Why Jefferson County Needs Both Shelia and Sheila

I covered politics as a reporter and rarely stepped up to give my personal opinion or make endorsements in a widely public way. Most of the people who run for office are friends or acquaintances, and even in private it’s hard for me to take sides.

But this time I decided to make an exception because the times call for it.

The Jefferson County Commission seat in District 2 has grown into a heated contest with five candidates essentially battling in tomorrow’s Democratic primary over one issue: the former Cooper Green Mercy Hospital.

Incumbent Sandra Faye Little-Brown, whom I’ve known over the years, greatly disappointed me and the community with her decision in that area. Yes, she did try to “save” Cooper Green from its ultimately clumsy dismantlement with a proposed solution that would have forced the hospital’s administration to live within a $70 million budget. The problem is, the simple-minded solution would not have worked.

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Jordan Davis: Thoughts From A Black Teenager

Last year after the Trayvon Martin verdict, I reposted the writing of Donald Watkins, a successful African American businessman by any measure and parent who loves his children. He found himself expressing age-old advice to his sons who were supposedly living in “post-racial America,” led by the nation’s first openly known African American president.

And now, virtually a year later, after the Jordan Davis trial, more black parents and their sons are expressing the same fears that haunted the steps of their forefathers. Like Donald Watkin’s piece, I felt compelled to share the blog post of another young black male who questions how to navigate in his own country. What follows are the thoughts of Miles Ezeilo:

I get scared every time I turn on the news now. My thoughts on the verdict of Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old young African American man who was shot to death by Michael Dunn are simple: as a black boy in this day and age, my trust and sense of safety is dwindling as I write this. Continue reading →

Economics: New Frontier in the Post-Mandela Era?

Nelson Mandela is buried, an exemplary life well-lived and rewarded with worldwide accolades that I have never seen or heard about in my life.

When even Newt Gingrich bit back at his own rabid conservative base, who criticized him for praising a “communist” rebel who tried to overthrow his government, you know something had to be great about Mandela. His defense of the great freedom fighter made me realize just how powerful a symbol Mandela was for humanity. Continue reading →

Black Leaders Are Who The People Make Them

The Nation of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan sure can pull a crowd. And controversy.

His appearances in Birmingham and other Alabama cities last week with the National Coalition of Leaders to Save Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act drew at least 200 people to Kelly Ingram Park. Of course, this hallowed ground was the site of the famous dogs-and-hoses confrontation between nonviolent protesting children and Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor.

Social media was aflutter with arguments about whether it was appropriate for Farrakhan to be associated with Birmingham’s powerful civil rights heritage, which is centered on Christian principles of love and nonviolence. Continue reading →

Alabama Needs to Stay On Its Voting Rights Medication

Thank goodness that in 2013 we’re commemorating the Civil Rights milestones achieved through the sacrificial work of brave men and women who forfeited the pursuit of their own happiness to defend their constitutional rights and those of fellow citizens.

If it weren’t for the heightened awareness of history, those of us under 50 might not understand the inherent danger of Shelby County’s daring decision to challenge a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires Alabama officials to get federal pre-clearance on any voting rule changes. Continue reading →

2012 Election Season Reveals Racial “Insanity”

Before I left my house to walk to my polling spot this November Election Day, I put on this button that says, “Birmingham 1963 Foot Soldiers Reunion: Inspired by What We Did for Ourselves – And the World.”

I rode a bus to President Barack Obama’s Inauguration in 2009 with some of those ordinary but heroic men and women called Foot Soldiers, who as children had taken part in the 1963 demonstrations during the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement.

The button reminds me that they, and thousands of others I don’t know, paid a heavy price just so that they and I — we — had basic civil rights, including the right to vote. After 50 years, it sounds bizarre that people who looked like me were denied the voting right and other rights due to any U.S. citizen, particularly in the larger Southern society, just because of skin pigmentation. Continue reading →

Cooper Green Mercy Madness and The Healthcare Divide

I saw trouble coming when Maralyn Mosley called the GOP JeffCo commissioners who favored closing Cooper Green Mercy Hospital “cowards” and refused to be silent. When asked to leave the chambers and sheriff’s deputies surrounded her, she shouted, “If you want me out, you’ll have to carry me out! I’m not gonna leave these cowards in here!”

But I knew the war was on when Rev. Tommy Lewis, who earlier tried to calm Ms. Mosley and supporters who started singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” came out of the commission’s back chamber, where he and other civic leaders apparently tried to reason with the GOP commissioners. He waved his hand in the air, exclaiming that the commissioners wouldn’t act in good faith to reconsider their vote to end Cooper Green’s in-patient services.

Then Lewis – all 6-foot-8 of him – turned toward Commissioner Joe Knight, and looking down, wagged his finger in Knight’s face, and practically shouted , “Either you take this back to committee (for further discussion), or we’re all going to jail!” It’s only the beginning, he said later.

Thus the commission debate over Cooper Green Mercy Hospital – which provides medical services to the county’s poor, uninsured and underinsured residents – turned into a full-blown civil rights protest.

How did it come to this?

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A Hole in Our Community- Missing Doris Powell

There’s a hole in the fabric of Birmingham today. Doris Powell, a long-time neighborhood leader and transit advocate, died yesterday.

She died doing what she did best – communing with neighbors who were her constituents and co-leaders of the Northside community. Ms. Powell was among them at the Fountain Heights Neighborhood park when she collapsed and later died. Continue reading →