“We must have two 50%+ Black districts in Alabama” – says Terri Sewell at forum on Voting Rights Act

Special to the Democrat by John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Speaking at a panel on the Voting Rights Act last week at historic 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama 7th District Congresswoman Terri Sewell said clearly, “We must come out of this fight and legal action in the Allen vs. Milligan case, with two majority Black Congressional districts, in Alabama, in terms of voting age population, for it to be fair and equitable. If the Alabama Legislature cannot come up with fair districts, we need to go back to the courts and get the judges to appoint an impartial master to draw the appropriate districts.”

Sewell organized the two panels on the tenth anniversary of the Shelby vs Holder Supreme Court decision, which invalidated and gutted Sections 4 and 5 of the original 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided for pre-clearance of voting changes in states and areas that previously experienced voter suppression and denial. The first panel analyzed the negative impacts of Shelby vs Holder on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities across America.

The second panel was on the impact and follow-through needed for the recent Supreme Court decision in Allen vs Milligan, which supported Section 2 of the VRA and found that the State of Alabama discriminated against the 27% statewide Black voters by only drawing one majority Black Congressional District, when two could be drawn and justified by the 2020 Census.

Evan Milligan, Executive Director of Alabama Forward, a Montgomery based coalition of Black and progressive activists, who is a named plaintiff in the Congressional redistricting case was on the panel, and reported that the
State Legislative committee met on June 27 and will meet again on July 13 to develop a recommended redistricting plan and map to a Special Session of the Legislature, convened by Governor Kay Ivey for July 17 to 21, 2023.

Milligan indicated, “We gave the legislative committee several suggested maps which will provide two majority minority voting districts and keep the western Black Belt counties intact in Congresswoman Sewell’s district, with Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. It will create a new district running from east to west across the state, including the eastern Black Belt counties, Montgomery, Lee (Auburn) and stretching to the Pritchard area of north Mobile County. A copy of that suggested map is included with this story.

Several of the panelists complimented Congresswoman Sewell on her willingness to “unpack” the lop-sided majority of Black voters in her current district and help to work to create two winnable districts for Black candidates. In response, Sewell said she supported any steps to make the redistricting maps more democratic but wanted to assure that there would be two 50%+ winnable districts at the end of the process.

Cliff Albright, Co-Director of Black Voters Matter, on the panel said,
“We are late in getting this change. The Supreme Court ruled last Spring that we would have to use the discriminatory map to vote in the 2022 Congressional elections. This resulted in a Congress controlled by Republicans. The courts and the Alabama Legislature must move swiftly to correct this injustice before the 2024 elections.”

Attorney Marcia Johnson of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, said, “We have cases in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and other states, that could be affected by the decision in the Allen vs Milligan case, which would give Black voters a chance to change the national composition of the Congress in 2024 and make it more progressive and fair for all people.”

In the discussion by the first panel on the impacts of Shelby vs Holder, Tom Seanz, president and General Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) said, “Had it not been for Shelby vs Holder, Texas would be an electoral ‘swing state’ by now. The state adopted so many voter suppression acts, especially at lower levels in counties that make it more difficult for Hispanic and younger voters to participate.

Jaqueline DeLeon, a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) said indigenous people on reservations have difficulty establishing residential addresses, which make it harder to register and also to vote by mail. She said, “Our problems are compounded by poverty and rural isolation which make voting that much harder for Indian people, who hold the balance of power in states like: Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Alaska.”

Congresswoman Sewell concluded the panels by saying we still need to pass the John R. Lewis Voter Advancement Act, which would strengthen the Voting Rights Act by restoring preclearance provisions; and The Freedom to Vote Act, which would create national standards for voting, including mail-in voting across the nation and due away with voter suppression acts passed in the past decades by state legislatures

Newswire: Supreme Court’s Alabama ruling sparks alarm over voting rights

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7) comments on Supreme Court decision
By Lisa Mascaro and Farnoush Amiri, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court’s decision to halt efforts to create a second mostly Black congressional district in Alabama for the 2022 election sparked fresh warnings Tuesday that the court is becoming too politicized, eroding the Voting Rights Act and reviving the need for Congress to intervene.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority put on hold a lower court ruling that Alabama must draw new congressional districts to increase Black voting power. Civil rights groups had argued that the state, with its “sordid record” of racial discrimination, drew new maps by “packing” Black voters into one single district and “cracking” Black voters from other districts in ways that dilute their electoral power. Black voters are 26% of Alabama’s electorate.

In its 5-4 decision late Monday, the Supreme Court said it would review the case in full, a future legal showdown in the months to come that voting advocates fear could further gut the protections in the landmark Civil Rights-era law.
It’s “the latest example of the Supreme Court hacking away at the protections of the voting rights act of 1965,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “Congress must act. We must restore the Voting Rights Act.”
The outcome all but ensures Alabama will continue to send mostly white Republicans to Washington after this fall’s midterm elections and applies new pressure on Congress to shore up voter protections after a broader elections bill collapsed last month. And the decision shows the growing power of the high court’s conservative majority as President Joe Biden is under his own pressures to name a liberal nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
Rep. Terri Sewell, the only Black representative from Alabama, said the court’s decision underscores the need for Congress to pass her bill, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, to update and ensure the law’s historic protections.
“Black Alabamians deserve nothing less,” Sewell said in a statement.
The case out of Alabama is one of the most important legal tests of the new congressional maps stemming from the 2020 census count. It comes in the aftermath of court decisions that have widely been viewed as chiseling away at race-based protections of the Voting Rights Act.
Alabama and other states with a known history of voting rights violations were no longer under federal oversight, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department for changes to their election practices after the court, in its 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, struck down the bill’s formula as outdated.
As states nationwide adjust their congressional districts to fit population and demographic data, Alabama’s Republican-led Legislature drew up new maps last fall that were immediately challenged by civil rights groups on behalf of Black voters in the state.
Late last month, a three-judge lower court, which includes two judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, had ruled that the state had probably violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the political power of Black voters. This finding was rooted, in part, in the fact that the state did not create a second district in which Black voters made up a majority, or close to it.
Given that more than one person in four in Alabama is Black, the plaintiffs had argued the single Black district is far less than one person, one vote.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the three-judge panel wrote in the 225-page ruling.
The lower court gave the Alabama legislature until Friday to come up with a remedial plan.

Late Monday, the Supreme Court, after an appeal from Alabama, issued a stay. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito, part of the conservative majority, said the lower court’s order for a new map came too close to the 2022 election.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined his three more liberal colleagues in dissent.
“It’s just a really disturbing ruling,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a member of the Judiciary Committee, who called the Supreme Court’s decision “a setback to racial equity, to ideals of one person, one vote.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the decision “hits at the guts of voting rights.” She told The Associated Press: “We’re afraid of what will happen from Alabama to Texas to Florida and even to the great state of Ohio.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the court decision exposes the need for Congress to legislate to protect voting rights. The erosion of those rights is “exactly what the Voting Rights Act is in place to prevent.”
Critics went beyond assailing the decision at hand to assert that the court has become political.
“I know the court likes to say it’s not partisan, that it’s apolitical, but this seems to be a very political decision,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., tweeted that the court majority has “zero legitimacy.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., tweeted that the court’s action was “Jim Crow 2.0.”
Alabama Republicans welcomed the court’s decision. “It is great news,” said Rep. Mo Brooks who is running for the GOP nomination for Senate. He called the lower court ruling an effort to “usurp” the decisions made by the state’s legislature.
The justices will at some later date decide whether the map produced by the state violates the voting rights law, a case that could call into question “decades of this Court’s precedent” about Section 2 of the act, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in dissent. Section 2 prohibits racial and other discrimination in voting procedures.
Voting advocates see the arguments ahead as a showdown over voting rights they say are being slowly but methodically altered by the Roberts court.
The Supreme Court in the Shelby decision did away with the preclearance formula under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. And last summer, the conservative majority in Bronvich vs. the Democratic National Committee upheld voting limits in an Arizona case concerning early ballots that a lower court had found discriminatory under Section 2.
With the Alabama case, the court is wading further into Section 2 limits over redistricting maps.
Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Chris England, who is a member of the Alabama Legislature from Tuscaloosa, said he fears the Supreme Court’s action will reverberate and embolden other GOP-controlled states.
“If this was the epicenter of the earthquake, the tremors are going to be felt in state legislatures, city councils and county commissions — all of which are currently going through some form of redistricting right now,” said England.

Newswire: Saturday May 8 – National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day Join ‘Votercade’ from Selma to Montgomery

Poster for John Lewis Voting Rights Day

The Transformative Justice Coalition, joined by hundreds of state and local organizations is sponsoring the National John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Action Day on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The focus of the activities on May 8 is to demand preservation and expansion of voting rights by highlighting the need for Congress to pass national legislation in view of the over 300 voter suppression bills being considered in over 40 state legislatures. The legislation that is being supported includes:

• HR1/S1 – For the People Act • HR4 – the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

• HR51 – Washington D. C. Admissions Act (DC Statehood)

• Addressing the Filibuster The May 8th actions seek to ignite public support for restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act and address one of the greatest obstacles to the passage of civil and voting rights – and one of the last vestiges of slavery – the filibuster!

The coalition is sponsoring more than 100 “Votercades in cities around the country on Saturday afternoon, together with national broadcast of the events on Facebook and other media. In Alabama, the May 8th events are focused on a ‘votercade’ from Selma to Montgomery, retracing the steps of the original 1965 Voting Rights March. Cars will line up at the Brown’s Chapel AME Church in Selma at 11:00 AM and the ride will begin at 1:00 PM after a press conference. The day’s program will end in Montgomery at Celebration Village, King’s Canvas, 1413 Oak Street, Montgomery, AL, where there will be additional speakers, dinner and a fresh food giveaway. For more information, go to the Transformative Justice Coalition website or to the Selma-to-Montgomery Votercade Facebook page.

Newswire: Rep. Terri Sewell: John Lewis left the fight to protect voting rights for us to finish

John Lewis’ steady and persistent voice reminded us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. We must protect it.

By: Terri A. Sewell, Op-Ed in USA Today

Terri A. Sewell

Congressman John Lewis was a beacon of light, hope and inspiration throughout his life. To be in his presence was to experience love, whole-hearted and without exception. He remained until his passing a faithful servant-leader, whose righteousness, kindness and vision for a more equitable future inspired all who were blessed to know him. Though he was so often met with hatred, violence and racial terrorism, it never permeated his being. While Congressman Lewis has left this earth, his legacy fighting for equality and justice lives on.
Now, to honor John, our nation and our leaders must unite behind the cause most dear to him: voting rights. We must restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength so that every American, regardless of color, is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box.
Lewis’ voice has been consistent over the years. He reminded us that the vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy. He dedicated his life to ensuring that all Americans were able to access that most fundamental right, and we owe it to him to ensure that his life’s work was not in vain.
We have seen increased efforts across the nation to make it more difficult to vote. Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, legislatures across the country have implemented proven discriminatory practices like strict voter ID laws, closures of polling places, gerrymandered districts and voter roll purges, disproportionately impacting Black Americans. While Republican lawmakers have defended the laws as necessary to protect against voter fraud, their cries — and fear mongering — is based on myth. Widespread voter fraud is not a legitimate threat to our democracy, but voter suppression is.
H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, would serve as an antidote to the Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling, putting the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Lewis and so many other “foot soldiers” marched, bled and gave their lives for. It is languishing now in the Senate in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk.
Reflecting on Bloody Sunday during his last speech on the Selma bridge in March, Lewis said, “Our country is a better country. … But we have still a distance to travel to go before we get there.”
In memory:Honor John Lewis with a Senate vote on the voting rights he fought for his whole life.
Lewis knew that progress was elusive, that it had to be won and fought for every generation. He also firmly believed that the best days of our nation lie ahead of us. We must continue to call upon his unwavering optimism. As he would say: Never give up. Never give in. Never give out. Keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. And vote.
Restore the Voting Rights Act — for John Lewis, and the country he loved so deeply.
Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., is the first Black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. Follow her on Twitter: @RepTerriSewell

Bridge Crossing Jubilee draws thousands to Selma including Presidential candidates

Members of the Harambe Community Youth Organization at Martin & Coretta King Unity Breakfast in Selma. L to R: Krislynn Black, Ivan Peebles, Brinae Black, Justin Morton and Alphonzo Morton, IV.

Participants in Friday’s Community Conversation at the Dallas County Court House. L. to R. Rev. Otis Tolliver, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Angelina Butler, veteran of the Nashville sit-in movement, Anthony Browder, historian of ancient Africa, Dr. Raymond Winbush, Reparation’s advocate, Johansse Gregory, Dick Gregory’s 10th child, Dr. Ben Chavis, NNPA, standing are Mark Thompson and Faya Rose Toure, moderators of the conversation.
Attorney Stacey Abrams, Georgia voting rights advocate receives 2020 National Unity Award from Faya Rose Toure at Unity Breakfast.
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Prize Laureate from Liberia receives the 2020 International Peace and Justice Award from Ainka Jackson at Unity Breakfast.
Columba Toure of Senagal, West Africa receiving 2020 International Unity Award from Hank Sanders at the Unity Breakfast.

Thousands of people came to Selma, Alabama this past weekend for the Bridge Crossing Jubilee to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1965, which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
More than 20,000 people participated in Sunday’s march reenactment crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge including a number of candidates for the Democratic nomination for President.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee, featuring 50 different events over four days, make it the largest celebration of civil rights and voting rights in America.
In addition to a street festival, parade, golf tournament and other related events there were many important workshops on issues relating to voting rights, reparations, African history, education and many other issues.
On Friday evening there was a mock trail and a public conversation to discuss important issues. On Saturday morning there was a Foot Soldiers Breakfast to honor the 650 ordinary people who participated in the original march and were beaten on the bridge.
On Sunday morning there was the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast to honor persons who have contributed to the civil rights and voting rights movement.
The photos above show some of the honorees and workshop participants.

Newswire : Sewell speaks out against voter suppression at Birmingham field hearing

Cong. Terri Sewell

BIRMINGHAM, AL – The House Administration Subcommittee on Elections held a field hearing Monday to examine voting rights and elections systems in Alabama.

The hearing is one in a series the House committee is holding around the country to create a public record of voter suppression and the need for federal pre-clearance enforcement. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) who introduced legislation earlier this year to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by developing a modern-day formula to determine which states must pre-clear election changes with the Department of Justice, spoke at length about the impact of the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision on voting rights in America.

“We need federal oversight in the state of Alabama,” Sewell said. “You learned today that Alabama has a more restrictive voter ID law now than it did before the Shelby v. Holder case. You learned today that the problem disproportionately affects minorities, rural communities, the elderly and the disabled. … the cost of freedom, we know, is never free. It is paid by those who have fought for this right that we have and for us to sit where we sit in Congress to do the right thing.”

“Alabama has closed polling places, enacted a strict voter ID law, been slow to restore the rights of previously incarcerated citizens, attempted to close DMV offices that issue the valid IDs in predominantly-minority areas and more,” said Elections Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11). “The greatest democracy in the world must not regress. We must recognize our faults and continue to move forward; we must progress.”

Video of Rep. Sewell’s closing statement is available on Congresswomen Tertri Sewell’s official website.

Newswire : Religious leaders arrested in Capitol while demanding restoration of Voting Rights Act

It’s the second week of the six-week revival of the Poor People’s Campaign.

By Kira Lerner, Think Progress

Barber and Jackson

 Rev. Barber and Rev. Jackson in protest.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Revs. Jesse Jackson, William Barber, and other prominent religious leaders were arrested for demonstrating in the U.S. Capitol on Monday, demanding the restoration of the Voting Rights Act and the end of racial gerrymandering.
Dozens of others were also arrested across the country as part of the second week of protests organized by the revival of the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that originated in 1968 with Martin Luther King Jr. at the helm. The campaign, a coalition of progressives and faith-based organizations, plans to hold demonstrations and risk arrest every Monday for six weeks.
At a rally ahead of the demonstration in the Capitol Rotunda, Barber drew a connection between systemic racism and policies that suppress voters of color.
“America’s democracy was under attack long before the 2016 election by racist voter suppression and gerrymandering, which are tools of white supremacy designed to perpetuate systemic racism,” he said. “These laws target people of color but hurt Americans of all races by allowing politicians to get elected who block living wages, deny union rights, roll back Medicaid, attack immigrants, and underfund public education.”
Throughout the six weeks, Barber and the other organizers hope to draw attention to the policies and laws that keep 140 million Americans trapped in poverty. On Monday, voting advocates highlighted how racial gerrymandering, voter ID laws, an other suppressive voting measures keep people of color from gaining political power.
Since 2010, 23 states have passed voter suppression laws, the Poor People’s Campaign noted, including redistricting laws and measures that block certain voters from the polls, like cuts to early voting days and opportunities, voter ID laws, and purges of the voter rolls.
Jimmie Hawkins, a pastor with North Carolina’s only African American Presbyterian church, testified in court hearings in 2015 against North Carolina’s voting law that an appeals court later found targeted black voters with “almost surgical precision.” On Monday, he joined the demonstration to argue that lifting Americans out of poverty involves eliminating voting laws like the one overturned in his state.
“Those who have the most to lose when they are not unable to vote should not have barriers placed before them when they try to vote,” he said.
David Goodman, whose brother Andrew was murdered by the KKK 54 years ago next month while he was participating in the Freedom Summer, also spoke at the rally about the voter intimidation and suppression his brother was fighting.
“Here we are, again, dealing with the same issue,” he said, pointing to the Supreme Court which gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. “The struggle for which my brother died for is not over.”
As they marched, two by two, from the Capitol lawn into the rotunda, the demonstrators held signs reading, “Voter Suppression = The True Hacking of Our Democracy” and remained silent because, as Barber and Jackson noted, people in power want them to be silenced.

Newswire : Rev. Frederick D. Reese, one of the Selma ‘Elite Eight’ that invited ML King to Selma, Alabama for voting rights movement passes


Rev. F. D. Reese

Frederick Douglas Reese, or F. D. Reese (November 28, 1929 – April 5, 2018), was an American civil rights activist, educator and minister from Selma, Alabama. Known as a member of Selma’s “Courageous Eight”, Reese was the president of the Dallas County Voters League (DCVL) when it invited the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King Jr. to Selma to amplify the city’s local voting rights campaign. This campaign eventually gave birth to the Selma to Montgomery marches, which later led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Reese was also president of the Selma Teachers Association, and in January 1965 he mobilized Selma’s teachers to march as a group for their right to vote.
Reese retired from teaching and from February 2015 and until his death in April 2018, he was active as a minister at Selma’s Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.
Reese was born in Selma, Alabama. He graduated from Alabama State University, where he majored in math and science where he received a Master’s degree.
Reese spent nine years in Millers Ferry, Alabama, ending in 1960.  This is where he began his teaching career, teaching science and serving as assistant principal.
In 1960, Reese moved home to Selma, started teaching science and math at R. B. Hudson High School, and joined the Dallas County Voters League(DCVL), the major civil rights organization in Selma since the state of Alabama started actively suppressing the NAACP in 1956. Two years after joining the DCVL, he was elected its president.
In 1962, while Reese was a DCVL member, the organization encouraged Bernard Lafayette of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to come to Selma to assist in the voting rights struggle by educating black citizens about their right to vote.
As president of the DCVL, Reese signed and sent the DCVL’s invitation to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to come to Selma to lend their support to the voting rights campaign there.[2] King and the SCLC agreed to come, and they started their public engagement in Selma’s voting rights campaign on January 2, 1965, with a mass meeting in violation of an injunction against large gatherings.
On January 18, about 400 people marched on the county courthouse to register to vote; on January 19, the people marched again, and this time police violence towards DCVL’s Amelia Boynton and the arrest of 67 marchers brought the movement to national headlines.
Teachers’ March
In 1965, Reese held the simultaneous leadership positions of DCVL president and president of the Selma Teachers Association.  The first act he made as the Teachers Association president was to sign a proclamation in the presence of the superintendent and assistant superintendent, declaring that teachers should register to vote.  Reese even asked that the superintendent allow black teachers to use their free period during the school day to register to vote, though he knew it was an “abominable thing to ask” in that political and social climate.  Reese and fellow teacher and DCVL member Margaret Moore challenged their colleagues, “How can we teach American civics if we ourselves cannot vote?”
On January 22, three days after Amelia Boynton’s encounter with police, and three days before another demonstration in front of the county courthouse where Annie Lee Cooper (portrayed by Oprah Winfrey in the 2014 film Selma) had a violent encounter with Sheriff Jim Clark, Reese gathered 105 teachers—almost every black teacher in Selma—to march on the courthouse.[6] The teachers climbed the steps but were barred from entering to register.  They were pushed down the steps twice, the police jabbing them with nightsticks.
Officials reportedly urged against the teachers’ arrest, saying, “Don’t arrest these people because what you going do with the 7,000 students that we have running around here when they go back to school Monday?”  It was the first time in Civil Rights Movement that teachers in the South publicly marched as teachers; they were the largest black professional group in Dallas County, and their actions inspired involvement from their students and others who were unsure about participating in demonstrations.
Selma to Montgomery march
During the time the SCLC spent organizing and protesting in Selma, Reese coordinated meetings and often played the role of mediator when differences of opinion arose.
In photographs from the historic Selma to Montgomery marches, which were initiated and organized by SCLC’s Director of Direct Action James Bevel, Reese is pictured in a dark suit, coat, and hat, most often in the front of the march with Martin Luther King, Jr. and some of his closest associates.

‘voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive’ Rev. Barber: “We want full restoration of the Voting Rights Act now!”

By: John Zippert,  Co-Publisher

Amid the celebration and commemoration at this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965, there was a demand for “Full Restoration of the Voting Rights Act” by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina Repairers of the Breach and Forward Together Movement. Rev. Barber’s demand was echoed by other speakers and was the central issue in many of the workshops and programs of the Jubilee.
In addition to the workshops, there was a parade, golf tournament, dinners, a unity breakfast, street festival, and the march reenactment on Sunday afternoon. Ten thousand or more marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind a host of local and national leaders, including: Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH, Charles Steele of SCLC, Rev. Barber, Faya Rose Toure, Senator Hank Sanders, Rev. Mark Thompson of Sirius 127 Radio and many others. The Masons of Alabama turned out in force and in uniform, to participate in the march.
The weekend culminated in Monday’s “Slow-Ride from Selma to Montgomery” with a caravan of 35 vehicles including a Greene County School bus, carrying the members of the Eutaw High Ninth Grade Academy. The caravan was met by local Montgomery leaders for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.
Prior to the re-enactment march, Attorney Faya Rose Toure pointed out that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was named for an Alabama Klu Klux Klan leader and that the name should be changed to honor Ms. Amelia Boyton Robinson and the Voting Rights Foot-soldiers who won the 1965 VRA.
Rev. William Barber spoke many times, as ketnote for the Sunday morning breakfast, at Brown’s Chapel Church before the march reenactment, on a national radio broadcast from the Dallas County Courthouse on Sunday evening and at the rally at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the slow-ride.

Rev. Barber made similar points in each speech. At the breakfast, we invoked the martyrs of the civil and voting rights movement – Dr. King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels, James Reid, Viola Luizzo, and un-named others, whose blood he said was crying out to people today to continue the work of restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting voter suppression in all its forms, and building a more beloved community involving Blacks, Whites, Latinos and all religious faiths.
He said he had come to Selma, ”not for the nostalgia of history but to listen for the ‘blood’ that was shed and soaked into the concrete of the bridge and the wooden pews of the churches.” Barber said that America was headed by an egotistical narsisistic man, “but this is not the first time that a racist was in the White House. Steve Bannon is not the first white Supremacist to be in high places. Trump is not the first President to hold these views. Many of his predacessors felt the same way.”
“On June 25, 2013”, Barber said, “the U. S. Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Shelby County case, overturned Section 4 and nullified Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within an hour of the destruction of pre-clearence of voting changes in the Shelby decision, Texas approved a voter ID law and other changes; two months later, North Carolina passed voter suppression laws.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other Southern states also passed voter ID and other voter suppression measures. Voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive.”
“Twenty-one states adopted 47 regressive voting changes within a year of the Shelby decision, The 2016 Presidential election was the first in half a century without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
868 fewer polling places were allowed in Black and Brown communities around the nation. In the 25 Presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, no mention was made of the issue of voter suppression in our communities,” said Rev. Barber.
“Long before Russia interfered in our elections, voter suppression had hacked and distorted the system,” said Barber. He pointed out that in Wisconsin 300,000 voters were disenfranchised due to the voter ID requirements and Trump defeated Hillary by 20,000 votes in that state.
Senator Hank Sanders spoke to the problems of voter suppression, voter ID, Legislative gerrymandering in Alabama, Packing and stacking Black voters in majority Black districts. He also recounted the history of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions role in initiating voter suppression in Alabama with voter fraud trials of civil rights activists.
Rev. Barber said, “ the 11 former Confederate states have 171 electoral votes, you only need 99 more to have the 270 needed to win the electoral college. These states have 26 U. S. senators, the extremists need only 25 more Senators to control the Senate which they are doing now. They have the House of Representatives, statehouses, county courthouses, we have work to do to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”
As part of the evening radio broadcast and rally at the Dallas County Courthouse, Rev. Barber displayed maps, which showed the concentration of poverty, child poverty, low wages-right-to-work states, states that did not expand Medicaid, overlapped with the states that adopted new voter suppression measures. Most of these maps showed concentration of these problems in the rural South. Rev. Barber also displayed a map of states and areas with a concentration of protestant Evangelical Christians and once again the overlap was clear. He called this a “mis-teaching of faith and a false interpretation of the Bible”.
At the rally in Montgomery, speaker after speaker blasted the voter suppression, racial gerrymandering and limits to voting by the people. Rev. Barber said, ”We must get ready for a 100 days of disruption and civil disobedience in our state houses and in Congress to work for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Different state organizations should be preparing to go to Washington, D. C. and non-violently disrupt the process qnd win back our full voting rights.

Voter suppression laws helped Trump take the White House


By Barrington M. Salmon (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Shortly after the United Sates Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, Republican state lawmakers began a calculated assault on the ballot box at the expense of Black and poor people across the nation; a coalition of civil and voting rights organizations fought back, primarily in the courts, against a wave of laws that restricted early voting, required photo IDs, limited pre-registration for 16- and 17 year-olds and closed polling centers.

Now critics of those laws say that those measures may have tipped the November 8 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor.

Ari Berman, a political reporter and investigative journalist with “The Nation,” calls the GOP’s attack on voting rights the most under-reported story of 2016 and his reporting during the election campaign encapsulates the fallout from Republican lawmakers’ relentless and sustained voter suppression tactics on the election.

“There were 25 debates during the presidential primaries and general election and not a single question about the attack on voting rights, even though this was the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act,” he noted in a post-election story.             “Fourteen states had new voting restrictions in place for the first time in 2016 – including crucial swing states like Wisconsin and Virginia – yet we heard nary a peep about it on Election Day except from outlets like ‘The Nation.’ This was the biggest under-covered scandal of the 2016 campaign.”

Berman continued: “We’ll likely never know how many people were kept from the polls by restrictions like voter-ID laws, cuts to early voting, and barriers to voter registration. But at the very least this should have been a question that many more people were looking into. For example, 27,000 votes currently separate Trump and Clinton in Wisconsin, where 300,000 registered voters, according to a federal court, lacked strict forms of voter ID. Voter turnout in Wisconsin was at its lowest levels in 20 years and decreased 13 percent in Milwaukee, where 70 percent of the state’s African-American population lives, according to Daniel Nichanian of the University of Chicago.”

Rev. Dr. William Barber II has called his home state of North Carolina “ground zero for voter suppression.” “The court ruled on the most sweeping, retrogressive voter suppression bill that we have seen since the 19th century and since Jim Crow, and the worst in the nation since the Shelby decision,” said Barber, the president of the North Carolina state branch of the NAACP and also one of the lead plaintiffs in lawsuit against the state of North Carolina in a case that led to a federal court striking down the law. “The ruling in North Carolina was intentional discrimination of the highest order. They were retrogressing racially through redistricting. Over the past two election cycles, North Carolina has had an unconstitutionally constituted General Assembly. We should be appalled that anyone could rule that long.

The macro question is that after Shelby, we’re in a different place in that there was no protection for civil rights. Shelby took us back across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. If preclearance was in place, they wouldn’t have passed these laws. They spent between $5 million – $6 million fighting us. To have the loss of the Voting Rights Act is an affront to the country.”

Berman said North Carolina is a case study for how Republicans have institutionalized voter suppression at every level of government and made it the new normal within the GOP. He fears the same thing could soon happen in Washington when Trump assumes power.

Going forward, Scott Simpson, the director of media and campaigns for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that civil rights groups have a daunting, but not impossible task before them.

“The important thing to note about this election is that it started in June 2013,” he said. “For all the laws, statewide and locally, the vast majority, the wheels were set in motion well before Election Day.”

Simpson was referring to the raft of voter suppression laws passed by Republican lawmakers in a number of states in the aftermath of the 2013 Supreme Court decision to invalidate a key section of the landmark Voting Rights Act; Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, Kansas and North Carolina were among those states that passed laws that made it harder to vote.

“It’s so clear that the loss of the Voting Rights Act had an impact on the election,” Simpson explained. “People were scared off, turned away from polling places, saw long lines and left without voting and with all the changes, some were left confused. It was a travesty. In North Carolina, you had a razor-thin election and in Wisconsin you had a very close election, because of the voter ID law.”

Simpson continued: “You shave a couple of percentage points in an election, say one or two percent, and there will be an impact.” Simpson said the recent election was framed in rhetoric and racial hostility “and we now have the Department of Justice with a man in charge (Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama) who opposes the Voting Rights Act.”

Berman said that we can already glimpse how a Trump administration will undermine voting rights, based on the people he nominated to top positions, those he has advising him, and his own statements.

Berman wrote: “[Trump’s] pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, wrongly prosecuted Black civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in the 1980s, called the Voting Rights Act ‘a piece of intrusive legislation,’ and praised the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 saying that “if you go to Alabama, Georgia or North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.”