Black Belt Action Commission celebrates 6th Anniversary


L-R Alabama Governor Bob Riley with BBAC Co-Chairpersons Margaret Bentley, Alabama Power Executive and State Senator Hank Sanders.



By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

The Black Belt Action Commission (BBAC) held its sixth anniversary luncheon on August 23, 2010 at Alabama State University in Montgomery. The luncheon was to honor Governor Riley for his vision in establishing the Commission and recognize the three co-chairs, 13 committee chairs and over 800 citizen volunteers that have participated in the Commission for their continuing dedication and hard work.

Each of the three co-chairs: Margaret Bentley with Alabama Power Company; Sheldon Day, Mayor of Thomasville and State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma made remarks at the luncheon.


Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn wears T-shirt protesting Riley’s actons in closing down Greenetrack’s electronic bingo gaming.


Margaret Bentley thanked Governor Riley for his support and said the BBAC would be one of his legacies. She went on to say, “What made the Commission successful was that it had the Governor’s support but it was not a conventional state agency but was instead a regional effort by the people themselves to improve the Black Belt area.”

Senator Hank Sanders said, “We did not want another group to study the Black Belt. We did want a group that could and did take action to change and improve our region of the state.

“The BBAC did not practice tokenism. It is an entity that cuts across race, gender and generations and has unleashed a flow of energy to support the area and its people. We deliberately decided not to set aside funds for the Commission. This would have led to people fighting over a small amount of money, instead we asked people to be creative, devise solutions and seek partnerships and funding to put their plans into action.”

Sanders thanked the 13 committee chairs and the hundreds of volunteer members. He said, “ I feel the BBAC will continue after Governor Riley leaves office regardless who is elected Governor in November.”

Mayor Day in his comments praised the work of the Commission and said it made him proud to be from a community in the rural Black Belt of Alabama.

The Governor distributed certificates to the 3 co-chairs and 13 committee chairs which include areas like Agriculture, Infrastructure,  Education, Communications, Tourism, Small Business, Youth and Cultural Awareness among others. The Governor was presented with a quilt made by the Treasures of the Black Belt.

In his remarks, Governor Riley thanked the 800 people who volunteered and participated in the Commission. He said, “You helped develop something out of nothing. You developed your own regional plan that is not for one city or one county. Your work has been imitated by people in the Wiregrass and Northwest Alabama. If we hadn’t had a global recession, we would have reduced unemployment below double digits for every Black Belt county. I am sure we will get there when economic conditions improve. We have expanded educational opportunities and placed a distant learning laboratory in every school in the Black Belt of Alabama. We did thousands of free health exams for children in the region.

“I hope the next administration will understand what we tried to do and will keep it going. You took part in this for the right reasons-you need to keep it going.”

A booklet was distributed giving a summary report on the five years of work by the Black Belt Action Commission which was compiled by Doni Ingram and Emily Law of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack who was a member of the BBAC Tourism Committee, attended the luncheon wearing a tee-shirt indicating his displeasure at the actions that Governor Riley?s Anti-Gambling Task Force took against Greenetrack and other electronic bingo locations in the region. On the back of the shirt it said, “Vote Bob Riley for Governor of Mississippi” and on the front it said, “Bob Riley?s actions have destroyed over 3,000 jobs in the Black Belt.


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