L-R are ANSC State President Dr. Robert Watts and young leaders LaDerrick Caldwell, Calvin Harkness and Catrena Carter.

 

L-R are ANSC State Coordinator Shelley Fearson, ANSC State President Dr. Roberta  Watts, HICA organizer Victor Spezzini, Rev. Robert Gratz and Alabama State Rep. Joseph Mitchell.

 

The Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) held its Fall Convention this past Saturday at the Maggie Street Church Dream Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Representatives from chapters around the state attended.

The ANSC had three panels that discussed issues of importance to build the organization and make it more effective. The panels discussed: reaching young people; responding to Alabama’s new immigration legislation; and the power and importance of the vote.

The panel on reaching young people had three younger leaders from ANSC discussing the issue- Catrena Norris Carter of Birmingham, Calvin Harkness of Pickens County and LaDerrick Caldwell of Bullock County. The panel suggested using Facebook, Twitter and other social media to reach young people who use cell phones, web pages and computers to communicate with each other.

ANSC needs a plan of action to reach younger people and community leaders. Young people need to know that ANSC adult leaders care about them and want to help them succeed.

Members of the audience suggested reading from Black history books at family reunions, presenting Black history information on Facebook and working more closely with young people through 21st Century youth camps and county chapters.

The panel on immigration and Alabama’s HB56 harsh anti-immigrant legislation, featured Victor Spezzini of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), Rev. Robert Graetz, a Lutheran minister connected with Alabama State University with a history going back to the Montgomery Bus Boycott; and State Representative Joseph Mitchell of Mobile.

Spezzini said the Alabama HB56 legislation targets undocumented immigrants and has already forced many of them to leave the state which has caused problems for farmers and building contractors who depended on their labor. He said many law enforcement agencies have problems with enforcement of the law because it was an unfunded mandate that also made it harder for people from the immigrant community to report crimes or serve as witnesses.

Spezzini said the section of the law which requires new enrollees in public schools to show citizenship papers has a “chilling effect” on parents putting their children into schools.

Rev. Graetz said that he opposed HB56 on moral grounds since his religious training taught him that he had a spiritual obligation for equal treatment of all people. “ To single out Hispanic people for unequal treatment, violates the teachings of the Bible and is similar to the treatment of Black people during the Civil Rights Movement,” said Graetz.

Graetz reminded that Dr. Martin Luther King said, “ injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and preached creating “the beloved community” and that the HB56 law violates those principles.

Rep. Joseph Mitchell of Mobile who joined all the members of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus in voting against the immigration legislation compared it to the pass laws during the Apartheid period in South Africa. Mitchell said, “this law is out of step with the way the World is moving. We are supposed to be bring people together not pushing them apart.”

Spezzini of HICA gave two phone numbers for immigrants to call if they were having difficulties with the implementation of the law – a hot line at the Southern Poverty Law Center: 1-800-982-1620; and his own number at HICA: 205-942-5505.

The third panel was devoted to the power of the vote. The members of this panel were: State Senator Hank Sanders, Attorney Fay Rose Toure and John Zippert, Co-Publisher of the Greene County Democrat.

This panel reviewed the struggle for the right to vote and the many sacrifices and obstacles placed in the way of Blacks, women, youth and working people in gaining the right to vote and continuing to use the vote to benefit their lives and families. Senator Hank Sanders pointed out that “We in ANSC have mostly mobilized not really educated voters. We must educate voters on a year round basis for them to fully understand the power of the vote.”

The panel suggested that ANSC members must be vigilant of new steps being undertaken through tightening voter identification, redistricting, limiting ways to raise funds for political action and others that were limiting the full exercise of the right to vote. The panel suggested boycotting some of the consumer products, i. e., Brawny Paper Towels, Dixie Cups and Plates,  produced by the Koch Brothers, who are active in supporting the Tea Party and fighting progressive change.

Attorney Faya Rose Toure made a special plea for funds to support the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma. $5,000 was raised at the meeting with more pledged in the future.

The convention concluded with a luncheon to honor Ms. Amelia Boynton Robinson, the queen-mother of the Selma Voting Rights Movement who recently celebrated her 100th birthday and has been fighting for civil and human rights since she was nine years old.

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