Alabama New South Coalition praised by Ben Chavis in Fall Convention keynote speech

Dr. Benjamin Chavis

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher


Dr. Benjamin Chavis, President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) was the keynote speaker for the Alabama New South Coalition’s virtual Fall Convention this past Saturday.

Chavis, a veteran civil rights fighter and current president of the national association of 200 Black newspapers, praised ANSC, “Alabama is a better state because of the Alabama New South Coalition and your organizing, advocacy and community building work over the past 35 years.”

“ANSC was organized in response to racial issues facing Black people and has continued with perseverance and courage to educate and uplift people in the state to fight injustice and build unity among people” said Chavis.

He said the forces of oppression and opposition: White Supremacy, Racism, Economic Exploitation and World Domination of people of color are still out there. “Every time we take a step forward, they react and try to push us backwards.”

Chavis said, “I hope you will continue to involve young people in the struggle. We have to be intentional about involving, embracing and encouraging young people to participate in our struggle. When I started working in the movement at 13, my parents did not scold me or stop me, they pushed me along.”

He spoke about his dissatisfaction with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict of not guilty on all charges, in the murder of two and the injuring of several others demonstrators in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “The judge acted like one of the prosecutors in this case. Rittenhouse crossed state lines with an AR-57 rifle and the judge prevented the jury from deciding on this charge. Notions of white supremacy are still a part of our criminal justice system,” he said.

He closed saying, “We as a people need to retain our serious spirituality but not wait on God. God wants us to get involved, speak up and speak out for ourselves and we need to get involved in the struggle to change our lives for the better, as you in ANSC have tried to do.”

The ANSC Fall Convention also included a panel of state legislators speaking on issues of concern to the members in Alabama. State Senator Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham spoke about the lawsuit he has filed together with Senator Bobby Singleton and others on the newly adopted Congressional redistricting plan. They say the lines are drawn to “pack” Black voters in the 7th Congressional District when there are more equitable
District lines that can be drawn to enable the election of two Black members of the U. S. House of Representatives and allow for the plan not to divide counties into more than one district. Smitherman said he hoped the court would rule soon before the May 24, 2022 scheduled primary elections.

Representative Barbara Drummond of Mobile reported on steps the State of Alabama had taken to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. She was critical of Governor Ivey’s use of $400 million of state coronavirus funds for prison construction instead of assisting health care for Black and poor people.

State Senator Malika Sanders Fortier spoke on efforts to find a sustainable stream of funding in the state, to support the state’s matching funds needed to expand Medicaid. “We cannot use Federal funds from the virus funding as the state’s match for Medicaid, we must identify new state monies from gam9ing or other sources, which can support Medicaid expansion for the working poor.”

State Representative Merika Coleman of Bessemer, Alabama spoke on the work of the special legislative committee to remove racist language from the Alabama State Constitution. The committee after an educational process,
Agreed to change some major provisions to remove racist language. These changes will be the subject of additional Constitutional amendments to be approved by the voters in upcoming elections.

The members of ANSC approved re-election of state officers for a second two-year term, including Debra Foster, President, Everett Wess, First Vice President, Sharon Wheeler, Treasurer, Matilda Hamilton, Recording Secretary and Patricia Lewis, Corresponding Secretary. The Second Vice-President, who must be a youth, is Leslie Jones of Wilcox County replacing Ivan Peoples of Greene County.

Newswire : Black leaders call out big insurance over surprise medical billing

By Hazel Trice Edney

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, CEO -NNPA

( – Prominent figures in the African-American community are calling on Congress to rein in large insurance companies as lawmakers look to address an increasingly urgent problem in the health care market that falls especially hard on working families, including African-Americans.
The problem is known as surprise medical billing, a situation that occurs when a patient is hospitalized and then receives a hefty bill from a doctor who turns out to be outside of his or her insurer’s network.
The practice is costing American patients tens of millions of dollars in unforeseen medical fees, at a time when many are already burdened by higher premiums and rising co-payments. Nearly half of Americans say they have avoided going to the doctor despite being sick or injured for financial reasons.
Eliminating surprise billing has long been a priority for leaders of both parties. But it is now emerging as a key issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, as candidates and other leading Democrats make the case around the country for broader health care reform. Former Vice President Joe Biden invoked the need to end surprise billing in his victory speech on Super Tuesday.
As the issue comes into greater focus, prominent African-American leaders are urging candidates and lawmakers to find a solution that holds health insurers accountable for limited coverage networks and inadequate access to health insurance for minority communities – two forces, they say, that have helped create the surprise billing problem.
Addressing a group of Black ministers in South Carolina recently, Reverend Al Sharpton said solving health care issues disproportionately impacting communities of color must be atop the progressive agenda. Fixing the problem of surprise billing, Sharpton said, needs to go hand in hand with better protection of uninsured and underinsured populations.
Sharpton, who heads the National Action Network, an influential civil rights organization with roots in Harlem and chapters throughout the country, warned about a proposed bill in Congress that would potentially deepen the problem of costs being passed onto patients by giving insurers even more control over the prices they pay out-of-network doctors working in emergency hospital settings.
He said the proposed bill must be defeated because it fails to protect the underinsured and the uninsured. Dealing these specific policies that affect the disadvantaged is what is necessary in the 2020 election, Sharpton said in a recent speech at the Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C., according to the Post and Courier.
Sharpton referred to a current bill before Congress aimed at addressing a practice known as “surprise billing,” which leaves patients on the hook for medical expenses even if they have insurance. The legislation needs to be defeated and replaced with something that would protect the underinsured and those with no insurance at all, he said,
describing it as one of those “issues that’s for the good of the people.”
Dr. Benjamin Chavis, President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and former Executive Director of the NAACP, directed even sharper criticism at insurance companies. In a piece published by Black Press USA, Chavis  derided insurance executives for putting profits above patients.
“This outrageous situation benefits one group and one group alone: powerful insurance executives, who have managed to get off the financial hook for such bills, even as insurers shrink insurance coverage networks to wring more and more profits out of the system,” Chavis wrote.
Chavis expressed strong opposition to any legislation that would give insurers more control over health care prices.
Experts say surprise medical billing is most common after emergency treatment on nonsurgical hospital visits, when doctors and specialists often work together in teams to provide the care patients need. For example, in the case of an emergency procedure, a patient’s primary surgeon might be in her insurance network, but other clinicians who assist the surgeon, such as the anesthesiologist, might be out of network. In certain instances, the patients are left to foot the bill for out-of-network services.
Doctors have said that years of harmful cost-cutting measures taken by insurers are to blame. Many patients have been unwittingly pushed into highly restricted and increasingly narrow coverage networks, they say, leaving them with unanticipated costs insurers refuse to cover in full or at all. Doctors say insurance companies should be required to pay fair out-of-network rates, as determined by an independent arbitrator, for emergency care.
Insurers vehemently oppose that approach, instead calling for new rules that would enable them
to limit how much they pay for emergency care provided by physicians who do not contract with them. They favor a system in which they would automatically pay median in-network rates for out-of-network services.
The dispute between doctors and insurers reached a boiling point last year, when it appeared that insurers were going to get their way. A bill modeled on legislation passed in California in 2016 would have put in place the type of benchmarking system insurance companies want.
Doctors and hospitals, for their part, raised concerns about ceding too much power to insurers to control rates. If only required to pay median in-network rates for out-of-network emergency services, the doctors and hospitals said, insurers could artificially drive down those rates by further restricting coverage networks.
Apparently, those concerns were shared by at least some members of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reported to have expressed serious concerns in private, saying “we are not going to give a handout to big insurance companies.” The bill was ultimately defeated.
Now, as Congress returns to the issue early into the 2020 legislative session, it appears as though the debate could be layered into a larger conversation among progressives about the future of the nation’s health care system.
The insistence of influential Black leaders that surprise bills are a symptom of a coverage accessibility problem for communities of color seems to open up a new front for Democrats looking to curtail the power of major insurance companies.

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.”

The day that Rev. Jesse Jackson took Fidel Castro to church

 By Don Terry (NNPA Newswire Guest Contributor)


 Rev. Jesse Jackson at memorial service for Fidel Castro in Havana

HAVANA — On the evening of December 1, six days after Fidel Castro’s death at age 90, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., stood in the pulpit of the packed First Presbyterian Church of Havana. Applause washed over him and moonlight danced on the warm waters of the nearby Caribbean.

The international human and civil rights legend from Chicago was one of only two Americans invited by the Cuban Council of Churches to speak at an ecumenical memorial service that evening for the nation’s former president. The other American was Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, a longtime advocate for social justice and the first clergywoman to lead the National Council of Churches.

Projected on the wall behind the pulpit as he spoke was a visual reminder of why Jackson is held in such high esteem by the country’s religious community: a black and white photograph, taken on June 28, 1984, of Jackson and Castro – the reverend and the revolutionary – at an event that continues to reverberate through Cuban society 32 years later, government officials and church leaders say.

On that day, Jackson pulled off a near-miracle in a daring act of citizen diplomacy and liberation theology. He took Castro to church and in doing so helped open a door to the possibility of change and increased religious freedom across the island nation of 11 million souls.

For the first time in 27 years Castro attended church. Although invited on many previous occasions over the years by Cuban and foreign church leaders, Castro always declined until Jackson persuaded Castro to accompany him to a Methodist church in Havana.

“That visit was central to the new relationship between the state and the church,” Rev. Pablo Oden Marichal, an Episcopal priest and member of Cuban’s National Assembly, who was at the church that day in 1984, said during Jackson’s recent trip to Cuban. “From that circumstance a new relationship with the church and the government started. And Rev. Jesse Jackson was at the center of it.”

While there remains much work to be done, that day was the beginning of a thaw in the icy — often repressive — relationship between the Cuban government and the country’s religious community. Cuba was officially an atheist state and “believers” like Rev. Marichal were barred from serving in the government. Slowly, that began to change after the two leaders walked into church together, joking and laughing when Jackson asked Castro, who was dressed in his green army fatigues, to take off his hat and remove his cigar before entering the sanctuary.

“I want to remind you in these very brief remarks,” Castro told the crowded church that day, “of the very profound impression that the Rev. Jesse Jackson has made on all of us, because of his honesty, his talent, his sincerity, his honor, and the profound passion with which he fights for peace and friendship…And I consider him an extraordinary spokesman of the highest ideas of Christian thought.”

It was Jackson’s first trip to Cuba; his first meeting with Castro. At the time, Jackson was running for President of the United States and arrived in Havana with a delegation of clergy and scholars, dozens of Secret Service agents and even more reporters and television news camera crews.

Cuba was the third stop on Jackson’s four-nation fact-finding and peace-making tour of Central America. The drums of war were echoing through much of Latin America. Right-wing death squads were murdering peasants, priests and nuns. Cuba was in the crosshairs of the Reagan Administration, which accused the Castro government of exporting arms and rebellion from El Salvador to Southern Africa. Any talk of ending the crippling trade embargo against Cuba and normalizing relations was laughed at in Washington.

At a news conference upon his arrival, Jackson said that he was “hopeful that our visit to the island will help break the cycle of misunderstanding and bring our people and our governments closer together so that we can begin to relate to each other as the neighbors that we are.”

He had reason to be confident. A few months earlier, Jackson had pulled off his first near-miracle of the campaign season. No one believed he could do it, but he negotiated the release of an American Navy pilot, Lt. Robert Goodman, shot down over Syria and brought him home. Yet, Washington insiders told Jackson he was naïve and should not waste with his breath talking to Castro about setting captives free.

The two men talked for eight hours. By the time they were finished, Castro had agreed to send home 22 Americans imprisoned in Cuba, mostly on drug charges. He also agreed to release and fly to Miami 26 Cubans, some of whom had been in prison for 20 years. The United States referred to the newly released Cubans as political prisoners. The Castro government called them terrorists and enemies of the state. Jackson simply called them free.

Castro wanted something from Jackson during the trip. He asked Jackson to join him in speaking to 4,000 students at a local university. Jackson agreed. Then, as he told the congregation at the recent Havana memorial service, he asked Castro “point blank” why he did not go to church.

Castro told Jackson that he grew up in the Catholic Church and loved it. He took to heart the teachings about defending the poor and weak. But when he came down out of the mountains after defeating dictator, Fulgencio Batista in 1959, he was shocked to find, Jackson said at the memorial service, “priests in the courtyards with guns, aiming at us, defending the graveyards of the rich.”

Castro was bitterly disappointed and angry. He thought about burning the churches down. Instead, he turned his back and stayed away. “I reminded Fidel of minsters who preach and practice the theology of liberation,” Jackson said, “ministers and visionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I told him, ‘That’s the church of your dreams, so don’t give up on the church.’”

The next day, Castro accompanied Jackson to the Methodist church where an ecumenical group, including various Cuban clergy and a delegation of African American ministers from the National Council of Churches and the Black Theology Project, was holding a service and meeting to study and commemorate the work of Dr. King and liberation theology.

“Nobody knew Fidel was coming,” said Dr. Benjamin Chavis, a longtime civil rights activist and former head of the NAACP, who is now president of National Newspaper Publishers Association. “It was an exciting moment. Everybody stood up and clapped. The Cuban people were overjoyed. They were glad to see their leader coming to church.”

Chavis was there that day. He appears in the photograph of Jackson and Castro taken at the church. Chavis is standing next to Castro on the right, preparing to introduce the Cuban leader. “We all knew we were not only witnessing history, we were participating in history,” Chavis said. “I’ve thought about that day a lot since then. It was inspirational.”

Five months later, Castro and religious leaders sat down for the first of what became a regular series of meetings of the government and the Council of Churches. The first meeting was supposed to last about an hour. It went on for six, Marichal, the Episcopal priest, said. The church leaders outlined “the many cases of discrimination” against “believers in the country.” Believers could not serve in the government. They could not build new churches. “We came to Fidel,” Marichal said, “to ask him to stop it.”

It took six years of constant talk and work, but eventually, in the early 1990s, believers were allowed to serve in the government. In 1992, Cuba officially became a secular state. Six years later the Pope visited Cuba for the first time. “Religious freedom in Cuba is tolerated far more than people think,” an American official at the U.S. Embassy in Havana told Jackson on his recent trip to the island. Building new churches, however, remains difficult.


U.S. Senators demand study on Federal advertising in Black-owned media

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ).jpg

NJ Senator Corey Booker speaks on issue of Federal advertising

Five U.S. Senators have joined the fight for accountability in the federal government’s advertising practices – or lack thereof — when it comes to minority-owned news outlets. A letter penned by the senators demands that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the advertising habits of federal agencies.

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) each signed the letter.

In the new letter sent this month on United States Senate letterhead to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, a request is made that the GAO issue a report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned publications, public relations firms, advertising agencies, and media companies.

“News outlets and media companies owned or published by people of color are critical to ensuring that diverse viewpoints are presented to the American people,” the letter stated. The letter continued: “As one of the largest advertisers in the United States, the federal government should play an active role in ensuring that minority-owned media outlets have fair opportunities to compete for and be awarded federal advertising contracts.”

Menendez said that contracting opportunities through the federal marketplace has proven to be a valuable way for firms to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), applauded the new letter by the senators. He noted the joint effort between NNPA and the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) in pushing for a new federal advertising study.

“The NNPA and NAHP thank Senators Booker, Schumer, Menendez, Hirono and Gillibrand for helping to push for this strategically important GAO inquiry,” Chavis said. “2017 should be the year of greater economic equity and parity with respect to more inclusiveness in the billions of dollars spent annually by government departments and agencies on advertising.”

Earlier this year, Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and many of her colleagues in the House formally requested an investigation into how federal government agencies spend advertising dollars.

Jonathan Sanchez, the associate publisher and chief operating officer of the East Los Angeles-based Eastern Group Publications, Inc., which boast a loyal readership of about 500,000 subscribers, the news is more than welcome. Earlier this year, after Norton’s letter, Sanchez said he was appreciative that action was finally being taken.

“I have been working on this issue for years and I am glad this is finally becoming a reality,” said Sanchez. Sanchez has supported efforts by NNPA and NAHP that calls lawmakers to sponsor a new report that will help determine why minority media companies have been excluded from the lucrative advertising deals government agencies have made with other news organizations.

Norton’s letter came a little more than one month after she held a press conference on Capitol Hill with leaders from the NNPA and NAHP. At that press conference, Norton called on the GAO to perform a new study and update a 2007 report that revealed government agencies spent $4.3 billion in advertising but just a pittance of that amount was spent with minority media publications.

The Congresswoman also secured the support of many others in the House of Representatives. Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, California Rep. Karen Bass, New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, and California Rep. Maxine Waters – all Democrats – were among those who signed Norton’s letter and called for action.

“We believe that this request is particularly timely, because GAO will be conducting an audit of spending by federal agencies on public relations and advertising,” Norton said. “We ask [the GAO] to take this opportunity to consider how much is spent with newspapers and other media companies that are owned by people of color and whose audiences are largely African-American or Hispanic.”

In 2007, GAO considered spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses by five agencies – the Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – and found that just five percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising campaigns went to minority-owned businesses.

Norton and others have asked for an update from the GAO as well as more accountability. The federal government is the largest advertiser in the nation and it plays an important role in supporting minority-focused publications that reach African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California.

“Historically, there has been a lack of adequate federal government funding granted to disadvantaged and minority-owned advertising agencies,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, (D-N.C.). “This issue shows the systemic problems that exists across numerous arenas in both the public and private sector.”