Newswire : Nigerian nun shames Catholic Church for silence on sex abuse

Sister Veronica Openibo

 Feb. 25, 2019 (GIN) – A Nigerian nun faced a Vatican summit on sexual abuse in the Church and delivered a stinging indictment to stone-faced church leaders who failed to take action against abusers.

     It was the third day of the Vatican summit. Sister Veronica Openibo did not mince words.

     A member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, Sister Openibo said she had watched the American-made movie “Spotlight” about a U.S. newspaper, the Boston Globe, whose reporters discovered a decades-long cover-up of child abuse within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

     At the end of the film was a long list of cases and dioceses where the abuses had occurred, and reading about the number of children affected and seeing the vast amount of money spent on settlements, she said that tears of sorrow flowed.

     “How could the clerical Church have kept silent, covering these atrocities?” she asked.

     Sister Openibo, who serves on the executive board of the International Union of Superiors General, acknowledged that the church has at times failed to live up to its own moral code.

     “Yes, we proclaim the Ten Commandments and parade ourselves as being the custodians of moral standards and values and good behavior into society. But why did we keep silent for so long?”

     Openibo, one of only three women to address the event and the only speaker from Africa, went on to say the scandal had “seriously clouded the grace of the Christ mission”.

     “Is it possible for us to move from fear of scandal to truth? How do we remove the masks that hide our sinful neglect?” she asked.

     Openibo, who has worked in Africa, Europe and the US, said: “Too often we want to keep silent until the storm has passed. This storm will not pass by. Our credibility is at stake.”

     During the summit, bishops from the United States, Europe and Australia have urged caution when it comes to universal changes in church rules, saying that local cultures could require nuanced policies. But Sister Openibo said that church leaders should not make excuses when it comes to confronting abuse.

     “The fact that there are huge issues of poverty, illness, war and violence in some countries in the Global South does not mean that the area of sexual abuse should be downplayed or ignored,” she said. “The church has to be proactive in facing it.”

     The pontiff and the 190 bishops and cardinals in attendance watched videotaped testimony from survivors of abuse telling of their trauma and the cruel indifference shown by church leaders.

     One woman from Africa told the summit that a priest who had begun raping her at age 15 forced her to have three abortions, and beat her when she refused him sex. A survivor from Chile told the bishops and religious superiors they had inflicted even more pain on survivors by discrediting them and protecting priests who abused.

     A list of 21 “reflection points” written by the pope is expected to provide the basis for the development of new anti-abuse procedures for bishops. 

Newswire: Director Spike Lee wins first Oscar at 91st Annual Academy Awards

Spike Lee embraces actor Samuel L. Jackson at Academy Awards

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Director Spike Lee, who was famously passed over for Best Film and Best Director for his 1992 film “Malcolm X,” won his first Oscar at the 91st Annual Academy Awards.
Wearing a purple suit and hat and seated in the front row at the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Lee was nominated for two Oscars: Best Adaptive Screenplay for “Blackkklansman,” and for Best Director of the same film.
Though Lee did not win for Best Director for “Blackkklansman,” the evening featured a great deal of diversity as the Director of the film “Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón, was awarded for Best Director.
Lee’s production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, has produced over 35 films since 1983. Lee, 61, has created several memorable films including, “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), “School Daze” (1988), “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990), “Jungle Fever” (1991) and “Malcolm X” (1992).
When Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington, who starred in “Malcolm X,” lost to Al Pacino for his performance in “Scent of A Woman” it was considered one the biggest snubs in Oscars history. Overall, “Malcolm X” won no major awards.
“It was so funny and so horrifying because it was based on the truth and truth is so precious these days,” said legendary singer and film director, Barbra Streisand, as she introduced Lee’s film “Blackkklansman,” at the Academy Awards.
Though Lee was born in Atlanta, he was raised on New York and has made Brooklyn, NY his hometown.

Early Civil Rights Movement in Greene County led boycott of local merchants

Sam Rice

The Greene County Civil Rights Movement, whose early participants were the young people from the three schools, Carver High, Greene County Training and Eatman Jr. High, can boast of a significant achievement – the successful boycott of local merchants. In many of the accounts of these young militants, they talk about how devastating it was to witness how grown folk were treated by the white merchants. Blacks in professional and non-professional areas were all treated with disrespect and intimidation.
Sam Rice, who was in the senior class of 1965 at Carver High School, and one of the student activists, said that young people were tired of what their parents and grandparents had to go through just to survive on a daily basis. “My grandmother, who raised me, would give me a note to take to Jimmie Jones’ son at their store and the note read Dear Mr. Jones, please send me a sack of flour and neck bones. I will pay when I get my check,” recounted Mr. Rice. “This kind of humiliation became an incentive for the young people,” he said.
In continuing his story, Sam Rice said the students made picket signs, marched into town and entered the white owned cafes seeking service and were denied. In consultation with their SCLC and SNCC organizers, the youth activists implemented a boycott of all the local merchants. Rice explained that the community organized to take people to shop in Tuscaloosa. He said his father, who worked for Morgan Cross Car Dealership, was one who used his vehicle to take people shopping. Sam said Cross told his father to take his children out of the movement. “My father refused and in August of 1965, my Dad was arrested and put in prison in Montgomery for an entire year. We never knew what he was charged with,” Sam remembered.
Sam recounted that when it was known that he was also helping to drive Black people to Tuscaloosa to shop, his driver’s license was taken away in 1965 and he was not able to get it reinstated until 1973.

“I just continued to drive without a valid driver’s license,” he said.
In his story Sam tells of the sadness in the community when people were put out of their homes and off the land because their children were in the movement. “Sometimes the families were sharecroppers and did not own the land, but had no where to go, and just piled in with other relatives. Sometimes, the families owned the property they were on and it was still taken from them. The Movement hurt and helped at the same time,” he stated.
Sam Rice stated: “ I knew when I left Greene County I would not come back here to live.” He is currently a trucker, residing with his wife Sharon in Montgomery. He is an active member and Deacon at Weeping Willow Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery.
From an earlier account of young people in the Greene County Movement, Luther Winn, II gave his summary of the local merchants system. “There were only about four merchants in Eutaw. All city workers were supposed to shop at Mayor Tuck’s store. Everyone who worked for the Board of Education was supposed to shop with Jimmie Jones’ store. Sometimes their paychecks were given to them at the store. All county workers were supposed to shop at Herndon’s store, The Corner Store, and all the people on welfare were supposed to shop with Norm Davenport.
“ So people were accustomed to shopping in town and the white merchants, after the boycott started, would slip groceries to certain Black folk’s home. If we found out about this, we would go at night and paint white crosses on their homes so everyone would know they were breaking the boycott,” Mr. Winn stated.
“It’s ironic now that most of the people who were the most active in the movement in those early days never really got anything out of it,” Winn said.

Presidential Candidates and Civil Rights leaders will also attend Secretary Hillary Clinton to participate in Selma’s 27th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee

Ashley Bell (3rd from Left) Small Business Administration Region 4 (8 Southeastern states) Administrator with Drum Major for Justice Award presented at Sunday’s Jimmie Lee Jackson Day program in Marion, Alabama. With him in the photo are his family and Albert Turner Jr. and other officials of the Perry County Civic League. The Jimmy Lee Jackson programs marks the beginning of the 54th Selma Bridge Crossing Commemorations.

Montgomery, AL – Secretary Hillary Clinton, the former United States First Lady, United States Senator and United States Secretary of State and the first woman to be a major party nominee for President, of the United States, is headlining the 2019 Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee and announcing her support for the national initiative, Lift Our Vote 2020. The Jubilee begins Thursday, February 28, 2019 and continues through Monday, March 4th.Secretary Clinton will receive the International Unity Award and be inducted into the National Voting Rights Museum Women’s Hall of Fame. She will speak at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast on the Wallace Community College Selma campus at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 3rd. She will also speak at the Historic Brown Chapel AME Church and participate in the Bloody Sunday March. Secretary Clinton has previously participated in the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and the March. She will address the Lift Our Vote 2020 Initiative at various events during the Jubilee.
Members of the Selma-to-Montgomery March Foundation and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and other leaders made the announcement last week at a press conference in the State House in Montgomery. At a subsequent press conference this week in Selma, leaders of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee announced that Democratic Presidential nominees, Julian Castro, former Secretary of HUD and Mayor of San Antonio, Texas; and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, will also be attending the Jubilee. Others will be released as they confirm in writing or as they announce their participation.
Attorney Faya Rose Toure said: “The Bridge Crossing Jubilee, commonly called Jubilee, has 40-50 events every year, including but not at limited to: an Old Fashioned Mass Meeting on Thursday night; children activities, workshops, The Jubilee Mock Trial and A Public Conversation on Friday; the Ministers and Elected Officials Breakfast, Voting Rights work sessions, other workshops, inductions into multiple halls of fames and the Freedom Flame Awards Banquet on Saturday; the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast, church services, the Bloody Sunday Rally and March, commemoration of 400 years of slavery in what became the United States of America and the After The March Gospel Program on Sunday. These are just a few of the 40-50 annual events.”
Among other national leaders` who plan to attend the Bridge Crossing Jubilee are:
Civil Rights Leaders – Dr. William Barber, Co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign and leader of Repairer of the Breach; Reverend Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH; and SCLC National President Charles Steele, Martin Luther King, III, and Rev. Bernice King.
Special National Participants – Susan Taylor, former the Editor of Essence Magazine; Hank Aaron, Baseball Great; Roland Martin, National Media Personality; Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, who was killed in New York; and Reverend Mark Thompson, SiriusXM Satellite Radio Host and television personality. All these persons and more will appear at the Freedom Flame Awards.
Former State Senator Hank Sanders, who served in the Alabama Senate for 35 years, said: “This will be a great Jubilee with Secretary Hillary Clinton, the kickoff of the national Lift Our Vote 2020 Initiative, a number of presidential candidates coming to speak, and various other powerful speakers and so many events. It could be one of the best of the many great Jubilees. The Jubilee brings tens of thousands from around the country and across the world each year, and the 27th Anniversary will as well.”
Toure, the founder and coordinator of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee said, “We celebrate the victories in voting rights. We memorialize those who died in the struggle for voting rights. We prepare for the voting rights struggles ahead with the nonpartisan Lift Our Vote 2020 Initiative. The Jubilee covers so much and does so much.”
The Jubilee will be providing additional information about other speakers and events in the coming days. For more information contact: or call 334/526-2626.

School System receives Accreditation Plaque: School board begins superintendent search

At its monthly meeting held Monday, February 18, 2019, The Greene County Board of Education began its formal superintendent search. The board was in total agreement to engage the assistance of the Alabama Association of School Boards (AASB) in searching for the top administrator for the Greene County School System. At the December, 2018, meeting, on a 3-2 vote, the board took action not to renew Dr. James Carter’s contract as superintendent. Dr. Carter’s current contract goes through June 2019.
AASB’s search process will include advertising the superintendent search statewide and regionally; receive and screen applications; check credentials and references for all applicants; survey staff and community on desired superintendent qualities and skills; provide an interview guide for the board; submit a final listing of qualified candidates to the board for their interview and final selection.
At this February meeting, Superintendent Carter displayed the plaque the board received asserting the accreditation of the Greene County School System. The plaque reads: Greene County Board of Education has met the criteria for educational quality established by the AdvanceED Accreditation Commission. The board had been previously informed of its approved accreditation status.
In other business the board acted on the following personnel recommendations:

  • Approved resignation of Fentress Means as assistant basketball coach, Greene County High School.
  • Approved appointment of Alfonzo Noland as interim supervisor Maintenance Department.
  • Approved family medical leave for Marcus Steele, bus driver, Department of Transportation, starting Feb.4, 2019.
    *Approved suspension of Suntonna Miles, 6th grade teacher, Robert Brown Middle School, 10 days without pay.
    *Approved salary adjustment for Teresa Atkins, CNP Director.
    The board also acted on the following administrative services recommended by the superintendent.
  • Approved requests to appraise Mt. Hebron property; appraise and survey Eatman property; appraise and survey Birdine property.
  • Approved Corey Cockrell’s travel request to Glazier Coaching Clinic in North Carolina, March 7-8, 2019.
  • Approved initiation of a Wrestling Program at Greene County High School commencing with 2019-2020 school year.
    *Approved payment of all bills, claims and payroll.
    LaVonda Blair, CSFO, presented the following financial summaries as of December 31, 2018:
    General Fund Balance – $822,674.08; A/P Check Register Accountability Report – $208,391.01;
    Payroll Register – $889,953.83; Combined Fund Balance – $3,058,789.39.

Alabama Hospital Association: Two new studies support Medicaid Expansion

By Amy Yurkanin |

The Alabama Hospital Association released two reports last week laying out almost $3 billion in financial benefits for expanding Medicaid – a step state leaders have declined to consider since the Affordable Care Act ( also known as Obamacare) passed in 2010.
Leaders of the hospital association held a press conference at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Friday morning to tout the findings. The organization has been one of the strongest supporters of Medicaid expansion in Alabama, claiming the move would benefit hospitals and patients.
David Becker, a professor in the UAB School of Public Health, created similar reports in 2012 and 2016 – when federal funds covered all the costs of expanding Medicaid to low-income adults. The match is down to 93 percent this year and will drop to 90 percent in 2020, where it will remain.
Owen Bailey, CEO of USA Health, said the deal still makes sense for Alabama.
“It’s obvious that by expanding Medicaid, the state would have a huge return on investment,” Bailey said. “For every one dollar the state provides, we will get nine dollars to match it.”
Becker’s study found that implementing Medicaid expansion now would be costlier for the state than it would have been in 2014 because of the loss of federal matching dollars and the increased cost from low-income patients who purchase insurance through the exchange. Bailey said 12 hospitals have closed in Alabama in the last eight years.
“The state did miss out on the deal of the century,” Becker said. “I don’t have a time machine. All we can do is look forward. The case for expansion remains very strong.”
Medicaid expansion is one part of Obamacare, which also created regulations on health insurance and subsidies to purchase private insurance. Alabama is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Residents of Utah, Nebraska and Idaho recently voted to expand Medicaid in statewide referenda.
Alabama’s lack of action has kept millions in federal dollars out of the state that could help support rural hospitals that often care for the sick and uninsured, said Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association.
“Hospitals and healthcare are every bit as important for infrastructure as roads are,” Williamson said. “Otherwise they are building roads to communities that are dying because their hospital has closed.”If Alabama expanded Medicaid, the program would grow to cover adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, the program only covers caregivers of people on Medicaid who earn less than 20 percent of the poverty level. The change in Alabama would add more than 300,000 people to the Medicaid rolls, according to the study.
That expansion would cost Alabama $227 million in 2020, according to Becker’s calculations. The state would receive nearly $2 billion in funds from the federal government that year.
The other study, by consulting company Manatt, said the state could pay up to $216 million in additional costs and get more than $2 billion from federal sources. The state would save additional money in other areas, including medical care for prisoners, Williamson said.
The Alabama Hospital Association has submitted similar reports in 2012 and 2016. Williams said they are hopeful legislators will give expansion serious consideration this year. He said unsuccessful votes to repeal Obamacare and midterm successes by Democrats running on healthcare show the law has staying power.
“For a lot of people, there was a belief that Obamacare was going to disappear,” Williamson said. “The last election has pretty much taken repeal and replace off the table. The number of states, including some very Republican states have gone to expansion and they are seeing the benefits. Our hope is that the reality that this is going to be here, that it’s not going away, will become clear to Alabama lawmakers.”

Revisiting the start of the Civil Rights Movement in Greene County

Above: First Baptist Church on Greensboro St. Eutaw, where students of the Greene County Movement met and mass meetings were held.
Below: Cemetery and park on Greensboro St. where student
demonstrators met.

Official Markers designating First Baptist Church and Clarence Thomas Cemetery as significant cites of the Greene County Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement in Greene County often brings up names such as Rev. William M. Branch, Rev. Thomas Gilmore, Ed Carter, Peter Kirksey and Florence Kirksey, John Chambers, Rev. W.D. Lewis, Annie Brown, Sarah Duncan, Hurtlean Pippins, Fannie Lou Due and many others who came to play key roles in the local movement, but we tend to forget the youth, our African American youth, who were first to step out of a comfort zone and declare We aint gonna take it no more.
In reviewing the accounts of some of the Greene County youth of the movement, collected earlier by the Democrat, all acclaim that the movement was launched principally by young folk walking out of then Carver High School.
This took place early in 1965, perhaps in January, but certainly before the Jimmie Lee Jackson murder in Marion, AL on February 18, 1965 and before the Selma to Montgomery March which followed. Other SCLC organizers, Albert Turner of Marion, AL and Hosea Williams of Atlanta, made frequent trips to Greene County assisting the demonstrators.
On the night Jimmie Lee Jackson was murdered, Greene County had planned a mass meeting at First Baptist Church, Eutaw, Albert Turner arrived to inform them that Rev. Orange had been arrested and jailed in Marion and a mass meeting was planned in Marian that evening.
The students continued to meet in the cemetery each morning, preparing for the events of the day, which included marches and pickets in Eutaw, bearing signs denouncing all forms of segregation. The students also boycotted the local stores, owned by whites who treated Black folks terribly. Their initial grievances included mistreatment in the stores, and lack of quality books and other school materials. The Black schools had to used the discarded books of the white students.
Students from Eatman Jr. High (Lewiston) and Greene County Training School (Boligee) joined the Carver students each day swelling their numbers and giving strength to their cause. Some parents allowed their children to gather in the cemetery but would not permit them to march, fearful for their safety. Many parents and other adults provided food for the students, since they were not at school for lunch. “After several days of us spending the day at the graveyard, some of the ladies in town realized that we didn’t have food. These ladies started coming out and bringing us bologna sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches and orange drinks,” Luther Winn, II, stated in his account.
Eventually First Baptist Church allowed the students to gather in their sanctuary and the community to hold mass meetings. Soon afterward, Little Zion Baptist Church (Boligee) and Ebenezer Baptist Church (Forkland) open their doors for mass meeting and organizing efforts of the movement.
Apparently, the schools would continue to open each day, the school buses operated, teachers would arrive, often not entering the school, some students would arrive as well, but the most significant and relevant learning of the time was the commencing and conducting of the Civil Rights Movement by young Black students in Greene County.
Winn also noted in his account of the early movement, that the young folk did not have a leader, so they “…gathered at First Baptist Church one afternoon and elected Thomas Gilmore to be the liaison from the young people and the adult leadership.”
All the student accounts noted that the white community generally did not like the rise of this movement. This was contrary to their order of how Blacks should conduct themselves. The students recounted that as they marched from the cemetery into town, whites lined the streets armed with large sticks, boards, irons, and perhaps guns as well. Later in the movement, there were physical encounters between local whites and Black marchers.
This account will continue next week with more of the students first hand accounts of the Greene County Civil Rights Movement, including the following: William “Nick” Underwood, Jacqueline Allen, Alice E. Smith, Geraldine Chambers Sands, Mary Dean Williams Mack, Mary Julia Winn Farmer Howard, Louvella Murray, Council Morrow and Geraldine Walton Jemison.

Newswire: Abrams blasts Trump, McConnell for ‘power grab’ after State of the Union Address

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams may not be the governor of Georgia, but she did make history on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
After patiently waiting in the wings as President Donald Trump used 90 minutes to deliver what was supposed to be a 45-minute State of the Union Address, Abrams provided a scathing Democratic rebuttal to the president’s highly-scripted speech to Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
In doing so, Abrams became the first Black woman for either party to deliver a formal response to the State of the Union. Speaking firmly and with a fervor that has earned her the national stage, the former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate said the “hopes of American families are being crushed” by Republican political leadership.
“In Georgia and around the country, people are striving for a middle class where a salary truly equals economic security,” Abrams said. “But instead, families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it.”
The response is a tradition undertaken by a representative of the president’s opposing party, who gives a speech immediately after the State of the Union to rebut claims made in his address.
According to CBS News, the first rebuttal was delivered by Republican Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Gerald Ford in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1966 State of the Union. Since 2011, there have been responses in English and one in Spanish given by a separate speaker.
The address has usually been given by a member of Congress or a sitting governor, making Abrams an intriguing choice given she doesn’t currently hold a political office.
Only one other time has an elected official not holding statewide or federal office given their party’s response: Elizabeth Guzman, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, delivered the Spanish-language response for Democrats in 2018, CBS reported. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra gave the Spanish address this year.
However, since losing her gubernatorial bid, Abrams has said she is open to running for political office again. Abrams talked about family values – taught by her parents. In one instance on a cold winter night, her family went looking for her father and when they found him walking along a road, he was shivering and without a coat.
“He had given his coat to a homeless man,” Abrams said. “I knew he would still be alone when I left him, but I knew you were coming for me,” she said, relating her father’s words. “I hold fast to my father’s credo, we are coming for a better America,” Abrams said.
Abrams railed against Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the government shutdown. Abrams noted McConnell’s recent verbal assaults on a House Democratic voting rights and an election bill that he has labeled a Democratic “power grab.”
“Voter suppression is real … we can no longer ignore these threats to Democracy. We cannot accept efforts to undermine our right to vote,” Abrams said. “This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country,” she said. “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counter is a ‘power grab.’”
She blasted Trump and McConnell noting the missed paydays and the struggles of more than 800,000 federal workers who could still face another shutdown in just a couple of weeks because Trump wants to build a $5 billion wall on the southern border.
“Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received a paycheck in weeks,” Abrams said. “Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace,” she said.
Further driving home her point, Abrams continued: “The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”
Trump, who continues to garner headlines over a myriad of alleged misdeeds, misstatements, and the division that’s enveloped the country since he took office, called for bipartisanship in his address.
He claimed outstanding records on jobs and the economy and America’s global standing. He also again took credit for low African American and Latino unemployment, saying more people – 157 million – are working now than anytime in the past in America.
The president also talked about the 300 or so judicial nominees that are in the Senate, ignoring that President Barack Obama’s high court choices were blatantly disregarded by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Abrams, who was once the Democratic Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, dismissed those claims. Abrams also firmly rebutted the notion that the Trump administration has the best ideals for the country going forward. “We may come from different sides of the political aisle, but our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable,” she said.
“The Republican tax bill rigged the system against people. Wages struggle to keep pace with the cost of living. We owe more to the folks who keep our country moving.”
“We know bipartisanship can craft a 21stcentury immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage people. Democrats stand ready to secure our borders, but we must understand America is made stronger by immigrants, not walls.”

Newswire : State of the Union: Trump calls for ‘Choosing Greatness’ as Black leaders say his ‘Racist Rhetoric’ overshadows hope for change 

By Hazel Trice Edney

( – President Donald B. Trump’s 2019 State of the Union speech, delivered Tuesday night, following a government shutdown that left many people irreparably damaged, was taken in stride by African-Americans and Democratic leaders who express little hope for change.
“We meet tonight at a moment of unlimited potential. As we begin a new Congress, I stand here ready to work with you to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans,” Trump said in the speech in which he never mentioned the hardships of the historic shutdown which, for weeks, put thousands of Americans either out of work or caused them to work without pay. “Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one Nation. The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It is the agenda of the American people.”
The lofty words of the President resonated little with Democrats and Black leaders as he ignored the pain of the shutdown for which he initially claimed credit. Besides that, America had heard it all before. Even during his inaugural address, he promised to be President for all the people after which his administration has become one of the most racially and culturally divisive in history.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams pointed to Trump’s sins of omission as the official Democratic respondent to his speech.
“Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers.  They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received paychecks in weeks. Making livelihoods of our federal workers a pawn for political games is a disgrace. The shutdown was a stunt, engineered by the president of the United States, one that betrayed every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people but our values,” Abrams said.
Trump’s speech got intense applause from Republicans, especially as he mentioned his quest for a “border wall” which has become widely known as a dog-whistle to his base and a core race issue. As he pushed the need for the wall in the speech, he never mentioned his campaign promise that “Mexico will pay” for the wall.
“In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall, but the proper wall never got built.  I’ll get it built,” he said.
But, Abrams was clear on how millions of others view the wall. “Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders,” she said. “But we must all embrace that from agriculture to healthcare to entrepreneurship, America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls.”
Trump laid out some key bi-partisan goals such as research to end childhood cancer and HIV/AIDS as well as successes, including economic gains, infrastructure, and criminal justice reform. Guests in the gallery included formerly incarcerated offenders who he had pardoned under new bi-partisan criminal justice reform. Those guests included Alice Johnson, who had served nearly 22 years of a life sentence as a first-time drug offender and Matthew Charles, sentenced to 35 years for selling drugs now “the first person to be released from prison under the First Step Act,” Trump said.
Despite the bipartisan highlights in the speech, Black leaders note that his “racist” views and policy omissions far outweigh the positives.
“Once again the President used the State of the Union as an opportunity to spew the same racist rhetoric, that does nothing but bolster his detachment and disinterest towards the real issues that plague our nation,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “While President Trump rallied for a wall on the border and credited his presidency for lowering unemployment numbers, which he touted after the longest government shutdown in our nation’s history, he conveniently overlooked the voter suppression, over policing, gun violence, and detrimental and xenophobic immigration policies that his administration has instituted that disproportionately affect communities of color.”
Johnson continued in his statement, “As racism continues to permeate through every level of our society, it’s clear from his failure to protect the right to vote and civil rights for ALL, that this President’s agenda represents nothing but pain and suffering for communities of color, the poor, the LGBT community, women and immigrants. Because of this, the state of our union is not strong.”
Jim Clyburn, the most powerful Black member of Congress as House majority whip, pointed out that Democrats are ready to work with the President, but their disagreement on the meaning of “greatness” is a major barrier.
“We welcome his words of comity and are hopeful there will be issues like infrastructure, prescription drug costs, and defeating the spread of HIV where we can find common ground. However, as House Democrats, we know the role we were elected to play and, as my faith teaches me, we know we will be judged on our deeds not our words.
“The President’s theme tonight was ‘Choosing Greatness,’ but I question how he defines that term. I believe that America is already great, and, like historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America, the country’s greatness ‘lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’ Democrats stand ready to work with the President when possible, but in strong opposition when necessary, to repair our faults so we may become a more perfect union.”

No Action by Selma Police Multiple death threats made to Attorney Faya Rose Toure

Faya Rose Toure

Senator Hank Sanders of Selma held a press conference, Friday, January 25, 2019 to protest the inaction of the Selma police regarding repeated death threats to his wife Attorney Faya Rose Toure. Faya Rose is a nationally recognized civil rights and voting rights activist, who has organized the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma for decades.
Faya Rose Toure, the 73-year-old grandmother, attorney at law and wife of former state Senator Hank Sanders, has received multiple and ongoing death threats.  Her husband, Hank Sanders, said at a Selma news conference today:  “These death threats started last summer.  A person started calling our Law Offices of Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders threatening “to kill Rose Sanders” (Faya Rose Toure).  These threats were reported to the Selma Police Department, and nothing was done. 
“Subsequently, the person started calling Z105.3 FM Radio Station on multiple occasions with threats to “kill Rose Sanders” (Faya Rose Toure).  These threats were reported to the Selma Police Department by a radio personality who heard them firsthand.  Attorney Faya Rose Toure also personally went to the Selma Police Chief.  The phone number of the person calling the radio station repeatedly with death threats for Faya Toure was also provided to the Selma Police.  Nothing has been done.
Hank Sanders said that his wife was also threatened by a white man in Orville, a Dallas County rural community south of Selma, on December 12, 2017 at the conclusion of the General Election to confirm Doug Jones for U. S. Senator. “Faya Rose was driving my car and checking the voting polls in Dallas County. This man ripped the ‘Vote or Die’ signs off the car, threw the signs on the ground, started hitting on the car and said someone is going to die tonight.”
This attack and threat was reported to Dallas County law enforcement authorities. A cell photo of the man was given to the proper authorities. “We recently learned that after a year and a half, the Dallas County Grand Jury indicted the man for the misdemeanor charge of harassment, ignoring the death threat,” said Hank Sanders.
Sanders added:  “Selma has the terrible distinction of being the most dangerous city in Alabama and the eighth most dangerous city in America.  In the last year there have been 16 murders in Selma, a city of fewer than 18,000.  Some young men who have also been threatened have told us that when they are threatened, they know that the police will not do anything about it.  They believe that is why too many take matters into their own hands, resulting in injuries and deaths.”
Sanders said:  “I am sick and tired of these death threats.  I am sick and tired of the Selma Police not doing anything about these death threats. “If something is not done, we will have to take some steps.”