Black Belt Folk Roots Festival celebrates 42nd year

festival story.jpgWhere else can you smile and sway to ole timey blues, enjoy the delicacies of right-off-the grill barbecue and polish sausages, feast on freshly cooked country dinners with assorted pies and cakes and then top it all off with hand churned homemade ice cream.
All this and more is happening at the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday August 27 on the Old Courthouse Square in Eutaw, AL.
In its 42nd year of community celebration, the festival will again feature down home blues music, old timey gospel, traditional foods, handmade crafts and special events for the young people.

Saturday’s events are scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with Ole Timey Blues and dancing featuring musicians Clarence Davis, The Liberators, Jock Webb, Davey Williams, Russell Gulley, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, Jock Webb, Lil’ Jimmie Reed and others.
The handmade crafts available at the festival are traditional quilts and other needle works; baskets from white oak, pine needles and corn shucks. The assortments of down-home foods include soul food dinners, barbecue, fried fish, chicken and skins, Polish sausage, homemade ice cream, cakes and pies; snow cones, Italian ice, and more.
Ole Timey Gospel is reserved for Sunday’s festival beginning at 2:00 p.m. and featuring the The Echo Juniors, The Melody Kings, The Mississippi Traveling Stars, The Golden Gates, New Generation Men of Promise, Sons of Zion, Greene County Mass Choir and many others. “The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is home coming time in the region. Many families, class reunions and social clubs plan their annual activities to coincide with the festival’s schedule,” stated Dr. Carol P. Zippert, festival coordinator. “The festival brings together musicians, craftspersons, storytellers, food specialists, community workers – all who are considered bearers of the traditions and folkways of the West Alabama region,” she explained. “This is a festival where people truly celebrate themselves – their joys and struggles and especially ‘how we made it over,’” Zippert states.
According to Dr. Zippert, the two day festival is open to the public free of charge. The hours are Saturday, August 26, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday August 27, 2:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.
The Black Belt Folk Roots Festival is supported in part by the Black Belt Community Foundation, and other local contributors.
The festival is produced by the Society of Folk Arts & Culture. There is no admission fee for the festival events. For more information contact Carol P. Zippert at 205-372-0525;
Email: carolxzippert@aol.com

 

Community pressure and legal action force State of Alabama to agree to re-open drivers licensing offices in the Black Belt counties

According to a recent statement by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) the U.S. Department of Transportation the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), Alabama’s department of motor vehicles, entered an agreement that fully restores the hours of driver’s license issuing offices in nine predominately African-American counties in the Black Belt region of the state. This agreement is the result of community pressure and legal action against the policy limiting access to driver licensing offices in rural parts of the state, especially in the Alabama Black Belt.
In addition, for the next two years, the agreement requires ALEA to seek pre-approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation before initiating any driver’s license office closures or other reductions in service.
On September 30, 2015, ALEA announced that it would eliminate services at 31 driver license field offices in 30 counties throughout the State of Alabama. The following month, ALEA announced that it would reopen the closed field offices one to two days per month.
On December 9, 2015, DOT informed ALEA that it had determined that these service reductions could potentially come into conflict with ALEA’s responsibilities to ensure non-discrimination as a recipient of Federal financial assistance under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. On that date, DOT further notified ALEA that it was opening a formal Title VI investigation into whether the reduction of driver license services discriminated against African Americans and/or other populations on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
In October 2015 the Alabama New South Coalition and the SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy held a caravan, which visited all Driver License offices in the Black Belt that were closed by Governor Bentley. The Governor says the offices, which were only open once a week to test and license new drivers, were closed in a budget cutting move to save money for the state. He closed 31 offices statewide in rural counties, which included 11 of 13 offices in the Alabama Black Belt counties.
Since Alabama recently adopted a stringent voter ID law, which requires a state issued photo identification document to vote, many Black leaders considered this another attack on voting and an effort to suppress the Black vote in the state.

In Greene County the Caravan attracted more than 60 people who demonstrated in front of the Greene County Courthouse mid-day holding signs and chanting “No Shutdowns.” Several local political leaders including County Commissioner Lester Brown and School Board member, Carol P. Zippert, addressed the crowd and urged that the offices be reopened on a weekly basis.
The agreement states that the Counties of Greene, Bullock, Butler, Hale, Lowndes and Perry will have their drivers license offices open one day per week; Macon County 2 days per week; Wilcox County will open 3 days per month; and Bibb Counties will open 2 days per month.
This important agreement with ALEA comes one year after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Covington and Burling, LLP, and local counsel Herman N. Johnson, Jr. filed a lawsuit on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama NAACP, and four individual voters challenging Alabama’s Photo ID Law and the ALEA office closings as violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the U.S. Constitution.
The LDF noted that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s findings validate the necessity of this lawsuit and confirm the significant hurdles that our clients and other Black and Latino Alabamians face in getting the photo ID needed to vote. These findings also prove that Alabama was wrong in repeatedly arguing that the ALEA closures did not have a disparate impact on Black voters. LDF’s lawsuit will continue to press for the elimination the Photo ID Law, a discriminatory barrier to voting for thousands of people of color.
“Alabama’s decision in 2015 to close driver’s license offices in most of its majority Black counties was an egregious act of racial discrimination,” said Sherrilyn A. Ifill, LDF’s President and Director Counsel. “The ALEA office closings severely limited Black people’s access to transportation and to the photo ID needed to vote in the 2016 elections. We commend the work of the U.S. Department of Transportation in thoroughly investigating this issue and welcome the restoration of services to these rural communities.”

Clinton and Trump win Alabama and Greene County; Zippert elected to Greene County School Board – District 1; Runoff in District 2 – Madelyn Thomas and Kashaya Cockrell

Hillary Clinton, Gregory Griggers, Carol P. Zippert, Madelyn Thomas, Kashaya Cockrell

Yesterday on “Super Tuesday” in the Democratic Primary election, Hillary Clinton led the state with 309,928 (78%) to Bernie Sanders with 76,399 (19%). In Greene County, Clinton garnered 2716 (90%) votes to 213 for Bernie Sanders (7%).
In the Republican Primary, Donald J. Trump led the field with 371,735 (43%) of the votes. Cruz was a distant second with 180,608 (21%), Rubio with 159,802 (19%), Carson 87,517 (10%) and Kasich 37,500 (4%) rounded out the field.
In Greene County, Trump led as well with 147 (54%) of the total 273 Republican votes cast in the primary.
In the 17th Judicial Circuit District Attorney contest that serves three counties – Greene, Marengo and Sumter, incumbent Gregory Griggers was reelected with 6,873 (56.5%) votes to 5,281 (43.5%) for Barrown Lankster. Griggers carried all three counties. In Greene County, Griggers received 1439 votes to 1237 for Lankster.
Carol P. Zippert was elected to the Greene County Board of Education in District 1. Zippert received 376 (62%) of the votes to 235 (38%) for challenger Kiasha Underwood Lavender. Zippert carried the Courthouse, Mantua Knoxville and the Absentee Box. Lavender led in Union and Jena precincts.
In District 2, for the Greene County School Board there was a five person race which resulted in a run-off between Madelyn Thomas with 138 (27.7%) votes and Kashaya Cockrell with 113 (22.7%). Latoya “Mimi” Pelt received 102 (20.5%), Brandon Meriwether 76 (15.3%) and Robert “Coach” Kimbrough 69 (13.8%). The run-off is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, 2016.
In the race for U. S. Senator, incumbent Richard Shelby was nominated in the Republican primary and Ron Crumpton was nominated over Charles Nana in the Democratic primary.
In the vote on the Constitutional Amendment to allow district attorneys and circuit clerks to participate in the state retirement system, it was passed in Greene County by a vote of 2,254 (82%) for; 492 (18%) against. Statewide this amendment was approved 679,956 (63%) to 402,060 (37%).