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.

Vote Or Die Campaign moving across state : ANSC Convention discusses youth involvement in voting and creating excitement in the build-up to Dec. 12 election

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Youth involvement panel at ANSC Convention includes William Scott, Moderator and panelists (l to R) Jasmine Walker, Jamia Jackson, Terri Wiggins and Azali Fortier

The Alabama New South Coalition met for its Fall Convention at the Montgomery Windcreek Casino on Saturday, November 2, 2017. The convention was well attended with over 200 delegates from twenty active chapters around the state.
The ANSC Convention was dedicated to creating interest and excitement in the December 12, Special Election for the U. S. Senate seat, vacated by Jeff Sessions. Democrat Doug Jones is running against Republican Roy Moore in a contest with state and national implications that is five weeks away.

The ANSC Convention featured a panel on youth involvement in politics and voting, a play about counteracting voter apathy, a report from county chapters on activities in the ‘Vote Or Die Campaign’ and luncheon speeches from two 2018 gubernatorial hopefuls – Sue Bell Cobb and Walt Maddox- and introduction of other candidates for next year.
The youth panel spoke about ways to motivate voters 18 to 40 to more actively participate in elections by utilizing social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to reach out to millennials on issues of concern to them. William Scott, panel moderator said he was working as the webmaster for the Vote Or Die Campaign Facebook account and for members and chapters to mail in reports and photos of activities that they want posted to this Facebook account.
Several ANSC chapters gave short reports on their work in the ‘Vote Or Die Campaign’ across the state.
• Sam Walker from Dallas County reported that they meet once a week on Thursdays and hold rallies holding ‘Vote Or Die’ signs as human billboards at the bridge in Selma and other sites around the city. We ask motorists to honk their horns in support of the campaign.
• Billy Billingsley of Gadsden is using voter lists from several organizations to do phone banking and door to door canvassing.
• Rebecca Marion of Tallapoosa County said her group was busy putting out Vote Or Die signs and canvassing for absentee voters.
• John Harris of Lee County said his chapter was meeting with ministers to help get out the vote. The chapter is also going into the jail, visiting barbershops, and going door-to-door for registration and absentee ballots.
• Esther Brown said her Project Hope death row prisoners were contacting family and friends to urge them to register and vote in this upcoming Special Election.
• Herman Mixon and Beulah Toney of Madison County reported on efforts to register people at community centers and A & M University. They are using social media to reach and motivate high school and college youth.
• Matilda Hamilton of Tallapoosa County had registered 153 new voters through the school system and was participating in rallies together with Lee County.
• Gus Townes reported that Montgomery County was working on voter registration; also focusing on ex-felons and working with churches to reach and register 1,000 new voters before the November 27, 2017 closing date before the Special Election.
• Rev. Hugh Morris from Talladega County said ANSC, ADC, NAACP, fraternities and sororities were working together to canvas, register and turn out voters. Michael Scales, ANSC Talladega County Chapter President said they were working with Talladega College, pastors and others on the campaign.
• Everett Wess of Jefferson County said the ANSC Chapter was partnering with other groups, had participated in the tailgating leading up to the Magic City Classic football game and other community gatherings to register voters and spread the ‘Vote Or Die Campaign’.
• Carol P. Zippert reported for Greene County that 50 high school students were registered and assisted with proper photo ID’s. A large community meeting was held to explore community issues like the future of the hospital and healthcare, recreational programs for youth and voting. U. S. Senate Candidate Doug Jones listened to the discussion and made remarks at the end. Greene County is now concentrating on absentee ballots and walk-in early voters for the next four weeks.
• A Macon County representative spoke on involving Tuskegee University Students in doing voter registration and canvassing leading up to the special election.
• Senator Hank Sanders reported that he has cut radio and TV ads promoting the importance of voting that are available to be sent to stations around the state. He said he participated in human billboards in Selma to promote the “Vote Or Die Campaign’.
Faya Rose Toure and a group from Selma and other counties did a role-play skit about voter apathy and reasons people give for not voting and how to counteract those concerns. The play was well received by ANSC members.
At the closing luncheon, ANSC members heard from two Democratic candidates who are planning to run in the June 2018 primary. Sue Bell Cobb, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said she proposes an Alabama lottery to generate funds for childcare, K-12 public education and closing the gap between Pell Grants and the cost of college tuition.
Walt Maddox, Mayor of Tuscaloosa said he was running for Governor, “to build a brighter future for Alabama and make Alabama a better state for everyone.” He highlighted his record of rebuilding Tuscaloosa after the April 2011 tornadoes and making it the ninth fastest growing city in America.
Rev. Will Boyd of Florence announced that he was planning to run for Lieutenant Governor in 2018. Audri Scott Williams indicated that she was running for U. S. House of Representatives for District 2 against incumbent Martha Roby. Everett Wess stated he was running for Jefferson County Probate Judge – Place 1.