Two Greene County teachers – Mrs. Alisa Ward Allen and Mrs. Sandra Gordon – were honored as part of a memorial service held by the Alabama State Association of School Boards (AASB) at their October 17th Fall training conference in Montgomery.
The AASB honored sixty Alabama school board members, educators and school staff lost to the COVID-19 pandemic with a special space on the grounds of its Montgomery headquarters office at the corner of South Jackson and Houston Streets.
The association chose to create a permanent memorial space to commemorate the loss of those who dedicated their time to schools and school systems statewide. The new memorial features a special bench, oak tree and garden that will serve as a public space of reflection and remembrance for all whose lives they touched.
“Our school systems have experienced so much unprecedented adversity due to the pandemic – the most difficult of which has been the loss of so many dedicated school employees and leaders, and we felt compelled to recognize that in a meaningful way,” said AASB Executive Director Sally Smith. “We hope this memorial will serve as a poignant tribute to these education heroes who touched so many lives. We invite all to join us for this moment of reflection.” State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and AASB President and Baldwin County Board of Education Member Shannon Cauley delivered remarks at the ceremony. Leo Branch, Greene County School Board member, attended and represented Greene County at the memorial ceremony. Mrs. Alisa Ward taught Language /Art and Mrs. Sandra Gordon was a Reading Coach both taught at Robert Brown Middle School.
Claudette Colvin was 15 was she was arrested and given indefinite probation for refusing to surrender her seat on a segregated Montgomery city bus, nine months before Rosa Parks. Now she’s 82 and a resident of an assisted living facility in Birmingham, and she’s lived her life with that probation, which was never lifted. That could be about to change. Colvin plans to file a petition Tuesday in Montgomery Juvenile Court to have the records associated with her 1955 arrest expunged, attorney Phillip Ensler said. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated busing the year after Colvin’s arrest, and she was one of four plaintiffs in that case. Fred Gray, her original attorney, will be beside Colvin as she files the petition Tuesday. Ensler said the push has been led by Colvin’s sister, Gloria Laster. He said because she was placed on “indefinite probation,” her family was always fearful when she came back to visit Montgomery and did not realize the probation ended. Ensler said they want the court to formally clear her name.
“No one ever told her or her family once she became an adult, ‘Hey you’re no longer on probation,’ ” Enser said. “… It made her and her family feel like she’s always going to be under the eye of the government.” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey and state Rep. Merika Coleman all plan to be on hand at the filing, Ensler said. Colvin was charged at the time with assaulting an officer as she was forcibly removed from the bus. She told the Montgomery Advertiser in 2019 that she didn’t remember attacking police, but she remembers other details — like white officers debating her bra size and the sound of the key locking her in the cell. “As a teenager, that’s when I became really scared,” Colvin said at the time. “In an old Western, when the bandits are put in the jail, you can hear the sound of the key go ‘click.’ I could hear the sound when the jailer locked it. I knew I was locked in, and I couldn’t get out. I started crying. I started reciting the 23rd Psalm.” Before filing to clear her record, Colvin will join Gray at the Tuesday dedication of a Montgomery street that’s being renamed in his honor. Colvin’s former attorney grew up on Jeff Davis Avenue in Montgomery, a street named for the president of the Confederacy. The Montgomery City Council unanimously voted in October to rename it Fred D. Gray Avenue, despite potentially violating a state law that was enacted in 2017 to protect Confederate monuments.
Montgomery, AL – Peaceful protestors – many in wheelchairs and walkers – gathered at the state Capitol to demand Medicaid expansion and were met by at least 32 armed law enforcement officers, not counting those in Montgomery City Police vehicles. The nearly three dozen armed police remained standing while speakers, including several young activists, continued to plea for Medicaid expansion in Alabama Attorney and Civil Rights Activist Faya Toure said: “It is regretful that such a scene is taking place week after week at SOS events to save lives in a city with a Black Mayor and a Black police chief. Montgomery is known for its historic civil disobedience, which led to Montgomery’s having its first ever Black Mayor elected last year.” Those present included leaders of SOS, the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy, and other human rights and civil rights groups. They met at the historic King Memorial Dexter Avenue Baptist Church at 11:30 a.m. and marched up the street to the Alabama State Capitol facing a sea of armed city police officers for a noon press conference to continue to push for Medicaid expansion. Individuals with physical limitations participated in the march and the press conference and stressed the critical need to expand Medicaid to save lives, now more than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic. Young leaders from across Alabama also participated in today’s events at the Church and the Capitol, including two who were previously arrested and jailed for civil disobedience misdemeanors or “good trouble” as Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed likes to quote the late Congressman John Lewis. SOS and LGBTQ leader Judson Garner called out state leaders for finding money to build private mega prisons while refusing to move to save lives and save hospitals with Medicaid expansion. “We will be paying for these private prisons long after the Governor and other elected leaders have died. They can find billions to warehouse Alabamians in private facilities, but they can’t find a pittance to save lives, build our economy and improve every corner of our state with Medicaid expansion. This is wrong, and all young Alabamians – and all Alabamians – should be outraged.” Kumasi Amin with Black Lives Matter and SOS said: “This movement consists of people of all ages, and we will not stop until Medicaid is expanded. We will continue to stand side by side, recognizing that the issues that affect our elders also affect us intergenerationally. Just as we watch our Black brothers and sisters being murdered at the hands and knees of law enforcement across this country, we also see people needlessly dying and suffering in Alabama because of the failure to expand Medicaid and the lack of health coverage and healthcare. I myself will lose my health coverage when I turn 26 this year. And Black people are dying throughout this city, state and nation because of policies at all levels of government.” Alabama remains one of only 12 states in America that has taken no action to expand Medicaid. Because of the state’s ongoing failure to act, thousands of Alabamians have needlessly died in Alabama since Medicaid expansion was made available to all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. “This is unforgivable,” said Law Professor Emerita Martha Morgan. Travis Jackson with Black Lives Matter and SOS who is also a veteran of the Iraqi War said: “How can the State of Alabama find billions of dollars for private prisons and yet can’t find a penny to expand Medicaid? How can leaders of good faith justify such actions? There is no justification, and Alabama must expand Medicaid now.” SOS leaders John Zippert and Johnny Ford, who have been a part of the movement to expand Medicaid from day one, also made remarks as well as brought individuals with physical limitations to participate in today’s events. Eutaw resident Gus Richardson urged the state, “Expand Medicaid NOW!” Zippert said, “More than 340,000 Alabamians fall in the gap between current Medicaid eligibility and ability to qualify for subsidized health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. These uninsured Alabamians are placing financial pressure on all hospitals and causing many smaller rural hospitals to close. Expanding Medicaid in Alabama will save 700 lives a year of people dying because they lack health insurance coverage. With the coronavirus, many more people with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and others, which go untreated because they lack insurance, are suffering higher death rates from the pandemic.” Ford said, “We welcome persons directly affected by the lack of Medicaid Expansion in the State of Alabama, to join us in our SOS weekly protests to urge Governor Ivey to do the right thing. We want more people directly impacted by the lack of health insurance in Alabama to testify at our SOS rallies and press conferences to put more pressure on the Governor.” Annie Pearl Avery who was on the bridge in Selma, Alabama on Bloody Sunday in 1965 said: “I have been part of the Civil Rights Movement for six decades. From Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma to Atlanta to Jackson to D.C. and more, I have been on the front lines fighting for civil and human rights. Our fights directly led to Black mayors and other Black elected officials as well as Black police officers, including the nearly three dozen lined up in front of us now. I have also been fighting for Medicaid expansion from the beginning, and I’ll be here fighting for it until Alabama leaders do the right thing and save lives instead of taking lives.” Persons interested in joining or supporting the SOS Movement for Justice and Democracy may contact SOS through the Internet and Facebook. Support can also be sent to the SOS Survival Fund, 838 South Court Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36104; phone 205-262-9032.