Dallas County Courthouse Annex named and dedicated to Attorneys J. L. Chestnut and Bruce Carver Boynton

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

On Tuesday, September 14, 2021 there was a ceremony held in Selma, Alabama, to dedicate and name the Dallas County Courthouse Annex for two civil rights attorneys who were born and worked much of their lives in Selma and the Alabama Black Belt.

The dedication was attended by more than 200 people from the area and others whose lives were touched by the two men. This program culminated a ten-year effort by Black community groups and leaders to name the judicial building for the two pioneering attorneys, who paved the way for many other Black lawyers, judges and clients to be successful in their life endeavors.

The Dallas County Commission, elected in November 2020, which had a Black majority for the first time in modern history, agreed to the naming of the Courthouse Annex for the two attorneys, at their first meeting. It took an additional nine months to complete the task and hold the unveiling ceremony. 

The five Commission members, including Chairperson, Jimmy Nunn, the Probate Judge, and Commissioners Connel Towns, Vivian Rogers, Curtis Williams and Jan Justice (the only white member) were all present and along with family members from the Chestnut and Boynton families, pulled a plastic covering off the naming lettering on the Courthouse wall, to unveil the shining new name of the facility.

Attorney J. L. Chestnut returned to Selma in 1958, from Howard University Law School, to practice law for half a century in his home town.
During the 1960’s Chestnut represented many civil rights and voting rights leaders who were involved with and arrested as part of the Civil Rights Movement.

4th. District Circuit Judge Collins Pettaway Jr. noted in his remarks that 

“Attorney Chestnut sued to have Blacks seated on juries, in this very building, where we now hold jury trials, which is now named for him.” At one point in the program there were fifteen Black judges in robes, from around Alabama, who stood up to honor the two attorneys for whom the building is now named. Chestnut headed the largest Black law-firm in the state of Alabama, Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders and Pettaway in the 1990’s and paved the way for many Black lawyers to practice in the state.

J. L. Chestnut was the lead attorney in the Pigford I and II class action cases by Black farmers against the U. S. Department of Agriculture for discrimination in agricultural lending. He won this largest discrimination settlement against the Federal government of over $2.5 Billion, for thousands of Black farmers. His work on the Pigford cases inspired Native Americans, Hispanics and Women farmers to sue and reach settlements with the Federal government.

Bruce Carver Boynton also attended Howard Law School. On his way home at Christmas 1958, he went to the white-only lunch counter, because it was cleaner, in the segregated Richmond, Virginia bus station to get a snack. He was arrested and convicted for trespassing. Attorney Thurgood Marshall appealed his case to the U. S.  Supreme Court and won a judgement in 1960 which opened the way to desegregate bus stations and other facilities linked to interstate travel. It took the Freedom Rides of the 1960’s to enforce the decision that Boynton had won from the Supreme Court.

After Boynton graduated from Howard Law School, he returned to Alabama, but the State Bar denied him a license for six years, while they supposedly investigated his case. He practiced in Chattanooga, Tennessee,

Washington, D. C. and Selma, Alabama.

Many speakers and dignitaries who had worked with both attorneys spoke on the program, including Selma Mayor James Perkins, retired Judge John H. England, who was master of ceremonies for the program, former Governor Don Siegleman, Melinda Williams, Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Terri Sewell and many others. Attorney Fay Rose Toure, a partner of Attorney J. L. Chestnut, led a litany to honor both, which involved the audience in praising their character and accomplishments.

The Freedom Riders Museum in Montgomery and the Alabama Historical Commission presented framed resolutions to the Boynton family for his working in integrating public accommodations. The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund presented a framed resolution to the Chestnut family for his work on behalf of Black farmers.

Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier of Selma was the final speaker. She thanked everyone for coming to honor the two attorneys and then said, “Today we celebrate making the impossible possible! It was a miracle from God that enabled these lawyers to do what they did and make the changes they made. Little Black girls and boys today still need miracles. Their work and our work is not yet done. Despite every obstacle put in our path, we must keep working to make the impossible possible.”

County Commission grapples with contracts to assure payment for supplementary staff for Sheriff’s Department

In a meeting which featured approval of routine business matters, the Monday, September 13, 2021 regular County Commission meeting, spent considerable time discussing two agreements for payment of Sheriff’s Department staff.

These agreements for payment of School Resources Officers and supplemental staff for the Sheriff’s Department are for the coming fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2021, were negotiated by a committee including Commission Chair Rashonda Summerville, CFO, Macelroy Underwood and Atty. Mark Parnell, County Legal Counsel.

The agreement for School Resource Officers was negotiated with the Greene County Board of Education and requires direct payment to the County Commission for officers in the schools. The Board must deposit two months of salaries in advance with the Commission to pay these employees, who provide safety in the schools.

The agreement for supplementary staff for the Sheriff’s Department, which requires a three month’s advance payment to restore these employees to the Commission’s payroll, benefits plan and liability insurance coverage, generated significant discussion. The Sheriff employed a number of staff beyond his approved budget to handle law enforcement, jail and electronic bingo supervision.

The Sheriff was supposed to reimburse the County Commission for these additional expenditures during the current 2020-2021 fiscal year, out of funds he received from monthly bingo machine fees. The Sheriff did not pay all of these past staff expenses, dating back several fiscal years. In response the Commission ceased paying these additional staff and the Sheriff continued to pay them as contracted employees.

Mac Underwood said, “We wanted to bring all these staff back under the Commission’s payroll and insurance benefits for fairness and safety reasons. This is why we negotiated this payment arrangement. If the Sheriff does not put up the three months advance funds, then we will once again have to cut off these employees.”

District 1 Commissioner Lester Brown asked about the past monies the Sheriff owes the Commission for salaries paid to his staff but not reimbursed. “Did you give him a waiver on the past due monies? When will we receive these monies?” asked Brown.

Underwood said, “This agreement is for going forward starting October 1, with the new fiscal year. We will have a separate negotiation with the Sheriff on the past due funds owed. The Sheriff has paid some of these funds, there was a period in the Spring of 2020 when bingo was closed down, and we will have to calculate and agree on exactly what is owed back to the Commission and make a plan, with the agreement of the Sheriff for repayment.”

Commission Brown said, “I do not trust the Sheriff to pay this money back. I hope we get the three months advance payment before we put his staff back on the payroll.” Commissioner Brown and Tennyson Smith voted against approval of the budget supplement agreement. Commissioners Cockrell, Turner and Summerville voted in favor and the proposal was adopted.

The Commission approved a request for $26,652.50 for E-911 to purchase radio equipment for their new building from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

The Commission agreed to spend $23,000, with a matching contribution of $20,000 from ALDOT, for the HRRR project for guide rails on two bridges on County Roads 133 and 199. These funds will come from the Capital Improvement Fund, supported by bingo revenues. The Engineer was authorized to grade a quarter mile off County Road 11 for the State of Alabama. The Engineer was also authorized to provide technical assistance to the Board of Education and to advertise for two temporary positions.

In other business, the Greene County Commission:

• Approved advertising for a Real Property Clerk (Revenue), Appraisal Trainee (Apprisal), and a License Clerk (Probate Office).

• Ratified a contract with BCBS for 2021-2022 for health insurance for employees.

• Approved a proposal from the Alabama Department of Youth Services for Long Term Detention, at no cost to the county.

•Approved a contract with Digital Information Systems for $25,628 for IT services.

• Approved the schedule of county employees beginning October 4, 2021 and allowed employees to carry over unused vacation time from December 2021 to April 2022.

• Appointed Walter Beck to the Water Authority Board.

Macelroy Underwood, CFO reported that the county had paid $456,157 in claims for August and September, including an additional $76,012 in electronic claims paid. He reported $5,045,515 in deposit accounts in Citizens Trust Bank, $4,177,157 in Merchants and Farmers Bank, for a total of $9,222,673 in banks as of July 21,2021. He also reported $1,092,638 in bond sinking funds and $450,175 in the Bank of New York for payment of bonds.

Newswire : Howard University closed after ransomware attack

Howard University

By Breoona Randall, Howard University News Service

WASHINGTON – Howard University, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious historically black universities and the alma mater of Vice President Kamala Harris, was shut down Tuesday due to a ransomware attack.
The FBI and District of Columbia city government have been working with the university about the attack, the university said. The university did not mention who conducted the attack or what they are asking for to release the university’s networks.
University officials said Howard’s Enterprise Technology Services (ETS) became aware Friday of a potential cyberattack. In response, ETS shutdown all the university’s networks to further investigate.
On Monday, the university said, the computer and technology interruption was a ransomware attack. Consequently, all in-person and online classes were cancelled Tuesday, Howard’s Office of University Communications said.
“ETS and its partners have been working diligently to fully address this incident and restore operations as quickly as possible,” the Office of University Communications said in an email Monday.
The university will reopen Wednesday, but only in-person. Howard University’s wi-fi, however, will still be unavailable.
Ingrid Sturgis, chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film in Howard’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications, said the ransomware attack “has been very disruptive.”
“Over the weekend, I had some faculty members emailing me about what they should do, because their students could not turn in their work, because they did not have access to blackboard and other tools they usually use for class,” Sturgis said.
She said she’s been through several malfunctions at the university, but this one is different.
“It’s kind of scary to me knowing how many student and faculty records there are, and these kinds of attacks are happening more and more frequently,” she said. “In a way, we are fortunate the university has beefed up its ability to detect these kinds of things.
Jennifer C. Thomas, an associate professor and journalism sequence coordinator in the Department. of Media, Journalism and Film, said working through the shutdown is example for one of the lessons she teachers her students on overcoming the problems face as they pursue a story.
“The thing I have said in the past when we have had issues on campus with the system being down is we are in the journalism sequence,” Thomas said. “As journalists, we know that a deadline doesn’t care if the internet is down. We have to be resourceful, so we can complete the current task at hand under that certain deadline.”

 

Newswire: Families and Civil Rights Attorneys launch Call-A-Thon with goal of 50,000 calls to Senators in 50 hours, urging passage of Police Reform Bill

By  Stacy M. Brown, NNPA
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Nationally renowned civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci today launched a call-a-thon that will run through September 16, asking supporters to call their U.S. Senators to urge them to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The campaign’s goal is to generate 50,000 calls to senators in 50 hours.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, sponsored by Rep. Karen Bass, passed in the House of Representatives on March 3, 2021. The bill is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate due to partisan disagreements on the changes to nationwide policing it would enact.
Supporters of the police reform legislation can visit this website, where they will submit their phone number and be automatically connected to their senator’s office to encourage a yes vote for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
“This call-a-thon gives elected officials on Capitol Hill the push they need to prioritize this great concern to their constituents. It is no longer enough to say they are working on police reform legislation. We need meaningful action now,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump. “The families of police brutality victims are relying on us so not one more family has to suffer. They deserve better. Passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will save lives and hold police accountable.”
Crump and Romanucci joined several of the families they have represented who have lost loved ones to police brutality to create a video voicing support for the bill. Philonise Floyd, Tamika Palmer, Jesse Brittain, Chelsie Rubin, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Alissa Findley, Teena Acree, and Tashyra Prude voice their support for the bill’s passage in the video.
“We are calling for real, lasting change — but we’re running out of time. Every day that goes by and every death that results from police brutality is a life that could have potentially been spared had lawmakers acted sooner. Put partisan politics aside and realize that Congress has a responsibility to address this human rights issue immediately,” said Antonio Romanucci.
If passed, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would:
• Limit the unnecessary use of force and restrict the use of no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and carotid holds
• Create the National Police Misconduct Registry to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct
• Lower the criminal intent standard to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution
• Limit qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer
• Grant administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or-practice investigations

Newswire: Afghanistan: after 20 Years, thousands dead and trillions spent, Rep. Barbara Lee proven right

Rep. Barbara Lee

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

On September 15, 2001, only three days after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the twin towers the U.S., Congress voted to give the authority for military force to President Bush.
The vote in the U.S. Senate was unanimous: 98-0. In the U.S. House, the vote was 420 to 1. That one dissenting vote was Rep. Barbara Lee of California.
Rep. Lee was opposed to giving President Bush broad and open-ended authority.  She would be the lone member of Congress to vote against that authority and she would face death threats and be called a traitor for her vote.
Two decades and thousands of deaths later, Rep. Barbra Lee would be proved correct about what would become America’s longest war.
“I urged caution because I knew even then that there was no military solution in Afghanistan,” Rep. Lee, the one lawmaker who got Afghanistan right, told The Nation on August 30. Lee felt that the 60-word resolution on Afghanistan that she voted against was a “a blank check for any president to use force anywhere in the world.”
In an August 30 statement on the Afghanistan withdrawal, Congresswoman Lee said: “Twenty years ago, it was clear that rushing into war without a clearly defined mission and exit strategy would risk perpetual war. The Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction clearly illustrated in recent reports that ‘U.S. officials rarely had even a mediocre understanding of the Afghan environment, much less how it was responding to U.S. interventions,’ and that this ignorance often came 2. from a ‘willful disregard for information that may have been available.’ In a world where the threat of terrorism cannot be ignored, hopefully we will learn the lessons from the past two decades and not repeat our mistakes.”
On August 31, President Joe Biden announced that the United States was exiting Afghanistan.
“Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history. We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety,” President Biden began.
“Leaving Aug. 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives. My predecessor, the former president, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May 1, just months after I was inaugurated,” Biden further explained.
According to an analysis by Forbes, it’s estimated that the U.S. spent over $2 trillion over 20 years on the war in Afghanistan. The math comes to $300 million dollars a day, every single day, for two decades.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

As Delta variant cases surge, 221 Community Health Workers reach out to 1.8 million people in rural underserved areas to promote vaccination

Special to the Greene County Democrat

Home call nurse or doctor vaccinating a man at home – wearing face mask


Alianza Nacional de Campesinas (Alianza), Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN), Rural Coalition (RC) and 23 more organizational partners and members have mobilized 221 community health outreach workers across 20 states and Puerto Rico to encourage vaccination within Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) rural communities.
Funded by an $8.1 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the effort aims to raise vaccination rates among immigrant and migrant farmworkers, and rural communities of color.
Across the country, since June 15 of 2021, more than 1.8 million people have been reached, and 23,963 people have reported receiving the vaccine as a direct result of such contact. The outreach has occurred through culturally relevant, community-health based approaches including one-on-one conversations, door-to-door canvassing, informational and Q&A sessions on COVID-19 and vaccine efficacy, cultural events, food distribution drives, and through mobile and static vaccination clinics, as well as T.V, radio, and social media.
“The 15 Rural Coalition partner groups have employed their deep network of trusted relationships in the Black, Tribal, and Latino communities they serve,” said Rural Coalition Director Lorette Picciano. “In a short window of time, RC groups have hired and trained over 140 outreach and other staff who live in 95 of the most vulnerable rural counties in the nation.”
The Alabama State Association of Cooperatives (ASAC) is one of the Rural Coalition member organizations that is implementing this program in eight counties of the western Alabama Black Belt including: Greene, Sumter, Choctaw, Pickens, Hale, Marengo, Perry and Dallas. ASAC has two part-time health workers in each of its eight counties, working on outreach, education and promotion of vaccinations.
These leaders know how to reach their communities – during farmer events and to mayors of historic Black towns, and at barber shops and a Blues Fest in Oklahoma; at tribal events in the Carolinas, Maine, Minnesota, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin; with a Mobile Vaccine van in southeast Alabama that also supplies check-up and prescriptions; and at summer fairs in Kansas.
In farmworker communities in Florida, the Imperial Valley of California, and at the border in Texas and New Mexico they are using one-on-one outreach combined with community events; and in El Paso, using a radio station run by the local organization to interview workers about the vaccines. Also in El Paso, women workers are reaching out in neighborhoods and community centers they organized after the garment factories left.
In southeast and west Alabama, newspaper coverage is combined with flyers distributed door-to-door, or at community events. In Puerto Rico, over 100 community members in a hard to-reach rural community were able to get connected to vaccines. A college student who struggled to get the vaccine needed to return to college is now organizing vaccine access for other students in NC. Also in NC, a Sunday vaccine caravan also brought vaccines and information to numerous churches and community centers. In rural South Carolina, the local pharmacy temporarily ran out of vaccines due to the effective community outreach to Black and Latino families via youth programs and visits to local apartment complexes.
Community health outreach workers are members of the same communities – they are farmworkers, small and beginning farmers and ranchers, spiritual and local leaders, former and current health professionals, parents, and caretakers. With weekly trainings and technical guidance from Migrant Clinicians Network, organizational members of Alianza and the Rural Coalition are bringing the vaccine to their communities and engaging in challenging conversations at the roots of vaccine hesitancy – from fear and distrust, to domestic violence and structural and financial barriers, including language access, concerns related to immigration status, racism, xenophobia and misogyny.
As of August 25, 2021, 936,000 farmworkers have contracted COVID-19 according to the Purdue Food and Agriculture Vulnerability Index. Preliminary findings estimate that food and agriculture workers have a 38% higher risk of COVID-19 induced mortality – the highest amongst essential workers. At the same time, rural communities, and especially rural BIPOC communities, have experienced greater barriers to treatment and care during the pandemic, with fewer hospitals, fewer physicians specializing in critical care, and fewer Intensive Care Units.
A study by APM Research Lab found that, by March of 2021, 1 in 475 Indigenous people and 1 in 645 Black people had died from COVID-19 compared to 1 in 665 White people. Although only 20% of U.S. counties are disproportionately Black, they accounted for 52% of COVID-19 diagnoses, and 58% of COVID-19 deaths nationally, including in rural communities in the Southeast with higher than average unemployment rates and inadequate access to healthcare.
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Migrant Clinician’s Network, and Rural Coalition are proud to join forces to support and resource local BIPOC rural communities in raising vaccination rates, and, as such, combat long-standing structural health inequities that have plagued BIPOC communities for centuries. In the end, it is these same communities that are mobilizing, organizing, and caring for each other to a cure.

Newswire: New Smithsonian exhibit shows racism against Emmett Till continues today

Emmett Till and Desecrated sign from site where his body was found

By Hamil R. Harris

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In the middle of the night, 14-year old Emmett Till was snatched from his great uncle’s home in Drew, Mississippi. Then an angry White mob beat, tortured and then shot Till before they used wire to connect a fan blade to his head to sink his young body to the bottom of the Tallahatchie River. The brutal lynching of Emmett Till on August 28, 1955 was on the mind of 13-year-old Yolanda Rene King at the March On Washington for Voting Rights rally Saturday, Aug. 28. During her speech, Martin Luther King’s only grandchild asked for a moment of silence in honor of Till, who she said, “was about my age.” Only blocks away from where she stood, a brand new exhibit was about to pay homage to that same memory. Although thousands have filed past the casket of Emmett Till displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American History and Culture, on September 3, a new exhibit was set to open in “Flag Hall” of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History that shows the recently bullet-riddled road markers where Till’s body was found. This is desecration that starkly indicates the level of racism and White supremacy still infesting America. “These signs were part of a long-standing history that has intentionally been suppressed and in some ways attacked,” said Tsione Wolde-Michael, 34, the Smithsonian’s curator for African American Social Justice. She added, “The community has shown its resilience in erecting a new sign every time it is shot up.” Wolde-Michael continues, “Till’s murder and open-casket funeral became a catalyst for the civil rights movement…And now in what would have been Emmett Till’s 80th year, this vandalized sign demonstrates the ways histories of racism and violence continue into the present. Our Mississippi community partners have continuously risked their lives to commemorate and interpret this history, and we are honored with the trust they have placed in the Smithsonian to steward the sign and bring its story along with Emmett’s to the public.” The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will open “Reckoning with Remembrance: History, Injustice and the Murder of Emmett Till” as a monthlong display of the bullet-ridden sign that was placed by the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi in remembrance of Emmett Till beginning Sept. 3. Smithsonian Curator Nancy Bercaw said Jerome G. Little, who died in 2011, pioneered the effort to preserve the Till story and the signs. He was the first African-American to serve as the president of the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors. “The signs were shot up, people defaced them with acid. But every time the Emmett Till Memorial Commission pulled themselves together and raised the funds and put up another sign,” Bercaw said. After Little died, his friend, Jesse Jaynes-Dimming has been working with the Emmett Till Memorial Commission to keep Till’s legacy alive. Anthea M. Hartig, Ph.D., Elizabeth MacMillan director of the National Museum of American History, said the museum will present a program on Sept. 2 entitled, “The Long Battle: The Work of Preserving Emmett Till’s Memory, a Conversation with Community Leaders from Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.” Reverend Wheeler Parker, a civil rights activist and Till family member and Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Money, Mississippi, teamed up with curators and officials from the Smithsonian to hold the conversation and present the exhibit which will go on public display Sept. 3. The Museum is located on D.C.’s Constitution Avenue N.W. between 12th and 14th streets. Access information can be found at Americanhistory.si.edu or by calling 202-633-1000. Wolde-Michael said that In 2019 she and a group of historians traveled across Mississippi looking to learn more about the Emmett Till sign story. The reception was positive toward having the national exhibit. “This is about establishing long-term relationships in the community. This is just the beginning.” The sentiment is mutual. “We are thrilled to partner with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History,” said Weems. “The citizens of Tallahatchie County have struggled to keep Till’s memory on the physical and cultural landscape. We are honored that the Smithsonian has taken an interest in this important American story.” The exhibit is deliberately placed in the museum’s most prominent location, across from the Star-Spangled Banner exhibition at the building’s center. The Till sign works to preserve the memory of an African American boy’s murder while demonstrating the ongoing nature of anti-Black violence in America. A companion webpage will also become available Sept. 3. In 2008, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission erected nine historical markers to commemorate Till, but the signs have been stolen, riddled with bullets or thrown in the river. The 317 bullet punctures on the sign collected by the museum, the second of four placed at the river site, serve as a reminder that the racism that caused Till’s death still exists today. The commission erected a new bullet-proof marker in 2019 and donated this historical marker to the museum. “The National Museum of American History is deeply honored to collaborate with the Tallahatchie community to preserve and present the legacy of Emmett Till,” said Hartig, “The history of racial violence is often erased and highly contested in the battle to define American memory, and this vandalized sign demonstrates the ramifications of ongoing efforts of remembrance and social justice. Racism does not only reside in the past. It inhabits our lived reality.” The installation of the Till Historical Marker is part of the museum’s new vision outlined in its strategic plan, which is centered in outreach and commitment to communities and provides a place for people to explore the complexity of the country’s shared history. “The Emmett Till Memorial Commission has been working for 15 years to change the physical and cultural landscape of Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and the road to remember has not been easy,” said Weems. “So it is with great appreciation that we are partnering with the Smithsonian to honor and remember Emmett Till and the struggle that our community has faced to commemorate his life and legacy and to create the conditions for racial healing.” As Delta variant cases surge, 221 Community Health Workers reach out to 1.8 million people in rural underserved areas to promote vaccination Special to the Greene County Democrat Insert photo of Black man getting COVID 19 vaccnation

Greene County school system’s chief financial officer resigns

The Greene County Board of Education met in a special call meeting, Thursday, September 2, 2021, for matters involving the system’s CSFO, Lavonda Blair and for personnel matters. Following an executive session, the board voted unanimously to accept the CSFO’s resignation, effective September 16, 2021. The board did not disclose reasons for the resignation. Ms. Lavonda Blair was hired as Chief School Financial Officer for the Greene County School System, on a three year contract, beginning August 1, 2018. In June of this year, the board renewed Blair’s contract effective July 1, 2021, expiring June 30, 2024. The board authorized the President, Dr. Carol Zippert, with the assistance of the Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, to seek temporary personnel to continue the tasks in the system’s CSFO Department, especially regarding the closeout of the books for the current fiscal year ending September 30. The board further authorized President Zippert and Vice-President Kashaya Cockrell to initiate the search for a qualified CSFO for the system. Regarding personnel items, the board approved the superintendent’s recommendation to hire the following: Mary Henderson as Secretary for the Department of Transportation; Cyontai Lewis as Physical Education Teacher at Robert Brown Middle School. Following the close of the board meeting, Superintendent Jones announced that Greene County Schools would continue the remote learning program for approximately another two-weeks, up to the next regularly scheduled school board meeting, September 20, 2021. Dr. Jones noted that his decision is based on the rising number of COVID virus cases in Greene County and the surrounding region. According to Jones, each school would prepare lesson packages for students not yet able to participate in the on -line virtual classes. “We had to secure more tablets or repair existing ones as well as purchase more hot-spots for students in areas not accessible to the internet. Even with the hot-spots, some students are having difficulties logging-on. To address this, the system is arranging for log-on spots (crater points) that students can access,” he said. Dr. Jones urged everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. “The low vaccinated rate in our county, including among parents, school personnel and eligible students, is the main reason the COVID virus is attacking us,” Jones said. It was also announced that beginning with the September 20th meeting, the board will hold its regular monthly meetings at 5:30 pm in the Central Office.

Newsire: Guinea coup leader to form new government in weeks

Col. Mamady Doumbouya

BBC News Africa

The leader of the coup which ousted Guinea’s President Alpha Condé has said a new “union” government would be formed in weeks.  Col Mamady Doumbouya told ministers who served in Mr Condé’s government that there would be no witch-hunt against former officials. President Condé remains in detention, but his fate is unclear.  The UN, African Union, and regional body Ecowas have condemned the coup and called for a return to civilian rule.  “I strongly condemn any takeover of the government by force of the gun and call for the immediate release of President Alpha Condé,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres tweeted. Col Doumbouya, who heads the army’s special forces unit, did not say on Monday when the new government would be in place. “A consultation will be launched to set down the broad parameters of the transition, and then a government of national union will be established to steer the transition,” he said in his statement. He told former ministers that they could not leave the country and had to hand over their official vehicles to the military.  After the meeting Col Doumbouya drove around the capital Conakry, which has been tense since Sunday when heavy gunfire was exchanged near the presidential building for several hours.  The BBC’s reporter in the city says crowds chanted the military leader’s name.  “They were just happy. Some people undressed and shouted “Doumbouya, Doumbouya, Doumbouya” and “freedom, freedom, freedom,” Alhassan Sillah reported.  It captures the feeling of many who are relieved that President Condé has been deposed, he said.  Col Doumbouya also urged mining companies to continue their operations in the country, adding that they would be exempt from the ongoing nationwide curfew.  Guinea is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of bauxite, a necessary component of aluminium. Following the coup, prices of aluminium climbed to their highest in more than a decade due to concerns over supplies.  In a broadcast on state TV on Sunday night, a group of soldiers announced the dissolution of the constitution, the closure of the borders and a nationwide curfew.  They said regional governors had been replaced by military commanders, and the ousted 83-year-old president was safe but in detention. Col Doumbouya said his soldiers had seized power because they wanted to end rampant corruption, human rights abuses and mismanagement.

Newswire: FEMA changing rules that deprive African Americans of crucial aid

House damaged by Hurricane Ida

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent


Historically, the Federal Emergency Management Agency – or FEMA – relied on deeds to prove that land belonged to disaster victims before it sent relief funds to individuals. The guidelines denied aid to many African American applicants whose homes or land were inherited informally without written wills.
But, as first reported by NBC News, the rules quietly have changed.
As floodwaters and the after-effects of Hurricane Ida continue to ravaged Louisiana, Mississippi, and has now wreaked havoc in the northeast, FEMA officials revealed plans to NBC to announce significant changes in how they would verify homeownership for disaster relief applications.
FEMA said its mission is to assist those who inherited property without a will. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that we understand each individual situation is unique and that we need not have a one-size-fits-all approach,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told the news outlet.
“We’re going to continue to try to improve our program and make additional changes. Some of them we can do right away, like this. Some of them will require some regulatory change,” she said. “But we are really driving hard to make these changes.”
African Americans, particularly those in southern states, have routinely had difficulty proving property ownership. Even without a damaging natural disaster, the Gullah Geechee community of St. Helena Island told the Black Press last year that they were fighting to protect their lands and the legacy left by their ancestors, who toiled for lifetimes under the brutal oppression of slavery.
Local tax officials held an auction of some of the property on the island belonging to families.
Officials cited delinquent tax payments that have accumulated over the years. The descendants who have lived in the Gullah Geechee community, which extends the coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, possessed deeds but lacked titles to their properties.
Many in the community discovered that their ancestors left no wills and never possessed a title.
That was primarily because of oppressive laws. The freed slaves were deprived of an education and at the mercy of white men who sold the land for as little as $1.25 per acre and never provided appropriate sale documentation.
“The heirs don’t have a title in their names,” said Sará Reynolds Green, an activist, and farmer who raises produce on the St. Helena plot of land passed down throughout her family’s generations.
While FEMA’s new rules don’t necessarily apply to St. Helena, they should provide a better playing field for African Americans affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters.
“Updated guidelines will also expand the options for paperwork renters can submit to prove that they live at affected properties,” the NBC News team reported. According to the report, “in addition to a written lease or rent receipts, renters will now be able to submit documents such as their car registration and letters from local schools or nonprofits. People in mobile homes will also have the flexibility to submit a letter from the property’s owner.”