Annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival returns in live production August 28-29, on old courthouse square in Eutaw

By Carol P. Zippert

The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture, has been held in Eutaw, Greene County, since 1975 as a community celebration. Last year, the festival production was virtual, due to the COVID 19 pandemic, but beginning in early Spring of 2021, the constant inquiries were concerns and encouragements on bringing the live festival back. This year we are celebrating the 46th anniversary of the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival live on the old courthouse square in Eutaw, scheduled for Saturday August 28 and Sunday August 29. We hope that the continued decrease of coronavirus positive cases and the continuing vaccinations of residents will provide for a relatively safe environment for this year’s festival. Every precaution will be observed to assure the safety of all participants and attendees at the festival, encouraging everyone to wear masks, use hand sanitizers regularly and keep safe distances around vendors and in seating. There will be a limited number of vendors on site in keeping with the safety measures. The underlying theme of the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival has always been an acknowledgement of How We Made It Over. The handcrafted items, including quilts, baskets utensils and others, speak to the necessity of these in earlier times. Quilts were sewn for warmth in winter; baskets had various household uses including carrying cotton from the fields, and as essential for laundry day tasks. Even the foodways demonstrate how our elders, having access to only cast-off items, took what they had to make what they needed. The regional musicians who gather for the Ole Timey Blues show on Saturday, remind us of the struggles of yesterday and how we face similar struggles in our living today. Sunday’s Ole Timey Gospel show, in turn, reminds us of our perseverance, faith and hopefulness that carried us through struggle. The annual festival will again feature a Children’s Tent where artists will engage the young people in hands-on art activities. The purpose is to help our youth find their place and voice in this cultural celebration. The annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is generally embraced as the countywide community celebration, which speaks to and touches the lives of everyone’s history and culture. The festival is a time when family and school classes plan reunions in the county to coincide with festival dates. Family members and various classmates living away come home at festival time to celebrate home – family, church, school, athletics, postsecondary training, weddings and other social milestones. Barring public health mandates to cancel, the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival will be live on the Thomas Gilmore Courthouse Square in Eutaw on Saturday August 28, with the blues show beginning at 11a.m. and Sunday August 29, with the gospel show beginning at 2 p.m. As a community celebration, there is no monetary admission fee. Come with good will and a disposition toward safety.

Eutaw City Council approves raises for police and water department

Mayor Latasha Johnson, Council members and staff present check for $30,000 to support E-911 dispatch and other emergency services. Funds came from the City’s American Rescue Act funding.

At Tuesday night’s regular Eutaw City Council meeting, the members went through an extensive agenda mostly distributing funds and buying necessary items with General Funds and special funds provided to the city under the American Rescue Plan passed by Democrats in Congress and signed by President Biden. Fiscal Advisor, Ralph Liverman reported that the City had raised $577,000 in General Fund revenues in nine months since the October 1st fiscal year had begun, compared with $525,000 in revenues forecast in the budget. “This means the city will earn additional revenues beyond what we budgeted and the Council can approve additional needed expenditures,” said Liverman. Liverman also reported that $800,914 in revenues from the City’s Water Department for nine months, ending June 30, 2021 was substantially greater than the budgeted amount and more than last year’s full collections. Liverman said Corey Martin, Water Department Supervisor had corrected problems with meters and leaks, raised collections, and secured a license as a sewer operator as well as having a water operator’s license, required to operate the city’s systems. At the Mayor’s suggestion, Liverman recommended that the Council approve a raise of $4.00 an hour for Corey Martin. The Council approved the raised based on the recommendation. It was noted at the end of September 2021, the city would no longer have to pay another contracted company $1,900 for supervising the sewer system, since Martin’s new sewage license would qualify him to play this role. The Mayor asked that the Council approve a $1.00 an hour raise for all police officers which would raise the minimum pay for certified officers to $15.00 an hour. Chief Tommy Johnson commented, “This rate of pay is still low in comparison with other cities, like Moundville and Linden who are paying $17 an hour. Some cities like Demopolis are offering a $5,000 signing bonus. Councilwoman Jacqueline Stewart said she supported a pay raise but it should be based on an evaluation of the individual officer’s work record. “Some officers may deserve more than a $1.00 an hour raise and some less,” she said. Mayor Johnson said let’s give this raise, because it is in the budget already and look again in six months to get an evaluation of all police officers for additional adjustments in pay. The Council and mayor unanimously approved this pay raise for the police. The Eutaw Council also approved spending $97,208 for a well improvement telemetry program to put all wells on a digitally monitored system instead of using a telephonic warning system, which does not provide the information on a as detailed or timely basis. They approved $3,483 a year for the On-Solve Community Notification System, to inform residents of emergencies and problems with the city utilities. They also approved $21,175 for new software for bookkeeping, cemetery maintenance and business licenses; $8,896 for purchase of body cameras for the police; and $1, 980 for replacement of the light fixtures in the City Council meeting chamber. Most of these expenditures will be paid by the American Rescue Plan funds or from the Capital Improvement budget. In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:

•Approved a resolution to set up a Water Department Revenue Account and ending the Water Deposit Account, since there are no records of water deposits paid. If a resident can produce a receipt for a water deposit they will be reimbursed. New water customers will be required to pay a one-time $100 water connection and account fee. •Adopted a written Water Leak and Bill Dispute Policy.

•Approved several members of the staff to attend an Alabama Rural Water Training in Tuscaloosa on July 15, 2021

•Approved a resolution to set up a bank account for currency seized by police in raids and arrests.

•Approved the creation of a police sub-station at the Robert H. Young Community Center (old Carver School). •Approved paying bills. •Approved a contribution of $30,000 to support E-911.

Greene County Freedom Day scheduled for July 31

Johnny Ford

Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement, Inc. will host the 52nd Annual Greene County Freedom Day Program, Saturday, July 31, 2021 on the Rev. Thomas Gilmore Square (old courthouse). Honorable Johnny Ford, of Tuskegee, AL will serve as the keynote speaker. “On Greene County Freedom Day, July 29, 1969, a Special Election was held in the county that elected the first four Black County Commissioners and two additional Black school board members, which gave Black people control of the major agencies of government,” said Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement. This special election in the summer of 1969 was ordered by the United States Supreme Court when the names of Black candidates, running on the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA), were deliberately left off the November 1968 General Election ballot by the ruling white political officials of the time. “The special election of July 29, 1969 allowed Black voters, many newly registered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, who were the majority population in Greene County to have their say in a free and democratic election” Gordon stated. COVID 19 Vaccinations will be promoted at the event. According Gordon, he is arranging for individuals to get vaccinations at the program on July 31. A limited number of gift certificates will be given to individuals getting their vaccinations on July 31. Gordon stated that more information on the gift certificates will be provided at a later time.

Newswire : Monthly child tax credit payments start July 15. Here’s what parents need to know

Black family eligible for Child Tax Credit Good news for parents: Monthly payments through the new federal enhanced child tax credit will begin July 15. The credit will go to roughly 39 million households with about 65 million children, or 88% of children in the U.S., according to the IRS. The expanded credit was established in the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March. In 2021, the maximum enhanced child tax credit is $3,600 for children younger than age 6 and $3,000 for those between 6 and 17. Those payments will be sent out as an advance on 2021 taxes in monthly installments that could be as much as $300 per month for younger children and $250 per month for older ones. The credit is per child in each household, meaning a family with three children ages 4, 8 and 12, for example, could receive up to $800 on a monthly basis (A $300 credit for the 4-year-old, and $250 each for the older kids.) “For working families with children, this tax cut sends a clear message: Help is here,” said President Joe Biden in a Monday statement. Here’s what families need to know ahead of the July 15 start. Who qualifies for the maximum credit? Most American families qualify for some amount of money through the child tax credit. The full credit is available to married couples with children filing jointly with adjusted gross income less than $150,000, or $75,000 for individuals. The enhanced tax credit will phase out for taxpayers who make more money and cease for individuals earning $95,000 and married couples earning $170,000 filing jointly. Taxpayers who make more than that will still be eligible for the regular child tax credit, which is $2,000 per child under age 17 for families making less than $200,000 annually, or $400,000 for married couples. Most families eligible to receive the payments don’t have to do anything right now, according to the IRS. The agency will use the information filed on 2020 tax returns first to determine eligibility and will notify taxpayers, Ken Corbin, commissioner of the IRS’ Wage and Investment Division, during a Friday tax conference. For those who haven’t filed 2020 taxes, the IRS will use 2019 returns. The IRS is also working to make a portal available for non-filers to submit their information and receive the credit. The agency also plans on making an additional portal for taxpayers to submit other changes going forward, such as updating family information if there’s a change in custody, which parent is claiming the child and credit or if you have a child during the year. How will payments be sent? As with the stimulus checks sent out by the IRS earlier this year and last, most of the monthly child tax credit payments will be sent by direct deposit — some 80% of those eligible will get the money this way, according to the agency. If the IRS has direct deposit information on your tax return, it’s likely this is how you’ll receive the monthly credit. If you don’t have direct deposit, the IRS will also be sending out paper checks and debit cards to some families. When will future payments be sent? The IRS said that future payments will be made on the 15th of each month, unless the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, at which point the money will be sent on the closest business day. Families can plan their budgets around receiving the payment mid-month, the IRS said. So far, the monthly payments are only scheduled to continue through the end of 2021. Families will receive the second half of the credit when they file their 2021 taxes in 2022. But that could change — President Biden has suggested making the enhanced credit available through 2025, and other Democrats want to make it a permanent benefit. Can I opt out? What happens if I do? Families can opt out of receiving the monthly payments for the credit through an IRS portal. Those who do this won’t get the monthly amounts but will still receive the full credit they are eligible for when they file their 2021 taxes in 2022. Some families may choose this route because they don’t need the monthly payments immediately or prefer to get a large lump sum of money back from the IRS as a tax refund, said Elaine Maag, a principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center “There’s evidence that shows that some people really like getting that large tax refund, and can use it as an opportunity to purchase a large household item like a refrigerator or put together first and last month’s rent so they can move,” she said. To see how much you could expect to receive, personal finance website Grow created a calculator that factors in your filing status, annual income and the number of dependents you have.

Newswire: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights urges Congress to close Medicaid insurance coverage gap, especially in Southern states

Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with several other civil rights organizations wrote Democratic members of Congress urging them to close the Medicaid coverage gap in upcoming legislation. The groups pointed out that the current coverage gap leaves over 2 million people, including 600,000 African Americans living in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas living below the poverty line, without access to affordable health insurance coverage.  “In the states that have undertaken it, Medicaid expansion has narrowed racial and ethnic disparities in both coverage and access to care, and it has saved lives. But these more than 600,000 African Americans living in the eight Southern states that have refused to take up the Medicaid expansion have experienced none of these gains, solely because of where they live. Overall, 60 percent of people in the coverage gap in the 12 non-expansion states are people of color, reflecting long-standing racial and ethnic disparities in health care access that Medicaid expansion would do much to address. In these states, African Americans are 19 percent of the adult population but 28 percent of those in the coverage gap,” they noted.  The groups also urged members of Congress to address the coverage disparity in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic amplified pre-existing inequities in health care, with deadly consequences for many in the Black community as well as other communities of color,” they said. “Therefore, we are urging Congress to address this by providing a federal pathway to coverage for the millions of African Americans and other people of color shut out of their state’s Medicaid program.”  Given the systemic racial and economic disparities in the American healthcare system, the groups concluded by insisting that Congress move to address this coverage gap immediately, to ensure that mistakes of the past are not repeated to the detriment of the most vulnerable communities.  You can view the full letter at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights webs

Newswire : Zalia Avant-garde makes history as 1st African American Spelling Bee Champ

Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from Harvey, Louisiana celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the finals of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee at Disney World Thursday, July 8, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

 

By: Associated Press

Zaila Avant-garde understood the significance of what she was doing as she stood on the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage, peppering pronouncer Jacques Bailly with questions about Greek and Latin roots. Zaila knew she would be the first African American winner of the bee. She knew Black kids around the country were watching Thursday night’s ESPN2 telecast, waiting to be inspired and hoping to follow in the footsteps of someone who looked like them. She even thought of MacNolia Cox, who in 1936 became the first Black finalist at the bee and wasn’t allowed to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the spellers. But she never let the moment become too big for her, and when she heard what turned out to be her winning word — “Murraya,” a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees — she beamed with confidence. It was over. Declared the champion, Zaila jumped and twirled with joy, only flinching in surprise when confetti was shot onto the stage.“I was pretty relaxed on the subject of Murraya and pretty much any other word I got,” Zaila said. The only previous Black champion was also the only international winner: Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica in 1998. The bee, however, has still been a showcase for spellers of color over the past two decades, with kids of South Asian descent dominating the competition. Zaila’s win breaks a streak of at least one Indian-American champion every year since 2008. Zaila has other priorities, which perhaps explains how she came to dominate this year’s bee. The 14-year-old from Harvey, Louisiana, is a basketball prodigy who owns three Guinness world records for dribbling multiple balls simultaneously and hopes to one day play in the WNBA or even coach in the NBA. She described spelling as a side hobby, even though she routinely practiced for seven hours a day. “I kind of thought I would never be into spelling again, but I’m also happy that I’m going to make a clean break from it,” Zaila said. “I can go out, like my Guinness world records, just leave it right there, and walk off.” Many of top Scripps spellers start competing as young as kindergarten. Zaila only started a few years ago, after her father, Jawara Spacetime, watched the bee on TV and realized his daughter’s affinity for doing complicated math in her head could translate well to spelling. She progressed quickly enough to make it to nationals in 2019 but bowed out in the preliminary rounds. That’s when she started to take it more seriously and began working with a private coach, Cole Shafer-Ray, a 20-year-old Yale student and the 2015 Scripps runner-up. “Usually to be as good as Zaila, you have to be well-connected in the spelling community. You have to have been doing it for many years,” Shafer-Ray said. “It was like a mystery, like, ‘Is this person even real?’” Shafer-Ray quickly realized his pupil had extraordinary gifts. “She really just had a much different approach than any speller I’ve ever seen. She basically knew the definition of every word that we did, like pretty much verbatim,” he said. “She knew, not just the word but the story behind the word, why every letter had to be that letter and couldn’t be anything else.” Most of the bee was held virtually, and only the 11 finalists got to compete in person, in a small portion of a cavernous arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Florida that also hosted the NBA playoff bubble last year. The in-person crowd was limited to spellers’ immediate family, Scripps staff, selected media — and first lady Jill Biden, who spoke to the spellers and stayed to watch. The format of the bee, too, underwent an overhaul after the 2019 competition ended in an eight-way tie. Scripps’ word list was no match for the top spellers that year, but this year, five of the 11 finalists were eliminated in the first onstage round. Then came the new wrinkle of this year’s bee: multiple-choice vocabulary questions. All six remaining spellers got those right. Zaila won efficiently enough — the bee was over in less than two hours — that another innovation, a lightning-round tiebreaker, wasn’t necessary. She will take home more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. The runner-up was Chaitra Thummala, a 12-year-old from Frisco, Texas, and another student of Shafer-Ray. She has two years of eligibility remaining and instantly becomes one of next year’s favorites. Bhavana Madini, a 13-year-old from Plainview, New York, finished third and also could be back.

Newswire : Biden: Voting Rights struggle is ‘Most significant test of democracy since Civil War’

By: The Philadelphia Inquirer PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden called the right to vote “a test of our time” and urged Americans to protect it amid GOP-led changes to election laws and threats to voting rights, casting the battle as a globally watched test of U.S. democracy in a speech at the National Constitution Center on Tuesday. “We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War,” Biden said in a roughly 25-minute speech to supporters. We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War,” Biden said in a roughly 25-minute speech to supporters. “That’s not hyperbole — since the Civil War.” He directly tied the fight to former President Donald Trump’s false attacks on the 2020 election, while pointing to the numerous courts cases, audits, and reviews that have upheld the result. “The big lie is just that: a big lie,” he said. “You don’t call facts ‘fake’ and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy. That’s not statesmanship, that’s selfishness. That’s not democracy, that’s the denial of the right to vote. It suppresses. It subjugates.” He called for efforts to pass Democrats’ sweeping voting rights bill, the For the People Act, blasted false attacks on the 2020 election, and repeatedly said that U.S. allies were watching the fight for signs of the health of the world’s leading democracy. Biden also called for voters to rise up in opposition to Republican legislation. But at the same time, he offered little hint of how Democrats’ sweeping voting reforms could make it through Washington, indicating the limits of his powers and how far he is willing to push, even as allies urge him to support an end to the Senate filibuster. Republicans argue that Democrats are trying to impose national standards on elections, tilt the rules in their own favor, and force major taxpayer funding of campaigns, as part of Democrats’ plan to reduce the influence of big political donors. “After Democrats failed to pass their federal takeover of our elections … Biden is continuing their dishonest attacks on commonsense election integrity efforts,” said a statement from Republican National Committee spokesperson Danielle Álvarez. “Meanwhile, Republicans are engaged in state-led efforts to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat, and polling shows Americans overwhelmingly support these laws.”

COVID-19

As of July 2, 2021 at 10:00 AM (according to Alabama Political Reporter) Alabama had 551, 298 confirmed cases of coronavirus, (315) more than last week with 11,358 deaths (6) more than last week)

Greene County had 938 confirmed cases, (1 more cases than last week),with 35 deaths

Sumter Co. had 1,062 cases with 32 deaths

Hale Co. had 2,273 cases with 78 deaths

Note: Greene County Physicians Clinic has Johnson and Johnson, one dose vaccination for COVID-19; Call for appointments at 205/372-3388, Ext. 142; ages 18 and up.

Sheriff reports $500,813.23 in bingo gaming distribution for May from four licensed facilities

On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department issued a listing of the distributions for May, 2021, totaling $500,813,28 from four bingo gaming facilities licensed by Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison.  The May distribution reported by the sheriff does not include the additional $71,000 from Greenetrack, Inc., which distributes to the same recipients, independent of the sheriff. The bingo facilities distributing through the sheriff include Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace, Bama Bingo. A distribution for May from the recently licensed Marvel City Bingo was not included in the Sheriff’s report.  The recipients of the May distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).    Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library. Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System,  $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50     Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board  of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50. River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following:  Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee  each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33.     Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $155,838.30 to the following: Greene County Commission, $41,358; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $45,765; City of Eutaw, $12,543; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $5,254.50; Greene County Board of Education, $14,238 and the Greene County Health System, $16,950; Sub Charities each, 1,536.80.