S.O.S. organizing members shifted the group’s focus from an organization to a movement, encompassing a broader reach and expanded mission to move beyond simple reaction to extremist laws in Alabama to protecting the hard-won rights and promoting issues of equity for all citizens. With this new focus the name was changed from Save Ourselves Summit to Saving OurSelves: A Movement for Justice & Democracy.
The new coalition held a December planning meeting in Selma. See the full report from the Greene County Democrat:
Leaders and members of the Save Ourselves Coalition for Justice and Democracy (S.O.S.) met the weekend before Christmas in Selma to discuss program priorities and make plans for the coming year.
S.O.S. which is a statewide coalition of over 30 progressive organizations concerned with economic, social and political change decided on five primary areas of work and activities for the coming year, including voting, health care, education and youth, economic and worker rights and immigration.
In the area of voting, S.O.S. is working to counter voter suppression in Alabama. S.O.S. will make a major effort at voter registration and voter education prior to the June primaries and the November general election in 2014. The voter program will include systematically assisting voters who lack a photo ID to secure one before the elections.
The S.O.S. voter work will include supporting efforts to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, dealing with pre-clearance of voting changes, primarily in the southern states. The committee is supporting the “50 cars from 50 cities campaign” to go from Selma to Washington, D. C. in March 2014 to dramatize the need for restoring Section 4 of the VRA and protest the Supreme Court’s gutting of this important law.
The voting rights committee will also support Macon County and Tuskegee in appealing rulings in their lawsuit to support re-opening Victoryland to provide jobs and revenues for the county. Support for electronic bingo in Macon County was originally approved by a referendum of county voters and the state’s actions to close it are a violation of the peoples voting rights.
The S.O.S. Healthcare Committee is working to urge Governor Bentley to accept extension of Medicaid benefits to people whose income is below 138% of poverty, under the Affordable Care Act. As many as 300,000 Alabamians could be left without health care unless the Governor and Legislature agree to coverage, which will be paid for by the Federal government for 2014 to 2016.
The committee will also assist people to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and sign up with the Healthcare.gov website.
The committee and all S.O.S. members are asked to participate in the first “Truth and Justice Tuesday” rally and press conference to be held on January 14, in front of the Alabama State House. “January 14 is also the first day of the 2014 Alabama Legislative Session, which is a crucial time to remind our legislators about expanding Medicaid and other issues of concern to SOS,” said Barbara Howard of Tuskegee, chair of the healthcare committee.
In the area of Education and Youth, S.O.S. will be developing a “Campaign of Resistance and Excellence” to deal with problems in Alabama education system centering around the Education Accountability Act which seeks to weaken public schools. The committee will also be supporting the S.O.S. Youth Summit to be held Saturday, January 18 at Alabama State University in Montgomery.
The S.O.S. Education Committee will also deal with involving more parents in school issues; dealing with the scholarship fund for private schools funded by the Accountability Act; dealing with the “right to public education” as part of Alabama constitutional reform proposals; and helping to develop “Black History Brigades” to provide information and counter the “miseducation” of Black and working people in the state.
The S.O.S. Immigration Rights Committee will work to support national comprehensive immigration reform, repeal the Alabama HB 56 and 658 punitive immigration laws and counter some of the “myths” that immigrants are taking jobs from Alabama people.
The S.O.S. Economic Rights Committee plans to work on counteracting attacks on working people, especially teachers and public employees; support an increase in the minimum wage to $10+ an hour; and support bills to create more jobs in the economy. The committee will also work on economic self-sufficiency plans like the savings and investment plan of the Nation of Islam. The committee will also address the problems of predatory lending and ending usurious interest rates on loans to working people.
At the urging of Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee, the S.O.S. adopted a motion to support Faya Rose Sanders and the people of Selma to challenge the sale of public land and granting of public funds to support a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and founder of the Klu Klux Klan.
As part of the planning session, SOS members heard a presentation on “Black History and the 2nd Post-Reconstruction” by Dr. Robert White, Professor of African History at Alabama State University.
The members also discussed ways to support and expand the S.O.S. membership, fundraising and structure.