Newswire: Keeping the legacy of legendary Supremes star Mary Wilson alive

Mary Wilson

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Mary Wilson was a friend to the Black Press of America, a neighbor to the world, and the radiance she exuded never seem to fade. At 76, the Supremes legend is gone too soon.
Wilson died suddenly late Monday, Feb. 8, at her home just outside of Las Vegas.
“I was extremely shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a major member of the Motown family, Mary Wilson of the Supremes,” Motown founder Berry Gordy wrote in a statement emailed to NNPA Newswire.
Gordy emphasized, “The Supremes were always known as the ‘sweethearts of Motown.’ Mary, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, came to Motown in the early 1960s. After an unprecedented string of number one hits, television and nightclub bookings, they opened doors for themselves, the other Motown acts, and many, many others.”
“I was always proud of Mary,” Berry Gordy concluded.  “She was quite a star in her own right and continued to work hard to boost the legacy of the Supremes over the years. Mary Wilson was extremely special to me. She was a trailblazer, a diva, and will be deeply missed.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, affirmed, “On behalf of NNPA Chair Karen Cater Richards and all of the 230 African American NNPA member publishers across the United States and the Caribbean, we pause solemnly today to pay tribute and our profound respects to the living memory, legacy and cultural genius of our beloved Mary Wilson. She loved and supported the Black Press of America, and we will always love and keep Mary Wilson’s transformative spirit in our hearts as the NNPA continues to publish truth to power in America and throughout the world.”
In a 2020 interview on the Black Press of America’s “Fiyah!” livestream program, Wilson talked about her life and career and her long pursuit of having Florence Ballard memorialized with a United States Postal Service stamp.“People forget that Florence Ballard not only gave us our name, but she formed the group,” Wilson revealed on “Fiyah!”

“It was really Flo who formed us, and I want people to know that. I am putting together a program to get Florence Ballard a U.S. stamp, hopefully, so I want people to send their request and say something about Florence. All those hits were Florence, so when you listening to [The Supremes], it’s about Flo, so I want people who listen to those songs that bring back memories, think about Flo.”
A singer, best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, mother, and grandmother, the legendary Mary Wilson made great strides on her inevitable journey to greatness.
As an original/founding member of The Supremes, she changed the face of popular music to become a trendsetter who broke down social, racial, and gender barriers, which all started with the wild success of their first number one song.
Formed in Detroit as The Primettes in 1959, The Supremes were Motown’s most successful act of the 1960s, scoring 12 No. 1 singles.
They also continue to reign as America’s most successful vocal group to date. Their influence not only carries on in contemporary R&B, soul, and pop, but they also helped pave the way for Black artists’ mainstream success across all genres.
Mary achieved an unprecedented 12 No.1 hits, with 5 of them being consecutive from 1964-1965. Those songs are “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again,” according to Billboard Magazine.
In 2018, Billboard celebrated the 60th anniversary of Motown with a list of “The Hot 100’s Top Artists of All Time”, where The Supremes ranked at No. 16 and remain the No. 1 female recording group of all time.
Jan. 21, 2021, marked the 60th anniversary of the day The Supremes signed with Motown in 1961. This year, Mary kicked off the celebration of the 60th anniversary of The Supremes.
“With the same passion as she did singing with the original Supremes as well as with her solo career, the world-renowned performer was an advocate for social and economic challenges in the United States and abroad,” Wilson’s longtime publicist and friend, Jay Schwartz, said.
“Ms. Wilson used her fame and flair to promote a diversity of humanitarian efforts, including ending hunger, raising HIV/AIDS awareness, and encouraging world peace. Mary was working on getting a U.S. postage stamp of her fellow bandmate and original Supreme Florence Ballard who passed away in 1976,” Schwartz said.
In 2018, Mary’s longtime fight for the passage of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) came to fruition when it was signed into law on Oct. 11.
The law modernized copyright-related issues for new music and audio recordings due to new forms of technology like digital streaming, which did not protect music recorded before Feb. 15, 1972, according to Schwartz.
Her tireless advocacy for this legislation included trips to Washington D.C. to personally meet with Congress members to advocate for legacy artists gaining fair compensation when their songs are played on digital radio stations, Schwartz continued.
“I think that The Supremes had a lot to do with the awakening of the world in terms of what blackness was,” Wilson said in her 2020 NNPA interview. “The whole world was watching Black people in a way they’d never seen.”

Greenetrack Charities schedule scholarship awards to GCH graduates in postsecondary programs

Arlexia Davis
Shelton State
Community
College
Willie Davis
Shelton State
Community
College
Kyla Davis
Shelton State
Community
College
Elouise Edwards
Shelton State
Community
College
LaTaursa Jones Jr.
Alabama State
University
Sharlisa Taylor Shelton State Community
College
Quantayia Williams Alabama A& M University

Greenetrack, Inc, through its sponsoring charities, has committed a $1000 scholarship award to each Greene County High School 2020 graduate who is enrolled in a postsecondary educational program. The scholarship awards will be administered to a group of graduates monthly. This month’s recipients include Elouise Edwards, Arlexia Davis, Willie Davis, Kyla Davis, LaTaursa Jones, Jr., Sharlisa Taylor Quantiayia Williams JaQuez Hutton and Nigel Speights.
The non-profit charities operating electronic bingo at Greenetrack in Eutaw, AL, E-911 Communication Services, the Greene County Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, and Woman to Woman, Inc., provided charitable contributions, for the month of September, to a variety of local organizations, all benefitting Greene County residents.
According to Luther Winn, Greenetrack CEO, Greenetrack charities operating electronic bingo at Greenetrack are following the rules set forth by Sheriff Jonathan Benison but they have decided to provide the funds directly rather than through the Sheriff’s office.
A total of $71,100 dollars was divided and given to the following charities:
Greene County Board of Education ($13,500); Greene County Hospital ($7,500); Greene County Commission ($24,000); City of Eutaw ($4,500); City of Union ($3,000); City of Boligee ($3,000); City of Forkland ($3,000); and High School Graduates College Scholarships ($9,000).
The following non-profit groups received $300: Greene County Nursing Home, SCORE, Greene County Golf Course, James C. Pool Memorial Library, Greene County Foster & Adoptive Parents Association, PARA, Greene County Housing Authority Youth Involvement, Children’s Policy Council, Reach, Greene County DHR, Greene County Volunteer Fire Fighters Association, and the Society of Folk Arts and Culture.

Commissioner Turner places item on agenda to advertise for legal representation

The Greene County Commission held its regular monthly meeting Monday, September 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm. Prior to any action taken on the agenda, Commissioner Lester Brown raised concerns about item 11 on the agenda which had not been proposed and discussed in the commission’s work session held the previous Wednesday. Agenda Item 11 called for advertising for legal representation for the commission.
In the course of the discussion, it was revealed that only Commissioner Roshanda Summerville had received a call, prior to the meeting, from Commission Chairperson Allen Turner, Jr. informing her that item 11 would be on the agenda. Commissioner Corey Cockrell stated that he had not been told the item would be on the agenda, but he could recall other instances when items, not discussed in a work session were placed on the following agenda.
According to Commissioner Brown, the Commission’s Policies and Procedures require that there must be a unanimous decision by the commission before an item can be added to the agenda. This can be substantiated by statements contained in the Commission’s Rules of Order document:
Rules of Procedure, Section V
Order of Business
“A. There shall be an official agenda for every meeting of the Commission, including special and emergency meetings. …The agenda for the regularly scheduled meetings shall identify the items to be considered and determine the order of business to be conducted at the meeting.
…The agenda shall be established prior to each meeting under procedures to be adopted by the County Commission.
J. Any departure from the order of business set forth in the official agenda shall be made only upon affirmative vote of all the members of the Commission present at the meeting.
L. Additions to the agenda shall only be made by affirmative vote of all the members of the Commission present at the meeting.”Both Commissioners Lester Brown and Tennyson Smith stated that Turner had disrespected them in placing an item on the agenda without contacting them for their input.
The agenda was eventually approved with three votes.
Following an executive session, the commission approved all the items on the agenda, with little clarity as to how item 11 would be executed. According to Commissioner Lester Brown, he offered a motion to put a contract in place with the commission’s current legal representative, Attorney Hank Sanders. “My motion was to replace what was presented in Item 11, with a contract for the attorney” Brown stated. Brown’s motion was approved, however, a spokesperson in the commission’s office stated that the commission agreed to put a contract in place and advertise for legal representation.
Commissioner Turner stated in a later conversation that the commission voted to approve Agenda Item 11 to advertise for legal representative and include providing a contract. “Our current attorney is not under contract with the commission. He can show up or not show up. His contract expired years ago and was not dealt with,” he said. Turner also acknowledged that Attorney Sanders was not notified that the commission intended to advertise for legal representation.
When asked if he had someone in mind to bring in as legal counsel for the commission, Turner responded: “ That is something the commission will decide.”
Other actions taken by the commission included the following:
Approved the 2019-2020 School Resource Officers (SRO) Contract. Reportedly, the commission had not received the 2019-2020 contract from the Sheriff’s office during that school term.
Approved the Errors Report as presented by Revenue Commissioner’s office.
Approved the transfer of 2014 Dodge Ram truck from Road Department to Maintenance Department.
*Approved agreement with Terracon for aquifer testing at landfill for cost of #3,500.
Approved option to close unused landfill at cost of $30,245.
Approved renewing CIMS agreement for period of October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021.
Approved engineering soliciting proposals for bridge replacement for STR#30032-265, bridge on County Road 60.
Approved ratifying removal of a tree on a building at Robert Brown Middle School.
With the county’s fiscal year ending, September 30, the finance department reported the budget balances for the various departments. As of September, the commission had 8% of budget remaining; Circuit Court Judge had 19%; District Judge had 19%; Circuit Clerk had 9%; District Attorney had 5%; Court Reported had 3%; Probate Judge had1%;Appraisal Office had 29%; Revenue Commission had 6%; Elections had -7%; Board of Registrars had 8%; Maintenance had 0%; Sheriff had 0%; Jail had 9%; EMA had 8%;Coroner had 41%; Youth Services had 0%; E911 had 0%; Library had 27%; and Board of Education had 0

GCHS gets military-grade medical tent for COVID-19 patients

Shown above Dr. Marcia Pugh, Greene County Health System CEO, Bob Wilson, Jr., President of Andrew Development Company, Inc., Shelia  Smith, President of the TSPSL. and Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, (not pictured) Billy McFarland, TSPSL, Treasurer, inspecting the setup of the military-grade medical tent, donated by Wilson’s Company. The medical tent is an extension of the Emergency Department of the GCHS consisting of 6 rooms for patients, a procedure room, and a laundry room on back of the facility. This new set up will be utilized to help with COVID-19 crises. It allows the staff to isolate the Covid patients coming in for care.

Newswire: Coalition of civil rights leaders support CBC in protecting Black health

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


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 3, 2020 – National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., National Action Network (NAN) Founder Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the Black Women’s Health Imperative, are up in arms because they say too many Washington politicians are protecting insurance company profits over health care for African Americans.
Collectively, they argue that too often, insurance companies refuse to cover emergency services, and either patients are forced to pay bills they cannot afford, or hospitals are shuttering.
Congress claims to be tackling this challenge, but until the Congressional Black Caucus got involved, Congress focused only on protecting insurer profits, not people, according to the coalition.
Chavis, Sharpton, and others are throwing their support behind the CBC.
They’re asking that others also support the CBC.
Led by Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the 55-member CBC has worked almost non-stop in fighting for health equity in the African American community.
The CBC works to protect and expand voting rights, comprehensive criminal justice reform, building a more inclusive economy, and ensuring access to quality and affordable healthcare.
A primary focus of the CBC remains to target insurance companies that have disproportionately neglected the needs of African Americans while also providing below standard care.
“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 has stated.
He and the other leaders have continued to express strong opposition to any legislation that would give insurers more control over health care prices.
In their continued push for health equality, the group is working to ensure that insurance companies expand their networks and cover more emergency services. This will maintain access to care in hard-hit Black communities. “The status quo means hospitals in our communities close first,” the group noted in a statement.
“We cannot let this happen. Together, we can ensure that the old way of doing business – putting insurance company profits over people – STOPS.”
They continued: Join us and support the CBC. Help us work to make sure Congress passes a bill that keeps us healthy and alive by allowing insurance networks to grow and cover lifesaving services.”

County Commission issues update on access to facilities and services

In an effort to protect and keep the community informed of county services, the Greene County Commission has issued the following notice to the public.
Because of concerns about the Coronavirus Pandemic and the emergencies declared by the Federal Goverment, State Government and the County of Greene, the William M. Branch County Courthouse and other county facilities will be partially closed as follows:
The Courthouse will be closed to the public entering except for employees and those involved in casting absentee ballots for the July 14, 2020 Primary Runoff Election.
The public may contact county departments by phone, email, U.S. Postal to have their issues addressed. The contact information will be posted and otherwise made available. 3. County Department heads will maintain at least one employee on duty during business hours to receive U.S. Postal mail, emails and phone calls and direct all calls and/or emails to the appropriate departmental employees working at home. Employees who are not at the regular work site will be at home and available by phone during business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Department heads may rotate employees so that each employee in the department will work in the courthouse or other county sites during the duly allotted workdays.
This emergency policy does not apply to the Sheriff Department, Jail Department whose approaches to health and safety while protecting and serving the county and its citizen will be established and implemented by the Sheriff of Greene County.
This policy does not apply to the Highway Department which will continue its regular operations but will establish adequate preliminary health procedures to protect employees and the public.
This notice of the Greene County Commission will be posted at the Courthouse and at other county facilites as will any amendments to this written statement of emegency policy.
Allen Turner, Jr., 
Chairman of the
Greene County Commission

Newswire: State of Emergency declared for Black America as public health experts reveal Coronavirus is airborne

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton
While many medical doctors maintain that the novel coronavirus is transmitted through droplets from coughs or sneezes, more and more medical experts and officials who work primarily with infectious respiratory illnesses and aerosols are convinced that the disease is airborne.
Today, as a result of recent medical research and data, The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. has issued a solemn national public warning and alert to nearly 50 million African Americans. “Black America is now in a state of emergency as a result of the disproportionately deadly impact of the coronavirus pandemic on our families and communities across the United States,” Chavis stated. “The coronavirus is now airborne. That means that the coronavirus can be in air that we breath.”
“Black Americans should stay at home and only leave home for critical life-essential reasons,” Chavis emphasized. “In fact, all Americans should stay at home to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But I must emphasize that because before the spread of the coronavirus, Black Americans were already disproportionately burdened with multiple preexisting health conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, our communities are more vulnerable to the impact of the coronavirus, including higher rates of fatalities.”
A Pro Publica report revealed that African Americans made up almost half of Milwaukee County’s 945 cases and 81 percent of its 27 deaths in a county whose population is only 26 percent Black. Milwaukee is one of the few places in the United States that is tracking the racial breakdown of people who have been infected by the novel coronavirus, offering a glimpse at the disproportionate destruction it is inflicting on Black communities nationwide.
In Michigan, where the state’s population is 14 percent Black, African Americans made up 35 percent of cases and 40 percent of deaths as of Friday, April 3. Detroit, where a majority of residents are Black, has emerged as a hot spot with a high death toll. As has New Orleans, according to Pro Publica.
Louisiana has not published case breakdowns by race, but 40 percent of the state’s deaths have happened in Orleans Parish, where the majority of residents are Black.
Illinois and North Carolina are two of the few areas publishing statistics on COVID-19 cases by race, and their data shows a disproportionate number of African Americans were infected, according to the report.
“We know in the US that there are great discrepancies in not only the diagnosis but the treatment that African Americans and other minorities are afforded,” stated Dr. Ebony Hilton, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia Health Systems.
“So, I want to make sure that in this pandemic, that Black and brown people are treated in the same way and that these tests are made available in the same pattern as for white people,” Dr. Hilton said.
Medical experts have also sounded the alarm that the virus could well be transmitted through the air.
“Currently available research supports the possibility that (COVID-19) could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients’ exhalation,” Harvey Fineberg, who heads a standing committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, wrote in an April 1, 2020 letter to Kelvin Droegemeier, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). “One must be cautious in imputing the findings with one respiratory virus to another respiratory virus, as each virus may have its own effective infectious inoculum and distinct aerosolization characteristics,” Fineberg wrote.
“Studies that rely on PCR to detect the presence of viral RNA may not represent virus in sufficient amounts to produce infection. Nevertheless, the presence of viral RNA in air droplets and aerosols indicates the possibility of viral transmission via these routes.”
Fineberg penned the letter in response to a request from the White House OSTP. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a standing committee of experts to help inform OSTP on critical science and policy issues related to emerging infectious diseases and other public health threats. The standing committee includes members with expertise in emerging infectious diseases, public health, public health preparedness and response, biological sciences, clinical care and crisis standards of care, risk communication, and regulatory issues.
“The results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” Fineberg wrote.
He noted an airflow modeling study that followed a coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong in the early 2000s supports the potential for transmission via bioaerosols.
In that study, the significantly increased risk of infection to residents on higher floors of a building that was home to an infected individual indicated to the researchers a pattern of disease consistent with a rising plume of contaminated warm air.
“In the mind of scientists working on this, there’s absolutely no doubt that the virus spreads in the air. This is a no-brainer.” Lidia Morawska, at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, told the medical website, nature.com.
A March 2020 Cambridge Research study of those with influenza revealed that 39 percent of individuals exhaled infectious aerosols, which experts noted that, as long as an airspace is shared with someone else, breathing in the air they exhale, it’s possible for airborne transmission of the coronavirus.
“It’s airborne,” Dr. Angela Guerrera, an emergency medicine specialist in New Jersey, told NNPA Newswire. “If someone has the disease, they don’t have to cough and sneeze or spit. If you then go into their space, you can probably get it,” Dr. Guerrera stated.
Some experts said they are convinced that a primary reason that governments and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have shied away from stating that the virus is in the air is to prevent panic and because it could take years and cost hundreds of millions of lives before indisputable evidence can be presented.

Alabama Civil Rights Museum presents Black History program

Circuit Judge John England, Jr., receives Certificate of Appreciation from Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement. Shown L to R; Lorenzo French Judge England, Spiver Gordon, Fred Daniels and Rev. James Carter.
LaVondia B. Smith, Artistic Director of Nathifa African Dance Company, leads a performance at Black History Program

The Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement of Greene County presented a program honoring Black History on Sunday, February 23, 2020 at the Eutaw Activity Center.
The theme of the meeting was “Voting because a Voteless People is a Hopeless People” and most of the speakers highlighted these thoughts in their comments.
Circuit Judge John England of Tuscaloosa was the keynote speaker. Earlier in his legal career he served as County Attorney for Greene County. He also was one of the first Black City Council members in Tuscaloosa and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama.
Judge England spoke to some legal cases he was involved in relating to Greene County, after Black voters attained political control, which showed the continuing struggle for voting rights since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“I have learned a lot of Black History working with Greene County over the years,” said England. He cited his legal defense of Spiver W. Gordon and Frederick Douglass Daniels in the 1985 absentee balloting cases. He was also involved with the defense of Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner and Spencer Hogue in a similar absentee ballot case in Perry County, which was initiated by Jeff Sessions, when he was U. S. Attorney in Mobile.
The Greene County absentee ballot case led to a case against the government for striking all Black members from the jury. England also reviewed cases involving blocking Richard Osborne from serving as Greene County District Judge because of a juvenile conviction for stealing a $50 hub-cap. Osborne was eventually seated after a case against Ralph Banks II who was awarded the seat because he came in second, which England challenged in court and had overturned.
England reviewed his work in a case, which allowed the local legislative delegation to name the Greene County Racing Commission rather than the Governor. This happened after the 1986 elections after which Blacks were elected to the state legislative seats representing Greene County. England reviewed these cases and others to show that Black history must include a continuing vigilance for efforts to disenfranchise and dilute the votes of Black people, especially in places like Greene County and the Alabama Black Belt where Black people have used the ballot to win political power.
“There is a continuing effort to limit the power of Black voters in Alabama through voter ID laws, changing polling places, purging voter rolls and other strategies which we must be aware of and challenge,” said England.
He concluded by saying, “No matter how hard and high the odds are stacked against you – you can still succeed and win if you have faith in God and each other that truth and justice will prevail. AS the song says – We have come too far to turn back now!”
As part of the program, the Nathifa African Dance Company of Birmingham gave a thrilling performance of drumming and African dance.
The Greene County Community Choir sang and participated by offering Gospel musical selections. They also sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, the African-American national anthem together with the audience.
Local candidates in the upcoming March 3 primary election were introduced and allowed to make short remarks.

Greene County Commission and Sheriff Benison reach temporary solution on support for 11 additional employees

The Greene County Commission and Sheriff Jonathan Benison have reached a temporary solution regarding the suspended pay for the 11 additional employees in the sheriff’s department.
Immediately following the Greene County Commission’s work session on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, Commission Chairperson Allen Turner, Jr. and Commissioner Roshanda Summerville met with Sheriff Benison to discuss the funds needed for the 11 employees from the Sheriff’s department and other requirements. Attorney Hank Sanders advised Chairperson Turner, mainly by telephone.
As the commissioners and the sheriff deliberated, the session did get heated. Emotions were high. They could be heard by those waiting outside the conference room.
According to an earlier signed agreement between the commission and the sheriff, additional bingo funds from the sheriff would be provided to the county to support the additional 11 employees the sheriff wanted for his department and other requirements. To that date, no additional funds from the sheriff for this purpose had been provided to the commission during this fiscal year which began Oct. 1, 2020.
For the first three months of the fiscal year, the commission transferred funds from other line items of the Sheriff’s department budget to support his additional employees. According to commission records, the sheriff’s county budget does not have funds for any additional transfers. Approximately $153,000 was necessary to meet the payroll of the 11 employees plus overtime and other requirements due for January.
According to the county commission’s records, at the Feb. 5 meeting, the sheriff offered the county a partial payment of $26,666. The commissioners responded that this was unacceptable and following more discussions, the Sheriff added another payment of $18,342 and assured the commission that the balance to make up the $153,000 would be given to the county by Friday, Feb. 7.
The commission, seemingly trusting the Sheriff, released the payroll to the 11 employees, many of whom had gathered awaiting the solution from this session. At the close of business day on Friday, Feb. 7, the county had not received any more bingo funds from the sheriff.
On Monday afternoon, Feb. 10, the county commission received two separate payments from the sheriff’s bingo funds, one for $43,042.56 and one for $32,832,18. Minutes before the commission’s monthly meeting was to begin that evening, the sheriff delivered the final payment of $32,333.26, satisfying the $153,215.44 needed for the suspended January payroll and other requirements. However, this will not cover payroll for the sheriff’s additional 11 employees for the month of February and beyond.
There remain concerns that this same situation is going to repeat itself.

Newswire: Senator Doug Jones emphasizes the importance of the 2020 Black Voter Turnout in exclusive fireside chat with NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis

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

Sen. Doug Jones shaking hands with NNPA’s Ben Chavis;


Jones makes a point to Chavis during interview


The importance of Black voter turnout, the Reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, bipartisan politics, the Futures Act and environmental justice, counted among the topics candidly tackled during a historic fireside chat between National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., and Alabama’s Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat.
Held inside the Hart Building at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., the engaging hour-long conversation marked the first time that a sitting U.S. Senator sat down for a live-streamed video with the Black Press of America.
During the discussion, Jones said that voter turnout – particularly that of African Americans – was crucial to his stunning upset of Republican Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama Special Election.
“The right to vote was hard fought for African Americans in this country, and I think too many people take that for granted. I think we proved that in the special election in 2017, that every vote counts,” said Jones.
Jones said voting rights had been under attack since the 2013 Shelby V. Holder decision, which eliminated a lot of voter protections. “It’s not the same as the old Jim Crow laws, but there’s still efforts out there to suppress votes and keep people from having that free access to the booths,” he stated.
Jones noted that he’s working to restore “teeth” in the Voting Rights Act, but doubts that the current GOP-led Senate and President Trump’s administration would approve. “I don’t see it happening, so it’s all the more important to get out and vote in the 2020 elections,” Jones stated.
Chavis asked Jones about the role Black women played in his winning election to the Senate. “It was critical. We focused on making sure that we got the African American vote out,” Jones stated.
“We did get more African Americans as a percentage out than even when President Obama did in his first race, a fact that I was very proud. The Black community came out and worked hard. It’s community engagement; it’s a 365-days a year job. And, that’s why the Black Press is so important because it keeps the community engaged,” he stated.
Late last year, Trump signed the Futures Act, a bipartisan measure that would put more funding into Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions.
“It was incredibly important. When it comes to federal dollars, there are two pots of money HBCUs get: Mandatory funding and discretionary funding,” said Jones.
“The mandatory funding is absolutely critical so they can plan each year. There’s a lot of budgetary tugs that fought us, it wasn’t easy, but we were just persistent, and that’s the key in legislation in Washington, to be persistent,” he noted.
Jones continued: “So we were able to get that mandatory funding so that a base amount of money would go to HBCUs. In my two years in Washington, we have been able to get about a 30 percent increase in discretionary funding for HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
“Providing that base is important to them and the economy of states like Alabama and North Carolina, and others.”
Chavis spoke to Jones about race relations and asked about the senator’s forecast for the South and whether he sees a more inclusive and diverse South rising. “So many of the divisions we see in the country started in the South. It can also be a place of healing and bringing people back together, and I see tremendous opportunity in the South,” Jones stated.
“I think my election was something that people looked at and said the South was changing. The demographics are changing to some extent, but I think people’s hearts and minds are changing,” he added.
“We went from a one-party state in Alabama with Democrats, to a one-party state with Republicans. There was never anything in between. When you get competitive political parties, you get people who have to talk to each other, and that’s what you need.
“These young people coming up don’t have the same kind of biases and prejudices you saw when I was growing up. They also are beginning to see that the state is better off when everybody in that state benefits from it. I think the South can lead the nation in healing.”
Jones also spoke of the importance of closing the achievement gap, although he said it’s a complicated issue. He said education and getting broadband into rural communities are keys to helping close the gap.
The senator also noted that he’s a proponent of raising the federal minimum wage, but conceded it couldn’t be done overnight. He stated that Trump’s 2017 tax cuts have helped to provide businesses with the needed resources to make a minimum wage hike possible.
With climate change a serious and growing issue, Jones stated the importance of the Black Press to continue to cover topics of environmental justice.“A lot of work needs to be done,” he stated. “But, I don’t have much confidence in the Environmental Protection Agency under this administration, which is why the 2020 election is very important.”
Jones concluded the chat by noting the critical role of the Black Press, his disappointment in mainstream media, and his message to veterans in the wake of the new conflict with Iran.
“I think the press, in general, is critical. Overall, I’m a little disappointed in mainstream media, and I think the Black Press has a unique role, so the Black Press must stay focused on the issues,” Jones stated.