Senior Installation Ceremony

-Photography by Cynthia Crawford

Submitted by Marva Smith

The 2020 graduating class of Greene County High School was honored and celebrated through a first-time GEAR UP AL initiative, A Senior Class Installation Ceremony that was coordinated by Mrs. Marva Smith GEAR UP Site Facilitator. Mrs. Smith has worked with the current twelfth grade students since they were eighth grade students at Carver Middle School and Paramount Jr. High School. This program was held on Thursday, August 29, 2019 at 9:30am in the school gymnasium. The entire program was everything that an upcoming graduate could imagine at the commencing of the academic year prior to graduation. –
Each person who spoke during the program rendered words of encouragement and motivation for completion of this year and years ahead. The speaker for the occasion was Mrs. Katie Jones-Powell, retired educator and Superintendent of Sumter County School District. She advised them to develop an action plan TODAY if they do not have one already and to be date-specific in executing the plan. It is imperative that the plan include what they intend to do immediately after graduation and work toward the goal. Mrs. Jones-Powell said, “You have only three options: 1) go to college, whether 2-year or 4-year institution, 2) to the military, or 3) straight into the workforce”. In conclusion, she challenged them to be all they can be.
Other individuals who had encouraging and motivating statements for the Seniors were Dr. Samantha Briggs, GEAR UP AL Director, UAB, Birmingham, AL; School Board Member President, Hon. Leo Branch; Dr. Corey Jones, recently appointed Superintendent of Greene County School System; Also, communicating words of encouragement were Counselor Tamika Thompson; English Instructor Mrs. Tura Edwards, Assistant Principal and GEAR UP Team Leader Ms. Andrea Perry and Principal Willie Simmons.
The students were motivated through song from Choral Music instructor, Mr. Siegfried Williams and a Video Clip, “Go to College” by Former First Lady Michelle Obama. But to culminate and top the event off, the students read the Senior Oath followed by pinning with a gold CLASS OF 2020 lapel pin by a parent, guardian or faculty member. That was most definitely the highlight of program.
Thanks to Senior Class Advisors Ms. Tameshia Porter, Mr. Larry Burnette (program Chair), Mrs. Ka’Needa Coleman, Mr. Siegfried Williams and Mrs. Tamika Thompson for your assistance.

Newswire: 400 Years in Virginia. 500 Years in Slavery.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


In August 2018, the National Newspaper Publishers Association began a series on the transatlantic slave trade.

The series started in conjunction with the annual United Nations International Day of Remembrance. With the observance of the first African landing in America, some question whether it’s the 400th or 500th anniversary.

Historians point out that the 400th anniversary is the 400th year of the Anglo-centric history of Africans in the Americas.
“Dating the history of Africans in North America to 400 years ago reinforces this narrative of English superiority,” Greg Carr, the Chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, told Time.com.“Remembering the Spanish and indigenous sides of the history is more important now than ever as the people are closing the borders to those who are descendants from people who were here when you came,” Carr said.

In his 2013 PBS documentary, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,”Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., said slavery was always an essential ingredient of the American experiment. Gates called slavery, “The supreme hypocrisy,” and “capitalism gone berserk.”

The first African to come to North America was a free man who accompanied Spanish explorers to Florida in 1513 – or 106 years before the 20 Africans who were kidnapped and brought to Point Comfort, Va., in 1619, Gates said.
“The father of our country was one of its largest slave owners,” Gates said in the documentary.
“Because of the profound disconnect between principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the simultaneous practice of slavery, we’ve had historical amnesia about slavery,” he said.
Indeed, the slave trade began in the 15th century, said Boniface Chidyausiku of Zimbabwe. It was driven by colonial expansion, emerging capitalist economies and the insatiable demand for commodities – with racism and discrimination serving to legitimize the trade, Chidyausiku said.
Chidyausiku, then the acting president of the United Nations General Assembly, made the remarks in 2007 during the UN’s observance of the 200th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade.
“Fortunes were made, and financial institutions flourished on the back of human bondage…[so] today’s commemoration must encourage everyone to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and to redouble efforts to stop human trafficking and all forms of modern slavery,’” said Chidyausiku, who is now 69.
Michael Guasco, a historian at Davidson College and author of “Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” suggests it’s the 500th anniversary.
“There’s a Hispanic heritage that predates the U.S., and there’s a tendency for people to willingly forget or omit the early history of Florida, Texas, and California, particularly as the politics of today want to push back against Spanish language and immigration from Latin America,” Guasco told Time.

The fact that slavery was underway for a century in South America before introduction in North America is not widely taught nor commonly understood, Felicia Davis of the HBCU Green Fund told NNPA Newswire.
“It is a powerful historical fact missing from our understanding of slavery, its magnitude, and global impact. The knowledge that slavery was underway for a century provides deep insight into how enslaved Africans adapted,” Davis said.
Far beyond the horrific “seasoning” description, clearly generations had been born into slavery long before introduction in North America, Davis said.
“This fact deepens the understanding of how vast majorities could be oppressed in such an extreme manner for such a long period. It is also a testament to the strength and drives among people of African descent to live free,” she said.
Prior to 1619, “America had a system of discrimination and prejudice against all groups who were not identified as White Anglo-Saxon native,” said Walter D. Palmer, who started a Community Freedom School for children and adult learners in Philadelphia that would become the platform on which he built his social legacy.
“By the mid-1600s, America created the slave codes,” Palmer told NNPA Newswire.
During the country’s founding, many settlers learned from and lived close to Native Americans on the east coast, said author Cassie Premo Steele.
For example, it wasn’t until resources like silver were found on what was Cherokee land that Andrew Jackson ordered the removal that became known as the “Trail of Tears,” Steele told NNPA Newswire.
“Further genocides and removals took place in the West when similar resources and land were desired by white Americans,” Steele said.
“Similarly, slavery was primarily an economic system that was based upon the dehumanization of Africans. Dehumanization is in some ways even worse than hate since it is a denial of the humanity of a people,” she said.
The observance of the 400th anniversary of the first African landing at Point Comfort, Va., did bring about changes, according to Time. It was the type of race-based chattel slavery system that solidified in the centuries that followed was its unique American tragedy.

“To ignore what had been happening with relative frequency in the broader Atlantic world over the preceding 100 years or so understates the real brutality of the ongoing slave trade, of which the 1619 group were undoubtedly a part, and minimizes the significant African presence in the Atlantic world to that point,” Guasco said in a History.com interview earlier this month.
“People of African descent have been ‘here’ longer than the English colonies,” he said.

Eutaw Police arrests six more connected to shootings in Branch Heights area

LaDexter Pelt
Quayonte Davis
Jalik Q. Walton
Jahkil D. Edwards
Dekenta Thompson
LeQuavis M. Cook

The Eutaw Police Department made six additional arrests in connection with the recent shootings in the Branch Heights community in Eutaw. On August 13, LaDexter Pelt, 22, of Eutaw, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for charges stemming from the recent shooting – reckless endangerment, attempt to commit murder, and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling/vehicle.
In a dual arrests on August 17, LeQuavis Cook, 22, and Jahkil D. Edwards, 20, both of Eutaw, were charged with discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling/vehicle and criminal mischief.
On August 19, Quayonte Davis, 23, of Eutaw, was arrested on an outstanding warrant connected with the recent shootings. He was charged with reckless endangerment, attempt to commit murder, and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling/vehicle.
On August 20, Dekenta Thompson, 26, of Eutaw, was arrested for reckless endangerment, attempt to commit murder, and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling/vehicle. He is also charged with possession of a firearm by a violent felon. Jalik Walton was also arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, attempt to commit murder, and discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling/vehicle.

8/16 – Shiquille Powell was released on a bond of $50,000 for discharging a gun into an occupied building; $5,000 for criminal mischief 2nd degree and $5,000 for reckless endangerment.

“The Church of Yesteryear” Play – a smashing success

The Church of Yesteryear, an original play, written by Eutaw native, Carrie L Coleman, had its premier performance this past Saturday at the Carver Middle School gym. The photo above shows the full cast taking their bows at the end of the play.

An enthusiastic audience of 250 or more local residents viewed and enjoyed the almost two hour play, which featured many local residents in starring roles. The play includes many musical moments when the assembled church congregation/cast and audience sing gospel favorites and hymns.

The play is about the religious rituals and colorful characters that made up the Black church experience of the past with some relevance to the present day.

The play was presented as a benefit with all proceeds from ticket sales and donations going to the Greene County Health System Foundation.

Bingo entities provide $373,380 to county recipients for April

Shown above Boligee City Councilwoman Ernestine Wade, Greene County School Board CSFO Lavanda Blair, Chief of Police Derick Coleman representing the City of Eutaw, Rhonda French representing Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Mayor of Union James Gaines, Greene County Heath System JoAnn Cameron, Forkland Clerk Lynette Woods and Bingo Clerk Minnie Byrd

On Friday, May 24, 2019, prior to distributing the bingo receipts for the designated county entities, Sheriff Jonathan Benison held a short press conference stating that the citizens of Greene County voted for Amendment 743 and that’s the law he will stand by. “The late Thomas E. Gilmore instilled in me to provide for and protect my officers and the citizens of Greene County,” he stated.
The Greene County Sheriff Department reported a total distribution of $373,380 for the month of April, 2019 from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the 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).
Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $72,050 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $12,050
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.

DST Chapter awards six scholarships to graduating seniors

Shown L to R: Kalix Patrick, Daijah Means, Asia McMillian, Brooklyn Rhodes, Kimberly Smith and Hakeem Bennett.

The Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. awarded six $500 scholarships to graduating seniors in the chapter’s service area of Greene and Hale Counties.
The chapter held a reception on Monday, May 20, 2019 honoring the recipients and their parents. The activities were planned by the Chapter’s Educational Development Committee with Ms. Andrea Perry as chairperson. Mrs. Nancy Cole presided over the activities which included a meditation by Mrs. Shirley Ezell; greetings by Mrs. Isaac Atkins, who also serves as DST Chapter President; a special presentation to the recipients by Ms. Andrea Perry; introduction of sorority members by Mrs. Rebecca Coleman; followed by introduction of scholarship recipients and parents by Ms. Drenda Morton.
Refreshments were served during the fellowship time.

State House Committee holds hearing on bill to change Amendment 743 for bingo in Greene County

News Analysis
by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Twenty persons, mostly from Greene County, testified at Tuesday’s hearing before the Alabama House Committee on Economic and Tourism Development in Montgomery. The hearing room was packed with Mayors, County Commissioners and community leaders from Greene County.
The hearing was chaired by Representative Becky Nordgren of Calhoun County, north of Anniston. About half of the seats for the committee were filled.
The public hearing was to get input from people concerning SB321, proposed by Senator Bobby Singleton, and HB545, proposed by Rep. A. J. McCampbell, which would repeal Greene County’s current Constitutional Amendment 743 and replace it with a new system to regulate and administer gaming in Greene County. These bills would substitute a five member racing commission, named by the Legislative Delegation, for the Sheriff who currently regulates bingo in Greene County.
These bills would also change electronic bingo from charitable sponsors to allow any entity, including for-profit businesses, to qualify to be licensed to operate bingo in Greene County. The bill would establish a tax based on the gaming gross revenues as a means of supporting municipalities, government agencies, education, the hospital and other agencies currently receiving distributions from electronic bingo in Greene County. There would be a 2% tax to the State of Alabama and a 10% tax to the Greene County Gaming Commission and a formula for the distribution of those funds.
The legislation does not indicate how many bingo licenses could be issued by the new Greene County Gaming Commission and no guarantee that the current license holders would receive priority or automatic consideration for renewal under these bills. There is an unstated belief that this entire effort to rewrite the Greene County gaming Constitutional Amendment is designed to allow for only one license to be issued by the new commission to Greenetrack, which was the situation prior to the election of Sheriff Joe Benison in 2010. One positive result of adopting these changes would be to create more transparency about the ownership of the bingo licenses granted in Greene County and the gross amount of money coming through electronic bingo in Greene County. The tax provisions of the new bills would reveal the gross revenues generated by gaming in the county. We currently do not know the actual and accurate amount of funds generated in Greene County by electronic bingo.
The publishers of the Greene County Democrat have been interested in publishing this information for the public since the onset of bingo in the county. We have been denied this information as being proprietary (a private secret) of bingo operators. In the materials issued on both sides of the debate on these bills, the estimated gross gaming revenues have been cited as between $30 and $99 million annually.
Speakers at Hearing
At the hearing four speakers spoke in favor of passing the SB321 and HB545 including Representative A. J. McCampbell,
Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack, Beverly Gordon of Greenetrack and former Probate Judge Julia Spree.
Rep. McCampbell said that his bill, HB545, would provide more “permanency for bingo in Greene County and better define electronic bingo under the laws of Alabama. It also provides for a five member gaming commission which would be better than one person making all the decisions.”
Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack spent most of his remarks questioning a postcard that was sent to Greene County residents opposing the bills. Winn said the Sheriff was not truthful about the funds from bingo and said based on marketing studies he had reviewed that $62 million would be available and all of the current recipients of funds would receive the same or more funds.
Beverly Gordon echoed these remarks and said, “We are trying to help Greene County not hurt Greene County. We are not against the Sheriff but we are trying to help him do his job better. Former Judge Spree said having a five-member commission would be more efficient, offer more transparency about revenue generation and allow the Sheriff to devote full time to law enforcement and not divide his time as the bingo regulator.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee, a local businessman and former Commissioner, questioned, “whether SB321 or HB545 were ever local bills since they have never been discussed at public meetings or were run in the newspaper, before they were introduced in Montgomery. While I do not see eye to eye with Sheriff Benison on every issue, he was elected three times overwhelmingly by the people of Greene County to operate bingo in the county among his many duties.”
Mayors and council members from various Greene County communities spoke on the benefits of Constitutional Amendment 743 to their municipalities and were opposed to making any changes. Mayor Charlie McCalpine of Forkland said,
“This is not a local bill, it seems to be a private bill. We have enjoyed the benefits of 743 and done many things for the people in our community.”
Mayor James Gaines of Union said until the Sheriff instituted new rules the Town of Union was not getting funding from bingo on a regular basis but since the changes the city has had matching funds for a storm shelter and a housing rehab program for senior citizens. “ We know what we have but we don’t know what we are going to get with these new bills,” said the Mayor.
Sharon Washington, speaking for the Town of Boligee said, “We opposes these bills because they were not discussed in Greene County before they were introduced in Montgomery.”
County Commissioner Cockrell, who is connected with one of the charities at Rivers Edge Bingo, said “These bills will cripple Greene County Commission and the municipalities because it does not guarantee Bingo the same amount of funds as Amendment 743. Why fix something that is not broken.”
County Commissioner Turner, who is also, connected to Rivers Edge Bingo, said, “The County Commission has earmarked funds from bingo for infrastructure and we have given scholarships in my District. We oppose these bills because we do not know how this will turn out.”
Sandra Walker of Greene County said, “We support the Sheriff. We voted for him and elected him to oversee bingo. We do not know who will be appointed to this new gaming commission, so we do not support these bills.”
John Zippert, speaking as Chair of the Hospital Board, said that he is concerned about the impact of the two bills. “We could support these bills if they were amended to provide more protection for electronic bingo in Greene County, if the current bingo licensees were ‘grand-farther –in’ and protected to continue and if there were provisions to guarantee that the current beneficiaries of bingo received the same or greater payments, under these bills.”
Former Governor Jim Folsom said he was concerned about the impact of these bills on Greene County’s finances. In his remarks, he said, “None of the Legislators who represent Greene County and would pick the new gaming commission actually live in Greene County. The potential that for profit entities could be licensed to operate bingo in Greene County is a major change that has statewide implications. You might want to leave the existing charitable agencies operating bingo in place.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, Rep. Nordgren said, “We will not vote on this today. We also need to see how other related legislation on the statewide lottery and bingo in Macon County work out before we make a decision on these bills.”

Newswire: Sen. Vivian Davis Figures introduces bill to repeal Alabama’s extreme Abortion Ban

Kirsten J. Barnes, Communications Director for Alabama Senate Minority

In response to the negative reactions to Alabama’s Abortion Ban not only from Alabamians, but worldwide, Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) took a bold step on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, by introducing a senate bill to repeal the state’s extreme abortion ban.
“There are consequences for every decision we make as legislators, and for every vote we cast there are ramifications,” Sen. Figures said. “However, some of these effects are unintended and I truly believe this has been the case for SB314. I do not believe my Republican colleagues had any idea what the consequences for passing this bill would be.”
Since the passing of the bill, Alabama lawmakers have been inundated with calls from people nationwide expressing their concern that the bill goes too far. Not only have Democrats come out against the bill, put top Republicans such as President Donald Trump, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, 700 Club Founder Pat Robertson, and Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel have all expressed outrage by the passing of this extreme law which seeks to force women and girls impregnated through rape and incest to carry those babies to term.
“I felt that the least I could do was to offer a bill to repeal HB314 with the hopes that it would help to heal some of the wounds that my Republican brothers and sisters have inflicted on the great state of Alabama,” Sen. Figures said. “Unfortunately this bill is serving as a detriment to the entire state of Alabama in terms of revenues and in terms of healthcare, particularly for women.”
Although, Alabama is known for its increase of visitors during the summer months, but that could change drastically this year.
“I have heard from people all over the country saying they planned a vacation to Alabama’s beautiful beaches, but when this extreme abortion ban was signed into law, they immediately canceled those plans,” Sen. Figures. “If we care about the future and well-being of our state, this law must be repealed.”

Progress in construction of Love’s Truck Stop

In a photo taken last week at the end of April 2019, you can see the progress in the construction of the $5 million Love’s Truck Stop and Travel Center at Exit 40 on Interstate 20/59 within the Eutaw City limits. Progress is also being made in the connection of the city sewer line to the project site. The Love’s project is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2019.

School board schedules interviews for six finalists in superintendent search

The Greene County Board of Education has scheduled interviews for the six finalists in the school system’s superintendent search which began February 18, 2019, when the board engaged the consultant services of the Alabama Association of School Boards. The interviews are scheduled to begin Monday, May 6, 2019 at 10:00 am. Two interviews will be held each day through Wednesday, May 8, with the board holding a call meeting on Thursday, May 9, to render its final decision.
The six finalists are: Dr. Donna Ray Hill of Snellville, GA – current employer BRP Associates, Stockbridge, GA; Dr. Corey L. Jones of Newborn, AL – current employer Perry County Board of Education; Dr. Marlon F. Jones of Anniston, AL – current employer Anniston City Board of Education; Dr. Julius Shanks of Montgomery, AL – current employer University of Montevallo; Dr. Sharon Streeter of Montgomery, AL – current employer Dallas County Board of Education; Dr. Clarence Sutton, Jr. of Tuscaloosa, AL – current employer Tuscaloosa City Board of Education.
All finalists will be sent a listing of the interview questions in advance. Board members will have access to the full application package for each finalist. Although the interviews are public, only board members will participate in the interviews. The public may converse with the candidate in the Meet and Greet sessions that will follow each interview.
According to Dr. Linda Ingram, AASB consultant who led the Greene County School Board’s Superintendent Search, “Greene County attracted a cadre of very qualified individuals; 28 individuals started the process with 24 actually completing the application. The disbursement of applicants is as follows: 17 applicants from Alabama; two from North Carolina; one from Michigan; one from Mississippi; one from Georgia; one from Arkansas and one from Pennsylvania. There were 15 applicants with Doctorate Degrees among the applicants; six had Education Specialists Degrees and three had at least a Master’s Degrees.”
“All six finalists are a good fit for Greene County,” stated Dr. Ingram.