The Black Press shows resilience of the Black community

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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

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

Greene County Commission acts on County Engineer’s requests

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

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

Eutaw City Council approves proclamation honoring E-911

Mayor Steele and Eutaw City Council members present proclamation to E911 staff and officials and new officer’s : Tommy Johnson, Jr. and Christopher Gregory

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, the Eutaw City Council paid its March bills and claims, approved Good Friday as a holiday for the staff and approved a proclamation honoring the E-911 staff for National Public Safety Communications Week.
After taking these positive steps, the City Council and the Mayor began arguing about past issues and discussions.

The issue that precipitated the arguments was a motion by Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson to advertise in the newspaper for four weeks, the contents of a bill to be introduced in the State Legislature to change the selection process for members of the Board of Directors of the Eutaw Housing Authority to give the Council a role with the Mayor in appointing these board members.The Eutaw City Council, the Mayor and the city and county housing authority boards have been in an uproar for the past several months over who was properly appointed to the Eutaw Housing Authority Board and how to proceed with the merger of the city and county housing authorities.
Mayor Raymond Steele strenuously opposed the motion to advertise changes in the Alabama statute on the selection of members to a city housing authority. He said, “You are trying to take away powers given to me by the law, I am not trying to take away your powers as the City Council.”
Latasha Johnson replied that the purpose of her amendment was, “To share your role in appointing housing authority board members not to take away your authority.” She went on to say, “ In a way we are married for four years, the Council and you the Mayor and we need to learn how to work together.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell said he was concerned that the mayor seemed to want to have “a dictatorship over the City Council.” Powell indicated that he was still concerned that the Mayor would not accept documents that he provided showing that Veronica James was incorrectly removed from the Eutaw Housing Authority Board and should be reinstated.
Mayor Steele complained that the City Council was retaliating against him by proposing to change the legislation to share the power of appointing the Eutaw Housing Authority Board. The Council then voted 4 to 2 to approve advertisement of the bill proposed by Latosha Johnson. The Mayor and Councilman Bennie Abrams voted against the motion.
Mayor Steele raised the issue of revisiting the rules and procedures for community groups to use the National Guard Armory for meetings, social events and fundraisers. The mayor said that he would like to discuss his concerns about improving and maintaining the facility at the next City Council work-session scheduled for next Tuesday, April 18. Councilman Powell reminded him that community groups charging admission or raising funds at activities using the National Guard Armory needed to come before the City Council if they were seeking a waiver of the rental fees.
Mayor Steele said the air conditioning and heating system in the building needed to be updated and other improvements made to the building. The Council agreed that a community group that had reserved the Armory for a music concert on April 15 could proceed with their event.
Council members said that they approved payment of the bills and claims but wanted a better reporting of funds and a budget against which to approve expenditures in future meetings.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith asked about the status of enforcement of the vicious dogs ordinance. Mayor Steele said the Eutaw police were issuing summonses for people to register their animals and to see if sufficient space was available to keep the animals in the city. If the owners were not complying with the ordinance then the police were taking action to correct the problems with stray and vicious dogs.
Valerie Watkins, a resident in whose house there was a sewage back up asked when the City was going to make the repairs to her home. Mayor Steele said that he was working on the claims with the City’s insurance agent and would be able to respond soon.
In the public comment sessions, several citizens rose and spook to urge the Mayor and City Council to work more closely together.
David Spencer distributed a written letter to the Mayor and City Council members concerning his allegations of voter fraud in the October 2016 Municipal Election Runoff.

Governor Kay Ivey signs jury override bill

In one of her first official acts as Governor, Kay Ivey, on Tuesday, April 11, signed into law a bill that says juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases.
Ivey signed the bill, which had been passed by the Alabama House of Representatives on April 4, by a vote of 78-19. The same bill had previously passed the Alabama Senate by a vote of 30- 1.
Alabama was the only state left in the nation had these judicial override provisions.
Senator Hank Sanders of Selma had sponsored the bill in the Senate for several years along with a bill requiring a moratorium of the death penalty until Alabama studies and reviews the equity of the death penalty.
Sanders said, “Senator Dick Brewbaker, a Republican from Montgomery asked me if he could sponsor the jury override bill in this session and I agreed because my interest was to end this practice.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative. Alabama judges have overridden jury recommendations 112 times. In 101 of those cases, the judges gave a death sentence. Sanders said that a quarter of the persons presently on death row are there because the judge overrode the jury’s decision on their case.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, sponsored a bill to end judicial override in the House. On the House floor, England substituted Brewbaker’s bill for his, and it won final passage. This bill was pending the Governor’s signature when Robert Bentley resigned and Kay Ivey moved up from Lieutenant Governor to the Governor’s position.
“Having judicial override almost undermines the constitutional right to trial by a jury of your peers,” England said.  England’s bill, as introduced, would also have required the consent of all 12 jurors to give a death sentence. Current law requires at least 10 jurors. Brewbaker’s bill left the threshold to impose the death penalty at 10 jurors.
Ebony Howard, associate legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, issued a statement applauding the bill’s passage.
“Alabama should do everything it can to ensure that an innocent person is never executed,” Howard said. “The bipartisan effort to pass a bill that would keep a judge from overriding a jury’s vote in capital cases is a step in the right direction. As of today, Alabama is one step closer to joining every other state in our nation in prohibiting judicial override in the sentencing phase of death penalty cases.”
Alabama Arise, a statewide advocacy group on social justice issues and ending poverty in Alabama, also supported passage of the bill as one of its legislative priorities for this session.

U. N. chief cites ‘chapters of inaction’ as Rwanda marks 23rd memorial year

Rwanda poster

Apr. 3, 2017 (GIN) – The poison of intolerance still exists around the world, laments U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Even today, minorities and other groups suffer attacks and exploitation based on who they are.”

Guterres sent his message recalling “tragic chapters of hatred, inaction and indifference” on the occasion of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.

“Preventing genocide and other monstrous crimes is a shared responsibility and a core duty of the United Nations,” he said. “The world must always be alert to the warning signs of genocide and act quickly and early against the threat.”

Halfway around the world, Rwandan President Paul Kagame was delivering a powerful and inspirational speech as Rwandans in the country and abroad began activities to recall the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the killing of moderate Hutus.

The President consoled survivors, saying they still have a family in the nation that they belong to even if they lost their families during the Genocide. He reassured all Rwandans that no one will ever again be targeted because of who they are.

The Head of State delivered the message at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, from where week-long activities to remember the Genocide kicked off.

“To remember is a must,” he said. “When you look back in history, as this was about to happen, when it was happening and afterwards, there are those who had a role in pitting people against each other. Countries, international organizations, individuals…

“But there are others who did what they could, or had to do.

“At the forefront (to defend Rwanda) were some Africans,” he said. “Also the African Union. Not too long ago, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission Chairperson, stood up and said Rwandans shouldn’t continue to be targeted.”

Trump’s EPA awards Flint, Michigan, $100 million for water crisis

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
epahelpsflint_wc_web120

Buried in the 24-hour news cycle of Russian conspiracies, presidential tweets, and White House nepotism, the Trump Administration found the time to set aside $100 million for the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich.
According to a press release about the grant, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) $100 million to fund drinking water infrastructure upgrades in Flint. The press release said that, “The funding, provided by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016, or WIIN, enables Flint to accelerate and expand its work to replace lead service lines and make other critical infrastructure improvements.”
In the statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that, the people of Flint and all Americans deserve a more responsive federal government.
“EPA will especially focus on helping Michigan improve Flint’s water infrastructure as part of our larger goal of improving America’s water infrastructure,” said Pruitt.
During a March 22 meeting at the White House with seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), said that she and President Trump spoke about assistance for Flint.
“He said he thought it was awful and criminal…I was surprised he understood how that happened,” said Lawrence, who represents parts of Detroit. The congresswoman added that the president also wanted to know who was responsible for the lead in Flint’s water.
After the EPA announced the news, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver expressed appreciation for the funds.
“The City of Flint being awarded a grant of this magnitude in such a critical time of need will be a huge benefit,” Weaver said in a statement. “As we prepare to start the next phase of the FAST Start pipe replacement program, these funds will give us what we need to reach our goal of replacing 6,000 pipes this year and make other needed infrastructure improvements.”
Weaver continued: “We look forward to the continued support of the EPA and federal government.”
Additionally on March 28, a U.S. District Court settlement was announced, forcing the state of Michigan to set aside $97 million to replace defective water lines in Flint. The settlement money will cover 18,000 homes in the city by the year 2020.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a political analyst who speaks on politics and African American leadership. She is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

U.S. judge finds Texas voter ID law was intended to discriminate

By Ian Simpson. Reuters

Vote Here sign

A Texas law that requires voters to show identification before casting ballots was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, a U.S. federal judge ruled on Monday.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos came after an appeals court last year said the 2011 law had an outsized impact on minority voters. The court sent the case back to Ramos to determine if lawmakers intentionally wrote the legislation to be discriminatory.
Ramos said in a 10-page decision that evidence “establishes that a discriminatory purpose was at least one of the substantial or motivating factors behind passage” of the measure.
“The terms of the bill were unduly strict,” she added.
Spokesmen for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Jr. and Governor Greg Abbott, both Republicans, could not be reached for comment.
In January, after the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, Paxton said it was a common sense law to prevent voter fraud.
The ruling on voter ID comes about a month after two federal judges ruled that Texas lawmakers drew up three U.S. congressional districts to undermine the influence of Hispanic voters.
The measure requires voters to present photo identification such as a driver’s license, passport or military ID card.
Plaintiffs have argued the law hits elderly and poorer voters, including minorities, hardest because they are less likely to have identification. They contend the measure is used by Republicans to suppress voters who typically align with Democrats.
The legislation has been in effect since 2011 despite the legal challenges.
Ramos said the law had met criteria set by the U.S. Supreme Court to show intent that included its discriminatory impact, a pattern not explainable on other than racial grounds, Texas’ history of discriminatory practices and the law’s unusually swift passage.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the plaintiffs, said the ruling showed other states that discriminatory laws would not stand up to legal scrutiny.
“This is a good ruling that confirms what we have long known, that Texas’ voter ID law stands as one of the most discriminatory voting restrictions of its kind,” she said.
In a shift from its stance under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. Justice Department dropped a discrimination claim against the law in February. The department said that the state legislature was considering changing the law in ways that might correct shortcomings.