4 weeks ago

‘We have the black national anthem’: Alabama Democratic senators oppose mandate to play Star-Spangled Banner in classrooms, at school sporting events

MONTGOMERY — Fireworks flew during the Senate Committee on Education Policy’s meeting on Wednesday afternoon during debate of SB 12, which would mandate the playing of the national anthem at least once per week in public school classrooms and at most school sporting contests.

Sponsored by Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), SB 12 — if passed by the legislature — would propose a constitutional amendment that would go before the people of Alabama in a referendum to occur in a subsequent general election.

Allen on Wednesday explained that the genesis of the bill is that during public school sporting events he has attended as a grandfather in Alabama over the past year, the anthem is not being played — much to his disappointment.

“This bill is about patriotism,” Allen previously advised in a statement. “It’s about reminding our students of the importance of our freedoms and the high price that has been paid to protect and preserve those freedoms.”

“It is important that we remember our nation’s history and learn from it,” he continued. “As President Ronald Regan said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’”

Allen last spring introduced a similar bill, although that legislation would not have been a constitutional amendment. The 2020 bill was advanced by the Senate Committee on Education Policy but failed to move further in a session interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, an amendment was introduced during the committee meeting specifying that only a traditional rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner would satisfy SB 12’s requirements, rather than an “artistic” or “jazzed up” version, as committee chairman Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) said.

However, Senators Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) and Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) raised fervent opposition to the committee amendment and the bill itself.

They noted that the third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner references slavery.

“That those lyrics are a part of that song is the point,” Figures commented, with Smitherman affirming.

Melson and other Republicans on the committee said they were not familiar with those lyrics from the third verse, as only the first verse of the Star-Spangled Banner is normally referred to and played as the national anthem.

Smitherman reminisced that a former senator had “flaunted” that third verse in the past, to the offense of him and others. Smitherman said that past incident had led to the GOP Caucus disciplining that former member. “He was trying to say, in essence, that God had ordained slavery,” the Democrat from Birmingham said.

Figures then read the third verse aloud to the committee.

Star-Spangled Banner, third and fourth verses

“Senator Allen, why is this necessary?” Figures asked following her recitation.

Melson, attempting to show willingness to address the concerns of the committee members, subsequently said, “I have no problem playing the non-lyrical ‘anthem.’ I’m going to show respect to my minority people here.”

Figures then expressed bemusement by that turn of phrase. It should be noted that Democrats are the minority caucus in the Senate and often referred to accordingly as minority members.

“Did that sound bad?” Melson asked.

“Yes,” answered Figures.

At this point, the wheels were beginning to come off the committee meeting, and Allen attempted to answer Figures’ previous question about his reasoning behind the bill.

“It’s the national anthem,” he subsequently stressed. “It’s one that I think can rally all Americans together.”

“And as long as I’ve been alive, I celebrated my 71st birthday Monday, and I have never heard the national anthem sung all the way through,” Allen continued, referring to the the aforementioned third verse. “Just the first verse, you know. I mean, it’s the national anthem. It should bring everyone together.”

Smitherman then rebutted that the main issue he has with SB 12 is making the national anthem mandatory, as certain communities in Alabama will not want to play it.

“I didn’t want to hear them playing this song last night before I had my ballgame at Ramsay High School,” he stated. “Nobody in Ramsay High School probably wanted to hear it. We played against Parker High School. Ok, now ‘why you saying all that?’ Parker High School and its whole area is ‘Dynamite Hill.’ From the bomb. See what I’m getting at? Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, the hose, the dogs. And we’re going to tell this team ‘you’ve got to play this?’ See, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. That’s like taking a pie and twisting it in their face.”

“If somebody wants to play [the anthem], that’s their business,” Smitherman added. “But to put it in statute to make it a law that they’ve got to play this, and knowing it’s offensive to them, that’s the utmost disrespect.”

Figures then came back around to what Melson had said a few minutes earlier.

“I do want you to not call us ‘your minority people’ ever again,” she emphasized.

“I didn’t say it like that,” Melson responded.

“We are minority members,” Figures said.

“Well, I apologize if that was offensive,” the chairman answered. “But I think Senator Smitherman knows me well enough to know that that’s not even close to anything I would have said to offend anybody.”

Melson subsequently asked Allen to sit down with Smitherman and Figures to work on a “compromise that makes it work.” Allen pledged to “sit down and listen to what they’ve got to say,” which drew chuckles from Smitherman and Figures.

Shortly afterwards, Smitherman, in impassioned remarks, cautioned his Republican colleagues — who are all white — against dismissing the Democrats’ concerns from a place of “privilege.”

“I hope that this disregard for how these things effect citizens in this state don’t put us in a situation that this becomes more important than all these other serious things that we’ve got to deal with in this body (during the session),” Smitherman warned. “I want to say that. Because the swiftness that [a motion to adopt the amendment] was made was like — ‘I don’t give a crap about what they think, OK, let’s get this bill out of here.'”

He continued to lament that “disrespect” was being shown to “a group of people that have been oppressed.”

“When you’re privileged, you don’t feel these things,” Smitherman added. “We ain’t privileged. We’re the ones that feel the brunt of all this stuff that we’re talking about, every day in our lives.”

Melson then tried to steer debate back to the committee amendment.

“So, what you’re really clarifying, senator, is that they don’t sing the black national anthem?” Figures said to Melson.

“No, ma’am,” he responded.

Figures subsequently clarified that she does not recognize the first verse of the Star-Spangled Banner as her national anthem.

“See, we have the black national anthem,” she added. “Which are different words.”

Melson then ordered the roll called on the amendment as Figures continued talking about the difference between the national anthem and the “black national anthem.”

“It’s not anything to undermine the ‘black national anthem,'” Melson reiterated about the committee amendment. “They can play that as well, after they play this one.”

The amendment was adopted with Smitherman and Figures dissenting. The bill was carried over.

Listen to audio of this committee debate here.

“You know I love you, Senator Melson. You know I love all of you,” Figures remarked later in the meeting when the room had cooled down.

Melson near the end of the meeting requested to talk to Figures and Smitherman privately following adjournment.

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

12 mins ago

Packaging Corp. of America plans $440 million project at Alabama mill

JACKSON, Alabama – Packaging Corp. of America (PCA) plans to launch a three-year, $440 million project to permanently convert a paper machine at its mill in Clarke County to produce linerboard used for corrugated packaging.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based PCA announced that it discontinued the production of uncoated freesheet, used for copy paper and other applications, on its No. 3 paper machine at the Jackson mill in late 2020.

After a temporary switch to produce linerboard, PCA is now making preparations to convert the mill’s paper machine into a 700,000-ton-per-year high-performance, virgin kraft linerboard machine in a phased approach over the next 36 months.


PCA said key elements in the conversion project include the installation of an OCC plant for recycling old corrugated containers and various pulp mill modifications. In addition, modifications and upgrades will be made to critical sections of the paper machine.

PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said the project will enable the company to meet strong packaging demand and to optimize the Alabama mill’s profitability and viability. The capital cost of the conversion is expected to be approximately $440 million.

“We are appreciative of the continued support from the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the City of Jackson and Clarke County to help us continue providing quality jobs and a positive economic impact in the Jackson community,” Kowlzan said.


Governor Kay Ivey said the project represents a positive development for the Jackson mill, a major industrial employer with more than 500 workers.

“Packaging Corp. of America’s reinvestment in its Jackson manufacturing facility will solidify the plant’s future by enhancing its competitiveness,” Governor Ivey said.

“This decision underlines the company’s confidence in its Alabama operation while also preserving jobs and safeguarding local education tax dollars. It’s a win for the company, the community and the state.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said PCA’s project will increase the efficiency of the Clarke County plant while providing a long-term economic boost to Jackson, a city with a population of around 5,300.

“We’re committed to helping existing businesses grow and thrive in Alabama, and the impact of a major investment is always magnified when in happens in rural communities,” Secretary Canfield said.

“With this project, PCA is positioning its Jackson mill for the future, which will significantly benefit the city and the region for years to come.”


Jackson Mayor Paul R. South said the project will allow PCA to continue providing quality jobs while securing a positive economic future for Clarke County.

“The City of Jackson looks forward to working with the corporation as the project moves forward,” South said. “In my opinion, they couldn’t have selected a better community.  Jackson is a safe and peaceful city full of great people, with good schools and recreation and a strong work force, along with extensive natural resources.”

“This is wonderful news for Clarke County and the City of Jackson,” said Stan Hutto, chairman of the Clarke County Commission. “We have a long-standing relationship with this outstanding company, and we are committed to helping them achieve their goals to ensure a bright, successful future.”

PCA is the third largest producer of containerboard products and the third largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. PCA operates eight mills and 90 corrugated products plants and related facilities.

The Jackson mill’s No. 1 paper machine will continue to produce uncoated freesheet products.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

43 mins ago

Alabama’s Helen Keller was more than a hero for the disabled

She could neither see nor hear. But her vision influenced countless millions.

Helen Keller’s influence reached far beyond her native Alabama. She became a celebrity at an early age and remained so throughout her life.

Born in 1880 in Tuscumbia, Keller was 19 months old when an illness left her deaf and blind.

With the help of Anne Sullivan, her teacher for 49 years, she was able to learn how to communicate.

In her prime, she was traveling across the world making appearances and giving inspirational speeches.


She became known for her tireless activism on behalf of workers’ and women’s rights, her literary work, and her tenure as an unofficial U.S. ambassador to the world.

“Helen Keller lived her life as an example of what people with disabilities could accomplish,” said Keller J. Thompson, her great grand-niece. “She so desired within her innermost being that people with disabilities be given a chance to prove the many things that they could do in this life. By her own experiences, she knew that people with disabilities could have great impacts on the world around them and every day of her life she was eager to be someone that impacted the world in a positive way, leaving it a better place than she found it.”

Keller attended several educational institutions and was accepted at Radcliffe College, where she graduated with honors, becoming the first deaf person to obtain a university degree.

According to an Encyclopedia of Alabama account, in the decades after college, Keller become increasingly involved in politics. She became an advocate of suffrage, unemployment benefits and legalized birth control for women.

She blamed industrialization and poverty for causing disability among a disproportionately large number of working-class people and became increasingly concerned about racial inequalities. She expressed her views through public speeches, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews and appearances at rallies.

Keller entered the 1920s seeking a meaningful public life and financial stability. The newly created American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) supplied both. Working on behalf of blind people with the AFB, Keller became a successful fundraiser and political lobbyist.

From the 1920s through the early 1940s, she worked to raise funds and lobby state and national legislatures. She emphasized educational and employment possibilities for people with disabilities, particularly those who were blind.

A trip to Japan in 1948 was the catalyst for Keller’s transformation from tourist to semi-official ambassador for the United States. Thrilled by her reception in Japan, the State Department worked with the AFB to fund and facilitate her travels and promote her as a representative of Americanism.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson awarded her the Congressional Medal of Freedom. When she died in 1968 at the age of 88, she was one of the most famous people in the world.

Keller’s journey from a deaf, blind girl to graduating from Radcliffe and becoming a prominent writer and political activist provided inspiration to millions of people with disabilities.

Although she left Alabama at the age of 8, she always claimed Ivy Green, her family’s house in Tuscumbia, as home, and she continued to identify herself as a Southerner throughout her life and travels.

Keller said: “Your success and happiness lie in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

Throughout March, Alabama NewsCenter is recognizing Alabama women of distinction, past and present, in celebration of Women’s History Month.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

Rep. Aderholt warns congressional Democrats moving to allow for taxpayer-funded abortions

FLORENCE — Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the extreme case of saving the life of a pregnant woman or terminating a pregnancy that resulted from incest or rape.

The Hyde Amendment has stood the test time, most recently during the 2010 Affordable Care Act debate. However, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) warns now that Democrats have the House, Senate and White House, the Hyde Amendment is in their crosshairs.

At an appearance before the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, Aderholt discussed the possibility of Democrats ending the Hyde Amendment, adding it could come down to one or two Senate Democrats preventing a vote to end the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate.


“[O]ne of the things that is most egregious about what’s happening now is abortion — you know, one of those issues that has always been Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on. But one thing Democrats and Republicans could always somewhat agree on was federal funding of abortion off-limits. It’s one thing that if abortion would be allowed, and of course, I’m pro-life. I don’t agree with that. But at least the Democrats would embrace the idea we would not take federal government taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. That is out now. Democrats want to make it so federal funds, your tax dollars, can go for abortion. And that’s a really scary thing.”

“The Hyde Amendment is what we’re talking about. They want to destroy the Hyde Amendment. So, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we keep the Hyde Amendment. It’s hard on Republicans — it’s hard on the House side, the Republicans being in the minority. Then on the Democrat side in the Senate with only 50 votes — then hopefully, we can get Manchin or some of those others to come along with us to try to make the rule out of order. We’re five seats basically from taking the majority in the House of Representatives.”

Aderholt was optimistic about Republicans’ chances in 2022 to regain control of the House but added his party had to be vigilant in the meantime.

@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.

14 hours ago

Shelby, Tuberville vote against Democrats’ $1.9 trillion spending bill

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Saturday voted against H.R.1319, the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion spending bill supported by President Joe Biden.

The bill originally passed the House with no Alabama Republicans supporting the bill, and — after numerous changes were made in the Senate — the same has now occurred in the upper chamber in a party-lines 50-49 vote. Due to Democrats using the budget reconciliation process to consider this legislation, they were able to act without bipartisan support. The measure will now head back to the House.

The spending bill, which is supposed to be for emergency COVID-19 relief, includes a litany of pet provisions slipped in by Democrats, such as the expansion of Obamacare subsidies and funding for blue state bailouts, Planned Parenthood, union pensions and other items unrelated to the pandemic.

The legislation includes $350 billion to bail out long-mismanaged state and local governments, multiple times the amount experts estimate was needed to address COVID-related items. Only 5% of the funding included for K-12 schools would be spent during the current fiscal year, with 95% instead spent over the next seven years. Additionally, agriculture-related funds in the bill would be spent over the next decade.


“I voted against this bill today because it could further wreck the economy and ignite inflation,” Shelby explained in a written statement. “This legislation includes a host of non-COVID-related left-wing policies.”

“Not only does it cost the American taxpayers $1.9 trillion, but only nine percent of the funding in the bill goes toward the immediate fight against COVID and one percent toward vaccines,” he continued. “The bill does nothing to get kids back in classrooms and, instead, includes a massive cash bailout for some mismanaged states and local governments. Democrats are forcing a liberal wish list of pet projects through Congress that’s masked as a pandemic rescue package. I am disappointed that we were blocked at every turn from engaging and passing real COVID relief in a bipartisan, targeted manner, just like the Senate did five times last year.”

Republican senators attempted to improve the bill during a process that began Thursday and finally ended shortly after noon local time on Saturday. Tuberville himself filed 23 amendments to the legislation, focusing on providing targeted health and financial relief to those most impacted by the pandemic.

This included amendments to ensure that rural states like Alabama receive a minimum of 30% of all funds appropriated for testing and vaccinations, elementary and secondary schools, small businesses, colleges and universities, restaurants, and state and local governments. To ensure our nation’s most vulnerable have access to the resources needed to combat COVID-19, Tuberville also filed an amendment to remove funding designated for foreign countries and transfer those funds to support American nursing homes. Additionally, he filed amendments to increase funding for veterans’ healthcare and assist state veterans’ homes across the country in protecting their residents from coronavirus outbreaks.

RELATED: Democrats block Tuberville amendment barring federally funded schools from allowing biological males to compete in female sports

“Democrats refused to negotiate with Republicans on this bill from the start because they knew this reconciliation process was their best chance to pass President Biden’s progressive wish list,” Tuberville stated. “To put it into perspective, until today, the most partisan vote on the past five COVID relief bills was 92-6. This bill is a broken promise to the American people – one that hides under the name of ‘COVID relief’ when it should actually be called ‘liberal relief.’ Instead of targeting funds to the people, communities, and businesses who actually need it, this bill sends billions to bail out poorly managed states and puts less than 1% of funding toward vaccines.”

He concluded, “$1 trillion from past relief bills has not yet been used, and the small percentage of the funds in this bill that will actually go to people who really need it will take years to get there. This legislation is a reckless use of taxpayer dollars when what Americans and our economy really needs now is a plan to start reopening.”

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

15 hours ago

Auburn defeats Mississippi State 78-71 for Bruce Pearl’s 600th career win

In a season filled with uncertainty, injuries, and the looming notion that Auburn had self-imposed a post-season ban, the Auburn Tigers finished their season on a high note.

Bruce Pearl managed to get his team involved and excited in a season where they could have easily folded and written this season off. However, Pearl got his team focused on the season at-hand and managed to pick up his 600th career win against Mississippi State today.

On Auburn’s post-game radio broadcast, Pearl talked to Andy Burcham after the game. On how he got his team motivated in a year like this, he said, “Really happy with our effort tonight. I was concerned heading into this game knowing that this is our last practice, and this is our last game. You know, we aren’t playing for the tournament, so what is going to be the motivation?”

Effort is the main takeaway from Pearl’s response, and his team has struggled with almost every problem this season except effort.

With what is an admittedly underwhelming season by Auburn’s standards, the Tigers used effort to defeat Mississippi State 78-71 in front of their home crowd in Auburn Arena.


Earlier in the week, Pearl said that this week of practice was different than any he has ever had at Auburn because the players and coaches knew that this was without a doubt the last game of the season.

For the Tigers, four different players scored in double figures. Allen Flanigan continued to improve and led the team in scoring with 22 points along with four rebounds and two assists.

The team as a whole had one of their best halves of the season in the second half of this game.

Auburn shot 82% from the charity stripe this game which is well above average for the Tigers. They also shot 5-10 from three in the second half, and were over 50% from the field as a whole.

Defensively, the Tigers stepped up big and made it more difficult for the Bulldogs to answer Auburn’s scoring runs. On what changed in the second half, Pearl said, “We played a little bit more zone in the second half. I think we did really well in the zone in this game.”

With Sharife Cooper still out, Auburn needed players to step up again. While Flanigan and Williams led the way in scoring, Jamal Johnson stepped into the point guard role once again this season.

Johnson has been selfless in bouncing around to whatever position he has been needed. He shot 4-8 from deep and dished out seven assists in this game.

On Cooper’s absence, Pearl said, “To win two out of the last three games without Sharife, is just a testament to how much our guys have improved as well as how great of a job my staff has done.”

JT Thor led the team in rebounding with nine boards in the game. Thor also scored ten points against the Bulldogs including a three-pointer.

Dylan Cardwell had one of the more impressive highlights of the game with a turn around three-point jumper as time was running out on the shot clock. In the final game of the season, Cardwell took his first and only long range shot of the season and drained it.

On Cardwell’s circus-type shot, Pearl said, “You know what’s funny is that he hasn’t worked on that shot, but he has been working on his three-point shot. So that was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

On what it means to get his 600th career win, Pearl said, “It means I’m old, that’s what it means. I’ve been doing this a long time.”

Pearl later continued saying, “I hold myself to a high standard. I answer to God and God only, and he has a really high standard. There is no way I can meet that standard, but I’m going to try, and that is what I expect from the people around me.”

Auburn’s coach will be looking for more wins in the future. As for now, the Tiger’s season is officially over, and Pearl will be looking forward to getting to work on next season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.