Farmers get $488K

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2006

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U.S. Rep. Artur Davis presented more than $400,000 to area catfish and shrimp growers in the form of disaster relief, and fielded questions Monday night on everything from the war in Iraq to AIDS here at home during his annual town hall meeting.

Davis, D-Alabama, was welcomed by a Selma City Council chamber filled with a cross-section of the community. Introduced as a man who “needed no introduction in Selma” by Mayor James Perkins Jr., Davis said he was always moved to visit Selma’s City Hall, pointing out the logo atop the chamber which reads, ‘City of Selma… From Civil War to Civil Right and Beyond.’

“I see something that I didn’t see in this room in 1999 when I began campaigning,” Davis said. “This is what the ”beyond’ looks like. Black folks and white folks who don’t worry about color. ‘Beyond’ means having endless possibilities. Imagine a Black Belt where every child has the same shot. I can’t think of a more important vision.”

Davis said the most important thing Dallas County residents can do is to prepare its children for the future.

“Twenty years ago the students at Morgan Academy were competing against the children at Selma High. The students at Selma High were competing against the children at Morgan Academy,” Davis said. “Now, the students at Morgan Academy and Selma High are competing against students in India. We’ve got to prepare our children to compete with the world.”

Davis made two presentations. First was an announcement of grants totaling $448,000 to representatives from the Black Belt whose aquaculture nets catfish and shrimp. Awarded to assist with recovery efforts in the aftermath of recent hurricanes, and to “make them more productive than ever.”

Having already held Town Hall meetings in Choctaw, Marengo and Perry counties, Davis said it’s not a give-away, but “a give-back.”

“We can’t forget about our farmers,” he said. “We can’t forget about what they’re doing for this part of the state.”

A special recognition was made to Janice Robbins, who received a Purple Heart after being injured in Iraq. “There’s a name we give to people like her. They’re called an American Hero,” Davis said. Robbins, who was injured when Iraqi soldiers attacked a caravan in which she was traveling, is now home recovering and has gone back to work, is truly blessed Davis said.

“Casualties aren’t just deaths,” he said. “The numbers of soldiers injured, suffering from serious injuries are called casualties. That number is around 10,000. And there have been around 12,000 to 14,000 Iraqis killed. I think we made a mistake going in there, but I don’t dwell on that too much. There are a lot of our guardsmen and reservist who aren’t coming back to their jobs because they’ve lost them. They’re coming back to the same financial desperation they left. We need another Veterans Bill of Rights.

“The very night the bombs started falling there was a resolution on the floor of the House that would have cut veteran’s benefits by $3 billion. That’s not being conservative, that’s wrong.”

Asked about what could be done to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, Davis gave startling news and some advice. He said efforts were underway in Washington to renew Ryan White funding.

“The face of the disease has changed,” Davis said, pointing out the fastest growing segment of the HIV/AIDS population as black females, age 15 to 18. “There was a time we thought AIDS was something other people got.

“Churches can’t stay silent on this issue,” he said. “Where people are suffering we have an obligation to take care of them, if we think there’s some force up there.”