COVID-19

As of July 22, 2020 at 10:20 AM
Alabama had 70,413 confirmed cases of coronavirus,
(14,000 more than last week) with 1,325 deaths (189 more than last week)
Greene County had 224 confirmed cases, 23 more cases than last week, with 9 deaths
Sumter Co. had 325 cases with 13 deaths
Hale Co. had 402 cases with 23 deaths

Five arrested at SOS protest at State Capitol for ‘defacing public property’ for painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Expand Medicaid’ in street in front of Capitol

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

Photo taken from a building across the street, showing “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” written in the street in front of State Capitol in Montgomery.

Four of the persons arrested (L to R in front row) Kumasi Amin, Faya Rose Toure, John Zippert, Karen Jones together with lawyers and supporters after release from jail; not shown Mayor Johnny Ford.

The City of Montgomery issued warrants for five participants in the Thursday, July 16, 2020, SOS protest on the steps of the State Capitol. The five were involved in spray painting the words “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” in the street in front of the State Capitol. They were not charged at the time, but subsequently over the weekend they were charged with “defacing public property” a misdemeanor by the City of Montgomery.

The five: former Mayor of Tuskegee, Johnny Ford, Attorney Fay Rose Toure of Selma, Karen Jones, Montgomery community activist, John Zippert, Co-Publisher of the Greene County Democrat and Chair of the Greene County Health Services Board of Directors, and Kumasi Amin (slave name Juan McFarland II), a Black Lives Matter member, voluntarily turned themselves in at Noon on Monday, July 20, 2020.
In discussions with the group’s lawyers, the group was assured that they would be released on signature recognizance bonds. Once in the hands of the Montgomery Police, the five were handcuffed and processed as common criminals under the arrest protocols of the Montgomery police. They were held for more than five hours, until their signature bonds were issued and approved by city and police officials.
The two women were strip searched and put in prison jump suits. The men had to surrender their shoes, pants, shirts and other possessions and were issued prison jump suits to wear. All five were photographed, fingerprinted and given a plastic armband. The three men were placed in a large holding cell with two other detainees.
The five SOS protesters, three of whom are over the age of 70, entered the jail wearing masks, to protect from exposure to the coronavirus. They were issued new masks once in the jail, however the other prisoners in the holding cell and some of the jailers were not wearing masks.
Mayor Johnny Ford said, “The police were trying to humiliate and intimidate us the whole time were there. Something I expected to take 15 minutes took more than five hours. They were trying to teach us a lesson.”
Faya Rose Toure said, “We were mistreated and misheard by the Montgomery Jail staff. Why was it necessary to strip search us and ask us to hold our butt cheeks and cough three times. Then they put us in a situation where we could have been exposed to the coronavirus. The saddest part was that all of the jailers were Black people, who basically had their jobs because of our civil rights activism from the 1960’s onwards.”
Karen Jones said, “We were treated disgracefully and exposed to the coronavirus all because we wrote some needed words on the streets of Montgomery. They also found a nine year old traffic violation for me and charged me with that as well. The Mayor, Police Chief and other Montgomery officials are more concerned about the pavement than the people of our city.”
Each of the protestors was given a September 21, 2020 court date to pay a $500 fine or argue their case before a city judge. They each had to pay a $35 fee for recording their signature appearance bond.
On Thursday, July 16, 2020, the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) conducted a protest on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. The protest was about several interrelated issues, including: ending police brutality and passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; highlighting the health disparities revealed by the coronavirus pandemic, which have contributed to the disproportional effects of the pandemic on Black, Brown and poor people; urging Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which would provide affordable health care coverage to more than 340,000 people in Alabama; supporting the release of non-violent prisoners in state and county prisons and jails, to prevent them from contracting the virus; and ending voter suppression by the State of Alabama and allowing every person to vote without barriers.
This was not the first time that SOS has held protests on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. The organization has held these protests and caravans, every two weeks since the beginning of March 2020. Some of the protests have been also been held at the Governors Mansion and Montgomery Federal Courthouse.
John Zippert said, “I have attended each of these protests and spoke out at the press conferences specifically on behalf of Medicaid Expansion and Saving Rural Hospitals. At all of the protests, we have worn masks and gloves and stood stood at least six feet apart, following social distancing recommendations.
“ During the protest on Thursday, July 16, 2020, while some of our colleagues were “dying-in” on the Capitol Steps, a group of us, armed with yellow spray paint cans started writing: “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” in the street directly in front of the State Capitol. My hope was that Governor Ivey would see the writing and be prompted to take positive action on the demands of the protest.”
While the SOS members were writing in the street, they attracted a dozen or more Montgomery and State police. The police told them that they should stop writing in the street but did not physically stop them. They put hands on Karen Jones, an SOS leader and community activist, but did not stop her.
Zippert continued, “ A photograph with this story shows the writing in the street. I personally wrote the word “Expand” as part of Expand Medicaid. We did not have time to add “Now” at the end of Expand Medicaid.
“This is the third time in the past three years, that I have been arrested for civil disobedience in Montgomery, in connection with protesting for Medicaid Expansion. The first time was with an SOS group that held a prayer vigil inside the Alabama State Capitol for Medicaid Expansion; the second time was with a group connected with SOS and the Poor People’s Campaigned that poured catsup on the statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, which stands in front of the State Capitol. Both times we were acquitted by City Judges without fines or a criminal record.

“ During a week that we mourn the loss of Congressman John Lewis and Rev. C. T. Vivian, I feel good about getting into “good trouble” trying to change the recalcitrant policies of the State of Alabama.”

School Board approves three-phase plan to re-open schools, beginning with remote learning

Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones presented his long anticipated plan for reopening the county’s schools at the Greene County Board of Education’s monthly meeting held Monday, July 20, 2020, in a virtual setting, again observing safety measures due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The board approved the plan.
The three-phase plan proposes a Remote Learning Option in Phase 1, scheduled for August 20, to Oct. 16, 2020, covering the first nine weeks of school, where students will participate in courses remotely. Dr. Jones explained that the curriculum has been adjusted to accommodate this new approach, with teachers stationed in classrooms in respective schools guiding students through lessons remotely.
Jones noted that all students will be provided the devices necessary to access their courses remotely. The devices will be issued prior to August 20.
The board is also striving to provide access to the internet for all students, which includes providing hot spots, as well as connecting to appropriate towers in the rural communities. School buses can also be equipped with internet services and placed as needed in various communities. “Using our buses is also an option, but not necessarily the best option,” Jones said.
During Phase 1, meals will be delivered daily via scheduled bus routes. Each school will conduct virtual parent-guardian and student orientation during the week of August 10.
Phase 11 of the plan provides a Hybrid Instruction approach. Students will attend school in split sessions – part time at the facilities; part time remotely. Dr. Jones and his team have devised the specific arrangements for implementing this plan. Students will still have the option to enroll in the District’s Virtual School Program. Phase 11 is scheduled for the second nine weeks period, October 19 to Dec. 18, 2020.
Phase 111 is a return to Traditional Learning, with campuses reopening for all students for traditional instruction. Phase 111 is scheduled to begin January 5, 2021.
Superintendent Jones emphasized that the Coronavirus will dictate which phase is implemented and for how long. He noted that if the virus continues to spread throughout the county during Phase 1, the remote instructional timeline will be extended. “ The status of the virus will also determine if we need to return to Phase 1 at any given time. Our focus is safety for students, school personnel and community,” he said.
According to Jones, during Phases 1 and 11, Fridays will be reserved for student intervention and acceleration.
In other business the board approved the following personnel items recommended by Superintendent Jones.
Resignations: Linda Little, History Teacher, Greene County High School, effective June 30, 2020; Rachel Nickson, Administrative Assistant/Secretary EPS, effective July 31, 2020.
Voluntary Transfers: Makane Morrow, from Technology Coordinator, to Accounts Payable, effective July 8, 2020; Sharon Washington, from Accounts Payable to Interim Maintenance Supervisor, effective July 8, 2020; Rebeca Coleman, from Computer Science Teacher at Robert Brown Middle School, to Interim Technology Coordinator Central Office, effective July 8, 2020; Charlease Smith, from EPS 2nd grade teacher to 3rd grade teacher; Domonique McDaniel, from EPS 3rd grade teacher to 2nd grade teacher.
Employment: Latasha Tinker-Mitchell, 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School for 2020-2021 school year; Allison Newton, 6th Grade Science Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School for 2020-2021 school year; Clifford Reynolds, History Teacher, Greene County High School, for 2020-2021 school year; LaMonica Little, Career Prep Teacher, Greene County Career Center for 2020-2021sSchool year; Russell Rivers, Career Coach, Greene County Career Center for 2020-2021 school year; Brianna Bryant, Pre-K lead teacher Eutaw Primary School for 2020-2021 school year; Hillary Bruner, 2nd grade teacher Eutaw Primary School for 2020-2021 school yea; Youlonda Coleman, Cafeteria Manager, Eutaw Primary School for 2020-2021 school year.
The board approved the following administrative services.
Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.
*Approval of Budget Amendment II
*Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Amy Quitt, Speech-Language Therapy Services, for 2020-2021 school year.
Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Mattie Strode, Homebound Services, for 2020-2021 school year.
Contract between Greene County Board of Education and WeCare Therapy Services, LLC, 2020-2021 school year.
Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Deonna Haley, Psychometric Services for 2020-2021 school year.
Contract between Greene County Board of Education and West Alabama Therapy, LLC for Physical and Occupational Therapy Services, for 2020-2021 school year.
Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Kim Herren, Developmental Delay Services, for 2020-2021 school year.
Plan to reopen Greene County Schools for 2020-2021:Phase I- First nine weeks -Remote learning for all students. Phase II- Second nine weeks -Hybrid Learning. Phase III- Third nine weeks -Traditional learning
Revised 2020-2021 Greene County School calendar.

5 running for Mayor of Eutaw Municipal election candidates set for August 25th

July 21, 2020 was the deadline to qualify to run for mayor and city council positions in upcoming Municipal Elections in Greene County towns. The election is set for August 25, 2020. There will be contested elections in Eutaw and Forkland, while in Boligee and Union only the current incumbents qualified to run, so there will be no contested elections and the municipal officials will receive a new term.
In Eutaw, there are five candidates running for Mayor, including incumbent Raymond Steele, two current council members Latasha Johnson and Joe Lee Powell, and Sandra “Sandy” Walker and Queena Bennett Whitehead.
For District 1 Eutaw City Council, there are three candidates for the seat currently held by Latasha Johnson, they are Ke’undra Quintez Cox, Chandra Mayes and Valerie B. “Nippy” Watkins.
For District 2, Eutaw City Council, incumbent councilman, La’Jeffrey “Chris” Carpenter is opposed by Bryant N. Snyder Jr. In District 3, Eutaw City Council, which is the position currently held by Joe Lee Powell, only one person, Tracy Hunter qualified and will be running unopposed.
For District 4, in Eutaw, incumbent Sheila H. Smith is challenged by Larry Coleman. In District 5, incumbent Bennie Abrams Jr. chose not to run. Two candidates, Jacqueline Stewart and Rodney Wesley are contesting for this council position.
In Forkland, Alabama, incumbent Mayor Charlie McAlpine is being challenged by Rev. Michael Barton. Council seats for District 1, Joe Tuck, District 2, Christopher Armstead, District 4, Samitra Gray and District 5, Emma Sugars, are unopposed.
For Forkland, District 3, there are three candidates including incumbent, Willie Sashington, who is opposed by Alonzo Thomas and Preston Davis.
In Boligee, the current office holders are unopposed and will receive another term. Hattie M. Samuels, for Mayor, for District 1 Council – Teresa Head-Mack and Halee H. Vogt, for Council District 2 – Michael D. Gibson, Sr., J. E. Morrow and Earnestine Wade.
In Union, all current municipal officials are unopposed and will receive another term. They are: Mayor James Gaines and Council members: Gene Colvin, Louise Harkness, Rosie Davis, Helen Sanford, and Alonzo Thompson.
The last day to register to vote in these municipal elections is August 10, 2020. More information on absentee voting will be available in future issues of the newspaper. A City of Eutaw Voters List is included on pages 10-13 of this newspaper. Check the list to make sure your name is on the list in the right district.

Sandra Walker is candidate for Mayor of Eutaw

I, Sandra Walker, introduce myself as a candidate for Mayor of the City of Eutaw, Alabama. I have dedicated my life to helping and serving others. As a child, I dreamed of a life that was conducive to loving and treating others as I wanted to be treated; to extend help to the needy and to build a platform of refuge to those that were less fortunate. God has guided me through many life experiences which lay the foundation for what I hope will be my next step in service to others as the City of Eutaw’s Mayor.
After moving to Eutaw, Alabama in 2000, I have watched this flourishing city almost become a ghost town. It’s heartbreaking to know that while Eutaw is the “County Seat,” towns around it are building up, while it is diminishing.
As mayor I want to work with the city council and the citizens. Assess assets and needs, develop an action plan, work the plan, review, report, revise and regain solvency to support the city, its people, and the surrounding communities.
I can help make positive change happen. Applying my work experience and public service, I plan to use the knowledge and resources gained to strengthen and secure the fiscal foundation of the city that is needed to provide quality services and durable infrastructure for the citizens.
August 25, 2020, “Your Vote Is your Voice.” Elect Sandra (Sandy) Walker and Together We Can Win.

Valerie Watkins seeks Eutaw Council seat, District 1

I, Valerie “Nippy” Watkins, am running for Eutaw City Council District 1. For many years I have attended City Council meetings, and I have seen how the Mayor and the City Council have been exchanging or expressing their views typically in a heated or angry way. Even though disagreements can happen, we should still be determined to set an example of working in unity.
As a child growing up at home, school, church, and my community, I was blessed to see what leadership looks like, because the leaders that God had put in place exhibited a particular quality or behavior. Today we called them values, therefore we must have love for one another, respect for ourselves, and others.
I have been praying for many years that God would change the hearts of those he put in charge of the City of Eutaw, and for our community to work together, because if we continue on the path we are on without Vision we will perish. Therefore prayerfully, I decided to run for City Council. I truly believe when our hearts have been changed by the word of God nothing is impossible.
When elected as City Council Member, my vision is to work in unity with everyone, so the change can begin. We must set short term goals, and my short term goals are making sure the City of Eutaw has a budget; the lots that are not being groomed in District 1 need to be groomed; the roads in District 1 need to be repaired, and City workers need to get the raises that are due to them.
My long-term goals are to continue to work in unity with everyone, because unity= greatness=opportunity= change and that is my vision – change, so our children can see how we as a community work together for more opportunities for a better life. I would also like to see more jobs for our youth, because as a youth I had that opportunity to work on the summer program, because of the great leadership that God had in place. I would like to thank my mother Sarah B. Nickson for instilling in me to treat others how you want to be treated. District 1, I, Valerie Watkins, am asking you for your vote, and I thank you in advance for your support humbly, Valerie Watkins.

Newswire: France returns remains of Algerian resistance fighters, killed decades ago

Coffins of fighters returned to Algeria


Jul. 6, 2020 (GIN) – “The martyrs are returning home.” Those were the words of noted historian Malika Rahal on learning that the remains of 24 Algerian resistance fighters, killed in the Algerian independence war of 1954-62, would be flown back to Algeria after years kept by the French in a museum’s storage area.
“The body parts of those who fought the conquest of their country are returning home after a very long stay in cardboard boxes at the Musee de l’Homme in Paris,” Rahal said.
Algeria had officially asked for the return of the remains in 2018, as well as a handover of colonial archives but bureaucratic obstacles blocked their return until now, when a worldwide reexamination of the legacy of colonialism since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a white police officer is taking place.
The remains – skulls of decapitated fighters – were viewed as war trophies by French colonial officers.
“This is the monstrous face of colonization,” Algerian army chief Said Chengiha said in a speech on July 3.
Algerian historian Ali-Farid Belkadi, the first to make the grisly discovery while doing research, alerted Algerian authorities. He said the skulls were kept in “vulgar cardboard boxes that resemble shoe boxes”.
On July 5, Algeria’s 58th anniversary of independence, the fighters’ remains will finally be laid to rest in the martyrs’ section of the capital’s El Alia cemetery, local media reported. They were flown into Algiers airport from France on a Hercules C-130 transport plane, escorted on arrival by Algerian fighter jets, an AFP correspondent said.
To a 21-gun salute, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and a military guard of honor gave the war heroes an official welcome. Tebboune bowed in front of each coffin and a Muslim cleric recited a prayer for the dead.
France’s 132 years of colonial rule, and the brutal eight-year war that ended it, have left a lasting legacy of tensions between the two governments and peoples. The French presidency described the handover as an effort to “reconcile the memories of the French and Algerian people”.
Historians welcomed the return of the remains, but say they are just part of Algeria’s history that is still in French hands. “We have recovered part of our memory,” historian Mohamed El Korso told the AP news agency.
“But the fight must continue, until the recovery of all the remains of the resistance fighters, which number in the hundreds, and the archives of our revolution.”

Newswire: Thousands of essential workers walk off jobs in ‘Strike for Black Lives’

by Derek Major, Black Enterprise News Service

Participants in ‘Strike for Black Lives’


Thousands of essential workers walked off the job Monday in the Strike For Black Lives, demanding corporations raise wages, provide healthcare and paid sick leave, and the right to unionize.
According to CNN, the walkout, called the Strike for Black Lives, took place in more than 100 cities across the U.S. Protesters included Black and Latino fast-food workers, home health aides, janitors, and others in industries where Black workers are disproportionately represented.
The Strike For Black Lives was organized by the Movement for Black Lives along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Fight for $15, the Poor People’s Campaign, and other labor advocacy organizations.
“Black people are dying, Black communities are in danger, and workers of all races have had enough,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU—which represents almost 2 million service workers—in a statement. “With the Strike for Black Lives, we are uniting the interconnected fights for racial and economic justice.”
In addition to striking workers, organizers said thousands more walked away from their job for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin laid his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
The strike was mostly aimed at large corporations such as McDonald’s, Amazon, Uber, and Lyft, who have fought against healthcare plans, paid sick leave, hazard pay, and unions.
“If you’re concerned about life, you have to challenge corporations that will put up a hashtag or slogan but do nothing about workers having healthcare or a living wage or decent employment,” Rev. Dr. William Barber II, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign, told CNN.
A study in May found Black Americans, who make up a disproportionate percentage of essential workers, are more likely to die from the coronavirus, representing 60% of deaths and only 13.4% of the population.
Many large corporations have ended the pay raises and sick leave policies they instituted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Kroger and Rite Aid ended the pay bumps in May and Amazon and Albertsons ended the hikes in June. Stop & Shop ended its pay raises earlier this month.
“The danger facing essential workers hasn’t diminished. Any job where a worker is interacting closely with the public or coworkers for an extended period of time elevates the possibility of contracting coronavirus,” said Indeed economist AnnElizabeth Konkel.

Newswire: Legendary Civil Rights Icon C.T. Vivian dies at 95

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia


Rev. C. T. Vivian receiving medal from President Barack Obama


The Rev. C.T. Vivian, the legendary civil rights activist who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. Rev. Vivian was 95.
Vivian reportedly suffered a stroke earlier this year, but his family said he died of natural causes.
“He has always been one of the people who had the most insight, wisdom, integrity, and dedication,” said former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a contemporary of Vivian who also worked alongside King.
“The Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian was one of my strongest mentors in the Civil Rights Movement,” National Newspaper Publishers Association President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., stated.
“Rev. Vivian, like Martin Luther King, Jr, and Joseph Lowery was a visionary theologian, genius, and a leading force in the tactical and strategic planning of effective nonviolent civil disobedience demonstrations. C.T. has passed the eternal baton to a new generation of civil rights agitators and organizers. ”
In a statement emailed to BlackPressUSA, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks expressed their condolences. “The Atlanta Hawks organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Civil Rights Movement leader, minister, and author, Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. The City of Atlanta and the entire world has lost a distinguished icon whose leadership pushed the United States to greater justice and racial equality for African Americans,” team officials wrote in the email.
“To inspire the next generation, Vivian founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute in Atlanta, with the intent to create a model of leadership culture in the city that would be dedicated to the development and sustainability of our communities.”
They continued: “Vivian also started Basic Diversity, one of the nation’s first diversity consulting firms, now led by his son, Al, who has been a great partner to our organization. We are grateful for Dr. Vivian’s many years of devotion to Atlanta and thankful that we had the opportunity to honor and share his legacy with our fans. The entire Hawks organization extends its most sincere condolences to the grieving family.”
Rev. Vivan was active in sit-in protests in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1940s, and met King during the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott — a demonstration spurred by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white rider. The 13-month mass protest drew international attention.
Rev. Vivian went on to become an active early member of the group that eventually became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to his biography. Like King, Vivian was committed to the belief that nonviolent protests could carry the day.
“Some thoughts on the Reverend C.T. Vivian, a pioneer who pulled America closer to our founding ideals and a friend I will miss greatly,” Former President Barack Obama wrote in a statement. “We’ve lost a founder of modern America, a pioneer who shrunk the gap between reality and our constitutional ideals of equality and freedom.”
Rev. Vivian was born in Boonville, Missouri, on July 30, 1924. He and his late wife, Octavia Geans Vivian, had six children.
With the help of his church, he enrolled in American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville in 1955. That same year he and other ministers founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to the National Visionary Leadership Project. The group helped organize the city’s first sit-ins and civil rights march.
By 1965 Rev. Vivian had become the director of national affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when he led a group of people to register to vote in Selma, Alabama.
CNN memorialized Rev. Vivian, noting that, as the county Sheriff Jim Clark blocked the group, Vivian said in a fiery tone, “We will register to vote because as citizens of the United States we have the right to do it.”
Clark responded by beating Vivian until blood dripped off his chin in front of rolling cameras. The images helped galvanize more comprehensive support for change.
Vivian also created a college readiness program to help “take care of the kids that were kicked out of school simply because they protested racism.”
“I admired him from and before I became a senator and got to know him as a source of wisdom, advice, and strength on my first presidential campaign,” Obama stated.
“I’m only here to thank C.T. Vivian and all the heroes of the Civil Rights generation. Because of them, the idea of just, fair, inclusive, and generous America came closer into focus. The trails they blazed gave today’s generation of activists and marchers a road map to tag in and finish the journey.”

Newswire: Rep. Terri Sewell: John Lewis left the fight to protect voting rights for us to finish

John Lewis’ steady and persistent voice reminded us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. We must protect it.


By: Terri A. Sewell, Op-Ed in USA Today

Terri A. Sewell


Congressman John Lewis was a beacon of light, hope and inspiration throughout his life. To be in his presence was to experience love, whole-hearted and without exception. He remained until his passing a faithful servant-leader, whose righteousness, kindness and vision for a more equitable future inspired all who were blessed to know him. Though he was so often met with hatred, violence and racial terrorism, it never permeated his being. While Congressman Lewis has left this earth, his legacy fighting for equality and justice lives on.
Now, to honor John, our nation and our leaders must unite behind the cause most dear to him: voting rights. We must restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength so that every American, regardless of color, is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box.
Lewis’ voice has been consistent over the years. He reminded us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. He dedicated his life to ensuring that all Americans were able to access that most fundamental right, and we owe it to him to ensure that his life’s work was not in vain.
We have seen increased efforts across the nation to make it more difficult to vote. Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, legislatures across the country have implemented proven discriminatory practices like strict voter ID laws, closures of polling places, gerrymandered districts and voter roll purges, disproportionately impacting Black Americans. While Republican lawmakers have defended the laws as necessary to protect against voter fraud, their cries — and fear mongering — is based on myth. Widespread voter fraud is not a legitimate threat to our democracy, but voter suppression is.
H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, would serve as an antidote to the Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling, putting the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Lewis and so many other “foot soldiers” marched, bled and gave their lives for. It is languishing now in the Senate in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.
Reflecting on Bloody Sunday during his last speech on the Selma bridge in March, Lewis said, “Our country is a better country. … But we have still a distance to travel to go before we get there.”
In memory:Honor John Lewis with a Senate vote on the voting rights he fought for his whole life.
Lewis knew that progress was elusive, that it had to be won and fought for every generation. He also firmly believed that the best days of our nation lie ahead of us. We must continue to call upon his unwavering optimism. As he would say: Never give up. Never give in. Never give out. Keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. And vote.
Restore the Voting Rights Act — for John Lewis, and the country he loved so deeply.
Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., is the first Black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. Follow her on Twitter: @RepTerriSewell