The other story from council meeting

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

To the Editor:

I write to report my observation of the last city council meeting. This view is in sharp contrast of the reporting of the meeting by this paper. I rarely attend council meetings. In the past, I rarely missed. The unbridled abuse of power of the past administration compelled my presence. It was a painful and stressful experience. My response was too often aggressive and vocal, which drained my spirit. I was relieved when the administration changed. Resistance to change, however, quickly surfaced.

For years, the past mayor was rarely questioned. Suddenly, everything was questioned by Cecil Williamson and others who were appallingly silent during Smitherman’s reign. When thousands were reported stolen from the city’s coffers, nothing was said. When the NBF Homes were given to the mayor’s son’s non-profit organization, the critics of Mayor Perkins remained silent. In sharp contrast, they persistently challenge the budget and expenditures of black officials. Smitherman’s budget and expenditures were never challenged but they were determined to undermine the integrity and competency of Selma’s first African-American mayor. I found myself again responding aggressively and vocally with righteous indignation. It was not good for our new mayor or me. He asked me to retain my rebellious spirit, and suffer the attacks on his character in silence. I simply could not do it. The only way I could respect his wishes was to stay away.

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I thought I was emotionally prepared last month to attend a council meeting to address several pressing issues. Gunshots had shattered the glass and barely missed by daughter and her fiance while traveling on Water Avenue near my office. There was little or no police response or investigation. Friends shared similar stories. I wanted to appeal for more money for an increased presence and better-trained police force (dead children cannot read). I wanted to speak on this and other compelling issues. I timely placed my name on the agenda. I was told I would speak at the end of the agenda. Far from that point, the fireworks began. According to the paper, Councilwoman Crenshaw ignited the flame of conflict. This is far from the truth. The reporter viewed the events from his own cloudy world of prejudice, fear and self-interests. I viewed the same events from my own point of view. Let me share what I observed.

The city attorney presented a resolution that would allow the council president to remove council members and citizens from the chambers for disrespectful and disorderly behavior. Mrs. Crenshaw and Mr. Leashore asked if the provision applied to the council president because his position was not included in the language of the resolution. The president, George Evans, immediately raised his voice and became extremely defensive, accusing Crenshaw and Leashore of ill motives. Cecil Williamson joined the verbal attack with obvious disdain and disrespect. This behavior clearly validated the question raised by Leashore and Crenshaw. Mr. Evans did not rule himself or Williamson out of order. I was amazed that the attack was handled by the “attacked” with dismissal and grace.

Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Sen. Sanders and others had committed to obtain much-needed funds for the public library. In spite of this report, Dr. Allen made a motion to pay all of the library’s utility bills for the remainder of the year if other funds were not forthcoming. Mrs. Crenshaw stated that this action would discourage the Sanders Committee from seeking funds it had convinced the county to pay for one month.

The city was asked to pay March utilities, which was supported by Crenshaw and Leashore. However, Allen’s motion received a majority of the votes. Without discussion on the costs or the ability of the city to bear this cost alone, the motion was passed.

Ms. Crenshaw, after being recognized by the chair, said that there seemed to be an effort to financially break the city. Unlike the attack on her launched by Evans minutes earlier, she was not loud or unruly at that point. Yet, Evans immediately raised his voice declaring her to be out of order. It was incredible. Cecil Williamson’s eyes bucked and suddenly joined this temper tantrum. When Mrs. Crenshaw insisted on exercising her right to complete her opinion on the matter, Evans ordered the police to remove her from the room.

Citizens stood up in shock and protest. Cecil moved to adjourn the meeting. Evans, as usual, quickly obliged. I was pushed by an unknown white man, but prayerfully decided not to retaliate. Instead, I approached George Evans and told him he provoked the conflict by setting a bad precedent when he verbally attacked Crenshaw and Leashore. I asked him to listen to the taped meeting and reflect on his actions. He agreed to do so.

This is the other side of the story. I strongly advise citizens to come to council meetings or listen to the live coverage of the meeting on 105.3. Don’t rely on the media or editorials for the truth. Four hundred years of bias and one-sided reporting to maintain the status quo should remind us this month to seek the truth for ourselves.

I was bless to attend the homegoing of Coretta Scott King. As I approached the church, I saw right-wing extremists with signs that said, “God hates you Coretta! May you rot in hell!”

This is the same misguided spirit that leads the attack on the mayor and other council people they cannot control. Remember, it was Williamson who led the attack

to have Sen. Hank Sanders indicted in 1997. He failed. Cecil Williamson cannot see the lumber in his eye because he is blinded by his racist need to lift up Nathan Forrest and other Klansmen while attacking men who fight against everything they stood for. However, he is not the problem. The real problem is our failure to hold the real enemies of peace and justice accountable. They are confusing the people by using our themes and movement words like “racist” against us and by creating alliances with misguided blacks to maintain their power base. Black History reminds us we cannot go back. We must go forward.

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