BIRMINGHAM — An Alabama civil rights museum reversed course after a public outcry and reinstated a human rights award to activist Angela Davis that it had previously rescinded, the organization announced Friday, January 25, 2019.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) said in a statement that its board has voted to reaffirm Davis, a Birmingham native, as the recipient of the award and has invited her to personally receive it. The statement said the board has not heard if Davis will accept.
“Dr. Angela Davis, a daughter of Birmingham, is highly regarded throughout the world as a human rights activist,” Institute President Andrea L. Taylor said in a statement.
The Birmingham museum sparked protests and criticism earlier this month when it announced that it was abruptly canceling the award to Davis that was supposed to be given at a February gala.
The board withdrew her award after a local Holocaust education group asked it to reconsider. Davis is an outspoken supporter of a movement criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Davis, who turns 75 on Saturday, has spent decades fighting for civil rights. She was an active member of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Communist Party USA.
Board members on Jan. 14 issued a public apology for the discord that resulted from its decision to rescind the award. They said there said there should have been more conversation with diverse points of view before making the decision.
In Friday’s statement, the board said its decision to give Davis the award is “in keeping with its commitment to learning from its mistakes.”
The award is called the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. It is named for the late minister and prominent civil rights activist who led demonstrations in Birmingham and across the South.
Civil rights and community groups were arranging an “alternative award celebration” for Ms. Davis in Birmingham on February 16, after the BCRI withdrew its award. Ms. Davis has not commented on whether she will accept the Museum’s apology and receive the award as originally planned.
The Alabama Civil Rights Museum of Eutaw, Alabama sponsored several programs and a march this past week to honor the 90th birthday of civil and human rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Tuesday, January 15, 2019 the Museum held a program at New Peace Baptist Church for young people on the actual date of Dr. King’s birthday. Students from the 11th and 12th grades were bused to the program to learn more about the life of Dr. King and his connection to the development of the civil rights and voting rights struggle in Greene County. On Sunday, January 20, 2019 there was an evening program at Pine Grove CME Church in Dollarhide to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. Rev. Joe Webb of New Generation Church in Eutaw gave a stirring message. Rick Sexton of Dayton, Ohio gave a performance on his saxophone and also did a pantomime to a religious song. The Greene County Community Choir sang several rousing songs. On Monday morning, January 21, 2019, the day of the national holiday for Dr. King, the Museum held its Annual Freedom Unity Breakfast with more than a hundred participants in very cold weather. Rev. Michael Lavender, Pastor of St. John’s Baptist Church in Clinton gave the message, Rick Saxton played a musical tribute on his saxophone accompanied by a young guitar player from the Christ Temple Church of Eutaw, and many others gave greetings and remarks. After the breakfast, a group marched from the Eutaw Activity Center to the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw to symbolize that the struggle and direct action by people marching has not ended. At the Courthouse, the Museum held a women’s program in honor of Dr. King. Rev. Millicent Owens of Greensboro gave the message and various groups sang, spoke and gave greetings. At each of the programs, Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum recognized a list of “movement foot soldiers” that passed on in the previous two years. He also distributed certificates to ‘Godly Men and Women of West Alabama” at each of the programs. The Democrat will include more photos of the honorees in the coming weeks as space allows.
Spiver Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum announced several programs to honor the life and commemorate the birthday of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be held this month in Greene County.
“It is important for people in Greene County and around the nation to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and to recognize the principles and ideals that he stood for and supported,” said Gordon. “ We should not take a day off but rather a day ‘on’ to study, understand and put into action the teachings of Dr. King,” he added.
On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, the actual day of Dr. King’s Birthday there will be a youth seminar at New Peace Baptist Church in Eutaw, at 10:00 AM, for students at Eutaw High School and people in the community. Kendrick Office, Sumter County football coach will be the keynote speaker. He will be joined by members of the Greene County School Board and other public officials in bringing a special message to youth on the continuing lessons of Dr. King’s life and teachings.
On Sunday, January 20, 2019 at 4:00 PM there will be a “Community Freedom Rally’ at Pine Grove CMC Church in Dollarhide to praise and recognize ‘Godly Men and Women of West Alabama’ counties, including Greene, Sumter, Pickens, Hale, Marengo and Tuscaloosa. Rev. Joe Webb of New Generation Church in Eutaw will be the keynote speaker for this mass meeting.
Monday, January 21, 2019, the official Dr. King National Holiday, will begin with a ‘Freedom Unity Breakfast’ at the Eutaw Activity Center at 8:30 AM. Keynote Speaker will be Rev. Dr. Michael Lavender, Pastor of St. John’s Baptist Church in Clinton, AL. Additional awards and recognitions to ‘Godly Men of West Alabama’ will be presented.
After a march from the Eutaw Activity Center to the William M. Branch Courthouse, the ‘West Alabama Godly Women Program’ will be held, starting at 10:30 AM at the Courthouse. Rev. Dr. Millicent Owens of Greensboro, Alabama will be the guest speaker for this program. Rev. Owens is a radio personality and wife of John Owens, former Mayor of Greensboro.
Gordon also announced that saxophonist and musician Ric Sexton of Detroit, Michigan will be playing and speaking at some of the programs to honor Dr, King. The Greene County Community Choir and the Tishabee Male Chorus will sing and participate in some of the events. The Greene County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition will be co-sponsoring these events.
“We have been celebrating Dr. King’s Birthday in Greene County, for over forty years because of his contributions to civil rights and voting rights that made a direct and meaningful change in the lives of Black and poor people, here in Alabama, and around the world. We were part of the protests and movement that led to the declaration of Dr. King’s Birthday as a National Holiday,” said Gordon.
By Adam Tamburin and Anita Wadhwani, The Nashville Tennessean
Cyntoia Brown with her attorneys
Gov. Bill Haslam ordered an early release for Cyntoia Brown, a Tennessee woman and alleged sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence in prison for killing a man when she was 16.
Haslam granted Brown a full commutation to parole on Monday. Brown will be eligible for release Aug. 7 on time served and will stay on parole for 10 years.
“Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16,” Haslam said in a statement. “Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 yearsbefore even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.
“Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”
Brown will be required to participate in regular counseling sessions and to perform at least 50 hours of community service, including working with at-risk youth. She also will be required to get a job.
In a statement released by her lawyers, Brown thanked Haslam “for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”
“With God’s help, I am committed to live the rest of my life helping others, especially young people. My hope is to help other young girls avoid ending up where I have been.”
The governor’s long-awaited decision, handed down during his last days in office, brought a dramatic conclusion to Brown’s plea for mercy, which burst onto the national stage as celebrities and criminal justice reform advocates discovered her case.
In his commutation, the governor called Brown’s case one that “appears to me to be a proper one for the exercise of executive clemency.”
“Over her more than fourteen years of incarceration, Ms. Brown has demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation,” the commutation said.
It was a remarkable victory for Brown after years of legal setbacks.
Brown said she was forced into prostitution and was scared for her life when she shot 43-year-old Johnny Allen in the back of the head while they were in bed together.
Allen, a local real estate agent, had picked her up at an East Nashville Sonic restaurant and taken her to his home.
Brown, now 30, was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. She was given a life sentence. Had Haslam declined to intervene, Brown would not have been eligible for parole until she was 69.
The state parole board, which considered Brown’s case in 2018, gave the governor a split recommendation, with some recommending early release and some recommending she stay in prison.
Lawyers for Brown applauded the governor’s decision. “This is truly a joyful moment — for Cyntoia and for all of us who have worked to help her,” the statement from Charles Bone and J.Houston Gordon, Brown’s lead attorneys.”The governor’s decision is proof that our justice system works and it marks the beginning” of a new chapter for Cyntoia.
In recent years, celebrities have highlighted her case, fueling intense interest and a renewed legal fight to get her out of prison.
Activists, lawmakers and celebrities, including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, have cited Brown’s case as an illustration of a broken justice system. Brown was a victim herself, they said, and didn’t deserve her punishment.
Her impending release sets the stage for her to join their ranks.
During her time in prison, Brown completed her GED and got a college degree from Lipscomb University. Her allies say she hopes to apply her education by supporting social justice issues through her own nonprofit.
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As 2019 begins, there is also a new Congress with leadership in the House of Representatives that makes history for people of color and women alike.
Long-time California Representative Nancy Pelosi returns as Speaker of the House – the first time in 50 years that a Member of Congress has achieved this feat. On a gender note, Speaker Pelosi becomes the most powerful woman on Capitol Hill and the only female in the nation’s history to do so.
There’s also another key woman and legislator that is making history. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is now the first Black and the first woman to chair the powerful House Financial Services Committee. Having served on this committee since 1995, and its Ranking Member in the previous Congress, Waters will set the committee’s agenda in key areas affecting the economy, banking, housing, insurance and securities.
The House Financial Services Committee oversees the activities and responsibilities for major financial regulators, agencies, and the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. These agencies include but are not limited to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – that insures monies in depository institutions, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission that is charged with maintaining fair and efficient investment markets.
In other words, the fiery and bold Black lawmaker who earned a reputation for challenging Wall Street and major lenders during the housing crisis will now set the direction for a range of financial players, regulators, and institutions. From monetary policy to the production and distribution of currency, and expanding financial access to affordable housing options, a progressive and principled committee chair is running the show. She is also expected to set standards of performance that level the financial playing field and hold lenders accountable when they take advantage of consumers or discriminate in their lending.
With the right kind of regulation and committee oversight, the nation may be able to change financial trends that have worsened both racial and gender wealth gaps.
For example, a December 2018 report by the Asset Funder’s Network analyzed racial and gender disparities in wealth and found that Black and Latina women have “lost substantial amounts of wealth in the last two decades”.
From 2007 to 2016, Black women ages 45-65 had a 74 percent drop in median wealth, compared to that of White women who experienced a 28 percent drop. Further, the Asset Funders Network concluded the median “quasi-liquid” savings for single Black and Latina women aged 45-50 was $0.
Earlier in 2017 the Federal Reserve found that nearly 1 in 5 black families have zero or negative net worth — twice the rate of white families. Additionally the median net worth of Black families was one-tenth of that held by White families.
These wealth disparities continue to plague communities of color in large part because of disparities in home ownership that enable consumers to build wealth. Year after year, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) report has consistently found that consumers of color are denied access to mortgages, especially private conventional loans that remain the most sustainable and affordable loans.
Last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting published its analysis of the most recent HMDA report. “It found a pattern of troubling denials for people of color across the country, including in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Antonio,” states the report. “African Americans faced the most resistance in Southern cities – Mobile, Alabama; Greenville, North Carolina; and Gainesville, Florida – and Latinos in Iowa City, Iowa.”
A second but equally harmful trend is predatory lending that targets these same consumers with high-cost credit that creates debt traps. When consumers find themselves short of cash before paydays, overdraft fees, payday and car title loans are among the most predatory due to their extremely high interest rates and failure to consider whether borrowers have the financial capacity to repay the loans without taking on additional debt.
For all of Black America, as well as consumer advocates and others who believe financial fairness should be the nation’s watchword, an expectation of a new era of accountability, access and transparency is hoped to soon unfold.
“She is a tough and savvy defender of consumer protection and holds the feet of the banks and the Trump administration regulators to the fire,” said Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending in a recent interview.
Should anyone doubt the resolve of Congresswoman Waters, consider her reaction last fall when she and other prominent progressives faced a series of bomb threats and other violence.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing in order to make this country right,” Waters told the Washington Post. “That’s what I intend to do. And as the young people say, ‘I ain’t scared.’”
Charlene Crowell is the Center for Responsible Lending’s Communications Deputy Director. She can be reached atCharlene.email@example.com.
By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor
President Barack Obama greets Richard Overton, with Earlene Love-Karo, in the Blue Room of the White House, Nov. 11, 2013.
Born on May 11, 1906, Richard Arvin Overton, a member of what is often called America’s “Greatest Generation,” died on December 27th in Austin, Texas. At 112 years and 230 days, Overton was believed to be the oldest living man in the United States as well as America’s oldest veteran.
He enlisted into the Army on September 3, 1940 at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Overton then fought in World War II, serving in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He fought in the South Pacific from 1940 through 1945, a time which included battle in Iwo Jima. He retired from the U.S. Army in October of 1945 as a technician fifth grade. He then worked at a furniture store and then took a job at the Texas Department of the Treasury.
“He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God said former President Barack Obama in 2013 during a Veterans Day ceremony honoring Overton at Arlington National Cemetery.
The second World War was the deadliest conflict in modern military history as over 70 million people lost their lives and the U.S. suffered over 407,000 deaths in battle.
As the years went by Overton became a local and then national celebrity. In 2013, at the age of 107, Overton won widespread media attention after telling Fox News he would spend Memorial Day “smoking cigars and drinking whiskey-stiffened coffee.” He was later invited to the White House.
Overton had been hospitalized with pneumonia but was released from the hospital on December 24, Christmas Eve according to family member Shirley Overton. He had become known in his community for driving others to church well after turning 100 years old.
“With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him,” wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a statement on December 27 after hearing the news of Overton’s death.
The Governor added that Overton was, “an American icon and Texas legend. Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans. We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State.”
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) issued a statement on the death of legendary “song stylist,” Nancy Sue Wilson, who died at age 81.
“I am heartbroken by the passing of my beloved friend, the legendary Nancy Wilson. Nancy was a ‘song stylist’ without peer. Her unmatched mastery of numerous genres of music, including jazz, R&B, gospel, blues, soul and pop, has etched her name in history as one of the most ‘formidable’ vocalists of all time.
“Nancy began singing in church at the age of four in her home town of Chillicothe, Ohio. For more than five decades, she captivated audiences across the globe with her soul-stirring performances that would send chills down your spine; her more than 70 critically acclaimed albums, many of which I own; and her chart-topping hits such as ‘Guess Who I Saw Today,’ ‘Save Your Love for Me,’ and ‘Face It Girl, It’s Over,’ which are considered classics by generations of musicians and fans around the world.
“Nancy is also a pioneer and trailblazer for women and entertainers of color. She hosted the National Public Radio program ‘Jazz Profiles’ for nearly a decade, won an Emmy for her starring role in NBC’s ‘The Nancy Wilson Show’, and served as one of the first African American spokeswomen for major national brands, including Campbell’s Soup.
“Due to her brilliant talent, poise, and grace, Nancy was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including, three Grammy Awards, an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Urban League’s Whitney Young Jr. Award. She also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was recognized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In 2004, Nancy also received the coveted National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Fellowships Award, which is the highest honor granted to jazz musicians by the U.S. government.
“Anyone who knew Nancy understood how deeply she cared for our community, and how committed she was to using her voice to make a difference. We could always count on Nancy to perform for special causes like HIV/AIDS or in support of political leaders. Whenever and wherever we needed her, Nancy would be right there.
“The incomparable Nancy Wilson. A musical genius, trailblazer, and hero who was loved and adored by so many. I join the world in mourning the loss of this extraordinary musical icon, and I consider it a blessing to have the privilege of calling her a cherished friend. My thoughts and prayers are with her three children, Kacy, Samantha, and Sheryl, five grandchildren, relatives and friends during this difficult time.
“Though she is no longer with us, she will forever be remembered in hearts as our ‘Classy, Miss Nancy.’”
Thursday, December 6, 2018 marked the annual Greene County Christmas Parade sponsored by the Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce. Probate Judge Julia Spree served as Grand Marshall. This year’s theme: All Hearts United for Christmas. Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. The Old Courthouse Square in the center of town was creatively adorned in Christmas and holiday decor letting you know Christmas is right around the corner. Other local officials participating in the parade, local businesses and organizations sponsoring floats included: Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison leading the parade; GCHS JROTC; Miss Homecoming, Miss and Mr. GCHS and court; the GCHS Marching Band; Eutaw City Councilwoman Latasha Johnson, Town of Boligee Councilwomen; Christian Lighthouse School; Debutantes sponsored by Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; the Volunteer Fire Departments of Mantua-Lewiston and Tishabee, Boligee as well as the Eutaw City Fire Department; New Generation Church. The horse riders closed out the parade. The winners of the contest for best Store Front decoration are as follow: 1st Place – Banks & Company; 2nd Place – Eutaw City Hall; 3rd Place – Spiller’s Furniture Company. Child Choice Award was awarded to the Greene County Sheriff Department. Float Winners include 1st Place – Christian Light House; 2nd Place – Merchant & Farmers Bank; 3rd Place – Town of Boligee. Honorable Mention- Eutaw Primary. Following the lighting of the Christmas tree, Eutaw Primary students sang several Christmas Carols on the square as proud parents looked on. Ms. Beverly Gordon, President of the Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce, along with a committee of Chamber members and other volunteers organized the Christmas Parade and related events. Numerous businesses decorated their store fronts lifting that old saying: Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
More than 300 people from around the state attended a program on
Saturday, November 17, 2018, to celebrate and honor the 35 years of service by Senator Hank Sanders in the Alabama State Legislature. The program was held at the Wallace Community College in Selma, Alabama. Sixty speakers, dancers, poets, musicians and others spoke and offered tributes on the program which culminated in a ceremony passing the torch of leadership from Hank to his daughter, Maliki Sanders Fortier. She was elected as Senator from the 23rd District of Alabama, comprising ten counties surrounding Selma, in the Alabama Black Belt, in the November 6th General Election, to succeed her father.
Carol P. Zippert, School Board member from Greene County and Co-Publisher of the Greene County Democrat gave the occasion for the program. She said the program was, “ to honor Senator Hank Sanders as a spiritual soldier for justice, visionary and institution builder in the Alabama Black Belt.” A number of Hank’s colleagues from the Legislature came and gave tributes to Hank’s ability, friendship and moving the state, not just Black people, but the state as a whole, forward in a more just and equitable way. Former Lieutenant Governor George McMillan praised Hank for his struggles as a young man, which led him to be more concerned about the welfare of others than himself. He said Hank lived by the dictum, his mother taught him, “Take what you have, To make what you need”. He lives his life asking people, “to turn to each other and not on each other. Jimmy Baker, a former State Finance Director, Senator Little, Senator Lowell Barron, Senator Roger Bedford and others called Senator Hank Sanders a champion of public education, dedicated to an equitable funding of public education which helped poor rural counties Black and white in the state. All said that they were honored and humbled to work with Hank and that they learned a lot from him in all of their interactions with him both political and personal. Senators Roger Smitherman and Linda Coleman of Birmingham, two African-American colleagues praised Hank for welcoming them in the Legislature and helping them to learn the process in Montgomery of how to pass legislation. Smitherman said, “ I want to do everything I can to help Malika Fortier when she joins us in the Senate.” Former Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks said that Hank Sanders was always, “Honest and courageous; a man of vision and hope. I traveled the world with Hank and Rose, to India, Cuba and other places and it was always a great experience, especially learning other people and cultures.” Many local African-American officials including Congresswoman Terri Sewell, School Superintendents and Board members, County Commissioners recognized Senator Hank Sanders for guiding and advising them on difficult decisions and situations that helped them in their careers and personal lives. Joe Reed, leader of the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) said that he and Hank did not agree on all things but that he knew that “Hank never forgot who the real enemy was of the people of Alabama – poverty and injustice – so they could often work together to fight the real enemies of the people of Alabama.” David White, a former reporter for the Birmingham News and now an aide to Governor Kay Ivey praised Hank Sanders for his persistence and raising important issues like the Moratorium on the Death Penalty, which even though not enacted raised aw3areness and consciousness on important issues.
John Zippert, Co Publisher of the Greene County Democrat recognized Hank Sanders for his work on the Pigford Class Action lawsuits for Black farmers; his work with the Alabama New South Coalition and for writing a weekly column, Senate Sketches, for more than 30 years. “ I am proud to say the Greene County Democrat has published each of the 1,640 weekly columns and we will continue publishing his column although it will now be called Sketches, since the author has retired from the Alabama State Senate.”
Members of the Senator’s family including siblings, wife Faya Rose, his children and grandchildren also gave various tributes.
At the end of the program there was a ceremony of passing the torch of leadership and responsibility to the community from Senator Hank Sanders to his daughter, Malika Sanders Fortier. The ceremony was symbolical of the transfer of Hank Sanders duties and role in the Alabama Legislature to his successor.