Sheriff Joe Benison meets with Hospital Board to discuss bingo funds

Sheriff- Hostil

L to R: GCHS Board members: Margaret Bir, Sheriff Benison, Lucy Spann, Elmore Patterson, Jasmine Smith, Pinnia Hines, Shirley Edwards and Rosemary Edwards. Not shown are Eddie Austin and John Zippert who also attended the meeting.

Greene County Sheriff Jonathan “Joe” Benison, together with his executive assistant and bingo clerks, met with the Greene County Health System (GCHS) Board of Directors as part of their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss with the Board their concerns over the status of payments from electronic bingo parlors to the GCHS, which operates the hospital, nursing home, physicians clinic and home health services.
On June 2, 2016, Sheriff Benison adopted a new rule for bingo which stipulated that the Greene County Hospital was to receive a fee of 4% of the amount paid to vendors, who provide bingo machines, to be paid to the hospital for providing health care services to the residents of Greene County.

The Sheriff adopted this rule change as a way to share some of the revenues generated by electronic bingo, under Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, with the Greene County Health Care System.
Based upon estimates from the bingo clerks, Elmore Patterson, CEO of the Greene County Health System projected receiving $3,500 per month from each of the four operating bingo parlors as of June 2016. This would total $14,000 per month or $168,000 per year.

The GCHS Board informed the Sheriff that since adoption of the rule in June 2016, the health facilities have not received these 4% fees from the vendors. The GCHS has received an average of $5,133 per month for the hospital and $ 1,104 per month for the residential care center (nursing home). These averages include a one-time payment of $30,000 from Greenetrack and smaller donations as a sub-charity from all of the bingo operation. The Anchor Group, the charity operating the River’s Edge Bingo facility is the only operation that has been paying the 4% vendors fee under the Sheriff’s rules.
Sheriff Benison said that he understood the Greene County Health System’s concerns with the shortfall in the 4% vendors fee.
He said that he wanted to discuss this with the bingo operators, including the Palace Bingo, a new electronic bingo hall at the Knoxville Exit on Interstate 20/59. He said that after he consults with the bingo operators that he and his clerks would report back to the GCHS Board of Directors.
Elmore Patterson thanked the Sheriff for attending the meeting and said, “Health care is critical to Greene County. The GCHS is providing quality health care to residents of Greene County and surrounding areas. I just reported to the Board that we had an overall operating loss of $538,000 for the first six months of this fiscal year, which began October 1, 2016. This loss matches the half a million dollars of uncompensated care that the GCHS provided to Greene County citizens, during the same time period, with limited incomes who lack insurance or other health care payers. We are looking to electronic bingo, the county government and others sources to help us cover our deficit which basically comes from serving the people of our county who are poor and not covered by any health insurance.”
All of the GCHS Board members also thanked the Sheriff for coming and listening to the concerns of the community. The members said they hoped to hear some positive response from the bingo establishments and the Sheriff in the coming weeks.

Advocates urge a “NO” vote Black Warrior EMC sends out package of revised by-laws for a membership vote by May 1

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

BWEMC

Members of the Black Warrior Electric Membership Corporation, as of February 24, 2017 have received a package of materials, including a revised set of By-laws, a summary of the changes and a mail ballot to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on all of the changes in one vote.
Members have contacted the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which has been sponsoring “a co-op democracy project” focused on Black Warrior, to ask how they should vote on these by-law changes. Black Warrior members have also contacted the Greene County Democrat and other trusted community organizations to ask for advice on this by-law package.
If you receive your electric power from Black Warrior EMC you are a “member” of the cooperative. Black Warrior has 26,000 members in the rural parts of many of the western Alabama Black Belt counties including Greene, Sumter, Hale, Perry, Choctaw, Marengo, Tuscaloosa and others.
If you paid your deposit and have a Black Power Electric meter, you are a member of the “electric membership corporation” or cooperative and you have a vote on major issues facing the cooperative, like election of the board of directors, changing the by-laws and other important issues.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee Community in Greene County said, “I was surprised to receive this 24 page set of new by-laws in the mail and a ballot to vote, without more explanations, without a meeting scheduled to explain these changes. I have an education but I feel you need to be a lawyer or other professional expert to fully understand this document and make an informed and intelligent vote on it.”

Carter, who is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to make Black Warrior’s Board and Management more transparent, accountable and democratic, also said, “ I am happy to see these by-laws because they answer many questions the members have been raising with Black Warrior, for a number of years, but they also raise new questions about additional discretionary powers granted to the co-op’s Board of Directors, which may adversely affect the members.
“We need more time and a series of meetings in the Black Warrior EMC service area to explain these changes and allow for the members to understand what they are voting on. We are also asked to vote up or down on the whole package in one vote even if we disagree with some of the specific changes or would like to add other changes to make the cooperative more democratic and responsive to its members.”
Adriauna Davis, a Community Outreach Worker with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, who has been meeting with BWEMC members to discuss and strategize ways to make the power provider more democratic and responsible to its members, said, “We plan to go to court, under our existing lawsuit, and stop this by-law mail ballot until a membership meeting or district membership meetings are held to explain these new by-laws and the changes.”
“In the meantime, we are urging BWEMC members to vote “NO” on the ballot and write in that, “ I do not understand all of these by-law changes and want a meeting to understand and discuss these changes,” said Davis.
Davis points out that the current BWEMC By-laws require a membership meeting to amend the by-laws. The Board and Management, who developed and sent out the new ballot revisions, say their effort is legal under new provisions of the Electric Cooperative Statute of Alabama, which allow for a mail ballot.
Marcus Bernard, Director of the Federation’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama said, “We received about 100 phone calls last week from BWEMC members who were mailed the by-laws package. They say that they do not understand what to do. Many do not fully understand that they are members and are entitled to vote on the by-laws and other matters. We are recommending a “NO” vote until there are educational meetings to explain the changes to members.”
Bernard pointed out that the BWEMC was founded in 1938 and has not revised its by-laws in 66 years since 1950. The co-op has not had an official Annual Meeting of Members to elect the co-op’s board of directors during this same period. Since their have not been official membership meetings, with the required quorum of 5% (1,300 members) the board has been allowed to perpetuate itself without meaningful input from the members.
The Democrat will be following this story closely in coming weeks and will have more articles and opinion pieces on these important issues.

Remember the Chibok girls of Nigeria

By Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.)
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Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla) speaks at podium during a candlelight vigil for the missing Chibok schoolgirls in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2016. Wilson was joined by several members of Congress and some of the schoolgirls that escaped and have relocated to the Washington D.C., metro area. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA Newswire)

Three years ago, Boko Haram terrorists burst into dormitory rooms at the Government Secondary School in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok and kidnapped nearly 300 girls simply because they dared to get an education. In the days leading up to anniversary of their kidnapping, there were plenty of headlines devoted to the “Chibok girls,” as these now young women are famously known. On April 14, 2017, we reached another sad milestone. Some of us paused to remember the anniversary of this horrific, ongoing tragedy. Soon the news reports will fade and the story of the still missing Chibok girls will slip once more to the backburner.
The 195 Chibok girls who haven’t been able to escape their captives or were not among the 21 released last October, are still the most compelling symbols of the Boko Haram insurgency, but we must never forget that the group has committed increasingly heinous acts in the past three years from which innumerable victims may never recover. Let me count the ways.
More than 2.6 million people are currently displaced across Nigeria and its neighbor nations in the Lake Chad region, and Nigeria is in the process of building a comprehensive orphanage to house approximately 8,000 children who’ve been separated from their parents. At least one million children have been forced out of school. Millions more Africans are at risk of starving to death and countless men, women and children all of ages, both Christians and Muslims, have been kidnapped, tortured, and/or killed.
It gets worse. In addition to engaging in the human trafficking of women, forcing them into sexual and domestic slavery, the insurgents also use children as suicide bombers. Even ISIS, to whom Boko Haram has pledged allegiance, has expressed concern that the group goes too far.
As a mother, a former educator, and indeed, a human being, I have felt heartbroken, shocked and angered by the daily horrors our West African sisters and brothers have been forced to endure. The actions of the world’s most deadly terrorist group have also emboldened me to use my voice and every resource available in the fight to ensure that the Chibok girls are not forgotten and to help eradicate Boko Haram and repair the damage it has caused.
I have traveled twice to Nigeria to meet with victims’ families and government officials and brought the #BringBackOurGirls movement to the United States. Each week that Congress is in session, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle participate in a “Wear Something Red Wednesday” social media campaign that helps maintain pressure on the Nigerian government to keep working to negotiate the release of the remaining Chibok girls and pull out all stops to defeat Boko Haram.
On December 14, 2016, President Barack Obama signed, into law, legislation that Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and I sponsored that directs the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense to jointly develop a five-year strategy to aid the Nigerian government, the Multinational Joint Task Force created to combat Boko Haram, and international partners who’ve offered their support to counter the regional threat the terrorists pose.
In a telephone conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in February, the two leaders pledged “to continue close coordination and cooperation in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria,” according to a readout from the White House. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also has reportedly praised the Multinational Joint Task Force’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram a “success story,” but while the terrorist group may be down, it is far from out.
On June 12, we will mark another milestone in this terrible saga. That is the day the State and Defense departments’ five-year plan is due. It also is the deadline for the director of National Intelligence to assess the willingness and capability of Nigeria and its regional partners to implement the strategies outlined. We must use our collective voice to ensure they don’t miss this urgent deadline.
By now you may be asking yourself why any of this should matter to African Americans who are fighting their own battles to close the economic and opportunity gaps that still exist here at home and to exercise fundamental rights like the right to vote. Some of you may have never even heard of the Chibok girls. But if we don’t, who will? If we don’t teach the world to acknowledge that Black lives matter across the globe, who will? Until then, it will continue to cry for victims of terrorism in European nations, the Middle East and even Russia, while African and African-American lives lost go ignored.
Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and represents parts of northern Miami-Dade and southeast Broward counties. She serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. To learn more about Congresswoman Wilson’s work in Congress, please visit her Facebook and Twitter pages and congressional website.

France pays a ‘debt of blood’ to surviving African vets from World War II

African WW II veterans
African vets from World War II

Apr. 17, 2017 (GIN) – Fifty years after over a million Africans fought and thousands died for France during the ferocious battles against Nazis in World War II, French President Francois Hollande has given citizenship and full pensions to African survivors of that war and other conflicts.

In a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris on April 18, the veterans – aged between 79 and 90 – received their new certificates of citizenship. Mr Hollande said France owed them “a debt of blood”.

“France is proud to welcome you, just as you were proud to carry its flag, the flag of freedom,” the President told a group of 28 surviving vets.
Human rights activists including the granddaughter of a Senegalese soldier, have long been calling for justice for the veterans. Aissatou Seck, who is herself deputy mayor of a Parisian suburb, has been a lead campaigner for African veterans’ rights.

Last year, she started a petition that gained tens of thousands of signatures in less than a week. The veterans have long been struggling for recognition and equality in France. Until 2010, they received lower pensions than their French counterparts.

African troops, mostly from Senegal, fought in the deserts of North Africa, the jungles of Burma, over the skies of Germany and against Italian Fascist troops who, backed by thousands of Eritrean colonial forces, invaded Ethiopia.

During World War II, the Tirailleurs Senegalais (colonial infantry) comprised roughly 9 percent of the French army. Of the more than 200,000 black Africans recruited, approximately 25,000 were killed in battle.

At the war’s end, former prisoners of war were repatriated and interned in the Thiaroye holding camp near Dakar, Senegal. Denied back pay and pensions equal to those of the white French vets, some 1,300 Senegalese fighters mutinied only to be met by gunfire by French soldiers on Nov. 30, 1944. Between 30 and 75 Africans died in what became known as the Thiaroye massacre. A military tribunal sentenced some of the survivors to 10 years in prison.

One of those who fought for the French was Leopold Senghor, later President of Senegal. He spent two years as a Nazi prisoner of war and wrote of his experiences in his now-famous book of poetry “Hosties Noire”, Black Hosts, published in 1948.

America’s current civil rights climate the most dangerous in decades, activists, lawmakers say

By Jane Kennedy

 

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U. S. Rep. John Conyers surrounded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus. PHOTO: Courtesy/House.gov
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In a wide-ranging discussion on Capitol Hill among lawmakers, activists, policy experts and former Obama administration officials about the state of civil rights in the Trump administration, the consensus was unanimous that the current climate for civil rights is the most dangerous that has been experienced in decades.
The April 6 event was hosted by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), ranking member of the House Committee on the Judiciary.
“Although the Trump presidential campaign promised changes that would benefit minorities in the areas of crime, equal justice, and economic equality, his political allies and surrogates have sent a different message that has served to heighten national divisions and anxiety,” said Conyers, the longest-serving member in the House, known as “the dean” of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The forum took place only a few days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would review all of the consent decrees that the Obama administration entered into with law enforcement agencies that had demonstrated and documented histories of abuses and misconduct.
“The misdeeds of individual bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement agencies perform in keeping American communities safe,” the DOJ memo stated. In February, Sessions, who admittedly was unfamiliar with the details of the reports that led to decrees with police departments in Ferguson and Chicago, for example, nonetheless described them as “pretty anecdotal.”
Catherine Lhamon, chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a former assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department under President Obama, described the first 76 days of the Trump administration’s civil rights record as “harrowing,” which she said was being “charitable.”
Recalling the immense challenge of getting a consent decree to reform the Los Angeles Police Department in 2000, despite years of abuses that included beating a homeless woman, lying to judges, planting drugs on innocent people to secure convictions, racially based stops and assaulting citizens, she said that Sessions’ decision was a signal of the “low value” the new administration places on civil rights.
“It was only through federal involvement that conditions [in LA] materially improved and that provided the impetus for real change for communities that were desperately in need of it,” Lhamon said. “The one ray of hope remaining now is that the federal courts have to approve the end of consent decrees that have already been implemented.”
This week, U.S. District Judge James Bredar denied the Justice Department’s request to delay the implementation of a consent decree for the Baltimore Police Department.
“The administration consistently uses its signaling to demonstrate disregard for civil rights. When it announces that it will reconsider the value of police consent decrees, withdraws support for transgender students, slashes the [budgets of agencies] that protect civil rights, the administration unilaterally sends a chilling message that it not only is not striving to secure civil rights for all but is in fact striving to not be a federal partner in that effort.”
Roy Austin, former director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity, delivered an equally pessimistic assessment. “In my humble opinion, the greatest current threat to civil rights in this great nation is this current administration. In record time [it] has already shown not simply a willingness to not defend civil rights, but it has shown an intent to violate civil rights, and at a minimum make it easier for others to violate civil rights. No marginalized, struggling, excluded, discriminated against, or protected individual or group is safe from what [it] has already done or appears to be planning to do,” Austin declared. “Everything that people have fought for, and that some have died for in recent decades, is at risk. Hopefully the will of the people, of representatives like you, and the courts will continue to ensure that the current administration cannot accomplish all that they desire.”
According to Austin, the Trump administration “could not move fast enough” to remove guidance that literally helps to save the lives of transgender individuals. In addition, he had harsh words for the White House’s “Muslim ban,” which in his view not only endorses religious discrimination but also diminishes public safety.
“When the federal government announces it will side with bigots and those with irrational fears, we all lose some of our humanity,” Austin said.
He also criticized the “orchestrated photo-op” that President Trump had with the leaders of the nation’s black college and university presidents in February. While the White House may have celebrated it as a successful meeting, Austin cautioned, the students who depend on and thrive at these historic institutions, must not be fooled by the administration’s false promises.
“Many of us in the Obama administration used to say that we wanted a nation where the color of your skin, the God you pray to, your ZIP code, or who you love did not determine your chances of success. It saddens me to see an administration that is trying to make these characteristics even more important and determinative,” Austin lamented.
Following eight years of near radio silence when it came to criticism of the White House to avoid publically finding fault with its first African-American occupant, the Congressional Black Caucus has been quite vocal in calling out actions by the current administration that members consider unjust. After its meeting last month with President Trump, the group announced plans to also meet with key members of his administration to find common ground and at least attempt to smooth out differences.
But given Session’s previous civil rights history during his time as a lawmaker and the record he is currently building at DOJ, the hope for common ground appears bleak. Said Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, “We may be seeing the most dangerous Department of Justice that we have seen in decades.”

The Black Press shows resilience of the Black community

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Benjamin Chavis
Dr. Benjamin Chavis, , CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association
For 190 years, the Black Press has chronicled the spirit and resilience of the African-American community.
“You can see it in the spirit of the process that we have [developed] in documenting our history—we are marvelously resilient by nature, we are street fighters, guerilla fighters and resilience defines us,” said NNPA Foundation Board Chairman Al McFarland.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a trade group of more than 200 Black-owned media companies in the United States, also known as the voice of the Black community, has been the repository of Black history for generations, capturing that spirit and resilience through compelling journalism and stirring images. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, the president and CEO of the NNPA, said that the strength of the Black Press has been widely demonstrated through decades of change.
“Since 1827, the Black Press in America has been on the frontline of publishing in the interests of freedom and justice,” Chavis said. “Today, the NNPA continues to represent the resilient, trustworthy tradition of the Black Press that is indispensable to Black America.”
Janice Ware, the publisher of the “Atlanta Voice,” which was founded in 1966 by Ed Clayton and J. Lowell Ware, said that like other NNPA member newspapers, the Voice had a defined vision and mission. “[The Atlanta Voice] has been the vehicle that has allowed the important information [affecting African-Americans] to be captured,” Ware said. “I celebrate my father for his vision to start the publication and our motto, which is, ‘A people without a voice cannot be heard.’”
The venerable, award-winning publication was born out of the refusal of the White-owned majority Atlanta media to give fair and credible coverage to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, the Voice states on its website. “Our motto is still prevalent today,” Ware said. “We’ve got to record our history; if we don’t, they will.”
As the media industry continues to evolve, driven by advances in technology, Black newspaper publishers balance “click-bait” and quick-read content with longer, in-depth news articles.
Rosetta Perry, publisher of the “Tennessee Tribune” in Nashville, said that even though millennials aren’t reading traditional newspapers as much as past generations, news organizations in the Black community—including newspapers, radio stations, magazines and websites— are working together to ensure that critical information reaches the masses. “There are many stories about Black people both domestic and international that the mainstream media ignores or underplays,” Perry said. “The Black Press cannot afford to be silent or not be certain to get the word out about them, whether it’s voter suppression or police misconduct and brutality.”

In 1973, Howard University, a historically Black institution in Washington, D.C., collaborated with the NNPA, to establish the Black Press Archives at the school’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. The archives also include a gallery of distinguished newspaper publishers and historical records related to the Black Press. Black newspapers are also collected and preserved there for scholars, students and the public.
“While some think that the Black Press is no longer needed, they need only to look at the newsrooms of the mainstream press—newspaper and television—and see that when pressured after the Civil Rights Movement, they hired more Blacks,” in the past than they do now said Dorothy Leavell, the outspoken publisher of the award-winning Crusader newspapers in the Chicago area.
Leavell continued: “And, most said the Black Press wasn’t needed. While they were employed, the Black reporters were not given the freedom to report stories as they existed, often White editors changed the story with headlines that fit their perspective, not the essence of the story, if some of them recognized their stories as submitted, it was rare.”
Leavell said that when Black reporters were making good salaries at mainstream media outlets, they mostly remained silent. Many now want to speak up as their numbers are dwindling. Many have left predominately White newsrooms and returned home to the Black Press, added Leavell.
“The Black Press is driven by a purpose and a mission to tell the truth and to stand up to those who would rob humanity of its fullness,” McFarland said. “We stand to call attention to the truth of our existence and to the commitment of freedom and liberation. Our spirit is underlying in our newspapers; we are resilient and we no longer have to see ourselves through the lenses of Europeans.”
McFarland added, “There’s a new narrative that says we have been winning and we are winning.”

Greene County Commission acts on County Engineer’s requests

At a routine meeting the Greene County Commission approved requests coming from Willie Branch, County Engineer, for sale of surplus property and vehicles as well as improvements to the William M. Branch Courthouse and Eutaw Activity Center.
The Greene County Commission approved the following requests from the County Engineer:
• declare equipment and materials, a pile of scrap metal, as surplus and eligible for sale;
• declare surplus and sell three dump trucks and one low-boy, for a guarantee of $526,000;
• purchase three dump trucks at $131,644 each and one low-boy for $114,989, to replace the ones sold. This arrangement allows the county to have new equipment for a small annual lease payment;
• approve placement of a sign by the Extension Service on the Eutaw Activity Center building;
• approve agreement with KDM to install 5 thermostats for the cost of $10,000 in the Courthouse and an annual contract of $4,600 to maintain the HVAC service in the Courthouse;
• approved agreement with ADS Security for the Eutaw Activity Center, at an installation cost of $1,098 and $49.95 a month for three years for the system; and
• approve travel for Highway Department Office Manager for training on June22-24, at Orange Beach, Alabama.
Paula Byrd, Chief Financial Officer gave the Commission a detailed financial report through the end of March, which is the six month period of the fiscal year which bean October 1, 2016. The report showed bank balances of $ 2,786,484 in Citizen Trust Bank and $2,172.444 in Merchants and Farmers Bank for a total of $4,958,929.
Another $684,146 in bond sinking funds are in the Bank of New York.
Ms. Byrd also reported on payment of bills and claims of $686,540 for February and that the total of expenses from all accounts were running at 44% of budget, which is below the 50% goal at the middle of the fiscal year.

The Commission also approved transfer of 1.96 acres, in the Eutaw Industrial Park area, to the Greene County Industrial Development Authority. The Authority plans to enter into agreements to make the land available to WestRock to expand their manufacturing facility and create new jobs.The Commission did not approve a request from the City of Eutaw to move a power pole from one corner to across the street.
The Greene County Commission approved the appointment of Jasmine Smith to the Greene County Hospital Board and Mattie Strode to the Greene County DHR Board. Both appointments were from District 2.
In the work session, preceding the regular meeting, the Commission heard from Marilyn Gibson, Chief Librarian, who asked the Commission to reconsider an appointment to the Library Board. She argued that the person that was replaced was very experienced and helpful in writing proposals to secure funds for the library. The Commissioners said they could not change an appointment but that the Library Board could give special status as an emeritas member, without a vote, to anyone they thought could assist and support them to make the library better for Greene County.