9 months ago

¡HICA! and Fiesta serve Alabama Latino community, offering free COVID testing, authentic cultural experience

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ¡HICA! and Fiesta are providing a lifeline to Alabama’s Latino community.

Though it is difficult working through a major health crisis, staff of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – ¡HICA! – have worked from home since March to serve their community. ¡HICA! champions economic equality, civic engagement and social justice for the state’s Latino and immigrant families. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, ¡HICA! is providing free COVID-19 tests and emphasizing educational efforts to increase Latino’s health, safety and economic well-being.

José Gutiérrez is thankful for the many services offered by ¡HICA!, particularly the convenient access to coronavirus testing. While he wears a mask in public and remains healthy, the Blount County resident finds peace of mind knowing he can receive a free test, as costs usually range from $300 to $1,000, depending on the area. Gutiérrez’s first cousin in Dallas, Texas, died in June after a monthlong hospitalization with the novel coronavirus. A few weeks later, his uncle in Houston, Texas, died from the illness. Gutiérrez is mindful about the need to take precautions.

A highly skilled construction worker, since March Gutiérrez has declined lucrative out-of-state remodeling jobs to avoid contracting COVID-19. He said that he cannot afford to bring home the coronavirus to his wife and son.

“The pandemic hit communities of color the worst,” said Isabel Rubio, executive director of ¡HICA! for nearly 20 years. “COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities in our society, hitting the Latino community very hard. The pandemic has had such a severe impact, it’s been mind-boggling. Thank goodness for the generosity of the community at large.”

¡HICA! has partnered with three community health groups to provide free COVID-19 tests in nine Alabama counties. In July, 143 residents received free testing, while more than 40 people were tested in June at Cahaba Medical Care in Birmingham and another group received free testing Sept. 11. Rubio noted that ¡HICA!’s long-term mission is to improve the access and affordability of healthcare for the Hispanic population.

“The big story is trying to provide healthcare for people who don’t have health insurance,” Rubio said. “We’re joining with other entities in thinking about how to make solutions for the Latino community. We either all succeed, or we all fail. We are determined to succeed.”

Supporting families with children is another important way that ¡HICA! works to build community.

“We’ve done online housing education workshops and had incredible attendance,” with numerous clients taking part in zoom meetings,” Rubio said. “Even in the pandemic, we’ve helped people purchase new homes. We’ve helped people make sure their kids are connected for remote learning. One of our staff has helped individuals install programs on their computer.”

In April, several staff provided drive-through assistance with income taxes.

“If it takes us helping one person at a time, we do it,” Rubio said.

¡HICA! delivered more help to underserved Latinos in April and May. Staff handed out more than 500 boxes of food donated by the United Way of Central Alabama. Underserved families picked up the food at ¡HICA!’s Birmingham headquarters.

Fiesta 2020 accents culture, safety and education

Because of the ongoing pandemic, Fiesta Birmingham on Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 will host a virtual “30 days of Fiesta” program. For nearly 20 years, the celebration was held in Linn Park in Birmingham. This year’s celebration promises daily, impactful service with numerous entertainment and/or educational opportunities through online events, said Fiesta Birmingham President Teresa Zuñiga-Odom.

“Live cooking and mixology demonstrations, seminars on health and financial wellness, a Latin film series, and family arts and crafts projects featuring Hispanic artists are just a few of the activities we have in store,” said Zuñiga-Odom, who has helped organize Fiesta since its 2002 inception.

Each day has a theme. “Wellness Mondays” features services and resources to stay healthy and safe; “Taco Tuesday and Titos” offers cooking and cocktail demonstrations; “Cultural Wednesdays” showcases the people, culture, history and traditions of Latin American countries; “Throwback Thursdays” treats viewers to 18 years of Fiesta photos; and Financial Fridays” provides insights from Wells Fargo on how to build credit and savings. On the weekend, “Celebration Saturdays” presented by Alabama Power includes Facebook Live showings with the best of Latin art, food, movies, music and dance. “Family Sundays” offers the chance to gather and observe the importance of family and community.

Zuñiga-Odom noted that Alabama Power will sponsor educational safety through its fun safety program for kids, Saf-T-Opolis.

“Alabama Power has been a presenting sponsor of Fiesta since the celebration began nearly 20 years ago,” said Zuñiga-Odom. “The company has always had a huge presence at the event, with many members of the Alabama Power Service Organization helping smooth the way. Obviously, we won’t have volunteers this year, but we are so thankful for the continued help from companies like Alabama Power which help make this event possible. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Since 2002, Fiesta has awarded more than $70,000 in scholarships to deserving Hispanic students, with that commitment continuing with this year’s “Fiesta in a Box.” For $18, families can buy a beautifully decorated keepsake box with all the goodies to revel in Fiesta at home. Proceeds will fund Fiesta’s 2021 scholarships. On Saturday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m., viewers may watch the unveiling of the colorful, Hispanic-themed box. The lucky holders of a box containing golden maracas or golden piñatas will win a deluxe prize.

Hearkening to the success of years past, Rubio said the virtual Fiesta is a great way to highlight the Latino culture.

“We will miss the opportunity to connect with others and share our culture through the live Fiesta gathering, but we all recognize the importance of safeguarding families,” Rubio said. “Our goal is to empower Hispanic and immigrant families to integrate, engage and lead their communities to reach their families’ aspirations.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

Alabama’s May unemployment rate drops to 3.4% — Post-pandemic rate at lows; Record high wages

Alabama’s post-COVID pandemic economic recovery seems to be humming along based on data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

According to a press release, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington revealed Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from April’s rate of 3.6%.

The 3.4% rate tops the May 2020 number of 7.9%.

“May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020,” the release said. “May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021.”



“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Data showed that wage and salary employment grew last month by 4,700.

“Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,000), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,500), and the education and health services sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 123,000, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+37,100), the professional and business services sector (+23,000), and the manufacturing sector (+22,900), among others,” the release said.

Average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year, according to the Department of Labor.

“As we continue to see improvement in nearly all sectors of the economy, we’re also seeing record high wages in Alabama,” Washington added. “Once again, our average weekly wages are at new record high, representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase. Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases. The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

Broken down by county, Shelby County led the way with a rate of 1.8%, followed by Blount, Marshall, Franklin and DeKalb Counties.

Wilcox County topped the highest in the state with an unemployment rate of 8.8%.

When broken down by municipalities, Alabaster had the lowest rate at 1.7%. Selma had the state’s highest, coming in at 7.0%, followed by Prichard at 6.5% and Bessemer at 5.2%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 hours ago

Shelby warns Biden on defense cuts — ‘Military investments in China and Russia … outpace U.S. investment’

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) fired his own warning shots over what he views as an inadequate defense budget proposal from President Joe Biden.

During a full Senate Committee on Appropriations review of Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense budget request, Shelby expressed his concern that the administration’s defense spending plan placed the nation at a disadvantage compared to its adversaries.

“The National Defense Strategy provides a road map for what the Department of Defense needs – at a minimum – to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” explained Shelby. “Anything less jeopardizes readiness, the recapitalization of capital assets, and necessary investments in new and emerging technologies.”

Shelby, who currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful Senate committee, believes that not meeting current national defense demands sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world.


“This year, the budget proposal signals to the world that this administration is not committed to investing in readiness, training, state of the art equipment, and technological overmatch,” Shelby stated. “With military investments in China and Russia continuing to outpace U.S. investments, I find it hard to believe that the requirements outlined by General Dunford just four years ago are no longer instructive.”

This critical assessment from Alabama’s senior senator comes less than a month after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Shelby addressed both officials in his remarks, stating, “The world is a complex and dangerous place and I know that you both understand the magnitude of the challenges we face from our near peer adversaries who seek to undermine the United States’ position as a world leader and dominant military power. China and Russia are formidable adversaries and China, as you have acknowledged Secretary Austin, is proving to be a true pacing threat. China seeks hegemony – militarily, technologically, economically, and geopolitically – and is making unprecedented investments to see that to fruition.”

“Meanwhile, Russia is nearing the end of a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30 percent in real dollars over the last 10 years,” he added.

Shelby concluded that he could not support an effective cut in defense spending in 2022.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl urges Biden to undergo tests for ‘mental impairment’

U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) joined 13 of his congressional colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to undergo an examination to determine his mental fitness to serve.

The group cited a string of embarrassing verbal gaffes by the president as the basis for their request.

In a letter sent to Biden on Thursday, the Republican members of Congress explained, “We write to you today to express concern with your current cognitive state. We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the precedent set by former President Donald Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, your mental decline and forgetfulness have become more apparent over the past 18 months. In March, you forgot the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Secretary, though you had said ‘Secretary Austin’ just a few minutes prior.”

In addition, the letter cites Biden’s telling of an Amtrak story with an inexplicable timeline, forgetting the first line of the Declaration of Independence and obvious disorientation during a visit to Texas as examples for why they believe Biden is in need of cognitive testing.


The list of gaffes attributable to his mental acuity seems to be piling up for the 46th president.

During the G7 Summit in England recently, he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce the South African president.

RELATED: Biden lashes out at media member and Alabama native Kaitlan Collins over Putin — ‘You’re in the wrong business’

Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce has questioned whether Biden’s cognitive state is a national security liability.

Biden has received criticism in the early stages of his administration for calling on only a predetermined list of reporters during press conferences. The most recent instance of this occurred while Biden was in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Carl and the other letter signers pushed for transparency with any medical assessments being made, as well.

“We encourage you to follow the example set by President Trump by undergoing a cognitive test as soon as possible and immediately making the results available for the American people,” they concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 hours ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.


“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

4 hours ago

Ainsworth scores Tuberville endorsement

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has thrown his support to Will Ainsworth as the first-term lieutenant governor ramps up his reelection bid. Ainsworth announced Tuberville’s backing in a release from his campaign on Thursday.

The former college football coach offered that his endorsement of Ainsworth was an easy play call for him.

“I’ve spent most of my life recruiting,” Tuberville explained. “When you run across leadership it stands out, and I’ve seen firsthand that’s especially true in the political arena. Alabama is a gritty, hardworking,
conservative state that puts God and family first.”

He continued, “I’m proud to endorse Will Ainsworth for Lt. Governor as the leader that reflects the work ethic and values of the great state of Alabama!”


After announcing in front of 3,000 people during the first week in June that he would seek reelection, Ainsworth has now picked up the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association in addition to that of Tuberville.

Ainsworth welcomed the support from Alabama’s newest U.S. Senator.

“I am proud to have Senator Tuberville’s endorsement as I seek a second term as lieutenant governor to continue building a 21st century Alabama in which our people can earn a good living at a high-paying job and raise their families in safe, strong communities,” he remarked. “I’m focused on taking our Christian conservative values to Montgomery every day, ensuring we preserve and better the Alabama we all know and love for future generations to enjoy.”

Ainsworth’s first term has been marked by his heavy involvement in the state’s economic issues.

He has overseen the Alabama Small Business Commission, a panel tasked with recommending policies and legislation benefiting small businesses operating across the state.

During last year’s COVID-19 crisis, Ainsworth formed an emergency task force within the commission to focus on the reopening of Alabama’s economy. Most of the task force’s plan was implemented by the state during the reopening process.

Ainsworth has also served as chairman of the Aerospace States Association, a national group whose mission is to support and promote the interests of the aerospace industry in Alabama and across the nation.

Ainsworth has outlined that his focus moving forward would be to preserve Alabama values while improving opportunities for future generations.

“The main reason I’m running is for my kids, your kids, your grandkids’ future,” he stated. “It is a huge time commitment, but I want to say this: I want our kids, your kids, everybody in here to always be proud to call Alabama home. I don’t want our kids to have to move to Atlanta or Nashville or Austin or another state. I want them to be able to live right here in Alabama and have the same opportunities as any kids in the world. We’re going to do that.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia