3 years ago

I’m a black man from Chicago who moved to Alabama, and here’s what I found

Ron Brown with his wife and children (Courtesy R. Brown)

 

(Opinion) When I began attending Birmingham School of Law in early 2013, my wife was pregnant with our youngest son, Jaxson, and she utterly refused to move to Alabama.

Let’s be honest, Alabama has a dirty past when it comes to the treatment of African-Americans.

We both are northerners. I’m from Chicago, she’s from New Jersey and we met in Atlanta.

I lived in Atlanta for 12-years and loved it. It was the first city of its magnitude that I have ever lived in. African-Americans are the majority there and it was great to experience black excellence on so many fronts –politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and athletes. Blacks also control the music and movie scene. You have blacks living in sprawling mansions, and they drive Bentleys and Rolls Royces alongside you in traffic daily. When you go to eat at fine dining establishments in Atlanta, there may be two or three white couples in the room.

I say all of this to paint you a picture of what my life was like in Atlanta, and I experienced little to no racial tension while living there.

Then here I come with this dream to be a lawyer … and it required a move to Alabama.

My wife wasn’t having it.

So it was clear: If I wanted this dream I would have to completely step out of my comfort zone and commute to Alabama.

I probably could have put my foot down and made her move, but truthfully I was uncertain of this place, too. I had never heard anything good about Alabama. I knew they had a great college football team but that’s about it.

My only interaction with an Alabamian was with James Bushnell, dean of Birmingham School of Law. He is a good man. I came over for a visit and he personally gave me a tour of the school and talked with me a few hours about the program. I never felt anything less than human kindness and sincerity. After that meeting I made the decision that I would have to drive three nights a week from Atlanta to Birmingham to make this work.

I was treated great during my first year. There were a few hiccups but I was in a new place. I quickly decided to align myself with as many black students as I could because that was my comfort zone. So, in that moment, I prejudged white people who I never met.

Fast-forward three-years later as I graduated from law school – my family was living in Vestavia, a suburb of Birmingham, my son was attending Vestavia East Elementary, my wife was singing at Mountain Top Church every other Sunday … and, basically, all of my friends were white.

I went to many ‘Bama tailgates at the ranches, homes and businesses of white classmates and associates. I was absolutely in awe. My family was well adjusted and they loved our move to Alabama.

This only happened because we opened ourselves up to the possibility of something different. I chose to be authentic, transparent and willing to put myself “out there” and that opened my life to endless opportunities and possibilities.

Moving to Alabama has been the single greatest decision I have ever made in my life.

The people of Alabama are God-fearing, loving, supportive, open and willing to embrace change. I have white friends who I eat dinner and lunch with multiple times during the week. We talk about our goals, wives, kids and future endeavors. We discuss racial matters, politics and religion without being disrespectful or crude. I even have an Arab friend here, and he’s cool as a fan!

I have never been called a n*gg** or anything racially derogatory. I have been loved on, treated with respect and dignity and always felt comfortable. Does racism exist in Alabama? Yes … but this isn’t the same Alabama it once was.

So, no, you can’t move to Alabama from up north and say the word n*gg** on your social media, Harley Barber. It’s no longer the customary vernacular here.

We live in a different time and space, so please rise against ignorance like eagles. Open yourselves to something different, be an ambassador of change, and open your heart before you open your mouth. Let’s love people for the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

The moral of this story is this: Black people, get you some white friends, and white people, get you some black friends.

Trust me, life is a lot more fun this way. We are all stronger together!

God wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Ron Brown now lives with his wife and children in Hoover, Alabama.)

 

22 mins ago

Ivey allots $26M to help stabilize farmers and cattle producers

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday allocated $26 million to help stabilize businesses in the state’s agriculture industry.

The funds will establish the Alabama Agriculture Stabilization Program, which will be administered by the Department of Agriculture and Industries under the leadership of Commissioner Rick Pate.

Ivey’s apportioning of the $26 million comes out of the $1.9 billion Alabama was given as part of the federal government’s CARES Act that was passed in March with the goal of helping the country get through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19, numerous farms and processing facilities have struggled to remain open and sell their products,” Ivey said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“Establishing the Alabama Agriculture Stabilization Program is not only the right thing to do to protect our farmers, but it also key to stabilizing Alabama’s economy,” she continued.

The Stabilization Program will split the money among seven categories.

Those categories, per the governor’s office, as follows:

1. Direct Payment Business Stabilization Grants to Cattle Producers- $10.5 million
2. Meat Processing Plant Reimbursement Program- $1.5 million
3. Poultry Farmer Stabilization Grant Program- $4 million
4. Catfish Processor Reimbursement Program- $500,000
5. Fruit & Vegetable Processor Reimbursement Program- $500,000
6. State Supplemental CFAP Grant Program- $8 million
7. Nursery Grower Reimbursement Program- $1 million

“I want to thank Governor Ivey for her continued support of Alabama agriculture and for providing much needed assistance to farmers and processors adversely effected by COVID-19,” remarked Pate.

The specifics on how farmers may apply for the assistance are not yet available.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said on Wednesday that ALFA “will continue to work closely with Commissioner Pate and the Department of Revenue to provide details on how to apply for assistance as soon as they become available.”

“We appreciate Gov. Ivey and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate working with our members and other stakeholders to assess losses resulting from market disruption and identify urgent needs for stabilizing Alabama’s agricultural economy,” added Parnell.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

50 mins ago

Documentary shows Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as model of excellence for rest of nation

A documentary film being released digitally this week focuses heavily on the State of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program as an example of sterling quality that other states should emulate.

The film, titled “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America,” lasts about one hour, and over half of the running time is devoted to extolling the virtues of Alabama’s Pre-K program.

The film was funded by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation and produced in partnership with FireStarter Interactive. It is designed to lay out the positive effects of investing in early childhood education.

“Alabama is one of the shining stars, not only in the southeast, but in the country,” says Joe Squires, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) around the midpoint of the movie.

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Starting at Zero features footage of Governor Kay Ivey and extended testimonials from former Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross, former Business Council of Alabama Chairman Jeff Coleman and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

Many other Alabamians affiliated with the First Class Pre-K program are also featured, including students, parents, teachers, and employees of the Department of Early Childhood Education.

Multiple individuals featured spoke to how investing in early childhood education is not just the morally right thing to do, but is also the best thing to help the economy.

“Children who have the benefit of quality pre-k education are better prepared for a future education,” remarks Canfield in the movie, adding that good pre-k puts children on a path to be capable members of Alabama’s workforce which is currently on track for a shortage of qualified workers.

First Class Pre-K has long been one of the Yellowhammer State’s most lauded policy accomplishments.

(Starting at Zero/Screenshot/Contributed)

“Alabama is a model for what other states can emulate,” Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) says near the end of the documentary.

Bullock details in the picture how he invited then-Secretary Ross to Montana to inform the key policymakers in his state how Alabama had built such an enviable program.

“Our children are our future, and what we do as a state today will determine who we are as a state tomorrow,” says Ivey in the documentary.

More information on the movie, including how to view it, can be found on the film’s website.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

1 hour ago

Jack’s offering free coffee to teachers August 17–21 — ‘A small way we hope to say thank you’

Jack’s Family Restaurants is celebrating teachers as they kick off the 2020 school year by offering free coffee at all of its locations from August 17–21.

According to a release, all teachers can receive their free coffee from Jack’s, in the drive-thru or in the restaurant, Monday through Friday until 9:00 a.m. with a valid school ID.

No purchase is necessary to redeem the offer, and teachers can choose between a hot or iced regular-sized coffee, limit one per guest.

“Being a good neighbor and supporting the communities we serve is part of the Jack’s DNA,” stated Jack’s CEO Todd Bartmess.

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“Offering free coffee to our hardworking teachers as they kick off an unusual school year is a small way we hope to say ‘thank you’ for everything they do,” he added.

Founded in 1960 in Homewood, Alabama, Jack’s Family Restaurants started as Jack’s Hamburgers in a walk-up hamburger stand that served burgers, fries, sodas and shakes.

The chain over the past 60 years has grown to almost 200 locations in four states across the South.

This is merely the latest in a long line of examples of Jack’s continuing to support its local communities as the chain grows.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Michael Jordan speaks to Univ. of Alabama football team — ‘Winning has a price’

Basketball legend Michael Jordan on Tuesday spoke via video conference to the University of Alabama football team.

The program, led by head coach Nick Saban, routinely has some of the most successful, well-known athletes and leaders from across the nation address the team each summer in preparation for the fall season.

Previous examples reported by Yellowhammer News include the late Kobe Bryant, as well as speakers from the business and political sectors such as world-famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Alabama Athletics shared a one-minute video clip from Jordan’s virtual visit. Players seen in the video were socially distanced and wearing masks at the team facility.

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“This guy — I have the most respect for, of anybody, as a competitor. This guy is a great competitor,” Saban said introducing Jordan to the team.

The Crimson Tide coach also praised Jordan in recent months during the premier of the popular 10-part documentary “The Last Dance.”

Jordan spoke to the team on Tuesday about what it takes to be a champion.

“Winning has a price,” the six-time NBA champion said. “You have to put forth the effort every single day.”

“Coaching can only give you the motivation — they can give you plays and they can give you all that — but at the end of the day, you’ve got to have self-determination. You have to want to be the best,” Jordan advised.

He added, “If you’re all on the same page and everybody wants to win, that’s the whole process. If you guys are sitting there putting on that Alabama uniform, your attitude is about winning. Winning is a part of me. I will do anything to win. Your energy should be towards winning.”

Watch:

Alabama Football also shared this famous quote from Jordan in a tweet: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

The program, led by its players with support from the staff and administration, are currently trying to save the 2020 fall college football season.

RELATED: Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Alabama’s small business community needs Congress’ support

Affordable health care has long been a cause of concern for small business across our country with the cost of coverage has consistently ranked at the top of small business owners’ concerns. And now, amid a global health crisis, health coverage is more important than ever. As someone with years of experience working in the healthcare industry and alongside businesses, I have seen firsthand how the small business community faces unique challenges when it comes to employer-sponsored benefits.

There is no doubt that each employer wants to give employees the best benefits possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes small businesses competitive, attracting a more skilled workforce and helping to keep employees healthy. However, the large majority of small business owners run on extremely small margins, and as health care costs continue to rise, it is even more difficult to provide employees with quality health care coverage.

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Alabama is known for our friendly small business community, inviting many small employers to plant their roots in the Yellowhammer State. This is why we’re proud to have over 380,000 small businesses that employ over 765,000 of our state’s residents. Small businesses are, and always have been, the backbone of our economy. Alabama laws historically promote competition and small business growth but despite this, we still need our federal lawmakers to support us, especially at a time when businesses are struggling.

Today, with the pandemic continuing to spread across our state, small business owners are struggling to stay in business, and they are bracing for the full financial impacts of COVID-19. It is a devastating situation to be in and our small business community cannot survive on its own.

Fortunately, we have very dedicated small business champions in Washington, D.C. who have been working tirelessly to ensure any federal COVID-19 relief includes small businesses.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Senator Doug Jones and Congresswoman Terri Sewell supported bipartisan legislation that in 2019 repealed an Obamacare tax known as the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). This erroneous tax increased the price of health insurance for small business owners. Now we need them to further continue that work and work to implement policies that will continue to lower the cost of health care for small business owners, their employees, and their families, especially at a time when having health care is so crucial. A healthy workforce that is ready, and able, to get back to work is vital to our state, and country’s economic recovery.

Small business owners want to continue to provide health care for their employees, but they need Congress’ help to do so. I ask that our elected officials continue to come together to support Alabama’s small business community, especially when it comes to lowering health care costs and making health care more affordable — both as we continue to overcome COVID-19 and long beyond.

Curtis Cannon is a Managing Partner at Axis Recovery and has over 15 years of experience working with health insurance companies, brokers and consulting firms.