Drama In Selma
Hip Hoppers Are Needed!
by Davey D-8/31/00

On the political front, there's some major drama taking place in Selma, Alabama. This was the small town which marked the turning point of the Civil Rights era when demonstrators were shown on national TV back in 1965 being brutality beaten by police as they attempted to complete a 50 mile March from Montgomery, Alabama to Selma. The march was in protest to the win the right for Blacks in the South to vote without all the discriminatory practices and intimidation that kept them away from the polls. The beatings that took place on the Edmund Pettus Bridge were so horrific that they have become known as Bloody Sunday.More then 100 marchers were seriously injured by Selma police.

Here we are 3 years later and while much has changed there is still major drama in Selma. The Hip Hop community is being called to help. For the past 37 years Mayor Joe Smitherman the man who once publicly referred to Martin Luther King as 'Martin Luther Coon' and led the assault on marchers back in 1965 has somehow managed to retain 10 consecutive terms as mayor. According to community organizers Smitherman has been able to keep his place through some shady practices including voter fraud which he is accused of and more significantly through continued intimidation of African American voters and 'divide and conquer' techniques. I recently did a radio show in which I interviewed Latasha Brown who heads up the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement. She explained that intimidation of African American voters comes in the form of economic reprisals. Because Selma is such a small town, many of the economic purse strings are controlled by people connected with Mayor Smitherman. If one makes too much noise, they may find themselves either out of a job, denied a house loan or encounter some other unforeseen economic setback.

Latasha went on to say that Smitherman frequently brings in extra police to hang out and question voters during the elections. Although this practice was supposed to disappear during the 60s, its still alive and well in Selma. Lastly there's the often used divide and conquer techniques used by Smitherman. In Selma there appears to be a solid block of white voters who year after year have voted blindly for Smitherman. The Mayor has been accused of encouraging and indirectly financing an African American to run against any other African American who appeared to pose a threat. This would result in the Black vote being split. If that wasn't enough Smitherman has alluded to the fact that he's a changed man since 1965 and even points to a few prominent African Americans as friends. As far as activists in Selma are concerned nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the past few years the heat has been turned up as Selma's African American community has been determined to end the 37 year reign. They now outnumber white voters by more then 3000 votes but for some reason they have not been able to make this happen. Nevertheless a 'Joe Gotta Go' campaign has been launched and gaining momentum with some deadly consequences. Four years ago an African American by the name of James Perkins posed a serious challenge to Smitherman when he lost by 325 votes. This has helped fuel the Joe Gotta Go campaign. Last week on August 22 it looked like Perkins would pull it off and become the city's first African American mayor when all sorts of things jumped off. First was the police presence at voting places. People were being questioned and turned away, just as it was during the '60s. A voting inspector reported that one particular site close to 40 Blacks were turned away and not allowed to vote by police. What should've been a victory for Perkins has now resulted in a run off election between him and Mayor Smitherman. This election will take place on September 12.

The second thing that cropped up was an unusual amount of absentee ballots. More then a thousand popped up with votes for Mayor Smitherman. The validity of these ballots are being challenged. The most tragic event was the fire bombing of a car this past Sunday night. Fortunately no one was injured or killed, but the intended target was Richard Walker an activist who has been pretty visible in the whole 'Joe Gotta Go' campaign. The fire bombing is currently under investigation.

Organizers in Selma have been aggressively reaching out and requesting that people come down to Selma and serve as independent monitors to ensure a fair election. They are also looking for support from the Hip Hop community. They would like the Goodie Mobs, Master Ps and other artist to use their star power and ability to influence to get the word out about what's happening in Selma Alabama. They are also looking for donations. For folks especially Hip Hoppers who are interested in getting involved.. reach out to Latasha at 334-874-0065 or drop her an email at mailto:youth421c@aol.com

Respond to Davey D at: Mrdaveyd@aol.com


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