget.
Now, some of Nigeria’s prize-winning authors have turned acid-tipped pens against the government of Muhammadu Buhari for failing to rein in an elite police unit whose sullied record of unprovoked raids, arbitrary beatings, arrests and extortion, especially against young people, has sparked a movement that brought out thousands nationwide.
Renowned novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was among the writers who shared an outpouring of grief and fury after the wanton shooting of young Nigerians trapped in a cul-de-sac while calling for an end to the harassment and killings by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“SARS is random, vicious, vilely extortionist,” Chimamanda wrote in a recent article. “SARS officers raid bars or arbitrarily arrest young men for such crimes as wearing their hair in dreads, having tattoos, holding a nice phone or a laptop, driving a nice car. Then they demand large amounts of money as “bail.”
Toyin Falola, distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas, added: “Oct. 20, 2020 will go down in Nigerian history as the day the whole world saw images of the green-and-white striped flag stained with the red blood of protesters bludgeoned by the forces of the state… The abuses of President Buhari’s government are no longer being kept in the dark.”
Chidozie Uzoezie, a Lagos-based freelance writer, penned: “SARS, founded in 1992 to fight crimes, has metamorphosed into a hydra-headed plague, brutalizing and killing poor and voiceless Nigerians while protecting the rich… The Nigerian Police Force has been reduced from being law enforcement agents to mere trigger-happy tools in the hands of irresponsible governments and desperate politicians. In short, a menace.”
Finally, over 100 noted Nigerian writers signed an open letter published in African Arguments: “We denounce in the strongest terms the tyrannical and shameful persecution of innocent Nigerians by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and the continued harassment of peaceful protesters.
“As Chinua Achebe said, ‘We cannot trample on the humanity of others without devaluing our own.’ We ask that the government of Nigeria, under President Buhari, take concrete measures, beyond the flippant rhetoric of years gone by, and immediately reform the Nigerian Police Force as a whole.
“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters protesting on the streets of Nigeria, and ask that every right-thinking member of the global community raise their voice and support the agitation for justice for the victims of police brutality in Nigeria, the immediate termination of such inexcusable conduct by all units of the police and a sincere and tangible reform of the police in Nigeria.”
More than 56 people have died since demonstrations began in Nigeria more than two weeks ago. w/pix of SARS protest
By: NBC News Pope Francis on Sunday elevated Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Wilton Gregory, to cardinal, making him the first African American appointed to the red-hat conclave. The 72-year-old Gregory, who led the Roman Catholic Church’s response to an internal sexual abuse scandal in the early 2000s, was one of 13 new cardinals named by Pope Francis during his noontime prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. The cardinal nominees will be installed during a ceremony on Nov. 28. “With a very grateful and humble heart, I thank Pope Francis for this appointment which will allow me to work more closely with him in caring for Christ’s Church,” cardinal-elect Gregory said in a statement following the news from the Holy See. In naming the selections, the pope elevated several archbishops from developing countries, including Cuba, the Congo and Guatemala. Nine of the new cardinals are younger than 80, a requirement to be allowed to vote on a successor to the pontiff. The pope said the new crop of cardinals have all shown dedication to “the missionary vocation of the Church that continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all men and women of the earth.” The new appointments will expand the College of Cardinal’s from 120 to 128 electors, who hail from 68 countries. The elevation of Gregory to cardinal will make him the highest-ranking African American prelate in the nation. The historical appointment came two years after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter condemning what it called an accumulation of “episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones” and imploring the Catholic church to practice what it preaches in regards to racial equality. In June, Francis denounced the “sin of racism” and identified George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, as the victim of a “tragic” killing. “We cannot close our eyes to any form of racism or exclusion while pretending to defend the sacredness of every human life,” the pope said at the time. Gregory, who was born and raised in Chicago, was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago in May 1973, according to his biography on the Archdiocese of Washington website. He served as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, from 1994 to December 2004, when Pope John Paul II appointed him archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Gregory was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2001 and under his leadership, the bishops implemented the “Charter of Protection of Children and Young People” that laid out five principles for responding to a sex abuse crisis involving Catholic clergy and conceded they had been remiss in protecting children from pedophile priests. Earlier this year, Gregory issued a statement rebuking a visit by President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., for a photo op. “I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” Gregory said. His statement came just days after protesters outside the White House were tear-gassed and forcibly removed so Trump could walk to a vandalized St John’s Episcopal Church and pose for photos holding a Bible. “St. Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth,” Gregory’s statement added. “He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.”
Supreme Court building in Washington, D. C. and Amy Coney Barrett and her family, including two adopted Black children from Haiti
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – One of the most consequential decisions that presidents make are lifetime federal judicial appointments at every level: circuit, appellate and the U.S. Supreme Court. The independent federal judiciary is charged with ensuring that the nation’s courts are fair to all people. Even the phrase “equal justice under law” is carved in the stone façade of the Supreme Court building.
A recent American Bar Association blog states, “For the nation to continue to have trust in the integrity and independence of the federal judiciary, the process that places judges on the bench must be viewed as fair, unhurried and unbiased.”
But for Black America and other communities of color, throughout our history and continuing even today, ‘justice’ is often far from fair, nor is it unbiased. In recent years, the Supreme Court has declared that corporations should be treated like people, and that voting rights no longer need to be protected. In November, the high court is scheduled to revisit the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Other issues that may reach the Supreme Court could include whether federal agencies can preempt state laws protecting consumers from bad actors in the student loan servicer arena, and in payday, auto-title, and high-cost installment loans. Even the nation’s half-century old Fair Housing Act could be revisited due to the Trump Administration’s roll-back of an Obama-era fair housing rule known as disparate impact. If allowed to stand, the burden of proving discrimination will be shifted to consumers instead of powerful corporations and others alleged to have violated the law.
“Over the next several years, the Supreme Court will make important and lasting decisions that affect every facet of our lives, including income inequality, the racial wealth gap, access to health care – including reproductive rights – and many other issues,” states a new CRL policy brief.
For these reasons and others, the passing of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created a significant moment for the future of the court. As the second woman to ever serve as a Supreme Court Justice, the fondly-recalled ‘Notorious RBG’ broke gender barriers throughout her legal career, forging freedom and access for many who were historically marginalized.
And the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill that vacancy has triggered a chorus of civil rights organizations expressing their adamant opposition. As a former clerk to Justice Scalia, 1998-1999, Judge Coney Barrett has frequently lauded him as her mentor, and praised his judicial philosophy both as a law school professor and as a judge.
At the September 26 White House Rose Garden announcement of her nomination, Judge Coney Barrett said, “I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
Despite high praise by conservatives and the Senate Majority’s commitment to ram through her nomination, civil rights organizations and other advocates have expressed strong opposition to Judge Coney Barrett.
“We stand opposed to her confirmation to the Court,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Her confirmation would dramatically alter the Supreme Court in ways that would prove devastating for Black communities and other people of color across the country.”
Similarly, the head of the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization recently advised the Senate Judiciary Committee of the NAACP’s position on the nomination.
“Coming in the middle of a presidential election in which over seven million people have already voted, the Barrett nomination is as illegitimate as it is corrupt,” wrote Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO to the Judiciary Committee. “On issue after issue, we have found her to be stunningly hostile to civil rights.”
“Early and absentee votes are already being cast for the November election –and nominating a candidate for a lifetime appointment to this nation’s highest court during this electoral period undermines the democratic process and is a disservice to the American public”, said Sherilynn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Senators must also respect the clear will of the American people, and honor the precedent they set in 2016, by declining to consider any nominee until the winner of the presidential election is inaugurated.”
“The Senate majority needs to prioritize COVID-19 relief legislation for the rest of this year and not use the remaining time of this session to confirm judicial nominees, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to financial hardship”, said Mike Calhoun, President of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL).
With less than three weeks before election day, the Senate began the confirmation process on Monday, October 12 with its Judiciary Committee hearings, chaired by Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. The committee is expected to vote on the nomination on October 22. As Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is planning a floor vote for the week of October 26.
The rapid review of Judge Coney Barrett is a stark contrast to the lengthy, Senate-engineered delay of President Obama’s 2016 election year Supreme Court nomination.
On February 13, 2016, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed. Weeks later on March 16 that year, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But the U.S. Senate refused to hold committee hearings or a floor vote for almost a year, and thereby denied President Obama the right to fill the court vacancy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly boasted in a speech that August, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’ “Nearly a year later, the lengthy high court’s vacancy enabled President Trump to nominate Neil Gorsuch on February 1, 2017.The Senate confirmed Gorsuch on Friday, April 7, 2017 and was sworn in the following Monday, April 10. In real time, that nomination process took just two months.
It is also noteworthy that as the nation is increasingly diverse, the federal bench remains dominated by White judges.
A recent Associated Press analysis of the Trump Administration’s judicial appointments found that White men were nearly 86% of the 206 lifetime appointments made. Similarly, White men were 85% of all Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorneys.
A court system that does not reflect the people it is sworn to protect is hard-pressed to ensure diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints in judicial deliberations. Continuing the trend of nominating and confirming White, conservative justices strain — if not ignore — the nation’s pledge of equal justice.
In the words of the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, “During this pandemic and amid nationwide calls for racial justice, we cannot allow Trump to select a third justice who he has pledged will devastate our hard-fought civil and human rights — including access to health care for millions of people.”
The approaching electoral decisions include the future of hard-won civil rights, and whether they will continue to be systematically dismantled. It is in the hands of voters to decide. And the choices should be clear: a return to the multiple ills of bygone years or hopeful future with justice and opportunity for all.
Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The 45th annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival did not go unclaimed, and undocumented. There was no magnificent tent shielding a stage of body and soul stirring musicians playing to hundreds not minding the August heat and drenching humidity. There was not the aroma of the famous Bear Burgers and Chicago Style Polish sausages sizzling on the grill, or the inviting scent of barbecue on the pit. One could not be drawn to the popping sounds of chicken wings and fish or pork skins in pots of hot oil. One could not taste the cooling refreshment of homemade ice cream or myriad flavors of snow cones and Italian Ice. Still, the annual festival did not go unclaimed and undocumented. The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival went virtual on its 45th anniversary. A special website was designed to capture the usual ole timey blues and gospel sounds of the festival. The link highlights longtime bluesmen and bands such as Clarence Davis, Lil’Lee and the Midnight Blues Band, Jock Webb, Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean, Jontavious Willis, Russell Gulley, Michael Carpenter and the Roadhouse Blues Band, Willie Halbert and the Fingerprint Band and more. The ole timey gospel groups noted included Son of Zion, The American Travelers, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, The Melody Kings of Starkville, Eddie Mae Brown, Glory to Glory Gospel Singers and more.
One could not finger the fine stitching of the traditional hand crafted quilts and baskets or the intricate designs of hand crafted jewelry, but the authentic photos on the website portray the loving and painstaking care of the folk artists. The young people did engage in a hands on arts festival experience. The special Zoom link allowed them to follow the guide of local artist Mynecia (Mya) Steele, of Eutaw, in designing their own arts. The young participants were provided with the materials needed to create their projects in Zoom arts program, noted as the Kids Tent. Reportedly, the greatest joy for many young participants was seeing themselves on screen. The festival’s website also carries a video of the Kids Tent, claiming and documenting the young people’s activities. The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture, did not go unclaimed and undocumented. The festival website will be continuous, featuring the folk artists of the West Alabama Region, celebrating history, culture and tradition through music, dance, crafts and foodways. Festival website: blackbeltfolkrootsfestival.weebly.com. Tune in and join a celebration of community. The major supporters of the virtual festival and the Kids Tent include Alabama Department of Tourism, the Black Belt Community Foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation, Greenetrack, Inc. and the TSP Support League, Inc. If you would like to support our continuing work of producing the festival contact Carol Zippert at 205-372-0525 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 45th annual BlackBelt Folk Roots Festival, for the first time, will be a Virtual Celebration of folk artists who are the bearers of the culture and traditions of the West Alabama Region. According to Dr. Carol P. Zippert, festival coordinator, the coronavirus pandemic is the primary reason for presenting a virtual festival this year. “We could not jeopardize anyone with an on site community celebration,” she said. “The annual 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. Zippert. “The usual on-site festival brings together folk artists who are considered bearers of the traditions and folkways of the West Alabama region. Having a Virtual Festival is a statement of recognition and celebration of the local artists who are the bearers of our culture, traditions and folkways,” she explained. The Virtual Festival will feature down home blues music, old timey gospel, traditional foods, handmade crafts and special events for the young people. Ole Timey Blues artists will include Clarence Davis, Jock Webb, Willie T. Adams, Ernest Martin, Jontavious Willis, Lil Lee and the Midnight Blues Band, Nigel Speights, Russell Gulley, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Roadhouse Blues Band, Willie Halbert and the Fingerprint Band, and others. Music of the Ole Timey Gospel artists will include, The Melody Kings, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, Greene County Mass Choir, The American Travelers, Angels of Faith, Ms. Eddie Brown and many others. The Virtual Festival will celebrate the craft artists, creators of hand made quilts; baskets from white oak, pine needles and corn shuck; jewelry, sundry of home decorative items, and more. The virtual site will also include information where viewers may contact those craft artists who have arrangements for online purchases. The Virtual Web Site will also celebrate the artists who bring us the assortments of down-home foods usually available at the annual festival including soul food dinners, barbecue, fried fish, chicken and skins, Polish sausage, homemade ice cream, cakes and pies; snow cones, Italian ice, and more. The Virtual Festival web site will be made available beginning August 22, 2020. Virtual Kids Art Tent – A Zoom Experience The Virtual Kids Tent will be presented via Zoom. Local artists Mynecia (Mya) Steele has designed various art activities and will the guide the young people in the hands-on creative projects. The youth participants who register in advance will be provided the art materials needed to participate in the Zoom classes. They may contact Maya at 205-393-8644 or email: email@example.com; or contact Carol Zippert at 205-372-0525, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. “This is a festival where people truly celebrate themselves – their joys and struggles and especially ‘how we made it over,’” Zippert stated. We intend to claim, lift, and share our treasures of community celebration through this very special Virtual Festival – the 45th Celebration of the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival. The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is supported in part by the Alabama Department of Tourism, the Black Belt Community Foundation, Alabama Power Foundation; Greenetrack, Inc. and other local contributors. The festival is produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture. For more information contact Carol P. Zippert at 205-372-0525; Email: email@example.com
Former president Barack Obama gave a searing eulogy for John Lewis, urging Americans to honor the legacy of a civil rights giant by engaging in the “good trouble” that leads to a more perfect democracy in the face of powerful institutions that seek to oppress. Obama spoke from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church during the funeral for Lewis in Atlanta on Thursday, where he said he was there because he owed a debt to the 16-term congressman and his “forceful vision of freedom.” Obama, the country’s first Black president, remarked on the instructions given to Americans enshrined in the constitution to create a “more perfect union.” “John never believed that what he did was more than any citizen of this country can do,” Obama said. “I mentioned in the statement the day John passed, the thing about John was just how gentle and humble he was. And despite this storied, remarkable career, he treated everyone with kindness and respect because it was innate to him. This idea that any of us can do what he did, if we’re willing to persevere.” The former president spoke on the current threat to voting rights in America, a cause that Lewis nearly gave his life for as a young man, and the responsibility citizens have to continue to engage in the fight for equality. “Bull Connor may be gone, but today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans,” Obama said. “George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.” While some may criticize those who “dwell on” such injustices during Lewis’ funeral, Obama said they were the same attacks on American democracy that Lewis devoted his entire life to combating. Obama took aim at recent efforts to disenfranchise voters and called on leaders to honor Lewis by revitalizing and protecting voting rights. “We may not have to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to cast a ballot, but even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting — by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws,” Obama continued. “And attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the postal service in the run-up to an election that’s going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don’t get sick.” Remembering a friend, lawmaker, warrior of peace The private funeral began at 11 a.m. at the church that was once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “We have come to say goodbye to our friend in these difficult days,” the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor, said. “Come on, let the nation celebrate, let the angels rejoice … John Lewis, the boy from Troy, the conscience of the Congress.” Lewis, who represented Atlanta in the House of Representatives after serving as a young leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, died on July 17 following a monthslong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80. In addition to Obama’s eulogy, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton spoke at the funeral that will conclude memorial services held for Lewis over six days in several cities. President Donald Trump did not attend the funeral.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Supremes legend Mary Wilson is on a crusade that she hopes will end with the United States Postal Service commemorating her late bandmate and close friend Florence Ballard on a Forever Stamp. “I get so emotional when I speak about Flo,” said Wilson, who received a 2020 NNPA Lifetime Achievement Award during the Black Press of America’s recently completed virtual convention. “I’ve been working hard to get that recognition for her because she deserves it.” Wilson noted that the U.S. Postal Service has done a brilliant job of issuing commemorative postage stamps about iconic pop culture heroes who have helped shape the world. In the past, there have been U.S. Postage Stamps to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of several music business legends, including Elvis Presley, Sarah Vaughn, Patsy Cline, Jimi Hendryx, Marvin Gaye, and Janis Joplin. Wilson’s quest to get the U.S. Postal Service to issue a stamp to celebrate Ballard, a founding star of The Supremes, has gained momentum. “We have received a proposal from the public, and it will be reviewed at our next Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee meeting,” Roy Betts, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, told BlackPressUSA. The U.S. Postal Service and the members of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) have set specific criteria used in determining the eligibility of subjects for commemoration on all U.S. stamps and stationery, Betts added. Among them are that stamps and stationery would primarily feature American or American-related subjects. The Postal Service will honor extraordinary and enduring contributions to American society, history, culture, or environment. U.S. stamp programs are planned and developed two to three years in advance and, consideration would occur if suggestions are submitted three or more years in advance of the proposed stamp. In 2018, the Postal Service began considering proposals for deceased individuals three years following their death. Officials noted that the stamp program commemorates positive contributions to American life, history, culture, and environment. Born in Detroit in 1943, Ballard was the eighth of Jesse and Lurlee Ballard’s thirteen children. Almost from the start, music played an essential part in her life, according to her biography. Her father was her first teacher, and a young Ballard displayed a keen interest in his music. Jesse Ballard would play particular songs and teach his daughter to sing them. Those early lessons made a deep impression, and legend has it that Florence Ballard was soon out-singing her father.Ballard’s musical gift was hard to go unnoticed. As she grew older, she found an outlet for her singing in school music classes and choirs. While in her early teens, Ballard’s career was set in motion. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, sang in a group called the Primes (later to become the Temptations). They introduced her to manager Milton Jenkins, who was so impressed with the 14-year-old’s voice that he asked her to perform as a soloist along with the Primes. After Ballard appeared with the group for a few engagements, Jenkins knew he had found an outstanding talent, her biography read. Since groups were popular in the late 1950s, Jenkins suggested that Ballard form a sister group to the Primes. Immediately she asked her friend, Mary Wilson, to be a member of the group. Betty McGlown and Mary’s friend, Diana Ross, were also recruited. After gaining their parent’s permission, the four teenagers, in the spring of 1959, became officially known as the Primettes. They began rehearsals with Ballard as the lead singer. McGlown departed just before the group found fame at Motown with the name, The Supremes. Ballard died in 1976 at the age of 31. “The memories are so vivid,” Wilson said. “Florence Ballard was such a wonderful person. It’s my sincere hope that we can get the Postal Service to honor her now.”