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.
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.
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.
SEC moving forward with football even as the PAC 12, Big 10 postpone season
Tuesday, the Big 10 and PAC 12 conference presidents both voted to postpone all fall sports including football to the spring. The decision follows similar decisions by the Ivey League, SWAC (which includes Alabama State and Alabama A&M), University of Connecticut, MAC, and Mountain West. Four of the ten Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences will not be playing this fall including two of the Power Five conferences. Despite this the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which includes both the University of Alabama and Auburn University, announced that they are moving forward with the football season.
“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement Tuesday evening. :I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes.”
“We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day,” Sankey said.
The PAC 12 and Big 10 conferences made the decision based on advice from the conference’s medical advisory boards. The fatality rate of COVID-19 among college age people is miniscule; however college students can and do get COVID-19. One side effect of surviving COVID-19 is myocarditis, a heart inflammation. Myocarditis is a weakening of the tissue between the chambers of the heart. It is treatable; but is irreversible. Once those tissues are weakened; they will remain weakened causing a number of health challenges for victims over the course of the remainder of their lives. It can lead to premature death.
Sources say that at least five Big 10 athletes have been diagnosed with myocarditis after surviving a bout with COVID-19. https://www.yahoo.com/now/report-at-least-five-big-ten-athletes-found-to-have-heart-inflammation-potentially-caused-by-viral-infections-224809885.html
Sankey told Dan Patrick that the conference has “been given the greenlight” from their medical advisory board. The ACC and Big 12 are also moving forward with plans to play football this fall.
SEC teams will open their fall camps on August 17. The SEC has already reduced the season to ten conference only games and moved back the start of the season from September 5 to Sept. 26. The move gives the conference more time to make a decision.
The conference is under political pressure from fans, players, coaches, and even President Donald J. Trump (R) to play football this season.
“We Must Do Everything Possible to Have Football this Year,” said former Montgomery Quarterback Club President and the father of three former Auburn football players Perry O. Hooper Jr. “We need College football this fall, period. It would be a terrible disservice to these young student/athletes who have worked so hard for so many years to throw in the towel without trying. This is not the American way.”
President Trump said, “Canceling the college football season would be a tragic mistake.”
“The SEC has it right, Start the schedule in late September with a conference only schedule with a set of protocols in place to be monitored by the SEC office,” Hooper said. “The College football hierarchy must listen to the players, the vast majority want to play.”
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence stated, “We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football. Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all the right precautions to try to avoid contracting Covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we have seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.”
The Big 10 presidents voted to postpone fall sports to the spring; but the PAC 12 presidents went even further and voted to suspend all sports till at least January 1, 2021. This move impacts winter sports including basketball. College basketball players already lost the 2020 NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The decision by the PAC 12 and Big 10 conferences leave the college football postseason in shambles. There can be no playoffs without two of the Big Five conferences and with at least four of the ten major college conferences not playing it will be impossible to find enough teams with winning records to fill half the bowl spots. It is not at all certain that any of the bowls will actually be played.
167,671 Americans have already died from the COVID-19 global pandemic. 2,756,157 have recovered from their bought with the novel coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2. Now we are learning that some of those COVID survivors are facing debilitating conditions moving forward. It is heart inflammation for some and loss of some lung function for others.
Tuberville says he is not surprised that Biden selected “a socialist like Kamala Harris”
Tuesday, Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville blasted presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for his selection of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) as his vice presidential pick.
“It’s no surprise that Joe Biden has selected a Socialist Democrat like Kamala Harris as his VP pick,” Coach Tuberville said. “Harris is as far left as it gets, and my opponent, Doug Jones, stands side-by-side with her on almost every critical issue.”
“They’ve voted time and again for late-term abortion, gun-grabbing laws, open borders legislation, and other far-left agenda items,” Tuberville said. “We must not let Socialists like Doug Jones and Kamala Harris take over our country! #MAGA #KAG2020 #TrumpAndTuberville #ALSen.”
The Trump campaign came out punching in response to the announcement that Harris would be the vice presidential pick.
In an email to supporters, President Donald J. Trump (R) wrote, “Wow. Just when we thought the idea of Joe Biden being President of the United States couldn’t get any worse, he announces that Kamala Harris, a failed presidential candidate and a corrupt former California Attorney General, will be his running mate.”
“First, Kamala Harris attacked Joe Biden’s racist policies (did she forget?),Trump continued. “Next, she ends her pathetic run at President. Then, 3 months after ending her own campaign, she reluctantly endorses Biden. After that, Biden gets accused of sexual assault, so he vows to choose a woman as his VP. And now, Sleepy Joe announces Phony Kamala as his running mate.”
“These two liberals are as far-left as they come,” Trump charged. “Between both of their terrible records, it’s obvious that this radical duo is PERFECT for each other but WRONG for America. They are WEAK on crime and want to see our cities burn, unlike President Trump and Vice President Pence who are working tirelessly to restore LAW AND ORDER. It’s going to be up to Patriots like YOU to save our Nation from that dark fate.”
Pres. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are seeking a second four year term.
Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. He is running against incumbent U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November 3 general election.
Edmund Pettus descendant calls for bridge to be renamed
A California man who bears the surname at the center of a debate about how history is remembered has come out in support of renaming the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
“I share that name of Pettus with secessionists, slave owners, and traitors to the United States,” David Pettus, 72, wrote in a statement he sent to several news outlets. “During the Civil War, they may have fought for (and several died for) what they believed, but what they fought and died for was wrong. It was not honorable. It was wicked. And they lost their fortunes as well as their lives in that wicked cause.”
Pettus tuned in to a virtual town hall event on Aug. 7 that was held to give Selma residents, some of whom marched across the bridge in 1965, a platform to discuss renaming the bridge. Local activists have criticized initiatives to change the name that have originated outside of Selma, proposed by people who have no connection to the community.
Pettus said he is sensitive to that and thinks that the town’s residents “need to have loud voices in any decision.” He said he was inspired by their comments.
“Therefore, as nothing more than a concerned citizen of this country – though as one who bears some relation to that disgraced name, I humbly make the following suggestions:
1) That the name of Edmund Pettus be removed from the bridge in Selma, to show that we can learn from our mistakes and be a better people than we have been in the past, and;
2) That the bridge henceforth be known as ‘Bloody Sunday Bridge’ to honor the historic events that occurred there in 1965; events led by John Lewis and others, and which raised all of us up to be better than we had been before.”
Pettus said he generally does not like the idea of things being named after people because people are fallible. He supports renaming the bridge after the event for which it is known because it would be attention-grabbing. He also said he supports the community’s goals of using the site to better educate people about what happened there.
Pettus retired from the real estate business and now writes full-time in California’s Bay Area, where he has spent his life. He was a student at the University of California, Berkeley in 1965, when the Bloody Sunday march etched his family name into civil rights history.
He wasn’t aware of the bridge’s name at the time and had no idea he was related to the former Confederate general and grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan until two years later, when he began researching his family’s Deep South roots. He wasn’t able to pinpoint his exact relation, he said, but believes Edmund Pettus was his great-great-great-uncle.
There was a generational split in his family between older relatives who had remained in the south and were “unreconstructed,” he said. A great-aunt he used to visit called the Civil War the War of Northern Aggression.
“My dad who had come west during World War II did not have any of those inclinations, I’m pleased to say, and raised us not to have them,” Pettus said.
He has been in touch with another descendant of Edmund Pettus who has called for the bridge to be renamed. A great-great-granddaughter, Caroline Randall Williams, penned a New York Times op-ed in June about the debate over Confederate monuments.
She issued a statement last month supporting the latest push to rename the bridge for the late Rep. John Lewis: “We need to rename the bridge because we need to honor an American hero, a man who made that bridge a place worth remembering. John Lewis secured that bridge’s place on the right side of history. We are not a people that were made to cling to relics of the past at the cost of our hope for the future. Renaming the bridge in John Lewis’s honor would be a testament to the capacity for progress, the right-mindedness and striving toward freedom that are at the heart of what’s best about the American spirit.”
Opinion | Someone should be fired for Decatur’s racist housing practices
Did you know that all Black people hate living in high-rise towers? Or that all Black people like to sit on their porches, and come and go easily?
I was unaware of these common traits shared by all Black people until this morning, when I read a news story in the Decatur Daily and then read a lengthy report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that detailed the insanely racist practices of the Decatur Housing Authority.
Now, before we go much further here, I should warn some of you that this is going to shatter your beliefs that racism is mostly dead and that widespread, government-sponsored racism doesn’t exist, or is over-hyped by media attempting to shame all white people. Those views were ignorant, offensive and easily disproved anyway, but this story is going to cause you some sleepless nights.
Here are the basic details: In Decatur, there are three options for low-income, elderly housing. There are two high-rise apartment buildings that sit beside the Tennessee River and offer tenants various activities and beautiful views of the river. There is also another group of garden-style apartments several miles away, located in a less desirable and impoverished area of Decatur, where crime rates are high and property values low, and there are no activities and no gorgeous views.
In the beautiful high-rise buildings, the tenants are 94 percent white.
In the very-much-not-beautiful apartments, the tenants are 100 percent Black.
If you think this to be a mere accident, it was not. Decatur Housing Authority employees admitted to the segregation practices, in which they routinely bypassed Black applicants on the waiting lists at the high-rise buildings and placed white tenants in the rooms instead.
The HUD review noted numerous instances of this occurring during the compliance review period. In other words, the people at the Decatur Housing Authority continued this racist nonsense even when they knew HUD was watching.
And it’s actually worse than that. Because DHA was warned back in 2017 that its segregation practices were illegal, and that serious changes and improvements needed to be made to its housing and placement practices.
DHA did nothing.
HUD officials found that one Black applicant remained on the waiting list for a room at the high-rise buildings for nearly 2,000 days.
That’s more than five years.
And when the HUD investigators asked about these practices and about the obviously segregated housing situation, DHA employees told them: “Black elderly tenants do not like to live in high-rise buildings. They prefer to live in garden-style units so they can sit on their porch and come and go as they please.”
All Black tenants … Lordy.
The HUD report sums this up nicely: “It is unclear how the (DHA) staff reached this conclusion.”
If you’re wondering, absolutely no one in Decatur has taken responsibility for this monumental embarrassment. And as of late Tuesday evening, no one has been held accountable.
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling ducked questions about the issue, despite the fact he is responsible for appointing some members of the DHA board.
One of those board members, chairman James Ridgeway, ran from the problem too, telling the Daily that he “doesn’t oversee the thing,” meaning DHA, and that he’s just a board member.
Ridgeway went on to say that even though the board does have authority to hire and fire the people in charge of DHA — executive director Andy Holloway and housing director Jeff Snead — there are no plans to do so.
“We don’t have nothing against them. They’ve done a good job,” Ridgeway said.
They actually didn’t. According to a spokesperson for HUD, the Decatur Housing Authority operated the absolute worst, most racist housing agency in the entire country.
To rectify the situation, Decatur will pay out $200,000 in fines and will be forced to make improvements to bring the apartments up to decent standards and provide the additional services that are available in the highrises.
All told, it will cost the city, and its taxpayers, millions of dollars. And it will have left hundreds of Black residents living in substandard housing, and suffering the indignity of being shuffled off to less desirable homes because of the color of their skin.
Someone should answer for that.