COVID-19

As of January 12, 2021 at 9:30 AM
(according to Alabama Political Reporter)
Alabama had 407,848 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (23,664) more than last week with 5,573 deaths (579 more than last week)
Greene County had 738 confirmed cases, (29 more cases than last week),
with 20 deaths
Sumter Co. had 890 cases with 26 deaths
Hale Co. had 1,695 cases with 42 deaths

Commission uses CARES funds to equip courthouse with remote access for conferences, training, and court sessions

At the Greene County Commission meeting, held Monday, January 11, 2021, Macaroy Underwood, CPA, noted that additional technology capacity, authorized by the Commission, has been installed in the William M. Branch (county) Courthouse. The new equipment will allow the commissioners to conduct or attend conferences and training workshops remotely, as well as to live-stream the commission’s local meetings. The monitors and cameras will allow the judges to hold remote court sessions. Macaroy noted that the foyer entrance to the courthouse is also equipped for public wi-fi access. Courthouse personnel will receive training relative to use of the new equipment and their courthouse duties.
The county invested approximately $20,000 from federal CARES funds to cover cost of equipment purchase, installation and training.
In new business before the commission, the body approved a resolution, presented by County Engineer, Willie Branch, accepting the Community Development Black Grant and authorizing the commission chairperson to sign the accompanying paperwork. At the Greene County Commission meeting, held Monday, January 11, 2021, Macaroy Underwood, CPA, noted that additional technology capacity, authorized by the Commission, has been installed in the William M. Branch (county) Courthouse. The new equipment will allow the commissioners to conduct or attend conferences and training workshops remotely, as well as to live-stream the commission’s local meetings. The monitors and cameras will allow the judges to hold remote court sessions. Macaroy noted that the foyer entrance to the courthouse is also equipped for public wi-fi access. Courthouse personnel will receive training relative to use of the new equipment and their courthouse duties.
The county invested approximately $20,000 from federal CARES funds to cover cost of equipment purchase, installation and training.
In new business before the commission, the body approved a resolution, presented by County Engineer, Willie Branch, accepting the Community Development Black Grant and authorizing the commission chairperson to sign the accompanying paperwork.The county was awarded a CDB Grant in the amount of $385, 000, of which $350,000 is to be paid from grant funds and $35,000 is to be paid for using local in kind labor and equipment matching funds.
The grant was awarded by ADECA to construct improvements on several roads throughout the county.
In the financial report to the commission, CEO Macaroy noted the following bank balances as of December 20, 2020: Citizen Trust Bank – $3,891,168.27; Merchant & Farmers Bank – $2,886,877.41; Total Investments – $1,148,604.63; Total claims paid for December – $598,159.92, with total electronic claims paid at $57,323.67.
The commission noted that courthouse personnel remain on ac rotating schedule, as a continued precaution relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising positive rates in Greene County. The various offices will serve the public on a first come basis, no appointment needed, but the courthouse will close at 3:00 pm until further notice.

Alabama Coronavirus vaccinations: great demand – limited supplies; ALDPH urges patience

Attorney Hank Sanders shown getting the vaccine in Selma.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ALDPH) says it has not received enough doses of the coronavirus vaccine to serve the 325,000 frontline health workers in the state, much less the over 300,000 people in the age group over 75, teachers and other essential workers who are in the next group scheduled to be vaccinated.
The ALDPH has asked people in the State of Alabama to be patient as it seeks to increase its delivery of vaccines and their distribution around the state.
In a January 9th press release the ALDPH said “As of January 18th, the Health Department will offer vaccinations to the population ages 75 and over. You may call 1-855-566-5333 from 8:00AM to 5:00PM, seven days a week to schedule an appointment.”
Three days later ALDPH issued a press release saying over 1.1 million people in the state had called the number, most without reaching anyone to schedule their appointment. Later ALDPH warned that calling hospitals directly to inquire about vaccinations was tying up phone lines needed for emergency calls.
Several persons connected with the Greene County Health System Board of Directors report calling the toll-free line numerous times without success. Most received a busy signal or a voicemail which records their interest in a vaccination but there has been no call back with an appointment for vaccination.
A GCHS staff member who did receive their first vaccination shot was having trouble reaching the ALDPH to schedule their second shot which is due soon.
Dr. Pugh, CEO and Administrator of the Greene County Health System says, “I have been working to secure vaccines for our facility to be able to vaccine various priority groups. The best information so far is that we will get supplies of vaccine by the end of January. We have had some of our medical and support staff vaccinated at the Health Department. We do not have a date yet for the vaccination of the nursing home residents and other vulnerable groups, who are on the priority list for vaccination.”
John Zippert, Chair of the GCHS Board of Directors says, “The muddled vaccine delivery and distribution problems in Alabama arise from the failure of the national administration in Washington to develop a national plan for coronavirus vaccination and to provide the resources to implement the plan. We may have to wait until after the Biden-Harris Inauguration, to have people take charge who are concerned and really want to stop this damaging pandemic. In the meantime, I guess we are forced to accept the Alabama Department of Public Health’s prescription of patience.”
“We have so many people desperately seeking the vaccination when the state of Alabama is having difficulties getting us a supply of vaccine,”. said Dr. Pugh.
The problems of vaccine distribution come with a backdrop of increasing and record numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths attributable to the coronavirus in Greene County, Alabama and the nation

Judge John H. England, Jr. retires from the Judicial Bench after serving 27 years

Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John H. England, Jr. will officially retire from his current judicial duties, Monday, January 18, 2021 after 27 years on the Judicial Bench as Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge and a member of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Judge England, 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.
In reviewing Judge England’s preparations and achievements, it becomes apparent, that as an African American, he was the first or among the first in instances on his journey. He was the first in his family to attend college. He was a member of the first class of Blacks to enter the University of Alabama School of Law, graduating in 1974 and began his law practice in Tuscaloosa.
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, John H. England, III, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District in Alabama, April England Albright, a Civil Rights Attorney in Atlanta and Chris England, Alabama State Representative and Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, also graduated from the UA Law School.
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.
As he pursued his career as a young barrister, England was the first Black attorney to represent the Perry County School Board. He was the attorney for the Greene County Commission from 1981 until he assumed the Bench in 1993. He also represented the Greene County Racing Commission and the Town of Forkland and served as a part-time instructor at Miles College-Eutaw Extension. England often remarks that he got his gray hair in Greene County.
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 has 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).
England is a graduate of the 1996 Leadership Alabama Class. He has also served as State President of Alabama New South Coalitions and in other leadership roles with ANSC.
In the course of this interview, Judge England noted that he is retiring from the bench, “ I am not retiring from giving whatever service I can wherever I feel I am needed and can contribute. I will take time to decide what I will do,” he said.
In his continuing reflections, England emphasized that he has learned much over the years. “I learned a lot about what passes for justice in our community. I’ve also learned there are things I have conveyed that I think have helped those who have come before me, such as clients, lawyers and judges, and I have learned a lot from them as well,” he stated.
England said he believes listening is a key to learning. “ I have come to value that you can learn something from any person, if you are listening. Many people who came before my court have later attested, ‘I was heard,’ including some individuals I had ruled against.”
In remarking on what he would have done differently, Judge England stated,” I can’t think of a particular thing I would have done differently. Even with the few times a higher court reversed a decision, I know I made the best decision I could with what was presented to me at the time. I can live with myself.”

Greenetrack Charities distribute $71,000, with $9,000 to support local HeadStart Program

L to R Mr. Luther Winn, Greenetrack, Inc. CEO/President; Ms. Bessie Howard, Center Manager, Greene County HeadStart; Michelle Aaron; Natasha Williams.

In the December, 2020 distribution of $71,000, Greenetrack, Inc. Charities gave a specific contribution of $9,000 to Community Service Program of West Alabama in support of the Greene County Head Start Program.
Head Start/Early Head Start, a division of Community Service Programs of West Alabama, Inc., provides comprehensive services to children, ages birth to five, of low-income families. The program focuses on school readiness and improving family functioning. Applications are currently being accepted. Families can apply online at http://www.cspwal.com.
The non-profit charities operating electronic bingo at Greenetrack in Eutaw, AL, E-911 Communication Services, the Greene County Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, and Woman to Woman, Inc., provided charitable contributions, for the month of December, to a variety of local organizations, all benefitting Greene County residents.
A total of $71,100 dollars was divided and given to the following charities:
Greene County Board of Education ($13,500); Greene County Hospital ($7,500); Greene County Commission ($24,000); City of Eutaw ($4,500); City of Union ($3,000); City of Boligee ($3,000); City of Forkland ($3,000); Greene County Ambulance Service ($8,000) and Woman to Woman for 2021 toward Community Service Program of West Alabama for Greene County HeadStart Program.
Each of the following non-profit groups received $300: Greene County Nursing Home, SCORE, Greene County Golf Course, James C. Poole Memorial Library, Greene County Foster & Adoptive Parents Association, PARA, Greene County Housing Authority Youth Involvement, Children’s Policy Council, Reach, Greene County DHR, Greene County Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, and the Society of Folk Arts and Culture.

Newswire: African maternal health groups see better times for women under Biden

African women at maternal care clinic

(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN) – Maternal health groups worldwide are hoping that the election of Joe Biden will lead to a lifting of the so-called “global gag rule’ which cut off much-needed maternal health services in many parts of the developing world.
 
“I am excited and hopeful that things are going to be better,” said Nelly Munyasia, executive director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. Her network promotes health services, including offering information about abortion.
 
“We are going to access funding and we are going to save the lives of women and girls,” she says, before explaining how tough the past four years has been.
 
Current US policies restrict access to safe abortion not just by attaching anti-abortion conditions to foreign aid. The United States also imposes its rules on how medical providers and non-profits spend their own funds, and on how they care for and advise their clients. The so-called global gag rule led to more pregnancies and lower contraceptive use among women in African countries reliant on U.S. foreign aid, according to a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal.
 
“Our findings suggest how a U.S. policy that aims to restrict federal funding for abortion services can lead, unintentionally, to more – and probably riskier – abortions in poor countries,” said Nina Brooks, a researcher at Stanford University who co-led the work.
 
Stanford University’s Eran Bendavid, who co-led the study, said its findings had probably captured only a partial view of the policy’s harm to maternal health, since knock-on effects of risky abortions were not measured.
 
“Because abortions are an important cause of maternal mortality, the increase in abortion uptake might also increase maternal deaths — and possibly disproportionately given that abortions under the policy could be less safe,” he said.
 
When organizations reject U.S. funds, they often have to reduce the scale of their programs—years of work to earn the trust of marginalized communities are also lost when clinics close and there are often no other existing programs to replace the services.
 
Past versions of the global gag rule have shown that the policy does not reduce the number of abortions and has instead increased unsafe abortions. It also has negative impacts on maternal, newborn, and child health.
 
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to repeal the Mexico City Policy – also known as the ‘global gag rule’ as one of his early acts in office.
 
GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK creates and distributes news and feature articles on current affairs in Africa to media outlets, scholars, students and activists in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to introduce important new voices on topics relevant to Americans, to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.
 

Newswire : John Deere pledges support to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund’s Heirs’ Property Programs

John Deere tractor

Atlanta, Georgia, January 6, 2020- For almost a century, the number of Black farmers and Black-owned land steadily declined. One of the primary reasons for that decline was and continues to be heirs’ property. More than 60 percent of Black farmers currently operate on heirs’ property. Heirs’ property—land owned by two or more people, usually with a common ancestor who died without leaving a legal will—is the leading cause of involuntary land loss among Black farmers.
John Deere is assisting the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/ Land Assistance Fund—the oldest and largest Black farmer institution and only cooperatively owned organization of Black farmers, landowners and cooperatives in the country—in its efforts to address heirs property and leverage additional expertise and resources around their Regional Heirs’ Property & Mediation Center. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives has been leading grassroots solutions on heirs’ property, land retention and cooperative wealth building in African American communities in the rural south for over 53 years.
“The partnership with The Federation will advance resources that will effectively secure property ownership for Black farmers and their families,” said Marc Howze, Group President, Lifecycle Solutions and Chief Administrative Officer for John Deere. “We have a tremendous opportunity to make an impactful difference in the community.”
“We are pleased to partner with John Deere to help inform and guide their focus, partnerships and resources around heirs’ property,” said Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/ Land Assistance Fund. “Over the last 53 years, we have identified resource gaps that prevent Black farmers from resolving their heirs’ property issues. Access to trusted and affordable legal assistance in rural communities of color continues to be a significant challenge for Black farmers,” 
One of the goals of the partnership will be to provide more legal resources to help farmers gain clear title to their land. John Deere will provide key investments in the federation’s Legal Internship Program and National Heirs’ Property Conference over the next five years.
“Our commitment signals the beginning of a broader partnership that will unlock the productivity and economic value harnessed in land ownership,” said John C. May, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for John Deere. 
Access to trusted legal assistance is often the greatest challenge heirs’ property owners face. There is a shortage of trusted attorneys who specialize in handling heirs’ property cases. The Federation has successfully worked with Southern University Law Center and other historically Black law schools to create a pipeline of attorneys who fill this gap. Over the last 53 years, the Federation has provided fertile soil to grow land retention professionals and attorneys. The Federation’s Legal Internship Program has been a successful model to expose law students to heirs’ property issues and prepare them to go into rural communities and provide the legal assistance needed to save Black-owned land.
 
Monica Armster Rainge, the Federation’s Director of Land Retention and Advocacy and an agricultural lawyer, started as a legal intern at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in 1996. “Law Schools rarely focus on the unique legal issues heirs’ property owners face, so my internship experience with the Federation was an eye-opener. I did not know that this was a career choice with so much opportunity to make a real difference in my community,” said Rainge.
 
Over the years, the Federation has been a training incubator for many of today’s national experts in Black land retention. “We are preparing the next generation of Black lawyers and professionals to meet the growing legal needs in our communities. I am honored to pay my experience forward,” said Rainge.
 
The Federation’s Legal Internship Program provides law students with a twelve (12) week internship opportunity to assist licensed attorneys with land tenure and heirs’ property issues across the Southeastern United States where heirs’ property is most prevalent. Summer legal interns work under the supervision of a staff attorney in (1) researching and clearing property titles, (2) conducting family meetings and conferences, (3) participating in land retention workshops, (4) researching law and updating legal guides and brochures, (5) drafting legal documents including wills and (6) organizing Community Wills Clinics.
In addition to supporting the Legal Internship Program, Deere’s commitment will include a major sponsorship of the Federation’s National Heirs’ Property Conference over the next five years. The National Heirs’ Property Conference known as “FORWARD” is the federation’s largest heirs’ property event of the year. The conference is intentionally designed to empower heirs’ property owners with the strategies and resources they need to clear their title and make their land a wealth-building asset. FORWARD is the nation’s largest gathering of heirs’ property owners and passionate land retention practitioners from across the US. The 2nd Annual National Heirs’ Property Conference was a virtual held on, Dec. 2-4, ,2020. This year’s conference will be held on December 1-3, 2021.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, entering its 53nd year, assists limited-resource farmers, landowners, and cooperatives across the South with business planning, debt restructuring, marketing expertise, and a whole range of other services to ensure the retention of land ownership and cooperatives as a tool for social and economic justice. The overall mission is to reverse the trend of black land loss and be a catalyst for the development of self-supporting communities via cooperative economic development, land retention and advocacy. More information is available at: http://www.federation.coop.

Newswire: In first act of new Congress, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduces Reparations (HR – 40) Bill

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Sheila Jackson Lee


With the start of the 117th Congress this week, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary, Budget, and Homeland Security, has reaffirmed her quest for legislation that could eventually provide reparations for slavery victims.
On Monday, January 4, 2021, Jackson Lee re-introduced H.R. 40, a bill that would fund a committee to explore whether Black Americans should receive reparations for slavery. While it does not directly introduce payments, the Commission would study racial inequities and policy solutions.
“In short, the Commission aims to study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation to the desegregation process and the present day,” stated Jackson Lee.
The Congresswoman also serves as the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. “The commission would also make recommendations concerning any form of apology and compensation to begin the long-delayed process of atonement for slavery.”
Under H.R. 40, the Commission would comprise members appointed by the White House and both Congress chambers. The bill has had increased support with 147 co-sponsors in the House, all Democrats.
Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Republicans in the Senate have indicated strong opposition to taking the measure up in that Chamber, the Georgia runoff elections count as a huge step toward getting the bill passed.
Two Senate seats are at stake in Georgia, with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock squaring off against Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
“The impact of slavery and its vestiges continues to affect African Americans and indeed all Americans in communities throughout our nation,” Jackson Lee remarked.
“This legislation is intended to examine the institution of slavery in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present, and further recommend appropriate remedies. Since the initial introduction of this legislation, its proponents have made substantial progress in elevating the discussion of reparations and reparatory justice at the national level and joining the mainstream international debate on the issues.”
Jackson Lee noted that some have “tried to deflect” the importance of these conversations by focusing on individual monetary compensation.
“The real issue is whether and how this nation can come to grips with the legacy of slavery that still infects current society. Through legislation, resolutions, news, and litigation, we are moving closer to making more strides in the movement toward reparations,” Jackson Lee said.
The Texas Congresswoman noted that she expects more co-sponsors during the new Congress. “Today, there are more people at the table — more activists, more scholars, more CEO’s, more state and local officials, and more Members of Congress,” she declared.
“However, despite this progress and the election of the first American President of African descent, the legacy of slavery lingers heavily in this nation. While we have focused on the social effects of slavery and segregation, its continuing economic implications remain largely ignored by mainstream analysis.”
Jackson Lee continued: “These economic issues are the root cause of many critical issues in the African American community today, such as education, healthcare, and criminal justice policy, including policing practices. The call for reparations represents a commitment to entering a constructive dialogue on the role of slavery and racism in shaping present-day conditions in our community and American society.
“I believe that H.R. 40 is a crucial piece of legislation because it goes beyond exploring the economic implications of slavery and segregation.
“It is a holistic bill in the sense that it seeks to establish a commission to also examine the moral and social implications of slavery.
“In short, the Commission aims to study the impact of slavery and to address continuing disparities in the African American community and discrimination against the African American community, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation.
“After its study, the Commission would offer proposals concerning the long-term impact of slavery and bring about solutions to these ongoing disparities in the African American Community.”

Newswire: It’s not over: as video champions new attacks, Biden-Harris Inauguration to be held outside

By Hazel Trice Edney

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.”

Bayou La Batre, an historic African American community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast suffers from Hurricane Katrina 15 years later

Posted on October 29, 2020 by greenecodemocratcom

Shrimp boats deposited on land, in Bayou La Batre, by Hurricane Katrina

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)

These activists also vowed to continue the fight for thousands of others who were left out in the cold, like the Robbins family. (“We Have Lost One of Our Own: Stella Mae Smith”, Posted by Bridge the Gulf /May 12, 2012.)
https://bridgethegulfproject.org/blog/2012/we-have-lost-one-our-own-stella-mae-smith

“Struggle for a Home Struggle for a Home in Alabama’s Bayou”

Barbara Robbins standing, her sister- in-law Rossie Robbins is seated to her right. Both had attended a meeting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office previously in 2009. 

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.