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Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Brandon Moseley

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Today is the national Martin Luther King Jr. state and federal holiday. Banks, schools, government offices, and some businesses will be closed today in solemn observance of King’s life and legacy.

King was a Montgomery pastor and civil rights leader in the 1950s and 1960s, who rose to national prominence with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968. King’s legacy is especially significant to the Black community, where they were negatively impacted for centuries in America, well before the Revolution, by slavery, discrimination, segregation, and often racial violence.

King’s actual birthday was on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta; but his holiday is observed on the Third Monday of January.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell, D-Selma, wrote on social media,

“Today would’ve been Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday. I’m working tirelessly to honor his legacy by leading the charge to engage and empower all American voters by passing the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and help fulfill his dream of a more just and equal society.”

On Friday, President Donald J. Trump (R) wrote in a Presidential proclamation:

“One hundred years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and shared his vision of an America lifted from the “quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” Pres. Trump wrote. “His extraordinary message that momentous day in August of 1963 stirred to action Americans of every race and creed, and it continues to reverberate in the hearts and minds of patriotic citizens across our great land. Today, as we pause to mark the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we recommit ourselves to the advancement of equality and justice for all Americans, and to the full realization of his worthy dream.”

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“In the United States of America, every citizen should have the opportunity to build a better and brighter future, and, as President, I am committed to expanding opportunity for all Americans,” Pres. Trump continued. “We have added more than 5 million new jobs to the economy over the past 2 years and unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Americans without a high school degree have reached record lows.”

“Importantly, we have also worked tirelessly to reform our Nation’s criminal justice system, so that those who have been incarcerated and paid their debt to society are given a second chance at life,” Trump continued. “Last year, I was proud to sign into law the First Step Act, which will prepare inmates to successfully rejoin society and effect commonsense reforms to make our justice system fairer for all Americans. Through recidivism reduction programs that provide vocational training, education, and mental healthcare, non-violent offenders can have a chance at redemption and an opportunity to fulfill a better destiny.”

“We have also made great strides as a Nation, but we acknowledge that more work must be done for, in the words of Dr. King, “justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” Pres. Trump stated. “United as one American family, we will not rest — and we will never be satisfied — until the promise of this great Nation is accessible to each American in each new generation. More than half a century after Dr. King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, our Nation is mindful of its past, and we look forward to the future with unwavering optimism, inspired by the legacy of Dr. King and informed by his wisdom and vision. May the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the efforts we have made to fully effectuate his dream, remind us that faith and love unite us together as one great American family.”

The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery will be holding an MLK Day celebration on Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon. There will be a special unveiling of the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The speaker for this event will be Rev. Dr. James E. Shannon, Pastor of Peoples Community Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Standing Strong: A Community Celebration of Living the Dream.” King was pastor there from 1955 to 1960.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will be open with free admission to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The MLK Day events will include live performances, music, games, and giveaways. We will offer free admission to the public with extended hours from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Donations will be welcomed. The Civil Rights Institute is part of the National Civil Rights Movement Monument in Birmingham.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

State Sen. Jim McClendon accuses Tuberville of hiding from a debate

Brandon Moseley

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State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, on Monday accused coach Tommy Tuberville of avoiding his GOP Senate primary opponent, former Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“Coach TUBBERVILLE is hiding from a face to face debate,” McClendon said on social media.

McClendon compared Tuberville’s strategy to that of Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Joe BIDEN is hiding from the public in his basement,” McClendon said. “Same game plan for both of these guys. WHY? They are AFRAID (and UNABLE?) to answer pertinent questions. I will not vote for either of them. We MUST have leaders that understand the issues.”

Biden is the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. He will face President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 general election.

McClendon told APR that Tuberville, “Does not know the issue. He doesn’t have a clue. He just wants to be a U.S. Senator.”

Sessions has challenged Tuberville to debates.

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“Anyone who represents our state needs to demonstrate that they know Alabama and each of its 67 unique counties,” Sessions said in May. “You can’t represent Alabama’s interests unless you prove that you understand Alabama and the challenges we face. Given your TV ads boasting about how strong you are (while standing in a gym where other people are exercising), I’m sure you can find it within yourself to demonstrate that strength in a series of debates so that the people of Alabama can see for themselves.”

“Being a United States Senator is more than just casting the occasional vote,” Sessions stated. “Effective senators must be ready to debate Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others on many issues and away from the safety of talking points scripted by Facebook’s chief open-borders lobbyist, who you’ve hired to help lead your Senate campaign.”

“And anyone representing Alabama needs to be fully vetted before they are trusted to represent Alabama Republicans in a race against Doug Jones,” Sessions continued. “I’ve been fully vetted, over and over again. The national Democratic Party tried to find “dirt” on me when I helped President Trump win the 2016 election, and again when he nominated me for Attorney General. They came up empty, because there’s nothing there.”

Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. He was also the coach at the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech University and Cincinnati University, and the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami and at Texas A&M University.

Polls have shown Tuberville with a lead over Sessions.

Sessions and Tuberville are running against each other in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The winner of the Republican nomination will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election. Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017, when he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general.

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Elections

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson endorses Jeff Coleman for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson endorsed 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Jeff Coleman Thursday.

“Jeff Coleman is a leader. We need a strong leader in Washington to fight back against these DC bureaucrats who represent themselves instead of the people,” Johnson said. “I know that Jeff Coleman will be that leader, and he will be the mover and shaker to get things done!”

“Mayor Johnson’s confidence in my ability to bring strong jobs, stand up for our values, and fight for our district is very humbling,” Coleman said. “His leadership in Andalusia has been incredible and It shows in their growth!”

Johnson now joins mayors from Luverne, Dothan, Geneva, Florala and Tallassee in endorsing Coleman for Congress.

Coleman and his opponent, former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, are running in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The two are scheduled to be in a debate Tuesday on WTVY Channel 4 in Dothan at 6 p.m.

Coleman is a native of Dothan. He is the fifth generation of his family to head the family business, Coleman Worldwide Moving, based in Dothan. He recently stepped down as president and CEO in order to run for Congress. Coleman is a former chairman of the Business Council of Alabama and one of the wealthiest people in Alabama.

Coleman has been endorsed by BCA and the Alabama Farmers Federation, as well as the Alabama Realtors Association, Alabama Home Builders Association, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Trucking Association, Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

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Coleman is a graduate from Northview High School where he was a member of the 1981 Football team that won the Alabama High School Football State Championship. He has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Troy University in Dothan. He is an Eagle Scout, a 2011 Graduate of Leadership Alabama and a 2015 Graduate of the Air War College National Security Forum. Jeff served two terms as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama.

Coleman describes himself as a conservative outsider and businessman, like Donald Trump, who cares more about doing what’s right for the country than winning an election.

The eventual Republican nominee for the open 2nd Congressional District seat will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November general election.

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Health

Madison County mask order goes into effect Tuesday

Eddie Burkhalter

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Studies have shown that wearing masks reduces transmission of coronavirus.

Madison County’s health officer issued a face mask order to slow the spread of COVID-19, which goes into effect Tuesday at 5 p.m. 

Madison County Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers, who also serves as the assistant state health officer, issued the order, which requires those over the age of 2 to wear masks in businesses or venues open to the public, while on public transportation, in outdoor areas open to the public where 10 or more people are gathered and where maintaining 6 feet of distance from others is not possible. 

“We need to do all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a statement. “Until we have a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, wearing a face covering in public is a key measure we have available to prevent transmission of the virus.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle in a statement expressed support for the mask order. Madison County now joins Jefferson County, Montgomery, Mobile and Selma in requiring masks while in public. 

“This is a simple math problem. Since June 16, the number of positive cases in Madison County has tripled, and the number of hospitalizations has increased 660 percent,” Battle said in the statement. “We need to take precautionary measures, such as wearing face covers, distancing 6 feet, and handwashing to provide a safe environment for our citizens.” ​​

Madison Mayor Paul Finley also noted the surging cases and said he supports the order. 

“Since day one, we as elected officials have said we would work to find the balance of personal versus economic health. While personal responsibility is still paramount, our dramatic rising numbers dictate this step be taken to continue to support all citizens’ safety,” Finley said in a statement. 

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Medical experts believe COVID-19 is most often spread when an infected person, with or without symptoms, talks, coughs or sneezes. Studies have shown that wearing masks reduces transmission of coronavirus.

Other exceptions to Madison County’s mask order include:

  • Persons while eating or drinking.
  • Patients in examination rooms of medical offices, dental offices, clinics or hospitals where their examination of the mouth or nasal area is necessary.
  • Customers receiving haircare services, temporary removal of face coverings when needed to provide haircare.
  • Occasions when wearing a face covering poses a significant mental or physical health, safety or security risk. These include worksite risks.
  • Indoor athletic facilities. Patrons are not required to wear face coverings while actively participating in permitted athletic activities, but employees in regular interaction with patrons are required to wear face coverings or masks.
  • Private clubs and gatherings not open to the public and where a consistent 6-foot distance between persons from different households is maintained.

“Although not mandated, face coverings are strongly recommended for congregants at worship services and for situations where people from different households are unable to or unlikely to maintain a distance of 6 feet from each other,” the department said in a statement on the order.

This is a simple math problem. Since June 16, the number of positive cases in Madison County has tripled, and the number of hospitalizations has increased 660 percent."

Parents must ensure children over 2 years old wear masks in public, and childcare establishments and schools are to develop their face covering policies and procedures, according to the department.

The order also mandates that businesses and venues open to the public provide a notice stating that face coverings are required inside, and signage is required at all public entrances. 

“Wearing a face covering can help keep family, co-workers, and community safe,” Harris said. “This is the simplest act of kindness you can take for yourself, your family and your community, especially for those who are at high risk of contracting the virus.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health advises these actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Social distance by staying 6 feet away from others
  • Avoid people who are sick
  • Stay home if you can; work remotely if possible
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when around others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Monitor your health

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News

Push to rename Edmund Pettus Bridge gains steam, but Selma activists want their say

The latest effort to rename the bridge is gaining momentum, with a petition surpassing 300,000 signatures, but residents of Selma are saying not so fast.

Micah Danney

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The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. (via Wikimedia Commons)

The latest effort to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge is gaining momentum, with its online petition surpassing 300,000 signatures and attracting some high-profile supporters, but residents of Selma are saying not so fast.

“We don’t agree that one person’s name should go on the bridge because it was a collective of people that made that happen,” said Alan Reese, of Selma, whose grandfather F.D. Reese was one of the “Courageous Eight” who invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join their push for voting rights.

The bridge became a landmark of the civil rights movement in 1965, when state troopers and a white posse attacked the roughly 600 marchers who crossed it as they attempted to march to Montgomery to register to vote.

The event became known as Bloody Sunday and galvanized support for civil rights for Black Americans. Among the beaten was Georgia Rep. John Lewis, then a member of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

His role as a leader of that march, and the injuries he suffered from a trooper’s baton, made him the focus of The John Lewis Bridge Project, a nonprofit formed last month by Michael Starr Hopkins, who has worked as a political strategist for several Democratic campaigns.

Hopkins had just watched the 2014 film “Selma” and looked up who Edmund Pettus was. When he learned that Pettus had been a Confederate general and reputed grand wizard in the Ku Klux Klan, Hopkins decided he wanted to do something to change the bridge’s name. He created the petition, and within 24 hours, it had more than 10,000 signatures.

Its goal is half a million signatures, Hopkins said. He’s also raising money to start an outreach program in Alabama and nationally to build a pressure campaign to change the name. 

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Lewis responded to a previous petition to rename the bridge in his honor with a statement that it was not his desire. His office has not addressed the current effort. Lewis is undergoing treatment after he was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in December.

Hopkins said he understands Selma residents’ concerns.

“If someone was coming into my back yard and wasn’t from where I was from, telling me that I needed to change something, you know, I’d be a little ticked off too,” Hopkins said.

After speaking with Reese, he agreed that the citizens of Selma need to be central to the conversation about what will happen to the bridge’s name.

Alternatives to Lewis’s name have been suggested, including bestowing the honor on the “foot soldiers” who marched there, or on the eight activists who led the Dallas County Voters League, which laid the groundwork for the march that made the bridge a global icon of nonviolent struggle.

The very thing that my forefathers and mothers were walking on the bridge to secure was agency."

“Yes his name was on the bridge on Bloody Sunday, but if he had had it his way, none of the people crossing that bridge would have been let out of shackles, and we would still be slaves,” Hopkins said. “So I think that by continuing to keep his name on the bridge, you bestow a sense of honor that he is undeserving of.”

Reese said he plans to speak to Hopkins later this week to figure out how to proceed. This isn’t the first push to rename the bridge, and Reese said that Selma’s residents are tired of outsiders making decisions about what happens to what may be the most famous landmark in their community.

Monuments have faces, he said. The bridge is not a monument, and its history changed the meaning of Pettus’s name, he said, although he understands the urge to change it. If that happens, he wants the name to prompt people to learn about what the people of Selma did before and after Bloody Sunday. If it honored the Couragious Eight, for instance, that might encourage future generations to learn about who they were. 

Reese’s grandfather was not featured in Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film, he noted. DuVernay tweeted recently in support of renaming the bridge.

Lydia Chatmon, who works to promote tourism in Selma and is a program manager for the Selma Center for Nonviolence, said that most surviving foot soldiers she has talked to aren’t keen on changing the name. It could also have implications for tourism, she said, noting that the bridge is under review for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The bridge’s renaming is an opportunity to have a valuable conversation at a critical time, Chatmon added. The brutality captured by cameras on the bridge sent shock waves through American society, as did the brutality of George Floyd’s death captured by cell phone cameras, she said. Part of the process of building a better nation is having an open dialogue about issues like the bridge and how its name and legacy are owned and handled.

She looks forward to setting a date for an open town hall where the discussion can take place, likely in early August, she said.

Above all, it is a matter of agency, Chatmon said. King’s model for social change required the consent and participation of the people his work purported to help.

“The very thing that my forefathers and mothers were walking on the bridge to secure was agency,” Chatmon said.

 

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