Local Referendum No.1 for property tax to support the Greene County Hospital and Health System will be on the November 3rd ballot

Probate Judge Rolanda Wedgeworth confirmed to the Greene County Democrat on Friday, that there will be a Local Referendum No. 1 on the November 3, 2020 ballot to raise ad valorem property tax in Greene County by 4 mills to benefit the Greene County Hospital.
John Zippert, Chairperson of the Greene County Hospital Board said, “We must pass this tax to support the hospital if we want to keep our hospital open and modernize and improve the services available from the hospital. In times of a global pandemic of coronavirus the need for a local hospital and related health facilities is clear.”
Dr. Marcia Pugh, GCHS Administrator and CEO said, “Our financial reports show that the Greene County Health System has provided $100,000 a month in uncompensated care for Greene County residents. Funds from electronic bingo have helped to pay part of this but we are still going into debt each month to keep the hospital open.”
She continued, “Our physical plant was built in 1961, 60 years ago. Since I have been Administrator, we have had to replace physical systems, like our sewage pipes, telephone system, computer systems, laundry machines, and other necessary services. We have upgraded our laboratory, X-ray machine, emergency room area and we are planning to improve our MRI and other imaging services. Some of this new tax money will go to modernize and improve our facilities and medical services.”
This Local Referendum No.1 and six Statewide Amendments will be on the ballot for November 3, 2020 if you vote absentee or at the polls.
“A 4 mil increase in taxes amounts to $4.00 per $1,000 of assessed valuation of property in Greene County. This is a small price to pay for a 24/7 emergency room, staffed by physicians, comfortable hospital rooms, laboratory, X-ray, up-to-date imagining, compassionate skilled nursing, and many other services,” said Zippert.
Based on current valuations of property in Greene County, one mil of property tax will generate $160,000 in revenues, so passage of this referendum would provide $640,000 in needed revenues, each year, for the Greene County Hospital, beginning in 2022.
Local Referendum No. 1 states: “The Greene County Commission resolved that, pursuant to Constitutional Amendment 76 (Sec.215.02) of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, the issue of a four (4) mil special county tax on each dollar of taxable property in Greene County for the construction, operation, equipping and maintenance of the public or nonprofit hospital facilities of the Greene County Health System shall be submitted to the electors of Greene County, Alabama on the November 3, 2020 General Election. If a majority o0f qualified electors participating in the election shall vote in favor of the referendum, then the said taxes shall be levied and collected and provided to the Greene County Health System.” The Greene County Democrat will include more information on this referendum in future issues. We also welcome your opinions, please write us Letters to the Editor on this tax referendum.

Nine more arrested at Tuesday’s SOS protest for Medicaid Expansion at State Capitol in Montgomery

By: John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

The SaveOurselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held its bi-weekly protest on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama to call for Governor Kay Ivey to expand Medicaid; for state and federal officials to intensify their response to the coronavirus, especially by increasing testing, contact tracing and support for the Alabama Black Belt counties, and Black, Brown and poor communities, who are dying from the virus at disproportionately higher rates; releasing non-violent detainees from jails and prisons to reduce the spread of coronavirus and other concerns.

Nine people were arrested by the City of Montgomery Police when they began painting “Good Trouble” and “Expand Medicaid” over the light gray paint that the City had painted over “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” written by SOS protestors in a similar demonstration on July 16, 2020.
Fewer than half of those individuals were actually painting – or attempting to paint. Several were arrested for simply standing on the gray painted pavement in front of the Capitol that does not block any traffic. The police closed in and started making arrests before the protestors could complete writing full words.
The SOS protest yesterday, July 28, 2020, was also directed at the Mayor, Police Chief and staff of the City of Montgomery Police Department for their humiliating treatment of five SOS and Black Lives Matter activists who turned themselves in to the police on Monday, July 20, 2020. The two women were strip searched and all were required to dress in jail jumpsuits and were placed in holding cells. During their five hours in custody, they were exposed to the coronavirus by jailers and detainees, who were not wearing masks
The nine who were detained at Tuesday’s protest were SOS leaders and members as well as some supporters from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Poor People’s Campaign for a Moral Revival. The nine arrested were: Hank Sanders, Selma attorney and former Alabama State Senator, Faya Rose Toure (Sanders), his wife and civil rights attorney, Martha Morgan, retired University of Alabama law professor, Queen Tate, Yomi Goodall and Judson Garner, SOS members; Ellen Degnan and Danna Sweeny with SPLC, and Stephanie Bernal-Martinez with the Poor People’s Campaign.
All who were arrested on Tuesday, were released in a span of two hours on their own recognizance. One White male was made to strip down to his underwear and put on a prison jumpsuit. No-one in custody was strip searched this time. At press time it is not clear what charges will be brought against the nine who were arrested.
The five SOS and BLM activists, Karen Jones, Faya Rose Toure, Johnny Ford, John Zippert, and Kamasi Amin (Juan McFarland II ) were charged with “defacing public property”, a misdemeanor, for the early incident of writing in the street. They have been assigned a September 21st court date.
Attorney, Civil Rights Activist and former Municipal Judge Faya Rose Toure, who was the only person arrested at both protests, said: “My arrest and jailing on Monday was the most humiliating experience of my life. I have been arrested multiple times in various cities in this state and country over more than five decades in civil disobedience protests in the fight for human rights, but never was I strip searched and never was I exposed to danger like I was in Montgomery in the city jail.
“The five of us all wore masks, but none of the other inmates with whom we were held wore masks not nor did all of the jail employees. This is dangerous not only for us but also for our families and all those with whom we come in contact. In addition to being embarrassing and dangerous, it was also hurtful to me because I was almost arrested in Montgomery last year for passing out voting materials during the campaign in which Steven Reed was elected Mayor. But I intend to keep fighting for human rights. I intend to keep fighting to expand Medicaid. I intend to keep fighting to save lives in Alabama.”
“Former Tuskegee Mayor and State Representative Johnny Ford said: “We have been fighting for the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama year after year after year. Alabama must expand Medicaid to save lives in Alabama. Expanding Medicaid would save the lives of an estimated 700 Alabamians per year – and that is before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.”
Several parents of children murdered while in the custody of the City of Montgomery Police and Jail voiced their complaints about the injustices of the city’s jail and justice system. The parents of Steven Matthew Seal and Tony Lewis Jr. gave testimonies about the unfair treatment of their children.
Persons interested in joining or supporting SOS in future demonstration may contact SOS through their website, Facebook page or by writing: SOS Survival Fund, 838 So. Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104; phone: 334-262-0932.

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.”

SOS National Day of Prayer Caravan holds prayer at Governor’s Mansion

Prayers of protest leaders to Expand Medicaid, Increase Testing and Save Lives
Montgomery, AL – The Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy held a caravan on May 7, 2020 with numerous cars circling the Alabama Governor’s Mansion downtown to urge Governor Ivey and others to expand Medicaid, save rural hospitals and focus COVID-19 resources to those most in need. After circling the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Montgomery, instead of the usual press conference, leaders held a prayer conference. Leaders were asked to take one minute or less to address their issues in uplifted prayer.
Attorney Hank Sanders said: “I pray that God will open the minds and hearts of Governor Ivey and other Alabama leaders so that they will immediately implement the expansion of Medicaid and will focus the pandemic resources to those most in need. I pray that God will strengthen the hand of the Governor so with a stroke of the pen she will expand Medicaid. I pray that those who are protesting to open up Alabama economically will also pray that the Governor will open Medicaid expansion in our state.”
World Conference of Mayors Founder Johnny Ford said: “I pray that our national leaders will do whatever it takes to limit the deaths and number of people who are getting the coronavirus. I pray that they will open back up the window for Medicaid coverage so people who now qualify can become covered.”
Civil Rights Advocate Attorney Faya Toure said: “I pray that people whose workplaces are too dangerous will not be forced to work and they will be able to get unemployment benefits if they choose not to work as a result of unsafe work environments. They should not have to choose between work with the possibility of death and survival – both physically and economically.”
Chair of the Greene County Health System, John Zippert, said: “I prevail upon state leaders to save rural hospitals, not only during this pandemic but also from now on. Rural hospitals must be strengthened economically, staff wise and in every way so they can keep serving the people of rural Alabama and other areas.”
Community Advocate Karen Jones said: “I pray the state will truly embrace testing and tracing, so that everyone who wants to get tested can do so without cost and so that people will know when they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive. I pray this because for Alabama to safely open, we must have available testing and tracing for all.
Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “I prevail upon the leaders of Alabama not to forget those in jails and prisons. I ask that their hearts will be touched in a way that they will let those who are not dangerous to the public out of prisons and jails and those who are in jails but have not been convicted out while they are pending trial. I ask that prison and jail sentences will not be death sentences because of COVID-19 as both prisons and jails have become hotspots for the virus. I urge our leaders act to save lives.”
During the SOS National Day of Prayer Caravan and Prayer Conference at the Governor’s Mansion in Montgomery, black and white balloons were again tied to the cars in the caravan and released at the end of the prayer conference in recognition of the lives lost and the lives in jeopardy in Alabama right now.
For more information, contact the SOS Movement for Justice and Democracy website and Facebook page.

The Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy: Standing Six Feet Apart so Alabamians Will Not Be Lying Six Feet Under

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Montgomery, AL – We, leaders in the SaveOurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, are here on the steps of the Alabama Capitol standing up six feet apart so Alabamians will not have to be lying six feet under. We are profoundly concerned about the coronavirus pandemic here in Alabama.
We are deeply concerned that people who need tests cannot get tests. We are strongly concerned that rural hospitals have closed with even more on the verge of closing, and those that are there will not be able to be provide all the services that this coronavirus will require. We are deeply concerned for the health care – or profound lack of health care – for the working poor in our state. We were strongly concerned and vocal long before the coronavirus pandemic. We believe that the lack of health care for too many in Alabama will be exacerbated, not only during this pandemic but long after the pandemic.
We are in the biggest crisis this country has seen in a long time. Alabama is in its biggest crisis in a long time, and it is incumbent upon each of us to do what we can to deal with this crisis and the crisis that will follow. A data analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Alabama ranks among the top six most at-risk states for its adult population. Forty-six percent of Alabama adults are at risk. If we do not address this head on now, many more Alabamians will get the coronavirus and too many will die when we could take steps now to prevent that. Therefore, we are here, standing six feet apart so fewer Alabamians will not be lying six feet under. We know we take a risk by being here, even with all of our precautions, but the risk of not standing up and speaking out now and not expanding Medicaid now is profoundly greater. That is why we are here.
Attorney Faya Toure said: “I have a friend who had all of the symptoms of the coronavirus but could not get a test because, after being in line for hours, they told her a doctor had to refer her. People without health insurance have a hard time getting a doctor who will refer them. We must have tests for every person who needs a test in every county in the state. If we expanded Medicaid, Alabamians would have a much greater chance of getting tests and saving lives. In addition, the Black Belt has been ignored throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and that has not changed. There are no reported cases in the Black Belt because there is no testing in the Black Belt. We can and must do better.”
John Zippert said: “I am Chair of the Board of the Greene County Hospital System. Rural hospitals in Alabama are struggling mightily just to exist. Too many have closed and more will be closing. Rural hospitals need to be able to provide these services while the coronavirus is raging but also be able to provide necessary services after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided. And it will only subside if we take action now. Medicaid expansion would protect rural hospitals and citizens in rural hospitals, and it cannot wait. In fact, it is long overdue in Alabama. There are 340,000 human beings in Alabama, most of them working poor, who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. We must do something immediately.”
Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan said: “There are so many Alabamians at risk because they have compromised immune systems, autoimmune disorders, are mentally ill, have dementia, are in foster care, are in prison or jail or detention and more. There are already plans to triage these Alabamians when it comes to treatment of the coronavirus, which means they very well would not receive any treatment and many will die if Governor Ivey fails to take action. We must do what we can do in Alabama. And we can expand Medicaid now.”
Founder of the World Conference of Mayors and former State Representative and Mayor Johnny Ford said: “Too many people’s heath is at risk. Some people are even at risk for death. The coronavirus pandemic is increasing the risks to health and the risk of death. Fifty-five years ago today, on the last day of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, leaders spoke powerfully at this Capitol demanding voting rights. We are here today demanding that health care be a right as is it in all other developed countries. We begin with Medicaid expansion. I want to also add that it is has been the mayors of our state who have stepped up and taken the lead in protecting Alabamians during this coronavirus pandemic, and we thank them for their leadership, courage and wisdom.”
Attorney and former State Senator Hank Sanders said: “I was here 55 years ago today when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked the question, “How Long?” about voting rights and other rights. I and the rest of the massive crowd responded, “Not Long!” We are here today standing six feet apart so that Alabamians will not be lying six feet under. Dr. King asked, “How Long?” 55 years ago, and today we are asking, “How Long” will it be until Alabama expands Medicaid so that the working poor can have health insurance and health care so they can stand a chance to be tested and treated, not only during the coronavirus pandemic but afterwards? I hope and pray the answer to “How Long? is “Not Long!”

Newswire: SOS calls for using the Alabama Bicentennial to remember, recognize and rectify past history

        The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy (SOS) held a press conference on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama to call for Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama State Legislature and the public to use the celebration of the Alabama Bicentennial to “remember, recognize and rectify the state’s racial history.  
        SOS is a movement comprised of more than 40 statewide organizations in Alabama focused on improving the lives of all Alabamians.  Sanders said, “We call upon Alabama to use this occasion of the celebration of the Bicentennial to remember all the history of the State of Alabama and to recognize the wrongs committed in order to repair and to restore the deepest hope for Alabama’s future.”

      “This year Alabama is celebrating its Bicentennial – the 200th anniversary of our state’s founding.  It is good to celebrate, but we need to understand what we celebrate. We need to know that we can do better.  We need to correct that which we did not do right.  To celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial without acknowledging all the history of Alabama – including the taking of Native American lands, the enslaving of Black people, and the taking of the dignity and rights of Black Alabama citizens during Jim Crow segregation – does not lay a strong foundation to build the next 200 years,” said attorney and former State Senator Hank Sanders at a news conference on the steps of the Alabama Capitol today at noon.   

“To celebrate the Bicentennial without changing the present does not truly the 200 years since Alabama’s founding. Alabama has hundreds of thousands of citizens without medical care, and Alabama can do something about that right now. All it has to do is expand Medicaid. That would be a true celebration of Alabama’s first 200 years,” said John Zippert, Chair of the SOS Health Committee and Chair of the Board of the Greene County Health System.

“The advertisements for the Bicentennial show Native Americans, African Americans and Whites, and that is good but it is misleading. The Confederate monuments still stand on Capitol grounds, and a statute of Dr. J. Marion Sims still stands on Capitol grounds. We can truly honor these 200 years by removing the Confederate monuments and putting up monuments to those who fought to preserve the United States of America, including the 6,000 Black soldiers from Alabama who served in the Union Army,” said attorney and Civil Rights activist Faya Rose Toure.

“The promotions of the Bicentennial honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Booker T. Washington, but there are no statues on the Capitol grounds recognizing them. As we go into the next 200 years, in the spirit of unity we need to start by expanding Medicaid, removing from the Capitol the statutes of those who fought the legitimate government of the United States, and including statutes of people who fought for and lifted those who were excluded. Today is International Human Rights Day, which is especially appropriate because we need to acknowledge the denial of human rights in Alabama’s past,” said Martha Morgan, attorney and Law Professor Emerita at the University of Alabama School of Law.

The Greene County Democrat is publishing a Guest Editorial, by Attorney Faya Rose Toure, on page 4 of this newspaper, which gives more details on the concerns which prompted the SOS press conference.

Sheriff Benison awards additional $72,000 in bingo funds to Greene County Health System

Sheriff Joe Benison symbolically presents envelop with check to John Zippert, Chair of the GCHS Board, on October 23, 2019, at the monthly bingo fund distribution ceremony, while actual funds were delivered to GCHS on November 12, 2019

Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO and Administrator of the Greene County Health System reported that she received a check for $72,000 from Sheriff Joe Benison. This check represents an additional distribution of funds paid to the Sheriff by electronic bingo operators for the month of October 2019.
Sheriff Benison said, “ I know that the Greene County Health System is in dire need of additional funds to serve the health needs of Greene County residents. I am awarding these funds and looking into finding other resources from electronic bingo for health care.”
Dr. Pugh said, “We are grateful and thankful for these additional funds. We will use them immediately to update our computer network and systems, help to move the CT scanner from an outside mobile unit into the hospital imaging center and to pay some of our outstanding bills.”
The Sheriff of Greene County is designated as the regulator of electronic bingo in Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, which governs the establishment, operation and regulation of electronic bingo in Greene County.
In October 2017, Sheriff Benison amended the bingo operating rules to provide $25 per bingo machine, per month, for payment to the Greene County Health System for support of health care for Greene County residents.
The assessment for the healthcare system is in addition to the $200 month license fee for each bingo machine operated by bingo charities and organizations in the county.
The Sheriff distributes these license fees to county agencies, including his own bingo operations office, the Board of Education, municipalities and the GCHS for healthcare. Since November 2017, the GCHS has received $45,000 per month toward general operating support, which has helped to cover operating deficits and allow the hospital, nursing home and affiliated services to remain open and operating to serve the people of Greene County.
“We have recently received additional funds and donations from churches and community organizations to help improve our facilities and supplies at the hospital, nursing home and physicians clinic. These additional funds from bingo will help us to continue to upgrade and improve our healthcare services,” said Dr. Pugh.

Two-day celebration planned for 50th anniversary of ‘Greene Co. Freedom Day’, July 29, 1969, when Black people were elected to take control of county government

NDPA Political Planning Session
L to R: Rev. Peter Kirskey, School Board Member, Rev. William M. Branch Probate Judge candidate, Malcom Branch, Judge Branch’s son, Greene County Commissioner Franchie Burton, Dr. John Cashin, NDPA President, Rev. Thomas Gilmore, Sheriff Candidate, County Commissioner Levi Morrow, Sr., and County Commissioner Harry Means. The group shown here is meeting in a planning session for the special election for Greene County in 1968. (The Afro-American Newspaper in Baltimore MD.)
Packed courtroom on hand for the oath taking ceremony for Greene County Commissioners and school board members listened intently as Circuit Court Judge Emmett Hildreth read a six page speech in which he lists achievements of past administrations and county bank balance. Newly elected Black officials were joined by fifth commissioner, Dennis Herndon, Probate Judge and other school board members in 1969. ( AFRO Staff Photos  By Irving H. Phillips of The Afro- American Newspaper in Baltimore MD.)

Special to the
Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

“We will be holding a two day celebration of the 50th anniversary of Greene County Freedom Day – July 29, 1969 – when a Special Election was held in the county that elected the first four Black County Commissioners and two additional Black school board members, which gave Black people control of the major agencies of government,” said Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement in Eutaw, Alabama.
This special election in the summer of 1969 was ordered by the United States Supreme Court when the names of Black candidates, running on the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA), were deliberately left off the November 1968 General Election ballot by the ruling white political officials of the time. The special election of July 29, 1969 allowed Black voters, many newly registered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, who were the majority in Greene County to have their say in a free and democratic election.
This was a historic event, which heralded a change in political power across the Alabama Black Belt and began a generational shift in the political power in Greene County that has continued for fifty years.
“As part of our commemorative celebration on the weekend of July 27 and 28, 2019, we will be unveiling and dedicating three monuments with the names of the ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to changing the history of Greene County, the Alabama Black Belt, the South and the nation,” said Gordon.
The three monuments will be dedicated on Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.
The first monument will be for the Carver High School Class of 1965 and other Greene County school students, who boycotted classes and closed the schools to demonstrate against segregated schools and unacceptable civil rights conditions in Greene County at that time. The Class of 1965 closed the schools for the remainder of the spring 1965 semester and there was no formal graduation that year. Many of the students received a “Freedom Diploma” signed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph D. Abernathy and James Orange, at Brown’s Chapel Church in Selma, Alabama later in the summer.
The monument at the former Carver High School, now the Robert H. Cook Community Center, features the names of over 120 young people that took part in the school boycott and demonstrations of 1965, which led to the voting rights and election struggles later in that decade.
The second monument will be placed in front of ‘The Freedom House’, home of the late Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter on Highway 14 in Eutaw. These two courageous sisters, one a businesswoman and the other a school teacher, allowed their home to be used, starting in the 1960’s and continuing into the 1990’s for strategy sessions and political action planning meetings related to the civil and voting rights struggles of Greene County.
The third monument to be placed in front of the current Robert Brown Middle School and former Greene County High School site, to honor the young African-American students who first integrated the schools of Greene County in the 1960’s. The names of 45 or more persons are on this marker.
On Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 6:00 PM there will be a banquet honoring the foot soldiers who participated in the civil rights and voting rights movement of the 1960’s in Greene County. Among the living leaders who participated in the struggle, who have agreed to attend are: Rosie Carpenter (who now lives in Bowie, Maryland), Bill Edwards (Portland, OR), Atty. Sheryl Cashin (daughter of John Cashin from Washington, D. C.) Fred Taylor, Tyrone Brooks, and Dexter Wimbush (Georgia), Wendell H. Paris (Jackson, MS), Judge John England, Hank Sanders, Sen. Bobby Singleton and many other dignitaries.
On Sunday July 28, 2019, at 4:00 PM there will be a Freedom Rally, honoring the fallen Black political leaders of Greene County, at the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw.
The rally will be followed by a fish-fry and watermelon eating fellowship meeting on the grounds of the old Courthouse in Eutaw.
For more information and to support the Freedom Day 50th anniversary celebration, contact: Spiver Gordon, Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement, Inc., P. O. Box 385, Eutaw, Alabama 35462; phone 205-372-3446;
email:
spiverwgordon@
hotmail.com

Rally held in Columbiana, on the sixth anniversary of the Shelby vs. Holder Supreme Court decision invalidating critical parts of the Voting Rights Act

Press conference after Rally

A hundred people gathered on the lawn of the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana, Alabama on June 25, 2019, the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby vs. Holder to protest and call for renewal of the Voting Rights Act.
The protest in Columbiana was part of a series of national events, coordinated by “Lift Our Vote 2020”, to restore the preclearance and other provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which were stripped away in the Shelby vs. Holder Supreme County decision.
The Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision in June 2013, decided that due to progress in voting rights, that states and political subdivisions that previously had been required tosubmit changes in voting rules and procedures, such as district lines, polling place locations and times, early voting, voter ID, and many others, were no longer required to seek preclearance from the U. S. Department of Justice for these changes.
As a result of this Supreme Court decision many states, particularly in the southern states of the ‘ old Confederacy’ have instituted changes to make it more difficult for Black and other minority people to vote. In Alabama and other states, strict photo identification requirements have been put in place, early voting has been curtailed, voter lists have been severely purged as a result of the decision.
Bernard Simelton, State President of the NAACP said, “When five justices on the Supreme Court gutted the VRA in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, they made it easier for states and localities to revert back to discriminatory practices that restrict the voting rights of Black, Brown, Native American, and Asian American people.  It is time we address this injustice so that we have the tools to effectively combat current racial discrimination in voting.”
Attorney Faya Rose Toure from Selma said, “The Shelby vs. Holder decision was the 21st century version of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1850, which said that Black people had no rights that white people were bound to respect. We must work to restore the VRA and make sure that our people vote in every election for every contest on the ballot.”
Faya Rose and Jessica Barker spoke about plans for an August 3 to 7 bus ride to support amending and strengthening the Voting Rights Act . The buses will leave Selma that morning and drive to state capitols in Montgomery, Atlanta, Columbia, Raleigh, Richmond and on to Washington D. C. There will be a major rally in Washington D. C. on August 6, the 54th. anniversary of the passage and signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Rev. Kenneth Glascow of The Ordinary People’s Society, based in Dothan, Alabama spoke to the problems of disenfranchisement of incarcerated and prevuiously incarcerated people in Alabama and other states. “ We must make sure that people in jails awaiting trial can vote before their convictions and we must restore the vote to any persons who complete their prison sentences,” he said.
John Zippert speaking on behalf of the Alabama New South Coalitrion and the SOS Coalition for Justice and Democracy urged everyone to register to vote, to organize people in their communities to vote and to vote in every election for all for all conytests and items on the ballot.
For more information contact Alabama New South Coalition at 334/262-0932 or alabamanewsouth@aol.com and
Lift Our Vote 2020 at Liftourvote@gmail.com.

Greene County BBCF Community Associates launch shoe drive to raise funds for community grants

BBCF Community Associates L to R: Mollie Rowe, John Zippert, Miriam Leftwich and Carol Zippert

Eutaw, Al 2019 – Greene County Community Associates (GCCA) of the Black Belt Community Foundation are conducting a shoe drive fundraiser starting May 20, 2019 thru July 20, 2019 to raise funds to support community local level grants to be distributed in Greene County next year.
GCCA will earn funds based on the total weight of the pairs of gently worn, used and new shoes collected, as Funds2Orgs will issue a check for the collected shoes. Those dollars will come back to benefit Greene County organizations through the foundation’s community grants program. Anyone can help by donating gently worn, used and new shoes to GCCA members or at the Greene County Democrat Office – 206 Prairie Avenue, Eutaw – our primary collection point..
All donated shoes will then be redistributed throughout the Funds2Orgs network of micro-enterprise (small business) partners. Funds2Orgs works with micro-entrepreneurs in helping them create, maintain and grow small businesses in developing countries where economic opportunity and jobs are limited. Proceeds from the sales of the shoes collected in shoe drive fundraisers are used to feed, clothe and house their families. One budding entrepreneur in Haiti even earned enough to send to her son to law school.
“We are excited about our shoe drive,” said Miriam L. Leftwich, GCCA County Coordinator. “We know that most people have extra shoes in their closets they would like to donate to us. By doing so, we raise money for BBCF Community Grants, and we have the chance to help families in developing nations who need economic opportunities. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
By donating gently worn, used and new shoes to the Greene County Community Associates, the shoes will be given a second chance and make a difference in people’s lives around the world.
The Greene County Community Associates ask you to encourage others to donate shoes to this worthwhile cause.
Contact any member of Greene County Community Associates: Miriam Leftwich, Rodney Pham, Mollie Rowe, Geraldine Walton, Carol Zippert, John Zippert, Johnni Strode Morning, Andrea Perry. Nancy Cole, Valerie Watkins, Darlene Robinson or Johnny Williams.
The primary collection point at the Greene County Democrat will be open on Mondays from 8:30 AM to 2:00 PM; Tuesday- Thursdays from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM; and Fridays from 8:30 to Noon. Special arrangements for shoe drop-offs can be made by calling the Democrat at 205-372-3373.
You may also contact any member of the BBCF Greene County Community Associates, including Miriam L. Leftwich, County Coordinator at 205-496-2070 or by email at Leftwicm@bellsouth.net, for more information on the shoe drive.