Sheriff Benison, Garria Spencer and Allen Turner Jr.
In yesterday’s May 24th primary election there were some local winners but many races with multiple candidates were pushed into second round runoffs, scheduled for June 21st.
In unofficial returns for Greene County, incumbent Democratic Sheriff Jonathan “Joe” Benison was re-nominated with 1,511 votes (57.47%) over challengers Jimmie Benison with 783 votes, Hank McWhorter with 175 and Beverly Spencer with 160. Benison like most local Greene County nominees has no Republican opposition in the November general election.
In the District 1, Greene County Commission race, Garria Spencer was nominated with 339 votes (67,4%) with 164 votes (32.6%) going to challenger Shelia R. Daniels. This contest was for the seat held by the late Lester “Bop” Brown.
In the District 4, Greene County Commission contest, incumbent Allen Turner Jr. with 338 votes (53.91%) defeated two challengers Christopher Armstead with 196 (31.26%) and Malcom Merriweather with 93 (14.83%) of the votes.
The District 5, Greene County Commission race will feature a runoff between incumbent Roshanda Summerville with 199 (41%) votes and Marvin Childs with 190 (39%), Sharlene French 69 votes and Anikia Coleman Jones with 28 trailed behind the leaders.
In the Greene County Board of Education District 1 contest, Dr. Carol P. Zippert led with 207 (40.8%) votes to an unofficial tie between challengers Robert Davis and Fentress “Duke” Means, each with 150 votes (29.6%). Zippert will be in a runoff with one of her opponents, who is officially certified in the final count, which will deal with any contested or provisional votes cast in this race.
A poll watcher who monitored the Absentee Box counting, indicated there were six votes disqualified for lack of proper signatures and witnesses on the affidavit and one vote rejected by the counting machine because of voting for two people in one race. This ballot was counted in the District 1, BOE race, for Robert Davis Jr., but is not reflected in the unofficial totals, which are derived from the thumb drive taken from each machine.
In the Greene County Board of Education District 2 race, there will be a runoff between: Brandon Merriweather 177 (41.65%) votes and Tameka King 140 (32.94%). Incumbent Kashaya Cockrell was edged out with 108 (25.41%) of the votes.
In the race for State Representative, District 72, in Greene County, Curtis Travis received 1,445 (59%) votes to 1,004 (41%) for Ralph Howard. In the full district, which includes Hale County, and parts of Tuscaloosa and Bibb counties, Travis received 3,101 votes ( 52.7%) to 2,785 votes (47.3%) for Howard.
In statewide races on the Democratic side, there will be a runoff between Yolanda Flowers and State Senator Malika Sanders Fortier for Governor, with the winner to face current Governor Kay Ivy, who won the Republican primary with 65% of the vote against challengers Lynda Blanchard and Tim James. In Greene County, Malika Sanders Fortier led the ticket with 961 (43%) votes to 671 (30%) for Flowers, with others trailing behind.
In the statewide race for U. S. Senate, Democrat Will Boyd led in Greene County and the state by 65% to win without a runoff. Boyd will face the winner of a Republican state runoff between Katie Britt (45%) and Mo Brooks (29%) to fill the vacant seat left by the retirement of Senator Richard Shelby.
State Amendment for an $85 million bond issue for State Parks and historical places, won in Greene County by a vote of 2,167 (85%) yes to 378 (15%) no. It was also successful statewide by a margin of over 65% yes votes.
More election results including for the county Democratic Executive Committee, to follow after the votes are officially certified next week.
May 23, 2022 (GIN) – While a professor at the University of Nairobi, Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was the catalyst of the discussion to abolish the English department. He argued that after the end of colonialism, it was imperative that a university in Africa teach African literature, including oral literature, and that such should be done in the richness of African languages. Today, writing and reading in African languages will be more possible with the addition of 10 languages on the Google Translate App. Translation, understood as the transfer of meaning (of a text) from one language into another language, is crucial for the transmission of information, knowledge and social innovations. It is a courier for the transmission of knowledge, a protector of cultural heritage, and essential to the development of a global economy. Among the new additions are Lingala from Central Africa, Twi from Ghana, Tigrinya from Eritrea, Oromo from Ethiopia, and Krio from Sierra Leone. Krio, an English-based Creole language, is the first language of about 350,000 people and is used as a lingua franca by over 4 million. It is spoken by 87% of Sierra Leone’s population. “So for the fact that Krio is now very visible, it means Sierra Leoneans who can read and write and understand Krio will be able to use the Sierra Leone Autography to communicate on the Google Platform,” commented Dr. Abdulai Walon Jalloh, head of the Department for Language Studies at Fourah College, University of Sierra Leone. He was part of a team that worked on Sierra Leonean dialect translations for Google. “Languages we are told are our identities, they represent who we are, and they are what we’ll call the DNA of every culture. The fact that we are using one of our own languages to engage on Google, it means that our languages are technologically relevant, that our society can transmit our culture, and we can translate our attitude.” Ngugi, a long-time advocate for the use of local languages, was imprisoned in 1977 for writing a play where local actors performed in Gikuyu. The simple act of speaking or writing in your mother tongue was a revolutionary gesture. With 54 countries, Africa has a variety of languages, including some at risk due to the proliferation of other dominant groups and the influence of Western culture. Some rare African languages are even becoming extinct along with the culture and knowledge they represent. In the post-colonial era, African people have grown more aware of the value of their linguistic identity. But only a few are considered official at the national level, and languages imported by colonial powers still prevail. Fortunately, African countries are claiming more of their language inheritance, and are developing language policies aiming at multilingualism to reclaim and preserve rare African languages.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Although Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the decision perverse and illogical, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday, May 23, that state prisoners may not present new evidence in federal court to support claims that their counsel was ineffective in violation of the Constitution. “This decision is perverse. It is illogical,” Sotomayor wrote in a scathing dissenting opinion. The high court’s ruling severely diminishes opportunities for inmates to claim ineffective assistance of counsel even if attorneys failed to represent their clients properly. “It makes no sense to excuse a habeas petitioner’s counsel’s failure to raise a claim altogether because of ineffective assistance in postconviction proceedings, as (the case of) Martinez and Trevino did, but to fault the same petitioner for that postconviction counsel’s failure to develop evidence in support of the trial-ineffectiveness claim,” Sotomayor responded. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the 6-3 vote. He determined that allowing claims of ineffective counsel go forward would result in delays, much of which federal courts “must afford unwavering respect to the centrality of the trial of a criminal case in state court.” The ruling defeats petitions from two death row inmates who asserted they had compelling claims that their state lawyers failed to pursue. It should also make it more difficult for inmates to win claims of ineffective counsel at the state court level during appeals. “Serial re-litigation of final convictions undermines the finality that is essential to both the retributive and deterrent functions of criminal law,” Thomas wrote, citing previous case law. “Further, broadly available habeas relief encourages prisoners to sandbag state courts by selecting a few promising claims for airing on state postconviction review while reserving others for habeas review should state proceedings come up short,” he continued. However, the majority opinion “reduces to rubble many inmates’ Sixth Amendment rights to the effective assistance of counsel,” Sotomayor determined. “The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to the effective assistance of counsel at trial,” she insisted. “Today, however, the court hamstrings the federal courts’ authority to safeguard that right.” Arizona officials had referred to a federal law they interpreted to mean that an inmate could not develop a claim in federal court if it hadn’t been raised in state court. Lawyers for the inmates countered that the state misread the law because the inmate couldn’t face blame for the mistake of their state-appointed lawyer. Barry Jones, one of the inmates at the center of the Supreme Court ruling, argued that ineffective assistance of counsel robbed him of a just and fair verdict. Jones, who maintains his innocence, had earned relief from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals before the Supreme Court ruling. The second Arizona inmate, David Ramirez, claimed that his attorney failed to investigate his intellectual disability. “State prisoners already have a strong incentive to save claims for federal habeas proceedings to avoid the highly deferential standard of review that applies to claims properly raised in state court,” Sotomayor wrote. “Permitting federal fact-finding would encourage yet more federal litigation of defaulted claims.”
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As President Joe Biden stood amidst the heartbroken in Buffalo, N.Y. calling White supremacy a “poison” in the U.S., historians and scholars of America’s racism not only agreed with him, but outlined specifically how America must change.
“The FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Justice Department have all confirmed that the primary domestic terrorism threat comes from racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists who advocate for the superiority of the white race,” writes the Southern Poverty Law Center, a foremost authority on hate in America, in response to the killing of 10 predominately Black shoppers by a White 18-year-old in Buffalo Saturday.
The President, accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden, flew into New York Tuesday operating in the roll of comforters-in-chief. According to an account from the White House, “the President and First Lady met with family members of the victims, law enforcement and first responders, and local leaders at a community center to offer their condolences and comfort to those affected by this tragedy.”
He declared in a speech: “What happened here is simple and straightforward: Terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism…Violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.”
The killer, Payton Gendron, went into the TOPS grocery store where predominately Black family members did their regular shopping on a daily basis. On Saturday, people were preparing for Sunday dinners, birthday parties or just stopping by the store for snacks and supplies. Gendron shot people in the parking lot on the way in and then proceeded to fire the gun inside, killing more people with a rifle speckled with writing, including racial slurs.
Before he was arrested, he had killed 10 people and injured three others. According to widespread reports, a manager had asked Gendron to leave the store the day before the killings as he loitered inside. He was also investigated by state police less than a year ago after authorities at his high school reported that he made threatening remarks concerning a murder/suicide. He was then examined by a mental hospital but was not charged.
On Tuesday, Biden called on the community to support the victims and survivors and to take action to prevent future tragedies. Namely, he called on Americans to reject the racist white “replacement theory” believed to have inspired the gunman behind the tragic Buffalo shooting and other shootings.
According to a statement by the SPLC, “the attack in Buffalo is the direct result of white nationalist propaganda, specifically the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, being promoted and now mainstreamed by major public figures. This false notion — that white people are being systematically replaced by Black people, immigrants and Jews — has deep historical roots but has gained traction in recent years. And with that traction has come violence, both physical and political.”
The SPLC statement continues, “In recent years we have seen multiple white gunmen commit horrific acts of violence against people of color, Jews, Muslims and immigrants, justified on the premise of the false conspiracy narrative. This time it took an 18-year-old extremist driving over 200 miles to murder 10 innocent people and injure three others – the vast majority who were Black – to bring this lie and its deadly consequences to the national forefront.”
Biden’s appeal for Americans to take stands against White supremacy and to speak up against the wrong of racism, is not enough, he said.
The SPLC agrees. The organization made several recommendations to end the repeated terrorist attacks:
•”It is especially important that politicians, civic leaders and law enforcement officials repudiate dangerous and false conspiracy theories like the ‘great replacement’ theory, which has now moved from far-right extremist spaces into the political mainstream. Despite its clearly violent implications, far too many politicians and pundits now repeat the myth regularly.”
•”Federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, should provide more resources for programs and processes for early intervention. Programs in these areas should focus on extended support for victims, survivors and targeted communities more broadly, as the trauma resulting from racially motivated violence often reverberates widely.”
•”Congress should immediately enact the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (S.964/H.R. 350) to establish offices within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to monitor, investigate and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism — and require regular reports from these offices.”
•”Tech companies must create — and enforce — terms of service and policies to ensure that social media platforms, payment service providers and other internet-based services do not provide forums where hateful activities and extremism can grow and lead to domestic terrorism. Social media platforms and online payment service providers must act to disrupt the funding of hate online to prevent their services from helping to incubate and bankroll terrorists and extremism,” The SPLC recommended.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, Biden read off the names of each of the dead, giving brief descriptions of their errands that day or something about their lives: As a nation, I say to the families: We remember them. We’ve been reading about them. We visited the memorial where…the show of the love for them.:
•“Celestine Chaney, 65 years old. Brain cancer survivor. Churchgoer. Bingo player. Went to buy strawberries to make her favorite shortcake. A loving mother and a grandmother.”
•“Roberta Drury, 32. Beloved daughter and sister. Moved back home to help take care of her brother after his bone marrow transplant. She went to buy groceries for dinner. The center of attention who made everyone in the room laugh and smile when she walked in.”
•Andre Mackneil, 53. Worked at a restaurant. Went to buy his three-year-old son a birthday cake. His son [celebrating] a birthday, asking, “Where is Daddy?”• Katherine Massey, 72. A writer and an advocate who dressed up in costumes at schools and cut the grass in the parkand helping local elections. The glue of the family and the community.
•Margus Morrison, 52. School bus aide. Went to buy snacks for weekly movie night with the family. Survived by his wife and three children and his stepdaughter. The center of their world.
•Heyward Patterson, 67. Father. Church deacon. Fed the homeless at the soup kitchen. Gave rides to the grocery store to neighbors who needed help. Putting food in the trunk of others when he took his final breath.
•Aaron Salter, 55. Retired Buffalo police officer for three decades. Three decades. Loved electric cars. A hero who gave his life to save others on a Saturday afternoon. And had that man not been wearing that vest that he purchased – bulletproof vest – a lot of lives would have been saved. A beloved father and husband.
•Geraldine Talley, 62. Expert [baker]. And known for her warm, gentle personality. A friend to everybody. Devoted mother and grandmother.
•Ruth Whitfield, 88. Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother who sang in the church choir. A caretaker of her husband, bringing him clean clothes, cutting his hair, holding his hand every day she visited him in the nursing home. Heart as big as her head.
•Pearl Young, 77. A mother, grandmother, missionary of God. Public school teacher who also ran a local food pantry. Loved singing, dancing, and her family.
Biden continued, “And all three are injured: Zaire Goodman, 20. Shot in the neck but fighting through it. Jennifer Warrington, 50. Christopher Braden, 55. Both treated with injuries, on a long road to recovery.”
The President concluded, “Jill and I bring you this message from deep in our nation’s soul: In America, evil will not win — I promise you. Hate will not prevail. And white supremacy will not have the last word.”
The Greene County Board of Education met in regular session, Monday, May 16, 2022, with all board members present. The venue for the board meeting was changed on the day of the meeting from the Central Office to Greene County High School due to water issued related to the City of Eutaw. No water could be accessed in the building. City officials notified Superintendent Corey Jones of the difficulties stating that city workers were trying to alleviate the problem, but could not assure Dr. Jones when the problem would be resolved. Most of the Central Office staff were assigned to work from home. As part of his monthly report to the board, Superintendent Jones had Ms. Teresa Atkins, who currently serves as Acting Director of the Child Nutrition Program (CNP) for the school district, to give an overview of the CNP operations. Ms. Atkins noted that as a federal program, the CNP must follow particular guidelines regarding basic meal requirements as well as presentation of meals. The basic meal requirements differ according to student age groups. Ms. Atkins stated that to assure that the Greene County School System is providing nutritious and palatable meals, she partnered with the State Child Nutrition Program to assist her in enhancing the total meal service for students. This resulted in providing students with various choices of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and breads. At GCHS students may also serve themselves on the lunch line. Ms. Atkins explained that the CNP Program is federally funded through reimbursements. “We can only get reimbursed for the meals actually served. If a student is at school and does not take a lunch tray, the system cannot claim funds for that meal; however, if a student takes a food tray and does not eat anything on the tray, the system can claim reimbursement.” Atkins noted that the CNP staff tries to accommodate the particular needs of students, such as catering to students with various allergies, other medical conditions governing the type of foods they can or cannot consume and religious preferences in foods. At the start of a school year, parents/guardians are asked to complete a questionnaire on each child noting the exceptions in foods their child requires. The week of April 11-15, 2022, Greene County High School lunchroom was featured on the State’s Child Nutrition facebook page. Atkins said this special recognition from the State Department was the results of revamping the serving lines, training staff on how to offer students more options for both breakfast and lunch and creating an inviting atmosphere in the cafeteria. In continuing his report, Superintendent Jones announced that summer school is scheduled from June 6-30, 2022 from 8:00 AM until 1:00 PM, four days per week. The classes will focus on individual student deficiencies and weaknesses and credit recovery as needed. Enrichment activities will be a major focus of the summer program as well. Hopefully, educational and fun field trips will be scheduled. Dr. Jones also gave positive news updates on each of the schools. At Eutaw Primary educators and scholars celebrated May Day. Scholars who participated in the After-School Program visited the Montgomery zoo on Friday, May 13, 2022. Third Grade Graduation was held Monday, May 16, 2022. Educators and scholars will show their support for Mental Health Awareness Month by wearing green on Friday, May 20, 2022. Robert Brown Middle School observed Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-6, with lunch and snacks provided by school partners. Faculty and students held a volley game. May 18 was Honors Day Program. May 25 is RBMS graduation. At Greene County High School, Cosmetology Department, over 30 students participated in the Hair Show on May 6. The track team, students from GCHS and RBMS, participated in Sectionals. Thirteen of the dual enrollment scholars received certificates in Welding from Wallace Community College Selma. Greene County High School was spotlighted in the Break for a Plate Alabama and Alabama CNP State Newsletter. Teachers and scholars participated in Community Service Project to support Branch Heights Residents impacted by the tornado. A blood drive was held at GCHS on April 22, sponsored by the Greene County Career Center’s HOSA-Future Health Professionals. .The personnel service items recommended by the superintendent and approved by the board are as follows: Non-renewal, Robert Brown Middle School: Carrie Rhodes, 4th Grade Teacher; Cyontai Lewis, Physical Education Teacher; Richard Cammon, Social Studies Teacher; LaDasia Grace, 7th & 8th Grade Social Studies; Richard Cammon, 6th Grade Teacher; Marquavius King, 6th Grade Language Arts; Glenara Faust , 5th Grade Teacher; Non-renewal, Greene County High School: Cassandra Freeman, Chemistry Teacher; Arthur Williamson, English Teacher; Non-renewal, Eutaw Primary School: Destiny Taylor, 2nd Grade Teacher; Malesha Williams, Elementary Teacher; Retirement: Gloria Lyons, Cafeteria Worker, Greene County High School effective May 1, 2022; Debra Waiters, Parent Involvement Facilitator, July 1, 2022. Medical Leave: Shirley Noland, effective February 2, 2022, thru April 22, 2022. Catastrophic Leave and FMLA Leave: Jennifer Reeves, starting March 28, 2022, ending May 9, 2022. Employment of the following teachers for Summer School June 6 – July 15, 2022. Greene County High School: Clifford Reynolds; Kaneeda Coleman; Tameshia Porter; Angela Harkness; Drenda Morton; Dutchess Jones; Janice Jeames. Robert Brown Middle School: Vanessa Bryant; Raven Bryant; Felecia Smith; Nkenge Reynolds; Elroy Skinner; Monquelle Wigfall; Leanita Hunt; Dorris Robinson; Pinkie Travis. Eutaw Primary School: Genetta Bishop: Gwendolyn Webb; Tara Thomas; Pamela Pasteur; Quenterica White; Montoya Hurst-Binion; Cheryl Morrow; Carla Durrett; Keisha Williams. Child Nutrition Program: Burnia Cripin; Sandy Wilson; Romanda Askew; Jacqueline Pickens; Rosie Davis. The following administrative services were approved by the board. * Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. Marquita Lennon, CSFO. * Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll. * Contractual Agreement between Greene County Board and Behavior Aide, Denise Horton. * Agreement between Greene County Board and Amy Quitt, Speech Language Therapy Services. * Approval of 2022-2023 School Calendar. * Approval of Summer School Program, starting June 6, 2022 – July 15, 2022. * Approval of 4-day work week for all extended employees beginning June 6 and ending no later than July 29, 2022. * Retroactively Authorization Debit Card Account at Merchant and Farmers Bank. * Credit Card for Travel and Expenditures. Purchase New Vehicle for Superintendent.
The Financial Snapshot as of April 30, 2022 presented by Mrs. Marquita Lennon, Chief Financial Officer is as follows: General Fund Balance – $2,873,434.22 (reconciled to the Summary Cash report); Accounts Payable Check Register – $168,727.62; Payroll Register $862,388.60; Combined Ending Fund Balance – $5,538,710. Local revenue for the month from property taxes, sales and other taxes and bingo revenue totaled $202,184.
After nearly 50 years in prison, Sundiata Acoli is finally going home to spend his remaining days with his daughter and loved ones. The New Jersey Supreme Court released its decision Tuesday morning granting Acoli’s bid for freedom. Setting aside any political concerns underlying Acoli’s case, the state Supreme Court determined the parole board’s continued denial was “not supported by substantial evidence in the record or by a reasonable weighing of the relevant factors in N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.11(b) that govern parole.” “Even under the most deferential standard of review, the Board has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that, if released on parole, Acoli will commit a crime,” read the decision. “Acoli must be released because the statutory standards for granting parole have been met, without regard to extraneous factors like sympathy or passion or public opinion.” Advocates were pleased with court’s decision. “We applaud the New Jersey Supreme Court in granting Mr. Acoli’s freedom and correcting the parole board’s improper application of the law by denying his petition for release after serving more than 49 years in prison,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Civil Rights attorney and one of the primary advocates for Acoli. “It’s time now for Mr. Acoli to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his family and community,” Elijah added. The preponderance of the evidence standard burden on the state is relatively low compared to the reasonable doubt standard present in criminal proceedings. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement expressing his disappointment and choosing to lionize law enforcement as “heroes” without any acknowledgment of why the parole board made its determination. The New Jersey State Police similarly expressed disappointment in a Facebook post. But as the state Supreme Court noted personal feelings and opinions have no bearing on the determination of whether Acoli was eligible for parole based on his conviction arising out of the 1973 killing of Trooper Werner Foerster. According to the court’s majority, the applicable law is clear in the proper outcome. As NewsOne reported in January, Acoli’s release was backed by several groups, including Black law enforcement organizations. “Holistic review of the parole hearing transcript from the full June 2016 hearing suggests the Parole Board does not fear Mr. Acoli has a substantial likelihood of future criminal activity,” explained the Black law enforcement groups in a brief supporting Acoli’s appeal. “Rather, the questioning by Parole Board members reveals a deep-seated discomfort with Mr. Acoli’s political affiliations and beliefs, anger and frustration at his unwillingness to accede to the facts of the crime as found by the jury which he has always maintained he does not remember, and concern that he has not been sufficiently punished even after all these years. Dissatisfaction with an old man’s contrition and memory does not equate to credible evidence of a substantial likelihood that he will commit a crime if released.” His case also put a spotlight on the issues involved with those aging while incarcerated and the punitive approach of some state parole boards. Estimates suggest that continued incarceration of older individuals costs twice as much as a younger person, given the additional health needs with age. Lumumba Bandele, a coordinator with the Bring Sundiata Acoli Home Alliance and organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, challenged the arbitrary withholding of parole. “What we found nationally is there is a huge problem around parole, and people utilizing parole as a punitive measure,” Bandele said. It’s hard to believe the nature of the underlying charge and the politics surrounding his arrest and conviction had nothing to do with the continued incarceration. But as the state supreme court noted, it’s of no consequence to the statutory factors laid out for establishing whether Acoli was eligible for release. As news of Acoli’s pending release spread, the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign held a justice day action in Albany, New York. One speaker said that “revenge and perpetual punishment does not equal justice.” The group advocates for parole justice as a part of elder justice. A 2015 report by the Center for Justice at Columbia University argued that reducing elder incarceration is a part of comprehensive public safety strategies. The movement to release aging people has been widespread with recognition of how the application of state laws effectively converted some sentences to de-facto life sentences. While Acoli won his appeal, he still has yet to be released into the care of his daughter and loved ones. His family is one of many waiting for the return of their loved ones. “There are, unfortunately, dozens of other incarcerated movement elders who are in similar positions, almost all of them are battling health issues and not just health issues, but life-threatening health issues,” Bandele previously explained.
Tight restrictions on abortion have already placed the procedure out of reach for many Black women in America — obstacles that will grow even more daunting if the landmark Roe v. Wade is overturned. Across the Black Belt — the Southern states where the echoes of slavery reverberate in legislation that perpetuates political and social inequities — women have long confronted overwhelming costs and logistical obstacles in seeking reproductive health care. Earlier this week a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion signaled the end of abortion rights nationally, which would leave an already marginalized group, who seek abortion care at a higher rate, with less access to family planning services, resulting in poor health, education and economic outcomes, according to researchers, experts in family planning and advocates for reproductive justice. “Women are going to die,” said Dalton Johnson, who owns an abortion clinic in Huntsville, Alabama. “It might not be as many as it was in the ’70s because we have medication abortions. There are groups that are going to have access to those — whether legally or illegally. But everybody’s not going to be able to do that and women are going to die.” If Roe falls, many women in the South will turn to a network of grassroots organizations and advocacy groups led by Black women that has emerged out of necessity to fill gaps in health care coverage and the social safety net. These groups have already been helping women who struggle to compile the cash — and coordinate the time away from work, child care and transportation — that are necessary to get the procedure. Laurie Bertram Roberts, the executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based nonprofit that offers funding and support for women who have abortions, recalls a woman who received financial aid after having to choose between paying her electric bill and paying for her abortion. “One time, it was bailing somebody out of jail to get their abortion,” she said. Roberts and other reproductive rights advocates and leaders of small abortion funds across the South said that while they’re not ready for the challenge of Roe being overturned, they are as prepared as they can be. “We’ve been planning for this possibility for several years,” Roberts said. “This isn’t a new threat, but it’s a larger threat. So many states could lose abortion access at once. Like 2,300 to 3,000 people get abortions at the clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, a year. How do you reroute 3,000 people out of state?” Nearly two dozen states are likely to ban or severely restrict abortion access if Roe is overturned, and 13 have “trigger laws” to ban abortion immediately, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the Center for Reproductive Rights, which support abortion access. Advocates, organizers and experts all agree that Black women in the South will bear the brunt of these restrictions. Black people make up about 38 percent of Mississippi’s population, according to recent Census data, but they accounted for 74 percent of abortions in the state in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Alabama’s figures are similar, with Black people accounting for about 27 percent of the state’s population but 62 percent of abortions. Johnson pointed out that low-income patients and people of color already have to navigate a health care system that can be inattentive and discriminatory. But people with work obligations, financial struggles and lack of transportation also simply have a more difficult time getting to abortion providers in other states. This, organizers said, means they would be even less likely to get an abortion if Roe is overturned — worsening a cycle that perpetuates poverty for Black people. Research shows that unintended pregnancies hold people back from completing their education and getting and keeping jobs and can lead to poor health and economic outcomes for their children. People denied abortions are more likely to live in poverty, with economic instability and poor physical health. “It’s people who have been pushed to the margins,” said Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong, a Georgia-based reproductive justice organization that serves people of color. “It’s those living in states where access has been completely obliterated, they’re going to be impacted most — that’s people of color, low-income folks, queer, trans and gender-nonconforming folks.” Black organizers have argued that Roe has always been “insufficient” for Black people who lack resources. So, they have resolved that the work after Roe will look a lot like the work they’ve been doing to fight for reproductive justice for decades — but intensified.
‘Every dollar counts so much’
For two weeks in April, the New Orleans Abortion Fund, which primarily assists patients in Southern states, had to inform callers and clinics that it was out of money for the month. Although the fund is back up and running, A.J. Haynes, the board chair, expressed concerns last month that the nonprofit would be unable to raise enough money to help every caller in need. Many of the callers the fund supports live in states where the choice to have an abortion is more fatiguing than workable. Mississippi and Louisiana have the nation’s highest poverty rates, and residents make deep sacrifices to scrape up enough for their appointments. In 2021, most of the nonprofit’s callers were Black. More than half asking for help already had at least one child and received health insurance through Medicaid. Under the Hyde Amendment, people on Medicaid cannot access federal funding for abortion care. “Every dollar counts so much here,” Haynes said. “Every dollar is gas in someone’s tank. Every dollar is literal food in someone’s mouth.” Across the Deep South, access to abortion care is already buckling, said Johnson, the Alabama clinic owner. The fallout from a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy has spilled over into surrounding states as clinics like Johnson’s serve an influx of new patients. Women in Mississippi, where the only abortion clinic in the state provides treatment up to 16 weeks of pregnancy, might travel hundreds of miles to the Alabama Women’s Center if they need a procedure further into their second trimester. In 2020, abortion funds gave more than $10 million to support more than 400,000 people, according to the National Network of Abortion Funds, which includes Yellowhammer along with some 88 funds across the country — a majority of them in the South — and three international funds. But the locally run funds — many launched by Black organizers — can face an uphill battle in securing resources, even as donations flood Planned Parenthood and other national groups. “They will have to raise more money,” said Marcela Howell, president and CEO of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. “This will intensify their work. They will need more money to actually achieve what they’re trying to do. They’ll have to build their existing systems up to higher levels.” For more information and to donate, contact: YellowhammerFund.org or call 205/582-4950.
May, 2, 2022 (GIN) – Reparations—a system of redress for egregious injustices—are not a foreign idea imposed from the outside on the United States. On the contrary, the U.S. has given lands to Native Americans, paid $1.5 billion to Japanese Americans interned in the U.S. during World War II, and helped Jews receive reparations for the Holocaust, including making various investments over time. But the U.S. has yet to compensate descendants of Black Americans enslaved for their labor nor has it atoned for the lost equity from segregated housing, transportation and business policy. And no one will forget that American slavery was particularly brutal. Calls for justice are now resounding ever more loudly in the U.S. and around the world. European countries which benefited greatly from wealth stolen in the colonial era are struggling to respond. While several are taking initial steps to return some of what was seized, much more needs to be done. One country that has managed to dodge financial restitution is Germany. Last year, Europe’s biggest economy offered just over $1 billion over 30 years for what Berlin said “from today’s perspective, would be called genocide” of indigenous communities. Much of the stolen wealth is in art and artifacts. More than 90 percent of the most prominent sub-Saharan African pieces of art are currently outside of the continent, writes Rokhaya Diallo in the Washington Post. To keep such pieces of art on French soil, she noted, France made them untransferable. Pressure from African countries made France acknowledge the unfairness, passing a law to return cultural goods to Benin and Senegal. Madagascar was given back the crown of Queen Ranavalona III – one of the most precious symbols of Malagasy national pride. Last but not least, more than a century after the horrendous genocide perpetrated in Namibia that killed 80 percent of the Herero and 50 percent of the Nama population, Germany started a discussion with the Namibian government in 2015 to “heal the wounds” caused by the historical cruelty. A token amount was promised to the Namibian people, after years of activism from Namibian and Black German organizations. But the declaration failed to mention “reparations” or “compensation,” and Germany avoided any direct discussion with the Herero and the Nama. Parliamentarian Inna Hengari called this “insulting.” While Namibian President Hage Geingob’s government accepted the offer, parliament did not, calling it insufficient. The deal is now on hold. “That deal was never about us,” said Nandi Mazeingo, chair of the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation. “You kill 80 percent of a community and offer a billion dollars spread over 30 years?” Germany, he said, must talk to communities directly. According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, white farmers own 70 percent of commercial farmland, while “previously disadvantaged” groups own 16 percent. “Land is what made (Germans) rich,” Mbakumua Hengari told the Financial Times. “For the Herero and Nama, it was the start of trans-generational impoverishment.” Meanwhile, Uganda has been ordered to pay the Democratic Republic of Congo $325 million for the occupation and plundering of its Eastern province more than 20 years ago – the largest reparation award by an international court for gross violations of human rights and for violations of international humanitarian law.