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.
Johnny Ford standing by Confederate statue
By: Melissa Brown and Kirsten Fiscus, Montgomery Advertiser
Before Johnny Ford drove into downtown Tuskegee and climbed into an electronic lift bucket with a saw on Wednesday, he prayed. When the saw touched the concrete ankle of the Confederate soldier statue perched over the town square, he remembered. Ford remembered his childhood friend, Sammy Younge, a Black Navy veteran and civil rights worker gunned down in 1966 after asking to use a whites-only bathroom. Ford remembered Tuskegee University students streaming into town streets when Younge’s accused killer was acquitted, attaching chains and ropes to the towering monument to the Confederacy in a failed effort to pull it from its pedestal. “I pledged then to remove the statue,” Ford said. On Wednesday July 7, 2021, Ford attempted to fulfill his pledge to remove the “painful” Confederate memorial from the heart of his hometown. In the early afternoon, Ford and another, unidentified person began sawing at the leg of the downtown statue. “I was doing it for Sammy Younge. And the students who tried to pull the statue down,” Ford said. ” … The message has been sent. Everybody has just been waiting on someone to do it. It’s my council district. It’s my responsibility to do it. The people elected me, in this district. This is the first time the county and city government have taken a position to see it removed. Of course, they haven’t been able to do it because of the legal [implications]. They’re afraid of the threats from the Legislature and the attorney general. But I’m not afraid of the governor and the attorney general.” Ford said the two stopped sawing at the request of Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson, who got wind of the attempt Wednesday afternoon and came to the square. “Looks like he had a chop saw or something. I told him he wasn’t going to destroy the statue, not knowing he’d already chopped through one ankle,” Brunson said. “… He said he was doing it for whatever reason, and I told him he’s not going to destroy it. He was talking about what it stands for, and I told him I’m not going to allow you to commit a crime in front of me.” Ford said he moved to physically remove the statue from its platform, not damage it, after his council district constituents voted in a public meeting last week to take action. Brunson said Ford and others could face multiple charges, including destruction of property. Ford could also face civil penalties under Alabama’s Monument Preservation Act, which prohibits a local government from legally removing a monument 40 years old or older. Cities that do so face fines up to $25,000. “I welcome that. Sometimes you have to get into good trouble in order to bring about change,” Ford said, referencing a familiar refrain from the late civil rights leader John Lewis. “During the ’60s, we were fighting for voting rights and we went to jail. We did what we had to do. This issue is very, very serious with me. This statue represents slavery. It stands for the Confederacy, whose fight was to keep slavery. My forefathers were enslaved. I take that very, very seriously.” In a telephone interview with the Greene County Democrat, Ford said, “ The Confederate statue is now on its last leg, we hope it will soon b e removed since the City Council and County Commission have voted that it be moved from the Tuskegee Town Square.”
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
By Rebekah Barber, first published in Facing South, the on-line magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern states have been among those that have done the least to protect their residents from contracting the deadly virus. They were some of the last to impose mask mandates and among the first to reopen after temporary shutdowns. And many sectors in the region, like poultry processing, never shut down at all. That makes it particularly striking that essential workers in Southern states disproportionately fall in the Medicaid coverage gap. Not provided health insurance through their jobs and unable to afford it in the private market, these workers risk their lives to keep the economy running — and disproportionately die in the process. Eight of the 12 states that have refused to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are located in the South: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina. All have Republican-controlled legislatures. A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) looked at data from 2019, the year before the pandemic hit, and calculated that over 550,000 people working in essential or frontline industries fall in the Medicaid coverage gap. The states with the greatest number of essential workers in the coverage gap are Texas (209,000) and Florida (98,000) — GOP-led states that have had notoriously ineffective public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, over 2 million people living in Southern states fall into the gap. “A large body of research demonstrates that Medicaid expansion increases health insurance coverage, improves access to care, provides financial security, and improves health outcomes,” the report states. CBPP also documented glaring racial disparities, finding that people of color make up 60% of those in the Medicaid coverage gap even though they account for only 41% of the non-elderly adult population in non-expansion states. In Texas, 74% of those in the coverage gap are people of color, while Black people account for a majority of people in the coverage gap in Mississippi and 40% in Georgia and South Carolina. At the same time, people of color face a higher risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death. In Alabama, 48% of the 11,300 people who have died to date from the coronavirus, did not have health insurance (that is over 5,400 people). The report notes that about three in ten adults in the coverage gap have children at home. And a third are women of childbearing age, meaning that if they get pregnant, they can apply for existing Medicaid coverage. However, the coverage would not begin until they are determined to be eligible, meaning they could miss out on critical prenatal care during the first months of pregnancy. CBPP points to an Oregon study that found Medicaid expansion was associated with an increase in early and adequate prenatal care. In addition, CBPP calculates that about 15% of people in the Medicaid coverage gap have disabilities. That includes 7% with serious cognitive difficulties, and more than 6% who have difficulty with basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying, or reaching. In the years leading up to the pandemic, states that expanded Medicaid cut their uninsured rates by half. That made them better prepared for both the ensuing public health crisis and consequent economic downturn, which resulted in an estimated 2 million to 3 million people nationwide losing employer-based coverage between March and September. Efforts are now underway in the Democratic-controlled Congress to find a way to bring Medicaid to more essential workers — and Americans in general — despite Republican resistance at the state level. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, recently proposed the “Cover Outstanding Vulnerable Expansion-Eligible Residents (COVER) Now Act.” The bill, which already has over 40 cosponsors, would authorize the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to work directly with counties, cities, and other local governments to expand Medicaid coverage in states that have refused to do so. It’s based on previous successful demonstration projects in several counties in California, Illinois, and Ohio, and it’s won the endorsement of groups including the American Diabetes Association, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. “The COVER Now Act empowers local leaders to assure that the obstructionists at the top can no longer harm the most at-risk living at the bottom,” Doggett said in a statement. Counties and municipalities would be able to get Medicaid coverage for their citizens on the same basis as initially offered to states – the first three years free and the next four years, the local contribution would rise to 10% of costs. No explanation is given of where the local funding would come from, to pay for the matching contributions over time. And over in the Senate, Raphael Warnock of Georgia this week announced that he is drafting a proposal that would bypass his state’s Republican leadership while calling on the White House to include a “federal fix” in the next jobs package. Warnock told reporters that he’s hoping to introduce legislation soon. The Georgia Recorder has reported that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is pushing a plan to expand Medicaid to about 50,000 additional Georgians, but the Biden administration has put the brakes on it over concerns that it requires participants to rack up 80 hours of work, school, or other qualifying activity every month to gain and keep their coverage. In a letter sent last month to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Warnock and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia suggested that one possible solution could be a federal Medicaid look-alike program run through the CMS. “We have a duty to our constituents and a duty to those suffering from a lack of access to health care to provide for them when they are in need,” Warnock and Ossoff said in the letter. “We can no longer wait for states to find a sense of morality and must step in to close the coverage gap and finally ensure that all low- and middle-income Americans have access to quality, affordable health care.” The details of the Warnock-Ossoff proposal for a “Medicaid look-alike”, available through the ACA marketplace, have not been spelled out. The critical details of coverages and costs remain to be worked out and also face the question of who bears the 10% matching costs. In Alabama, 300,000 or more working poor people are caught in this Medicaid coverage gap. These people who need healthcare the most and who have been shown to be most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, could be provided with healthcare if Governor Ivey were simply willing to sign the agreements with CMS/HHS to expand Medicaid. Resources are available in the American Recovery Act to incentivize and pay Alabama’s initial three years of costs to expand. After three years, health experts project that the state could realize new tax revenues, from the thousands of new jobs created, to pay for the continuing 10% matching cost of providing this desperately needed coverage to those who most need it. The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy has waged a seven-year unrelenting campaign, including some acts of civil disobedience, to try to persuade the Governor of Alabama to Expand Medicaid. Leaders of SOS say they will not stop their campaign until the goal is reached. Some additions, relevant to Alabama, were made to this article by John Zippert, Co-Publisher and Editor of the Greene County Democrat.
Grand Ethopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River in Africa
By: Doyinsola Oladipo
July 6 (Reuters) – The United Nations called on Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on Tuesday to recommit to talks on the operation of a giant hydropower dam, urging them to avoid any unilateral action, a day after Ethiopia began filling the dam’s reservoir. The U.N. Security Council will likely discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) this week after Arab states requested the 15-member body address the issue. Ethiopia says the dam on its Blue Nile is crucial to its economic development and to provide power. But Egypt views it as a grave threat to its Nile water supplies, on which it is almost entirely dependent. Sudan, another downstream country, has expressed concern about the dam’s safety and the impact on its own dams and water stations. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres backs the role of the African Union in mediating between the countries, Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. Report ad “What is also important, that there be no unilateral action that would undermine any search for solutions. So, it’s important that people recommit themselves to engage in good faith in a genuine process,” Dujarric said on Tuesday. Egypt’s irrigation minister said on Monday he had received official notice from Ethiopia that it had begun filling the reservoir behind the dam for a second year. Egypt said it rejected the measure as a threat to regional stability. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said Ethiopia’s filling of the GERD had the potential to raise tensions, as it also urged all parties to refrain from unilateral actions on the dam. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States called for all parties to commit themselves to a negotiated solution acceptable to all sides. Report ad Solutions needed to be guided by example, said Dujarric. “Solutions… have been found for others who share waterways, who share rivers, and that is based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and the obligation not to cause significant harm,” he said.