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.