For 12 years our newspaper has chronicled, informed, and championed the
fight against the "rulers of darkness in high places" here in Sumter County
on behalf of its Black community. This paper has exposed issues that
directly affect the average citizen in Sumter, particularly its Black
citizens. But for 12 years, Black in this community have not motivated
enough to act, or, at worst, indifferent to our fight. Because of the hard
economic times we all face, now is the time for Blacks here to rethink their
"do nothing" attitude against local bias reporting, racist decisions by
government entities, corrupt police practices, irregularities with voting
practices, racist school decisions and unfair hospital practices. Never
again should Blacks be silent on these issues.
Bias Reporting The Sumter Observer exposed racist attacks by Editor Beth
Alston of The Americus Times Recorder when she wrote about local NAACP past
presidents Eugene Cooper and Rev. Fer-Rell Malone, who led the effort to
name a street Martin Luther King Boulevard, and Alston's was mean-spirited
and less than honest in her reporting of Dr. John Marshall, publisher of The
Americus Sumter Observer publisher, and a former NAACP president. The bias
reporting from Alston has abated somewhat. Apparently, once exposed, Times
Recorder realized that bias reporting had an affect on their bottom line.
But Blacks must be ready to voice strong opposition if the Times Recorder
should revert back to the old Beth Alston.
Government Racist Decisions
Unfortunately, our local government entities include Blacks and Whites with
racist attitudes when it comes to their decision making. Countless times we
have had to expose Blacks in responsible positions in the government for
their anti Black positions as well as racist Whites. These "rulers of
darkness" have been voting without any shame with White racists that have
had a detrimental affect on Blacks. We cannot forget how City Attorney Jimmy
Skipper gerrymandered the district held by Eloise Paschal, giving her a
competitive advantage by adding more Whites to her district. (White voters
are more inclined to vote for Paschal than Black voters). Nor can we forget
our Black representation (Eddie Rhea Walker, Lorenzo Johnson, and Paschal)
failed to take a stand on the brutal beating of Eddie Bridges by police
officer Michael Middleton. Bridges was beaten so badly that his eye was
knocked out of its socket. He died later. These same three city officials
did not stop police Chief Green and their White city council colleagues from
removing an excellent Black police officer [Burdwell] on questionable,
trumped-up charges. A more recent incident is when the City refused to
rehire Fireman Gerald Whitehead after he was cleared of all charges made
against him. Moreover, we informed our readers of the County Commissioners
who refused to tell citizens what happened to County Attorney Paul Farr, who
was accused of allegedly taking money at his law firm. Farr was indicted by
a grand jury on two counts of forgery in the first degree. Never again
should Blacks be silent when local government officials act irresponsibly on
such grave issues as these.
Corrupt Police Practices
This paper provided evidence that then police chief Michael Yates performed
an illegal background check on our then NAACP Vice President Craig Walker.
Yates actions were used as a tactic to "quiet" Walker for Walker's
aggressive actions against Yates daily practices. Other racist practices
were rampant during Yates' tenure as chief.
Racist Voting Irregularities
Because of bias voting practices and irregularities, this paper wrote about
and pled with the County Commissioners to remove the election supervisor,
Sherry Ratliff. Ratliff has been discriminatory in her treatment of Black
and White candidates who run afoul of her voting philosophy. Supervisor
Ratliff has been very detailed and critical of Blacks who handled absentee
ballots. But Ratliff was less detailed and non-critical when the same
practices were pointed out at Magnolia Manor Nursing Home.
Sumter Regional Hospital's Unfair Practices
We reported more than 10 years on our local hospital exposing unfair
practices that kept Blacks out of key jobs, poor quality healthcare, and
abuses of needed hospital funds. This paper and our local NAACP asked County
Commissioner Andrea P. Brooks to help elect qualified Blacks to the Hospital
Authority, but she refused. We showed the community that former hospital
administrator Jerry Adams was racists and abused the power of his office and
was terminated. Adams' replacement, David Seagraves, has turned out to be
worst. Seagraves' ineptitude in basic management skills has bankrupted the
hospital. Sumter County citizens are waiting for an outside hospital to do a
40-year lease and $25 million. We have shown how the hospital has been in a
free fall since Dr John Marshall's privileges were taken in 2001. There was
a community wide protest on Marshall's behalf which permanently damaged the
hospital. The hospital has been averaging only 35 inpatients for the past 6
years. We wrote extensively how the NAACP asked the hospital management
board and the Hospital Authority to intervene and save our only hospital.
The Hospital Authority followed David Seagraves and we have ended up with no
hospital. We are especially surprised that Rick Whaley, president of
Citizens Bank, was one of Seagraves' most ardent supporters. We also know
that Sumter Regional Hospital's money was in Whaley's bank and that he
serves on the Hospital Authority. Whaley should have removed himself from
voting on those serious issue because of his apparent conflict of interest.
Racist School Decisions
Education has been a perennial focus of this newspaper because we see a good
education as the key to a better life for all Sumter County's children.
Exposing our schools' failed policies and practices began in earnest when
Dr. Michael Busman and the newly elected White board majority voted to
remove the school's first Black school superintendent. Dr. Franklin Perry,
the highly qualified and respected school superintendent. His school
contract was abruptly cancelled without just cause. The Board's reason for
canceling Dr. Perry's contract was: "We wanted a change." Dr. Dennis McMahon
from South Carolina and a friend of Dr. Busman's replaced Dr. Perry. The
local NAACP has recently charged Dr. McMahon and Dr. Busman with retaliating
against Principal Carolyn Hamilton, of Sumter Middle School.
We reported extensively on how the school system went after Principal
Victoria Harris, of the North Campus which contained 9th graders. Harris
almost lost her teaching certificate on some minor trumped up charges. An
attempt was made to link Principal Harris to Superintendent Dr. Perry's
case. Even the Americus Times Recorder has been implicit in this case by
devoting two full pages to the Harris' case to remove her from the system.
This paper [ASO] battled the Americus Times Recorder over their negative
coverage of Harris. Principal Harris survived the Times Recorder's coverage
and the school system's racist actions. She is now the principal of Staley
Justice is not Blind
District Attorney (DA) Cecilia Cooper was exposed for not practice the law
Probably one of this community's worst nightmares is an elected official
sworn to uphold the law and renders justice selectively and unfairly. This
paper has reported that DA Cooper is guilty of "selective prosecution" of
certain citizens. We exposed this double standard when the DA pushed for and
obtained an indictment of former NAACP Vice President, Craig Walker. DA
Cooper went along with police officers Alfonso Ross' charge of child cruelty
in the first degree. The child was Walker's niece and was asked by his twin
sister to discipline his niece. No skin was broken in the spanking.
(Walker's case is still pending.) But, when a Pakistani store owner on Lee
Street beat a black child who had to be taken to the emergency room for
treatment; the Pakistani was never indicted. He was charged with simple
assault and was given a $500 fine and a 90-day probation. Other cases
revealed that DA Cooper's prosecution of Blacks is harsher than that of
Whites. Cooper was defeated in her reelection efforts in November 2008..
A Call for Active Involvement
This paper and its supporters are trying our best to expose wrongdoing of
our elected officials, leaders of organizations, and individuals who
negatively affect the progress of our community. We cannot carry this burden
indefinitely. We need your support. Gone are the days when a few can carry
the entire load; everyone has to pitch in to achieve a goal. We should not
depend on other ethnic groups to solve our problems. Soon, Sumter County
will be majority Black. The White population is declining, and those that
are remaining want to make Sumter County a retirement area. Should this
happen, our young people will continue to leave this area. Moreover, this
community won't be able to attract young professionals and industries, the
life blood of any community.
We are at a crucial time in our lives: the worst economic times in decades.
These problems are color blind! Community leaders, ministers, and elected
officials must put aside their differences and egos and come together to
plan our community's future. Let's roll up our sleeves and act responsibly
by dealing with the business of our citizens and ensure that we empower
Under President Obama's Stimulus Bill, Sumter County will be receiving
money. We need to ensure that people who truly need help will receive it. We
have seen the hospital received get indigent money that was used for things
other than for the indigent. We have witnessed two disasters [a flood and a
tornado] and the county received monies and the needy never received help.