5 months ago

Teaching teachers Alabama’s civil rights stories

How do you surprise history teachers who don’t live in Alabama? Bring them to the state for three weeks to discover what their education didn’t teach them about the civil rights movement.

“For me the surprising thing was how many people were involved in the movement that I just didn’t know about,” said Kevin Mears, a 10th grade U.S. history teacher from Brooklyn, New York. “You know Rosa Parks, you know Martin Luther King Jr., you know Malcolm X, you know some of the big names, but to take their stories a little bit farther and go deeper into their stories — like, I didn’t know Rosa Parks was a lifelong activist for human rights and civil rights before and after the bus movement. That was really powerful for me. To be in the places where it happened — going to King’s parsonage and being in the room where SCLC was started was overwhelming.”

Mears was among 71 teachers who came to Alabama this summer as part of the Stony the Road We Trod Institute, a three-week workshop presented in partnership with the Alabama Humanities Foundation exploring Alabama’s civil rights legacy. The teachers visited civil rights landmarks around Alabama, including stops in Selma, Montgomery, Tuskegee and Birmingham. Martha Bouyer, executive director of the Historic Bethel Baptist Church Foundation and director of the workshop, said it started years ago as a one-week workshop but expanded to three weeks a few years ago.

“The teachers always said they needed more time, so what I decided to do was to take my one-week project and expand it,” Bouyer said. “Now the program is being offered as a three-week institute, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’ve had international teachers to come from the U.S. State Department. They’ve sent teachers from emerging democracies, and I’ve had people from places like Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Africa and Colombia.”

Bouyer said the goal of the workshop is for these teachers to change how this history is taught.

“I want them to go back and let their students know the power of the individual in history,” Bouyer said. “We generally hear Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., but get kids to interview their grandparents or somebody in the community. Go to the nursing home. We’re lifting up names and contributions, however small it may appear to be, but I want them to do that. My goal is for this investment to forever change how we teach this history.”

Teachers explore Alabama’s civil rights legacy from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Anna Osborne, a kindergarten teacher from Alderson, West Virginia, said visiting places like the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery will change the way she teaches.

“I will go back to my classroom changed with a deeper understanding of the truth of this part of history,” Osborne said. “They might not get to come here but if they are able to see my pictures and hear my first-hand account, then I think it humanizes it for them a little.”

William Frazier, a ninth grade world history teacher from Laurel, Mississippi, said his biggest challenge will be convincing his students what he’s seen is true.

“We’re in a trying time now where kids think, ‘if I didn’t see it, then it didn’t happen,’ so I have to make it real to them and relevant to them,” Frazier said. “This is a way to do it. These things really happened. None of this is fake.”

Andraya James, a second grade teacher from Dallas, Texas, said she was surprised how much her visit to the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute affected her.

“What I’ve seen in Birmingham has had the most impact on me,” James said. “The whole experience has been awesome.”

James said she’s eager to take what she’s learned back to her students.

“I will take it back and let them know that civil rights did not begin with one person and did not end with one person,” James said. “There are many unsung heroes within the movement. Everyone has a hand in it, even if you’re not at the forefront making the speeches, you can still add your 2 cents and be effective.”

To learn more about this workshop, visit stonytheroad.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 hours ago

Two officers on leave amid investigation into inmate’s death

Two Alabama prison officers are on leave as the department probes the use of force in the death of a state inmate.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it is investigating the alleged use of force that resulted in the death of an inmate at Ventress Correctional Facility inmate.

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Fifty-five-year-old Michael Smith of Fairfield, died Dec. 5 after being removed from life support following a November incident at the prison.

The prison system said it is also investigating the death of another inmate at Holman Correctional Facility.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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11 hours ago

U.S. House Dems throw their support behind historic Trump USMCA trade deal supported by Alabama job creators, officials

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday announced that her caucus will support the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the replacement to NAFTA negotiated by President Donald Trump’s administration.

The ratification process, which needs to be complete by all three countries, will now move forward in Congress.

Pelosi’s announcement came the day after four Republican members of the Alabama legislature sent a letter urging Pelosi and her fellow congressional leaders to ratify the new trade agreement.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), along with State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) and State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy), joined other state legislative leaders from across the country in sending the letter on Monday.

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During its 2019 regular session, the Alabama legislature passed SJR 11 sponsored by Sen. Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), formally urging Congress to ratify the USMCA. The resolution was carried by Rep. Allen in the House and was co-sponsored by Marsh.

In a Tuesday statement, Marsh said, “Trade is an issue which is vital to our state and our nation, and my colleagues in Alabama and from around the country recognize that the USMCA is a good deal for everyone involved.”

“I am glad that Members from both sides of the aisle were able to come together and agree that this is the best deal to ensure that the strongest economy in our lifetime continues to grow,” he added.

The USMCA is supported by the Alabama Farmers Federation, Manufacture Alabama and other major industries in the state. You can view a fact sheet on the USMCA pertaining to the Yellowhammer State here — and specifically its manufacturing sector here.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Tuesday, Business Council of Alabama (BCA) president and CEO Katie Boyd Britt said, “The Business Council of Alabama is encouraged by the news of a bipartisan agreement on USMCA.”

“Farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses all stand to benefit from an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has modern provisions for digital trade, financial services, and agriculture trade. We will continue to review this issue with input from our members as more details emerge,” she concluded.

Political candidates and elected officials across Alabama have also expressed their support for the USMCA over the last year. This includes Governor Kay Ivey.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Tuesday, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) called the latest development “great news,” adding, “Barring any surprises in the final language, I look forward to supporting this agreement.”

“I have consistently supported the idea of a new strategic trade agreement with Mexico and Canada – especially an agreement that would bring stability to the businesses and markets that are desperately seeking reassurance right now,” Jones advised.

“Although I haven’t seen the text of the final agreement yet, the fact that the White House and the House of Representatives were able to work out a bipartisan agreement is great news,” he outlined. “Barring any surprises in the final language, I look forward to supporting this agreement. I hope once it passes, we can build on this success by working with other allies around the globe and removing the threat of punitive tariffs on our farmers and automakers once and for all.”

Jones has previously spoken out against the president’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico if the country did not stem the flow of illegal aliens into the United States. Jones has also been vocal against Trump imposing tariffs on China and the president’s trade policy in general.

The latest on the USMCA comes as the House Judiciary Committee is set to draw up two articles of impeachment against the president, which are expected to pass the House with only Democrats voting for them.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday said he will not take up ratification of the USMCA until the Senate has finished with what appears to be an imminent impeachment trial.

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

11 hours ago

Auburn honors Dr. James Andrews with International Quality of Life Award

Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences recognized internationally renowned Birmingham-based Dr. James R. Andrews at the 26th annual International Quality of Life Awards (IQLAs) on December 9 in New York City.

The IQLA’s were launched in 1994. According to their webpage, an IQLA “honors people and partnerships who have made significant and lasting contributions to individual, family, and community well-being locally and around the world.”

“Tonight, we celebrate the ways in which our honorees improve quality of life for all people and their strong spirit of philanthropy—both of which are critical to the human sciences mission,” said Susan Hubbard, dean of Auburn’s College of Human Sciences. “And it is our hope to see their legacy reflected in our graduates for many years to come.”

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NBA Hall of Fame’s Charles Barkley, an Auburn alum, presented the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award to Andrews.

Andrews currently serves as medical director and orthopaedic surgeon for Auburn Athletics, senior orthopaedic consultant at the University of Alabama, senior consultant for the Washington Redskins, orthopaedic medical director for the Tampa Bay Rays and medical director of the LPGA. He serves on the Medical and Safety Advisory Committee of USA Baseball and on the board of Little League Baseball, Inc.

Andrews founded the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham and co-founded the American Sports Medicine Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to injury prevention, education and research.

“To be successful at any profession, you must apply and understand the basic ingredients of motivation and goal setting. The attitude for success includes a burning desire, humility, honesty with ethics, compassion and appreciation,” said Andrews. “Take a hold of those that fall behind you, give them a hand and help them along.”

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was also honored at the ceremony.

According to an Auburn University press release, “St. Jude advances the search for cures and preventive measures of childhood cancer and other life-threatening pediatric diseases as one of the world’s premier pediatric research institutions. The families affected by these diseases never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food.”

“I certainly want to recognize the College of Human Sciences for coordinating this annual event that represents the Auburn Creed and demonstrates how individuals both inside and outside of the Auburn Family are personifying our institution’s values,” said Auburn Provost Bill Hardgrave.

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

12 hours ago

City of Auburn probes halt on student housing projects

A college town in Alabama has proposed temporarily halting construction on any new student housing developments amid concerns the number of existing facilities exceeds the amount of students in the city.

Auburn Mayor Ron Anders proposed an ordinance at last week’s city council meeting that would stop new student housing developments for about 90 days to give leaders time to figure out a long-term solution.

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Data from a city task force showed the number of beds designed specifically for students in the city is too high at approximately 37,000, and Auburn University officials say the school isn’t forecasted to see major enrollment growth.

The ordinance will be introduced Dec. 17.

 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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12 hours ago

Study: Alabama coal industry has nearly $3 billion impact; met coal reserves to last centuries

An academic report released Tuesday by one of Alabama’s preeminent economists outlines a litany of positive news for the state’s coal industry.

Dr. M. Keivan Deravi, Ph. D., of Economic Research Services Inc. performed a quantitative economic impact study on behalf of the Alabama Coal Association. He is renowned for developing the Alabama Economic Forecasting Model and the Alabama input/output model, used for 35 years by the state’s elected officials to generate state budgets. Deravi is a retired professor of economics at Auburn University Montgomery.

The newly released report illustrated that metallurgical (met) coal, the valuable type of coal used to make steel and not involved in electricity generation, is primarily what drives Alabama’s robust coal industry. Met coal, exported around the world to various steel mills, accounts for 82% (11 million short tons in 2018) of the coal mined in Alabama, and this segment of the mining industry is on track to keep growing.

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Incredibly, the study found that at Alabama’s current impressive rate of met coal production, the state’s met coal resources will last for another 309 years, “making it Alabama’s most lasting fossil fuel resource.” Data showed that the state holds approximately four billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves.

“Alabama is blessed with abundant natural resources,” Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, commented in a press release.

Besides the bright future forecast, the report detailed the tremendous impact the coal industry is having on Alabama families today.

This includes a huge jobs impact, both through coal industry employees and direct suppliers. Plus, these jobs are not what many people perceive the industry as — Alabama’s coal jobs are high-tech, high-skill and high-paying.

“Currently, the coal industry in Alabama directly employs more than 3,000 people and generates $370 million in annual payroll, for an average salary of more than $100,000 a year,” Deravi explained in a statement. “Coal jobs are among the highest-paid positions in the state, around 1.6 times the average annual salary for workers in Alabama. The industry also generates approximately $69 million in taxes for the state.”

Moreover, the study examined the direct, indirect and induced effects of each coal job on local economies. The direct effect is the economic impact of the regular operation of a company. Indirect effects include impacts on suppliers, vendors or associated materials industries. Induced effects result from positive changes to an economy that happen when a worker’s spending enhances a local economy.

Using those stated multipliers, the study found that Alabama’s coal mining industry has a total output impact of $2.9 billion, a total earnings impact of $1.2 billion and a total economic impact of 15,000 full-time-equivalent jobs.

The report detailed that besides mining and suppliers, the largest employment beneficiaries of the coal industry are the service sector, transportation sector, manufacturing sector, finance sector and wholesale and retail trade.

“From the high-quality met coal we ship to steelmakers around the globe to thermal coal that fuels local manufacturers and power production, the coal industry continues to responsibly use our resources to create high-paying jobs, strengthen our economy and build better lives for hardworking Alabama families,” Cagle said. “We are pleased this report objectively quantified through real data the positive things we see every day in our business.”

According to Deravi’s model, the coal industry is estimated to have generated a total of $69 million in income, sales, use and utility taxes for the State of Alabama’s coffers in addition to $5 million in coal severance taxes in 2018.

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), who represents parts of Alabama where most of its coal is located (Walker, Winston, Fayette, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties), advised the state has a “long historical tradition of being blessed with hard-working coal miners.” Reed proudly calls himself “the coal senator.”

“Today, these miners are making high wages – starting at an average of around $85,000 a year – to support their families, which in turn helps boost local economies,” Reed stated. “The coal industry fuels the growth of many suppliers and vendors and is pouring revenue into state budgets to help provide roads, bridges, schools and first responders.”

Additionally, the report highlighted something that Yellowhammer News has reported on extensively in the recent past: the majority of met coal mined in Alabama is shipped around the world to customers in South America, Europe and Asia, thus majorly driving economic activity at the Port of Mobile. In fact, the McDuffie Coal Terminal generates approximately 50% of the total annual revenue earned by the Alabama State Port Authority. In 2018, the Mobile seaport ranked fourth in the nation for shipping coal exports, and with sunny days forecasted ahead for the state’s met coal industry, this boon should continue.

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