SOS continues protests to demand Medicaid Expansion for Alabama

Montgomery, AL – Peaceful protestors – many in wheelchairs and walkers – gathered at the state Capitol to demand Medicaid expansion and were met by at least 32 armed law enforcement officers, not counting those in Montgomery City Police vehicles. The nearly three dozen armed police remained standing while speakers, including several young activists, continued to plea for Medicaid expansion in Alabama
Attorney and Civil Rights Activist Faya Toure said: “It is regretful that such a scene is taking place week after week at SOS events to save lives in a city with a Black Mayor and a Black police chief. Montgomery is known for its historic civil disobedience, which led to Montgomery’s having its first ever Black Mayor elected last year.”
Those present included leaders of SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, and other human rights and civil rights groups. They met at the historic King Memorial Dexter Avenue Baptist Church at 11:30 a.m. and marched up the street to the Alabama State Capitol facing a sea of armed city police officers for a noon press conference to continue to push for Medicaid expansion. Individuals with physical limitations participated in the march and the press conference and stressed the critical need to expand Medicaid to save lives, now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young leaders from across Alabama also participated in today’s events at the Church and the Capitol, including two who were previously arrested and jailed for civil disobedience misdemeanors or “good trouble” as Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed likes to quote the late Congressman John Lewis.
SOS and LGBTQ leader Judson Garner called out state leaders for finding money to build private mega prisons while refusing to move to save lives and save hospitals with Medicaid expansion. “We will be paying for these private prisons long after the Governor and other elected leaders have died. They can find billions to warehouse Alabamians in private facilities, but they can’t find a pittance to save lives, build our economy and improve every corner of our state with Medicaid expansion. This is wrong, and all young Alabamians – and all Alabamians – should be outraged.”
Kumasi Amin with Black Lives Matter and SOS said: “This movement consists of people of all ages, and we will not stop until Medicaid is expanded. We will continue to stand side by side, recognizing that the issues that affect our elders also affect us intergenerationally. Just as we watch our Black brothers and sisters being murdered at the hands and knees of law enforcement across this country, we also see people needlessly dying and suffering in Alabama because of the failure to expand Medicaid and the lack of health coverage and healthcare. I myself will lose my health coverage when I turn 26 this year. And Black people are dying throughout this city, state and nation because of policies at all levels of government.”
Alabama remains one of only 12 states in America that has taken no action to expand Medicaid. Because of the state’s ongoing failure to act, thousands of Alabamians have needlessly died in Alabama since Medicaid expansion was made available to all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. “This is unforgivable,” said Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan.
Travis Jackson with Black Lives Matter and SOS who is also a veteran of the Iraqi War said: “How can the State of Alabama find billions of dollars for private prisons and yet can’t find a penny to expand Medicaid? How can leaders of good faith justify such actions? There is no justification, and Alabama must expand Medicaid now.”
SOS leaders John Zippert and Johnny Ford, who have been a part of the movement to expand Medicaid from day one, also made remarks as well as brought individuals with physical limitations to participate in today’s events. Eutaw resident Gus Richardson urged the state, “Expand Medicaid NOW!”
Zippert said, “More than 340,000 Alabamians fall in the gap between current Medicaid eligibility and ability to qualify for subsidized health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. These uninsured Alabamians are placing financial pressure on all hospitals and causing many smaller rural hospitals to close. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama will save 700 lives a year of people dying because they lack health insurance coverage. With the coronavirus, many more people with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and others, which go untreated because they lack insurance, are suffering higher death rates from the pandemic.”
Ford said, “We welcome persons directly affected by the lack of Medicaid Expansion in the State of Alabama, to join us in our SOS weekly protests to urge Governor Ivey to do the right thing. We want more people directly impacted by the lack of health insurance in Alabama to testify at our SOS rallies and press conferences to put more pressure on the Governor.”
Annie Pearl Avery who was on the bridge in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday in 1965 said: “I have been part of the Civil Rights Movement for six decades. From Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma to Atlanta to Jackson to D.C. and more, I have been on the front lines fighting for civil and human rights. Our fights directly led to Black mayors and other Black elected officials as well as Black police officers, including the nearly three dozen lined up in front of us now. I have also been fighting for Medicaid expansion from the beginning, and I’ll be here fighting for it until Alabama leaders do the right thing and save lives instead of taking lives.”
Persons interested in joining or supporting the SOS Movement for Justice and Democracy may contact SOS through the Internet and Facebook. Support can also be sent to the SOS Survival Fund, 838 South Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104; phone 205-262-9032.

Newswire: Lou Brock, Cardinals Hall of Famer, dead at 81

Lou Brock stealing a base and Lou Brock signed baseball card

By Associated Press
Hall of Famer Lou Brock, one of baseball’s signature leadoff hitters and base stealers who helped the St. Louis Cardinals win three pennants and two World Series in the 1960s, has died. He was 81.
Dick Zitzmann, Brock’s longtime agent and friend, confirmed Brock’s death Sunday, but he said he couldn’t provide any details. The Cardinals and Cubs also observed a moment of silence in the outfielder’s memory before their game at Wrigley Field.
Brock lost a leg from diabetes in recent years and was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.
“Lou Brock was one of the most revered members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization and one of the very best to ever wear the Birds on the Bat,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a release.
“He will be deeply missed and forever remembered.”
The man later nicknamed the Running Redbird and the Base Burglar arrived in St. Louis in June 1964, swapped from the Cubs for pitcher Ernie Broglio in what became one of baseball’s most lopsided trades.
Brock stole 938 bases in his career, including 118 in 1974 — both of those were big league records until they were broken by Rickey Henderson.
“Lou was an outstanding representative of our national pastime and he will be deeply missed,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a release.
Brock’s death came after Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver died Monday. Brock and Seaver faced each other 157 times, the most prolific matchup for both of them in their careers.
The Cards were World Series champions in 1964 and 1967 and lost to the Detroit Tigers in seven games in 1968. Opposing teams were warned to keep Brock off base, especially in the low-scoring years of 1967-68 when a single run often could win a game. But the speedy left fielder with the popup slide was a consistent base-stealing champion and run producer.
A lifetime .293 hitter, he led the league in steals eight times, scored 100 or more runs seven times and amassed 3,023 hits.
He was so synonymous with base stealing that in 1978 he became the first major leaguer to have an award named for him while still active — the Lou Brock Award, for the National League’s leader in steals. For Brock, base stealing was an art form and a kind of warfare. He was among the first players to study films of opposing pitchers and, once on base, relied on skill and psychology.

Newswire:  John Thompson, coaching legend and unforgettable mentor, dies at 78

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Coach John Thompson


John Thompson was the first Black coach to win the NCAA Championship. In 1984, he led the Georgetown Hoyas to victory over the Houston Cougars. In 1985 Thompson was named Coach of the Year.  He coached at Georgetown University from 1972 to 1999.
Thompson was a coach who set the bar high for his players on and off the basketball court. He coached Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutumbo. He became a mentor to many long after they left Georgetown and competitive basketball.
Thompson had a preference for players that had a passion for the game on the court. He once said, “you can calm down a fool before you can resurrect a corpse.”
He emphasized the power of habit, attitude and state of mind with his players. “If you think you are beaten you are. If you think you dare not, you won’t,” he once said.
“Big John Thompson is the single most important African American man in the history of D.C. sports,” Sia writer Clinton Yeats. In 1999 he was selected to be in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 27 seasons, Thompson compiled a coaching record of 596-239. Most importantly to Thompson, 97 percent of his players stayed four years and left Georgetown University with a college degree.
Thompson was born in Washington, D.C. and went on to play in the NBA for the Boston Celtics.
Thompson is survived by his three children, John Thompson III, who also coached basketball at Georgetown, Ronny Thompson and Tiffany Thompson. Thompson’s autobiography is due out in January 2021.

The 45th Black Belt Folk Roots Festival goes virtual

By: Carol P. Zippert
Festival Coordinator

The 45th annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival did not go unclaimed, and undocumented. There was no magnificent tent shielding a stage of body and soul stirring musicians playing to hundreds not minding the August heat and drenching humidity. There was not the aroma of the famous Bear Burgers and Chicago Style Polish sausages sizzling on the grill, or the inviting scent of barbecue on the pit. One could not be drawn to the popping sounds of chicken wings and fish or pork skins in pots of hot oil. One could not taste the cooling refreshment of homemade ice cream or myriad flavors of snow cones and Italian Ice. Still, the annual festival did not go unclaimed and undocumented.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival went virtual on its 45th anniversary. A special website was designed to capture the usual ole timey blues and gospel sounds of the festival. The link highlights longtime bluesmen and bands such as Clarence Davis, Lil’Lee and the Midnight Blues Band, Jock Webb, Terry ‘Harmonica’ Bean, Jontavious Willis, Russell Gulley, Michael Carpenter and the Roadhouse Blues Band, Willie Halbert and the Fingerprint Band and more.
The ole timey gospel groups noted included Son of Zion, The American Travelers, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, The Melody Kings of Starkville, Eddie Mae Brown, Glory to Glory Gospel Singers and more.

One could not finger the fine stitching of the traditional hand crafted quilts and baskets or the intricate designs of hand crafted jewelry, but the authentic photos on the website portray the loving and painstaking care of the folk artists.
The young people did engage in a hands on arts festival experience. The special Zoom link allowed them to follow the guide of local artist Mynecia (Mya) Steele, of Eutaw, in designing their own arts. The young participants were provided with the materials needed to create their projects in Zoom arts program, noted as the Kids Tent. Reportedly, the greatest joy for many young participants was seeing themselves on screen.
The festival’s website also carries a video of the Kids Tent, claiming and documenting the young people’s activities.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival, produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture, did not go unclaimed and undocumented. The festival website will be continuous, featuring the folk artists of the West Alabama Region, celebrating history, culture and tradition through music, dance, crafts and foodways.
Festival website: blackbeltfolkrootsfestival.weebly.com. Tune in and join a celebration of community.
The major supporters of the virtual festival and the Kids Tent include Alabama Department of Tourism, the Black Belt Community Foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation, Greenetrack, Inc. and the TSP Support League, Inc.
If you would like to support our continuing work of producing the festival
contact
Carol Zippert at
205-372-0525 or email:
zippert.carol79@gmail.com

Board gets unmodified audit report; conducts superintendent evaluation Superintendent Jones reviews Roadmap to Reopening Schools

In photo above, Greene County schools faculty and staff distribute student Tablets to parents/guardians, while observing masks requirement and social distancing.

The Greene County Board of Education held its monthly meeting, Monday, August 17, 2020 in the board’s Central Office. The first order of business was the school board’s audit report of Oct.1, 2018 through Sept.30, 2019, presented by Auditor Shelly Patrenos, with the Alabama State Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. The following is from the summary statement of the audit report: An unmodified opinion was issued on the financial statements, which means that the Board’s financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, its financial positions and the results of its operations for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2019.
Although Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones, in the July board meeting, laid out the system’s plan for the 2020-2021 school year which includes Remote classes for the first nine weeks; Hybrid blend of remote and traditional classes for the second nine weeks; and Traditional on campus instruction for the third nine weeks, Dr. Jones presented a summary of the system’s Roadmap to Reopening at the August meeting.
Dr. Jones opened his presentation with the comments: “As we begin this school term, I would like to inform our students, parents and the community that we will continuously strive to provide the best educational opportunity for our children in the safest environment possible.”
He proceeded to review guidelines for employee and student protocol for confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis (symptomatic and asymptomatic); and guidelines for when diagnosed employees and students may return to school.
The Roadmap also includes guidelines for the following: Health, Wellness, Safety and Prevention; Child Nutrition; Transportation; Counseling; Social Emotional Learning; Athletics and Extracurricular Programs and Activities.
Dr. Jones also announced that 700 Tablets and hotspots, with tracking devices, have been purchased for students and will be distributed August 18 and 19. This adds to the 400 tablets already on hand for students. He noted that the State of Alabama will provide free internet hook-up to families on the free and reduced lunch schedule, however, the families must apply directly.
According to the superintendent, while students are physically away from school, daily breakfast and lunch will be delivered to students via the system’s bus routes. Arrangements will be made for students who do not ordinarily ride a school bus.
The board approved the following personnel recommendations of the superintendent:
Rescind Employment- Robert Brown Middle School (Did not accept position) Samantha Jones 6th Grade Social Studies; Caaliyah Nelson, 4th Grade Teacher; Franklin Ball 7&8 Grade Math Teacher, for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Employment – Tammy Barber, 4th Grade Teacher; Garria Spencer, Bus Driver; Glenda Hodges, Long-term Special Education Substitute Teacher, Grade 4-6, Robert Brown Middle School; Deidre Paige-Carter, School Nurse; TraKayla Brown, Pre-K Auxiliary Teacher, Eutaw Primary School; Shelia Daniels, Secretary/Bookkeeper, Eutaw Primary School; Jasmine Smith, Mental Health Coordinator.
Resignation – Russell C. Rivers, Automotive Instructor/Career Coach, Greene County Career Center, effective August 17, 2020; Lakeisha Johnson, Pre-K Instructor, Eutaw Primary School, effective August 3, 2020.
CSFO Report
The board’s CSFO, Lavonda Blair, presented the following Financial Snapshot Report, as of June 30, 2020: General Fund Balance $2,023,115.91; A/P Check Register Accountability Report – $120,476.67; Payroll Register – $800,451.87; Combined Fund Balance – $4,543,431.17; Local Revenue – $96,520.72. Blair also presented additional funding update on CARES funds:GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund – total $75,989; ESSER (Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) – total $864,032; CRF (Coronavirus Relief Fund) Education, Health/Wellness – total $162,771; Remote Learning – total $232,530.
School Board Attorney’s Report
Attorney Hank Sanders reported that the Hearing Officer for the Joe N. Webb appeal ruled in the affirmative for the Greene County Board of Education.
School Board conducts annual superintendent evaluation
The August 17, 2020 regular board meeting was preceded by a work session in which the board members conducted the annual evaluation of superintendent Dr. Corey Jones.
Board Attorney Hank Sanders conducted the evaluation session which included the following performance standards: (1) Personal, Interpersonal and Professional Leadership addressing these categories -Vision for the District, Relationship with the Board, Relationship with the Community, Communication, District Leadership and Management, Decision Making and Planning, Ethics; (2) Organizational and Departmental Leadership addressing these categories – Curriculum and Instruction, Technology and Data Analysis, Fiscal, Law and Policy, Human Resources and Professional Development, Student Services, Facilities and Operations.
The board members rated the superintendent individually on each of the categories with a numerical rating. Once the scores are compiled and averaged, the board will meet again with Superintendent Jones for a summary conference.
Dr. Jones also conducted a self-evaluation of his role as superintendent.

Bingo distribution totals $379,643.45 for July 2020

On Friday, August 14, Greene County Sheriff’s Department reported a total distribution of $379.643.45 from three licensed bingo gaming operations in the county. The bingo distributions were contributed by Frontier, River’s Edge and Palace.
The recipients of the July 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, Fire Department, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,924.98 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,500; 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, $1,133.33.
River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $110.165.19 to the following: Greene County Commission, $29,286.06; Greene County Sheriff’s $32,332.50; City of Eutaw, $8,861.50; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,712.25; Greene County Board of Education, $10,059, and the Greene County Health System, $11,975.00. Sub Charities, each $1,085.73.
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $154,533.28 to the following: Greene County Commission, $41.086.68; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $45.360; City of Eutaw, $12,432; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $5208.00; Greene County Board of Education, $14,112 and the Greene County Health System, $16,800; Sub Charities each, $1523.20.

Newswire: African Americans die more frequently from Covid-19, but MIT researchers say poverty isn’t why

By Donna Fuscaldo, Zenger News Service


Black Americans are dying from Covid-19 more frequently than white people. But two researchers found it’s not because of obesity or poverty.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management professor Christopher Knittel and graduate research assistant Bora Ozaltun analyzed daily Covid-19 death rates for a nearly two-month period, at the beginning of the pandemic, for counties and states to understand the correlation between Covid-19 deaths and patients’ typical commutes, exposure to pollution, race and other factors.
While African Americans are dying at higher rates than white people, the researchers found obesity, poverty and smoking weren’t correlated to those deaths. Diabetes was ruled out, too.
“Why, for instance, are African Americans more likely to die from the virus than other races? Our study controls for patients’ income, weight, diabetic status, and whether or not they’re smokers,” wrote Knittel in the study. “We must examine other possibilities, such as systemic racism that impacts African Americans’ quality of insurance, hospitals, and healthcare, or other underlying health conditions
that are not in the model, and then urge policymakers to look at other ways to solve the problem.”
The MIT researchers’ work comes as Covid-19 cases are on the rise in several states and in African American communities. According to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project and Boston University for the COVID Racial Data tracker, black people represent 13% of the U.S. population but account for 23% of the known deaths from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
As of early July, more than 26,708 black people have died in the U.S. pandemic, and four of the five counties with the highest death rates from Covid-19 are predominantly black. In counties where black people are the majority, MIT found they’re dying at rates close to 10 times higher than white counties. Other at-risk groups include the elderly and Hispanics, although healthy, young people, have also died from Covid-19.
The difference isn’t because of income disparities or that white people have a larger net worth on average than African Americans and therefore access to better care, although Knittel said in an interview that’s where policymakers often look to lay blame.
“The reason why African Americans face higher death rates is not because they have higher rates of uninsured, poverty, diabetes,” said Knittel. “It could be because the quality of their insurance is lower, the quality of their hospitals is lower, or some other systemic reason. Our analysis can hopefully allow policymakers to focus on a narrower set of potential causal links.”
Public transit usage is one potential link. The MIT researchers found people who use public transit to commute to work are at a higher risk of dying from Covid-19. People who rely on buses, trains and subways had higher death rates than those who drove to work or telecommuted. Essential workers, many of whom are black and Hispanic, often have no choice but to take public transportation and once at work, aren’t always equipped with proper protections. Paid sick leave isn’t a typical benefit for many hourly jobs, which means many people go to work sick.
“Black Americans and Hispanic Americans are more likely to be employed in service sector jobs that may be considered essential,” said Laurie Zephyrin, who oversees the Commonwealth Fund’s efforts to help vulnerable populations. The Commonwealth Fund is a nonprofit foundation focused on improving access to healthcare.
While the MIT professors weren’t able to pinpoint one direct cause for the higher death rates, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, pointed to an inability to retreat during the pandemic, a high propensity for chronic diseases among African Americans and poverty as possible causes. He also said misinformation during the early days of the pandemic and a lack of proper testing put black lives at risk.
Lackluster testing in the early days of the pandemic hurt the medical community’s ability to find and quarantine people to slow the spread of Covid-19. Even if a community had a testing site, it was often not easily accessible, said Benjamin.
Zephyrin said better messaging on social distancing and increased access to healthcare could make a difference, among other measures.
“We need to make sure the people who drive our buses, deliver our groceries, and are critical for day to day functions have the protective gear required to keep them safe.”

Stewart seeks Eutaw Council seat District 5

I, Jacqueline Stewart announce my candidacy as councilwoman District 5 for the City of Eutaw. My plans are to work with the Mayor and other Council members to make the City of Eutaw a great place to live and work. I know the task will not be an easy one but I am up for the challenge. 
Not only will I be an advocate for  District 5, but for the entire City of Eutaw.  I assure all of you that our concerns and issues will be adequately addressed. I propose to promote different new business and open areas and bring the city to life. So on August 25th vote and elect Jacqueline Stewart Councilwoman District 5
“The Change We Need”

Newswire: Oprah’s O Magazine puts up billboards all over Louisville demanding action in the Breonna Taylor case

Billboards around Louisville, Kentucky, calling for justice for Breonna Taylor

By David Williams, CNN

(CNN) Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine is putting up billboards around Louisville, Kentucky, calling for the officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor to be arrested and charged.
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot multiple times in March by police forcing their way into her apartment while executing a no-knock warrant. O Magazine is putting up 26 billboards around the city — one for each year of Taylor’s life to amplify her story and the fight for justice in her name.
The billboard features the portrait of Taylor that will be on the cover of the September issue of O. It will be the first time that anyone other than Winfrey is on the cover in the magazine’s 20-year history.
“We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice,” Winfrey said in an article in her magazine announcing the billboards. “And that is why Breonna Taylor is on the cover of O magazine. I cry for justice in her name. The September issue honors her and every other Black woman whose life has been taken too soon.”
The billboards urge people to “Demand that the police involved in killing Breonna Taylor be arrested and charged” and points them to the website for Until Freedom, a social justice organization that recently moved to Louisville to focus on Taylor’s case.
CNN affiliate WLKY reports that the group organized a sit-in last month on Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s front lawn. Cameron has promised a thorough investigation into Taylor’s death.
Until Freedom thanked O Magazine on social media for placing the 26 billboards and vowed to get justice for Taylor.
In a statement to CNN last month, Winfrey said she would be marching for Taylor if it wasn’t for the coronavirus pandemic.She said she would continue her fight until the people responsible for her death are prosecuted.
“It is my hope that if we continue to say her name, write her name, and let no one forget her life, the people who are responsible for killing her and those who remain complicit by doing nothing shall be brought to justice,” she said.
Taylor’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the three police officers involved in the shooting. None of the officers have been charged and only one was fired by the Louisville Metro Police Department.