I write these words with a heavy heart. Alabama State Representative Yvonne Kennedy (D. Mobile), died exactly one month prior to her 68th birthday at UAB Hospital . She was a respected woman of substance in every aspect of her life. Our state will miss her strong willed dedication to making this world a better place. As state lawmakers reflect , I would also like to offer my reflections on her political life, and her contributions to Alabama.
Rep. Kennedy served in the Alabama House of Representatives for more than three decades. She also served as the President of Bishop State Community College for 25 years, and probably would still be serving as it's President had it not been for the ALA-GOP led, Alabama media's jihad against educators constitutional rights.
Rep. Kennedy served as chair of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus during Governor Don Siegelman's administration. She was a vocal and effective opponent of his push for a constitutional convention to re-write the states constitution , because the plan failed to protect minority interest.We all know who the targets of this media crusade are. Career educators who have chosen to exercise their constitutional right to seek public office, and have successfully been elected - and in every case I know, re-elected - to the Legislature. With a couple of exceptions, these are Democrats, and many are members of AEA. Generally, they oppose the education-predatory policies of the Riley Administration. Those singled out by media attention include House Democratic Whip Jack Page of Gadsden, who works at Gadsden State Community College, and Representative Yvonne Kennedy of Mobile, who recently retired as President of Bishop State Community College in Mobile.
Rep. Kennedy was a real democrat, who stood ready, willing, and able, to fight for democratic values regardless of race, gender, or party. She didn't tolerate fools or charlatans.
My sources tell me Artur Davis' reception at Delta Day at the State Capitol on April Fools day was about as warm as an igloo. Davis reportedly touted his wife's membership in the organization. Despite the fact his wife Tara Davis is a member of the national organization of college educated women, they are aware she can't control how her spouse votes. I'm told the "ladies in red" don't take kindly to Congressman Davis being the only member of the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) to vote against the health care reform bill. Maybe Davis should have sent his wife instead...Yvonne Kennedy dedicated her life to to fighting for the rights of the least of these. She repeatedly introduced legislation restoring voting rights to ex felons.
Instead of state lawmakers reflecting on her life, they should honor Alabama State Representative Yvonne Kennedy's life by passing legislation restoring ex-felons voting rights.
Twelve years ago, Derrick Gayle, now thirty, fell in with the wrong crowd. He did drugs and dabbled in hot merchandise. He never expected to get caught. But he did. Charged with possession of marijuana and receiving stolen property, he spent nine years in Alabama's Bullock County Correctional Facility.
Gayle was released three years ago. He works a regular job and stays drug free and out of trouble, he says. He has tried to put his past behind him. But the state of Alabama won't let him. He is still denied one of the most basic rights of a free man: He can't vote.
"What more do I have to do to prove that I've repaid my debt to society? I've done my time," says Gayle, who works putting up wallpaper and building bookshelves. "All I want is the right to vote like everyone else."
The state of Alabama permanently bars people convicted of felonies from exercising the right to vote. In a state where some of the hardest battles over voting rights were fought, more than 100,000 black men like Gayle-31 percent of the black male population-are denied the franchise.
Rest in Peace Representative Kennedy, you fought the good fight.
Yvonne Kennedy would like Derrick Gayle's vote. A six-term Democratic state representative in Alabama, Kennedy has introduced legislation to give former felons their right to vote back. The bill has twice been defeated, but Kennedy said she is undeterred.
"More and more, I feel optimistic about it," she says.