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OP-ED: How one decision set voting rights back 50 years

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer, UAW — “What a lot of people don’t realize is that many aspects of the VRA are not permanent law. Many of the provisions are temporary and must be renewed by Congress. So, we must continually fight to protect this critical piece of civil rights legislation. We must fight challenges in the courts, fight to ensure the temporary provisions are renewed and fight to maintain the watchdog provisions of the Act at the state and local levels where we see voter suppression.”

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President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Image Serial Number: A1030-17a. http://www.lbjlibrary.net/collections/photo-archive/photolab-detail.html?id=222 / Wikimedia Commons)

The Mountain Standing Right Behind the Mountain Top

A longtime grassroots activist, Curry is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, a Silver Life member of the NAACP, and member of the NAACP National Board of Directors. He is also an active member of numerous community and social organizations including but not limited to the Michigan State Democratic Party, American Legion Post 177 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Unique Masonic Lodge #85, Charlotte Consistory #35, and Rameses Temple #51 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and various others. He resides in Detroit.

A longtime grassroots activist, Ray Curry is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, a Silver Life member of the NAACP, and member of the NAACP National Board of Directors. He is also an active member of numerous community and social organizations including but not limited to the Michigan State Democratic Party, American Legion Post 177 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Unique Masonic Lodge #85, Charlotte Consistory #35, and Rameses Temple #51 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and various others. He resides in Detroit.

By Ray Curry, Secretary-Treasurer, UAW

This month marks the 54th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), one of the most sweeping pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history. This ground-breaking measure, fought over and marched over and bleed over on the streets of Selma, Alabama, was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965. It was designed to knock down legal barriers at state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote.

That essential democratic right to have a say in who can best make government work for its people, had been guaranteed by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1870. The amendment stated that the right to vote could not be denied based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

And even though that sounds clear as a bell, the road to the polls was made instead an arduous and at times even perilous one with Jim Crow smack in the way, installing roadblocks and tripwire at as many turns as he could get away with. As originally written, the Voting Rights Act took an axe to those barriers.

But in 2013, the Supreme Court delivered a decision that, in effect, gutted VRA protections. Since then, we’ve seen numerous court challenges and legal maneuvering designed to further weaken the VRA. Designed to obfuscate that mountain top view of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s promised land, that momentous decision put another mountain of dehumanizing anti-voting measures in place.

The 2013 decision did its dirty work by seizing on one of the most critical temporary provisions, known as Section 4.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that many aspects of the VRA are not permanent law. Many of the provisions are temporary and must be renewed by Congress. So, we must continually fight to protect this critical piece of civil rights legislation. We must fight challenges in the courts, fight to ensure the temporary provisions are renewed and fight to maintain the watchdog provisions of the Act at the state and local levels where we see voter suppression.

A dagger in the heart of the VRA

The devastating 2013 decision rendered moot, Sections 4 and 5, two of the most critical aspects of the law. Section 4, which was struck down, provided a formula for the federal government to identify locations with documented histories of racial discrimination. The locations identified under the provision were: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia; three counties in California; five counties in Florida; three counties in New York; 40 counties in North Carolina; two counties in South Dakota; and two Michigan townships.

Section 5 called for locations identified under Section 4 to submit any changes in voting laws to the Department of Justice for pre-approval. Until 2013, Section 5 proved very effective in blocking discriminatory measures. Between 1998 and 2013, 86 proposed election changes were blocked and hundreds more withdrawn.

The effect of scuttling these critically important checks have turned a fire hose on the people the VRA was meant to protect.

Perhaps John Lewis, Georgia U.S. House representative and well known Freedom Rider in the civil rights movement summed up the decision best: “What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act.”

And we felt the pain across the nation.

‘No, you can’t vote’

Here are but a few examples of the rampant assault on voting rights and voting access since 2013.

At least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018, according to a Brennan Center for Justice Report. A similar number was purged between 2014 and 2016, leading up to the 2016 presidential election, the first presidential election in 50 years conducted without the full protection of the VRA.

Of note is the fact that those numbers are much bigger than the purge rates in 2006 and 2008. Moreover, purge rates were significantly higher, reaching up to 40%, in those areas identified under Section 4 as having a history of voter suppression along racial lines.

Georgia, (one of the identified states under Section 4), for example, purged twice as many voters between 2012 and 2016 than it did between 2008 and 2012.

Moreover, at least 17 states have enacted new voting restrictions that make it more difficult to register to vote, that curb voter registration drives and decrease opportunities for early voting, and establish requirements for government-issued IDs (a document that millions of Americans don’t have).

That last provision alone has the potential to suppress millions of voters, and it’s clear that strict voter ID laws disproportionately affect African-American, Latino, Asian-American, young, elderly and poor voters.

A Florida measure barred ex-felons from being eligible to vote after serving their sentences, preventing 1.7 million Floridians from voting in 2016, including 1 in 5 black voting-age citizens.

Fighting back

The assault the Supreme Court enabled on voting rights now threatens our democracy and the principles on which this nation was founded. Enter voting rights champion, Stacy Abrams and her group, Fair Fight Action, which is taking on voter suppression in Georgia in the courts. The Georgia suit doesn’t address Sections 4 and 5 directly, but instead challenges the legitimacy of a system that would allow egregious voting disparities.

A May 2019 Vox article on Abrams noted: “Obstacles to voting have created a two-tiered voting system that disproportionately affects voters of color and limits the power of their votes.”

Heading into the 2020 presidential election, we must work harder than ever to protect our democracy — and the right of every U.S. citizen’s voice to be heard at the ballot box, even if it takes moving mountains to do it.

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COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.
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By Burl “The Coach” Jones, Sports Editor, Houston Forward Times

Recently, Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban made a statement that Texas A&M bought every player they signed with NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) deals.

Alabama came in second in recruiting this year. That has rarely happened since Saban stepped on campus at Alabama. He also stated that Jackson State University, an HBCU coached by Deion Sanders, signed the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal.

The NIL phenomenon was created in June 2021 by the NCAA. This allows athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image, and likeness. Previously, the NCAA made billions in revenue off the backs of college athletes. With the advent of the NIL, expect a shift in the landscape of college football recruiting.

Schools like Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma, have very rich boosters and alumni who have access to millions. They will come up with very creative ways to offer lucrative NIL deals to 5-star recruits. This apparently doesn’t sit well with Coach Saban, who is used to having his way, and getting most of the 5-Star recruits to sign with Alabama.

This will definitely level the playing field and gives schools like Texas A&M, that hasn’t won a National Championship in decades, a chance to recruit 5-Star athletes on a national level and could eventually lead to them winning a National Championship in the near future.

At least that’s what they hope in College Station.

As far as Coach Saban’s statement about Jackson State signing the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal is concerned, that was quickly debunked by Coach Prime, who immediately tweeted that he will address that lie. He followed that up with this statement:

“I haven’t talked to Coach Saban. I’m sure he tried to call. We need to talk publicly- not privately. What you said was public, that doesn’t require a private conversation. Let’s talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation.”

Coach Saban is speaking from a place of privilege and bigotry. He is used to having his way and getting the players he wants. How dare a little old HBCU such as Jackson State get the #1 recruit in the country? It’s a slap in the face to all HBCUs to insist that they must pay a Black kid to attend an HBCU.

Paying recruits is certainly not new; it has been going on for years.

Former Houston Texan Travis Johnson, who was a 5-Star recruit, recently stated that Alabama offered him six figures in 2000 when he was being recruited.

“Y’all were the NIL before the NIL,” he said.

Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.

Coach Saban needs to be concerned about that pipeline that he had in Texas, getting those 5-Star recruits to leave the state. That oil money in Texas will be keeping those boys at home. Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the SEC in a few years and that will also influence Saban’s ability to recruit in Texas.

With all those factors coming into play, here is a bit of advice Coach Sabin:

SHUT UP AND COACH!!

“I’m just Telling It Like It Is!!”

The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th. Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head. Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people. It’s that simple and that sad. Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.
The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D., Houston Forward Times

Racism is a longstanding social illness in the United States of America. Seemingly, there is no cure for it.

It has been with us for as long as I can remember. The result of it has created heartache and heartbreak.

Lives have been lost and it has left the stain of disgrace on this country. Accomplishments, it could be argued, are sometimes overshadowed by our blatant disregard for some members of our beloved community.

I know for sure that racism will be around for as long as I live. It has been a part of my life experiences.

Unfortunately, and I say this with no pride, I have witnessed racism up close and personal.

I have been around long enough to watch the many levels of racism that exist in this country.

For example, we have had educational racism. Segregated schools were the norm until the case, Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka ended it.

Did that stop us from getting an education?

The answer is a resounding no!

Black colleges, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), were founded in order that higher education was afforded to African Americans.

At this moment, HBCUs are the hottest and most talked about educational venue in the land.

Everybody wants to attend an HBCU. I am a graduate of an HBCU (Johnson C. Smith University), and I know the power and influence they have.

The right to vote has always been problematic for African Americans. It is a fundamental right for all Americans, according to the Founding Fathers.

The problem is that the ‘current fathers’ don’t see it that way.

Will that stop us?

The answer is another resounding no!

African Americans are now voting in record numbers and that trend will continue.

There are states in this union that are creating trumped-up rules to keep us from exercising our privilege at the polls.

Some in this country have taken racism below ground zero. There are people in our states who hate Black people and want to kill us.

That is a powerful statement, yet it is factual and true.

Interestingly, there are citizens who believe the opposite. I suspect their experiences are different, and they live in an almost contactless America.

If you are one of those people, pay close attention now.

Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th.

Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head.

Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people.

It’s that simple and that sad.

Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.

The victims were assaulted at a Tops Friendly Markets store and the victims ranged in ages from 20-86.

This crime of hate is unthinkable and was done with malicious intent.

The killer was not a Buffalo resident. He drove approximately 200 miles from Conklin, New York, to commit this heinous crime.

Gendron had already scouted out the place for his crime. He knew that many African Americans shopped at that location. That is sick beyond words.

According to reports, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, “We found some things that show he was here in early March, and then again, we know he was here on Friday, basically doing reconnaissance on the area.”

Gramaglia added, “He was in the store, both on Friday and Saturday.”

These statements were made by him to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

Payton S. Gendron surrendered to police after this life-altering atrocity.

America, where are we headed? Only time will tell.

The post Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings appeared first on Houston Forward Times.

The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices

NNPA NEWSWIRE — A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.
The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The average price for a gallon of gasoline has hit record numbers in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

This week prices rose nationally by four cents, and consumers wondered why the cost is so high.

A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.

“America has an abundance of resources right under our feet, and policymakers should send a clear message that America is open for energy investment,” Smith declared.

API noted that gasoline prices are determined by the supply and demand of crude oil and expenses for refining, distribution, retailing, and taxation. Those fundamental market realities drive prices at the pump, officials stated.

The main components of retail gasoline prices are the cost of crude oil, taxes, refining costs, and distribution and marketing costs, API officials stated.

Of those, the price of crude oil has the most significant impact – accounting for 56 percent of the cost.

“Because of this, changes in the price reflect the global cost of crude oil, which is influenced by current conditions and expectations of consumer demand, supply, inventories, geopolitical events, and other factors, generally have an effect on pump prices,” the organization stated in a fact sheet.

Further, federal, state, and local governments levy various taxes in fees on transportation fuels.

The nationwide average tax on gasoline is 57.09 cents per gallon, including a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and state-level taxes that range from 68.15 cents per gallon in California and 15.13 cents per gallon in Alaska.

API President and CEO Mike Sommers recently discussed the critical importance of American energy leadership “at a time of geopolitical volatility and rising energy costs around the world.”

Sommers urged policymakers to advance U.S. natural gas and oil production to support stability in global energy markets and ensure access to affordable, reliable energy for American consumers and our allies overseas.

“Most everyone knows that the world needs oil and natural gas in a big way and will for decades or more to come; the only question is where that oil and gas is going to come from,” Sommers remarked.

“As much as ever, we need to think hard about that economic truth and our energy future. That means recognizing energy from natural gas and oil as the critical strategic asset it is to America.”

“We can’t treat oil and natural gas as a kind of switch that is turned on or off to suit the moment,” Sommers continued.

“Production and delivery don’t work that way. Yet the overriding policy lately has been to cancel pipelines, block permits and deny leases – all things that discourage investment.

“As more Americans face the consequences of bad policy, the elements of good policy become that much more apparent and desired. We have an opportunity together to re-center the energy discussion with basic realities and good common sense as our starting point.”

Sommers called on the administration and Congress to develop a new five-year offshore leasing program; hold onshore leases on federal lands per the Mineral Leasing Act; approve LNG export applications and allow the approval of exports to non-free-trade-agreement nations, and craft transparent, consistent permitting regulations to enable the development of vital energy infrastructure.

The U.S. has pledged to increase LNG exports to Europe by 65 percent over the next six years.

How quickly could U.S. oil producers scale up production to put downward pressure on domestic gasoline costs?

What could the federal government do to promote that production?

API officials said it begins with access to resources, advancing infrastructure, and enabling – rather than deterring – the industry’s financing.

“Importantly, financial markets have become less hospitable to the natural gas and oil industry partly because of the Biden administration’s positions, policies, and signals,” API officials asserted.

“Those who have capital may be reluctant to invest in long-lived energy assets in such a climate, and a relatively fixed pool of cash flows that could be re-invested by industry have been increasingly spread thin.”

API listed four “concrete actions” the organization believes the Biden-Harris administration could immediately take to support American production.

They include conducting federal lease sales, completing a new five-year program for federal offshore leasing, supporting energy infrastructure, and reopening access to Alaska.

“The administration should reinstate the leases it suspended in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the permit development it approved in the National Petroleum Reserve,” API officials wrote.

“These were permitted with stringent environmental standards and could prove a significant source of domestic production over time.”

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