The following is Alabama State University President Quinton T. Ross Jr.’s statement in full on the death of George Floyd.
For the past few days, I, like many others have been viewing through the lens of the media, the reaction of our country to the deplorable and senseless death of yet another defenseless black person at the hands of a white police officer, a tragic mockery to the truth that Black Lives Matter. Similar to other Americans, I am overcome with a range of emotions.
As the father of two sons and as a black man myself, I can assure you that I am furious and deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd, as I am by every senseless killing of black males and females in America. It could have been either of my sons, my brothers, my nephews or nieces, my friends or even one of my students who lay on the ground, pleading for mercy on that horrific day.
Looking into the eyes of my 11-year-old son and trying to help him comprehend what happened and what is happening in our nation, I am cognizant of the fact that I am old enough only to have read about the many civil rights protests and nonviolent demonstrations that have afforded me the opportunities that I have enjoyed during my lifetime.
While I was not an eyewitness to the protests, I do try to paint a picture for my son, drawing from my exposure to many civil rights icons and their recounting of historic events of the past, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the march from Selma to Montgomery, the brutality of law enforcement officers such as Bull Connor and the story of Ruby Bridges. I am emotionally distraught about the stark parallel of our nation’s present state of affairs and our nation’s historical past.
I have been giving thought to this national crisis, especially as it relates to Alabama State University’s rich history and her overwhelming contributions to the advancement of civil rights in the nation. I am one of thousands of students who have matriculated and emerged from ASU with purpose and a true understanding of social justice and responsibility. At ASU, we learned the importance and the power of the vote. The call to public service and advocacy was ingrained in our DNA by O’ Mother Dear.
While I attempt to give some sensible explanation to the most recent senseless acts of brutality, I have reflected on my first real encounter with the reality of racist police violence against blacks in America. It was the spring of 1991, just prior to my senior year in college, and I had just been elected President of the Student Government Association.
This was the time that our nation witnessed Rodney King being brutally beaten by Los Angeles law enforcement officers after he led them on a high-speed chase. I remember asking myself, “Is this what would happen to me as a black man if I found myself in a similar situation with authorities?” I vividly recall how the nation erupted into protests because of Rodney King’s mistreatment, just like the protests that have erupted nationally because of the senseless death of George Floyd and others.
Each incident is similar to the protests that happened across this nation in the 1960s due to social injustice. As a young student, I was confused and enraged by what I witnessed. I remember the rumbling of unrest within our student body regarding Rodney King. We were all ready to act on our anger and frustration by taking to the streets of Montgomery to let our voices be heard. Word of our intentions reached our President, the late Dr. C. C. Baker, who later became one of my mentors.
My SGA leadership team and I were summoned to Dr. Baker’s office, and it was there that I learned what social protesting was really all about. It is not about the destruction of property, looting or acting disorderly; it is about banding together peacefully with a common goal, with a purpose and a plan for change. During the meeting, we discussed our desire to be heard and our passion for change, and emerged with a plan for a peaceful protest on the campus that historically has been a beacon for change—our home, our haven—Alabama State University.
This focusing event allowed me to lead my first press conference. It would be the first time I had ever spoken in front of news cameras. Every news outlet in the city was on campus that day as students gathered with community stakeholders in great numbers. I led the protest with a speech. Students and local elected officials were also able to have their voices heard as the media captured our impassioned sentiments and broadcast the event. I share this personal experience not only to highlight the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in providing a platform for change, but also to emphasize the need to protest peacefully and with a purpose.
I offer that advice while understanding and even relating to the rage that has been unleashed across the nation by the infection of racism that is more potent than ever in America. Our nation has a new and improved infection of racism when George Floyd can plead for mercy while dying publicly under the force of a racist man’s knee just as his forefathers died publicly hanging from a noose.
There is a new and improved infection of racism when a young man by the name of Michael Brown can hold his hands up in surrender and still be shot to death in broad daylight in Ferguson, Missouri. There is a new and improved infection of racism when a man by the name of Eric Garner in New York City can tell authorities “I can’t breathe” as he is choked to death.
The infection of racism is new and improved when a young man by the name of Trayvon Martin is gunned down in cold blood while walking from the store to his home. Racism is new and improved when Ahmaud Arbery can be gunned down while jogging not far from his home. There is a new and improved infection of racism when Breonna Taylor can be shot and killed by police officers as she lay sleeping in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Let us not forget the infection of racism that related to the death of Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a jail cell in Walker County, Texas, after being arrested for a minor traffic stop.
Here in Montgomery, there is a new and improved infection of racism when a man by the name of Greg Gunn, who attended ASU, is chased and killed by a police officer just a few steps from his mother’s front door. Their tragic deaths made headlines, but across this nation and even in this city, we could easily add more names to the rolls of those whose lives have been so tragically cut short with no cell phone cameras to capture their last, painful breaths.
With this in mind, we struggle with the question, “What should we tell our students?” The answer that I offer you is the same that I give to my sons. I ask that you find ways to protest peacefully, including exercising your personal responsibility to register to vote and then go vote, and committing yourself to continuing your education so that you are prepared to emerge as this nation’s next generation of leaders.
I ask that you resist the temptation to channel your anger into destruction; instead, channel your energy into the very thing that disturbs and disrupts those who would oppress you: Education.
Our nonviolent stand proved successful in the past, and I believe it could be the catalyst for real and impactful change today. Let peace be at the core of all of our actions.
While it seems as though remaining calm in the midst of a racist storm is a signal to be disrespected, disregarded and endangered, remember the lives that were lost to get us to this day. Remember the examples of those who were brutally beaten and rose up from that brutality to walk the halls of congress, to become mayors, governors, state legislators and community leaders.
They are the ones upon whose shoulders we stand. Their sacrifices have afforded us the opportunity to stand and take up the mantle of peace, justice and equality for all.
Stay in the fight against injustice my children and my students, with peace, purpose and a plan that saves us from self-destruction and allows us all to “breathe” freely.
Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care
The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.
DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.
To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.
“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”
These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.
DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.
An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].
Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims
Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.
The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.
“Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”
The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.
“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.
Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.
ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation
Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company.
Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release.
“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama. I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation. I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.
Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.”
“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.
Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.
Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service.
“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense. His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions.
Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.
Alabama’s daily COVID-19 deaths second highest since start of pandemic
In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
Alabama saw 35 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second highest daily number of deaths since the pandemic began.
The previous record daily high was May 12, when the state recorded 37 coronavirus deaths. Prior to that, the high was on April 22, when Alabama saw 35 deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
While cases have been surging since mid-June, deaths have largely remained stable. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning that it takes longer for deaths to begin rising after cases and hospitalizations begin rising.
“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases and hospitalization in cases over the past week or two is really concerning,” said UAB expert Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom earlier this week. “And we expect, given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization — about a two-week lag, and a three-week lag between cases and deaths — that we’re on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”
It’s unclear whether this new rise in deaths will become a trend, or whether it is a one-day anomaly, but the 14-day average of deaths per day is now nearly as high as the previous peak on May 14 — weeks after the state hit its first “peak” in cases per day in late April. The previous high of the 14-day average of deaths per day was 16 on May 14. The average is now at 14 deaths per day, on average.
The uptick in deaths comes after days of record-high new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state added 1,304 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high of 2,164, but the trend of rising daily cases has continued largely unabated since early June.
The 14-day average of daily tests was at an all-time high Friday, at 8,125, which was 308 more tests than the previous high, set Wednesday. The percent of tests that were positive also increased, however, so the new cases can’t be attributed solely to more testing.
The 14-day average of the percent positivity was 14.22 on Friday. Excluding Thursday’s figure, because the Alabama Department of Public Health didn’t publish total tests administered on Thursday, which threw off percent positive figures, Friday’s 14-day average was the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were a few higher 14-day average percent positivity days in April, but those numbers were skewed as well, because ADPH wasn’t able to collect all testing data from commercial labs during that time period.
Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday 1,125 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fifth straight day of record current hospitalizations.
UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity earlier this week. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.
Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.