May 20, 2005.
OPEN LETTER TO: Valdosta Mayor, Council, and Valdosta News media WHITEOUT Machine!
1. AFTER LOCAL NEWS MEDIA NETWORKS REPEATEDLY IGNORED LOCAL CITIZENS AT THE VALDOSTA CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ON MAY 5, 2005, AND 19 MAY 2005. I WAS DRIVEN BY A SPIRIT WITHIN TO WRITE THIS MATERIAL SO THE WORLD COULD UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS LIKE LIVING IN THIS SOUTH GEORGIA WHITEOUT MENTALITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! -
2.This is my honest opinion based on the facts at hand (1989-2005) of Valdosta and Lowndes County Georgia. I am a Black Man whose ancestry is from the continent of Africa. I am extremely proud to be a descendent of ancestors from that Ancient Historical Continent wherein life first began on this planet.
3.As an American Citizens, Single Parent of three children, Retired Armed Forces Veteran of the Vietnam Era (twenty one years), Home Owner, Former Businessman for over 14 years, maintained a successful Radio Broadcast for fourteen years, Activists, Minister of Truth, Published writer, Lover of all Mankind, Concerned Citizen and Brother of Humanity. And as such, I refuse to bury my head in the sand like the legend concerning the Ostrich Bird and pretend that we are living in heaven.
4.Moreover, I understand that if this nation (America) is to remain the respected superpower that it is today. Then all People of conscious and good will must stand up for right and speak truth to power!
5.Some of the Lowndes County Citizens, who were arrested on 5 May 2005, spoke at the 19 May 2005 Valdosta City Council Meetings following their arrest. However, the South Georgia Media WHITEOUT MACHINE failed to report one word these citizens spoke to the Mayor and Council concerning their arrest and the purpose for which they were arrested.
6.In fact, LOCAL newspapers, and television stations acted is if these American citizens were not even in attendance at this public Meeting. This document (Assessment) was created as a result of our local media’s refusal to depart from the words and content of what is written in the Old Valdosta City Charter of 1860. Article 100, Section XI, “THAT THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL SHALL PASS ALL PROPER AND NECESSARY LAWS AND ORDINANCES FOR THE CONTROL OF SLAVES AND FREE PERSONS OF COLOR IN SAID TOWN AND SUPPRESS AND ABATE ALL NUISANCES ARRIVING FROM HOGS, DOGS, HORSES, OR OTHER STOCK STRAYING AT LARGE IN SAID TOWN, OR FROM OTHER CAUSES.”THE HONORABLE MAYOR AND COUNCIL (Respectively) 216 East Hill Ave, Valdosta, Georgia 31601
--------AFTER BEING ARRESTED BY THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL AND AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM THE VALDOSA-LOWNDES COUNTY JAIL: I SENT THIS INFORMATION TO THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL:
7. I thank you all for having me arrested on 5 May 2005 at 7:04 PM. It gave me the opportunity to feel what other Great Americans felt that stood-on the principles of the Founding Fathers of this Republic seeking justice. When we entered our cell in the Lowndes County Jail, an inmate said, “y’all get up the Sheriff done raided the church, Brother Rhynes is here.” I was then given a tablet and pen to write down the ill conditions in the jail. One inmate said this is a “Slave Ship,” and the only thing missing is the water beneath the boat.
8. I saw first hand the filthy food trays the kitchen inspection form, paper shoved under bunks to keep them level, one working toilet for forty-two inmates. I was then shown the large fan that inmates had previously wrote me about in their letters and that it only circulated 100 degree hot air in the summer. The shower runs nonstop in jail cell 13B. I was told never to remove my shoes because the jail floor was unsanitary and that little creatures were present.
9. I was never seen by a nurse during the booking process. I was never asked if I had medical problems or if I had TB or some other contagious disease. U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson identified this same problem in June 1997 that stemmed from a 1989 Civil Suit and was suppose to be corrected within two years. (See Civil Action #89-54-VAL).
10. My incarceration in the Lowndes County Jail only strengthened my belief that all Lowndes County Elected Officials must have a sense of loyalty, respect, and responsibility to those who elected them to serve their interests. Unlike the South Georgia Media Network (SGMN), that seem to routinely publish lies, misinformation, ignores the facts, and consistently report that the land for Barber Park was donated by the Barber Family. And that there was a contractual agreement between the city and family. That made it almost impossible for the name to be changed. This was reported in the Valdosta Daily times but was proved to be false. Mr. Mayor and Council much of the information from these meetings are NOT being reported to the general public. Therefore, we may need to create a City Newsletter.” This will better inform the people. Since our local media routinely ignores problems brought before governmental, educational, and community meetings.
11. FOR EXAMPLE: Local media ignored citizens complaints about Gang activity in Valdosta for years, and that elderly citizens were afraid to come out of their homes because of gang violence. The Media ignored inmates sending signed letters and notarized statements to governmental agencies including the District Attorney, and about the abuses, inhumane, unsanitary, and denial of inmates 1st, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and of 42 U. S. C. Section. (1983); REF: CIVIL ACTION NO. 89-54-VAL in the Lowndes County Jail. Local media failed to report the many eye witnesses in the arrest of Willie James Williams on Lee Street or investigate why Ms Gilmore, who took the call from the hospital from Mr. Williams who told her that he was beaten and that she should see how they beat him to mention a few omissions from the Williams case. Our Local Media failed to mention that the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners failed to provide even a courteous reply to jailed inmates who asked for an outside investigation to address their ill treatment in the jail.
12. When Rev. Floyd Rose, ran for Chairman of the Lowndes County Board of Commissioners. He received racial slurs, and threats were made on his life at J.C. Shack Road Polling place with a White Man being arrested.
13. However, local media NEVER reported that Rev. Rose was the SUBJECT of these threats. Not one elected Official in the City of Valdosta, or in Lowndes County Government said anything about this most serious matter in Lowndes County Georgia. When local media had a forum with Project Change and their theme was “do we really want to talk about race.”
14. When Charles Moore a reporter from the Lake Park Post weekly newspaper asked pointed questions. It was quickly proved that no one really wanted to talk about race in Valdosta-Lowndes County Georgia. Little if any investigative reporting was done surrounding the mock lynching of Black Dolls on a tree at Lowndes County High School in June 2003. When racial epithets were written on the tower at Valdosta High School there were no closure or in-depth reporting done. Local media ignored a bus accident on Clay Road in front of Rev. White house and he witnessed the accident.
15. When comments were brought up at the Jimmy Rainwater Conference Center on NOT hiring Blacks to management positions. A former applicant said that employees on staff had spoken to him of the unfair hiring practices and that one Black applicant application was never considered. (Name omitted but available upon request). This too, was omitted from the newspapers although they were present at the Lowndes County Conference Center Meeting. The media said nothing when the disgraceful 1860 Valdosta City Charter was removed from these walls because I protested and insisted that it be removed because it was an insult to Blacks and all people of good will. It read in Article 100, Section XI, “THAT THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL SHALL PASS ALL PROPER AND NECESSARY LAWS AND ORDINANCES FOR THE CONTROL OF SLAVES AND FREE PERSONS OF COLOR IN SAID TOWN AND SUPPRESS AND ABATE ALL NUISANCES ARRIVING FROM HOGS, DOGS, HORSES, OR OTHER STOCK STRAYING AT LARGE IN SAID TOWN, OR FROM OTHER CAUSES.”
16. For years Blacks complained about bad railroad tracks and panhandlers but only recently did the press say anything to the public. When citizens were required to travel thirteen (13), miles round trip during the last City Election in a Black Precinct. Nothing was published to inform the citizens of Valdosta. On 21 June 2003, a 49 year-old White male inmate died in the Lowndes County Jail. However, it took local media 26 days to release his name after Civil Rights organizations told them that the public had a right to know. Therefore, the citizens of Lowndes have no idea of how many inmates have died because there is no (local) investigative reporting by the Press. Therefore, citizens do not know how much money has been paid out through Civil Law Suits from abused inmates. Even more importantly is that the media seem to have a vested interest in not reporting the news to local citizens.
17. The Lake Park Post an independent weekly newspaper published on 15 April 2004, Vol. 17 NO. 2, that the following inmates died in the jail to mention a few that is known to have occurred in our surrounding the Lowndes County Jail. They were Rosemary King age 40, died, on 20 June 2001, Ronzie “Sonny” Graham, age 48, died, on 13 July 2000, Willie James Williams age 49, died, on 2 Sept 1998, Willie Lee Gay age 39, died, on 23 Oct 1995, Willie McFarland died years earlier, John Henry Dejonghe, 49 died on 21 June 2004.Then on 5 May 2005 fifteen citizens were told by inmates in their cell (13B) that Leisa Sanders also died in our surrounding the jail, and that even more deaths had occurred in the jail but that the media along with others have kept them secret and away from the public.
18. Many inmates in cell 13B heard these words coming from inmates who seemed to know. Since there is no objective Local News Media in this area citizens do not know how many inmates have died in or surrounding the jail. When Black Deputies were being terminated from their job in the 1990s. They came to the Valdosta Lowndes County Branch of the NAACP and filed EEOC Complaints but the media failed to report their cases to the public. I was one on the Executive Board who met in an apartment and listened to individual Lowndes County Deputies as they gave their complaints. We do know that several former deputies won their cases.
19. On 5 May 2005, inmates said that Local Law Enforcement routinely search Black citizens vehicles, homes, and plant drugs at will in order to get a conviction or squeal on others. This is even truer when it relates to family members who are on probation. (Names withheld but available upon request). When it was brought before the Mayor and Council that a local Juvenile Court Judge seem to be unfair towards Blacks. This too went unpublished to local citizens from City Council Meetings. When the Times editor was questioned as to the cause of John Henry Dejonghe, a white 49 year old male inmate who died in the Lowndes County Jail on 21 June 2003 she provided NO answer.
20. They ignored discussions of interest at Valdosta City School Board of Education meetings. When Minister Rose was arrested the first, and second time along with fourteen others. It never made front-page coverage. It seem that front page coverage is reserved for a cat trapped in a tree or for Blacks who rob a convenient store etc, Moreover, when Tiger Woods won the Augusta National practically every newspaper in the nation had Tiger Woods sporting that Highly Honored and respected Green Jacket on the front page. But NOT in Valdosta Georgia! They ignored peaceful protests against the War in Iraq held on the Courthouse steps. A protest at the Chamber of Commerce with about 300 citizens concerning the death of Willie James Williams and the eight to ten deaths of inmates who died in or surrounding the Lowndes County Jail dating back to 1988. Local media too down played this.
21. Perhaps the best-kept secret is the media’s ability to ignore Civil Action #89-54-VAL, filed in U.S. District Courts of the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division against the Jail. It was Judge Hugh Lawson, who identified 105 violations to be corrected in two years in 1997. However, current inmate letters indicate that these same violations remain. This is due in part because of elected officials and a media that seem to be in the 1860-1965 time-period. Moreover, the South Georgia Media Networks (SGMN), have never reported the names of the individuals who died in one article. Nor have they stressed with great concern the ill conditions identified in Civil Action 89-54-VAL originally filed in 1989.
22. However, Captain Yeager of the Sheriffs Department identified many discrepancies in the Times on two or three separate occasions (29 July 2003). This was done seemingly to justify building a new jail. But the media, never really addressed the human suffering although many were American Military Veterans. Local Media practically ignored a National Museum on Wheels that came to Valdosta State University in 2004. It was the foremost collection of African American Historical Artifacts readily available in this country today called “SANKOFA.” Ms. Angela Jennings, was Curator/Director of Denmark, South Carolina who has traveled throughout the United States the U.S. Virgin Island, West Africa, and Europe to amass a collection of art, collectibles and memorabilia that rivals many traditional museums but local media gave little to no real exposure to this historical and international exhibit. (The only one of its Kind).
23. The peak of the pyramid of this county was revealed on May 5th, 2005, about 6:37 PM, when Mayor John Fretti said something to the effects that “Somebody might want to talk about their stray dog, or cat.” (His statement was apparently left out of the City Council Minutes). However, his words revealed that the 1860 Valdosta City Charter Article 100, Section XI, was being followed. It also revealed the truth of the needle behind the haystack. Moreover, it seem that every local Media outlet is guilty of failing to report the comments from Ms. Leigh Touchton speaking in favor of renaming Barber Park. She is a National Hero, for being the 1st White Woman to be elected President of an NAACP Branch in this Country. However, her comments were a total WHITEOUT. Local media failed to mention that TWO of the seven Women arrested were white that Dr. Ari Santa’s a white professor from Valdosta State University who spoke eloquently concerning the name change. He was also instrumental in assembling a two-hour documentary video years ago entitled “A Chorus of Fear,” outlining the truth behind the Good Boy System in Lowndes County.
24. Dr. Santa’s wife Pat who spoke before the Council with her son was also omitted from the article on renaming the park. They ignored, JESSE CLARK, a Retired Lowndes County Educator, Chairman of the Local NAACP Legal Redress Committee, and Vice President of the local NAACP who spoke of the benefits of renaming Barber Park after Ossie Davis. They ignored Willie Head, Vice President of the Peoples Tribunal comments on renaming the park. Mr. Head has traveled to four foreign countries including Cuba on behalf of Black Farmers. He sat in the White House with former President Bill Clinton on behalf of Black Farmers.
25. They ignored Queen Ann Robinson a nationally recognized Poet who said, “God is just, so you must be just. Justice is the foundation of civilization and if justice does not exist, civilization crumbles. If justice is not rendered, you will be removed.”
26. They failed to report that the three to two votes by the Council not to consider a committee to rename Barber Park was divided down Racial Lines. After acknowledging their mistake about the land being donated for Barber Park on 24 April 2005, they continued to publish Rants that the park was donated and that there was a contractual agreement.
27. Even a local former Firefighter and Deacon Tony Daniel’s from one of the most prestigious Black Churches in Lowndes County also spoke during this meeting but was ignored. How could all this be in the 21st Century of the Cosby Kids, and the Pepsi Generation. Especially since Valdosta is now a Metropolitan City. We probably could understand these omissions if Valdosta was in Iraq or in some other third world country. But we are now a Metropolitan City and there is no need for all these “WHITEOUTS” by the South Georgia News Media Network. It is also strange that NO Television Network (WCTV, WALB, etc) was present at either of these meetings of community importance.
28. However, Scott James a White local Conservative Talks Show Host did address some of the concerns from the City Council Meeting on his Talk Show. The South Georgia Media Machine even ignored the arrest of the President of the local NAACP Branch. It must be noted that the NAACP is the oldest Civil Rights Organization in the Nation. Therefore, we must ask why so many important omissions are being allowed in this South Georgia Area, and for what purpose? Lets take a second look at the 1860 Valdosta City Charter: of 1860, which states. “THAT THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL SHALL PASS ALL PROPER AND NECESSARY LAWS AND ORDINANCES FOR THE CONTROL OF SLAVES AND FREE PERSONS OF COLOR IN SAID TOWN AND SUPPRESS AND ABATE ALL NUISANCES ARRIVING FROM HOGS, DOGS, HORSES, OR OTHER STOCK STRAYING AT LARGE IN SAID TOWN, OR FROM OTHER CAUSES.”
29. Is this also the purpose of the (SGMN), to keep people ignorant and unable to make intelligent decisions based on truth in order to maintain the Status Quo.The Valdosta Daily Times omitted that two Police Vans were parked outside City Hall before the meeting began on 5 May 2005, and that extra Law Enforcement were also on the scene, and they were as ready as Fretti to abide by Article 100, Section XI, of an 1860 City Charter to “Control, Suppress, and Abate all Nuisances arriving from slaves, and free persons of color, Hogs, Dogs, Horses, or other stock straying at large in Valdosta Georgia. It’s somewhat strange that our Mayor referred to stray animals in the May 5th meeting when fifteen American citizens were arrested.
30. Moreover, the media failed to mention that Rev. Floyd Rose was placed in Cell MP 103, for hard-core criminals away from those arrested with him. Inmates said “MP-103, was no place for a sixty-six year old man and that white folks were making an example out of you guys.”
31. It has been reported that Representative Tyrone Brooks a Civil Rights Activist has been arrested nearly sixty-five times. However, he was never placed in solitary confinement as Minister Floyd Rose in the Lowndes County Jail on 5 May 2005. The seven other men were placed in Cell 13B. While the seven ladies two of which were White were all placed in Cell 5, 6, and 7. But the (SGMN), failed to interview them concerning their stay in the county jail. These type omissions seem to be routine practice in this South Georgia Area. Our only daily newspaper “The Valdosta Daily Times,” on their Worship Directory Page on Saturdays only lists religious symbols of the Christians, and Jews.
32. They exclude the religious symbol of the Muslims without question. Moreover, the Atlanta Journal, Augusta Chronicle, and Macon Observer used words like unruly minister and fourteen others were arrested. We must question who provided them with their information. Local media seem to be consistent with the Valdosta City Charter mentality of 1860.
33. This may be why they have NEVER questioned the legality or possibility that the At-Large Voting System in Valdosta is an attempt to keep Blacks from ever becoming the majority on the Valdosta City Council. This would be in keeping with the 1860 Valdosta City Charter to Suppress and Control People of Color. When heritage is spoken of in South Georgia. It never addresses the week of terror in Brooks and Lowndes County in 1918 when eleven Blacks were lynched, soaked in gasoline, and motor oil, burned to a crisp, castrated, and their homes burned to the ground. For whatever reason, Sidney Johnson was castrated, his body parts were removed, thrown across the street, tied behind an automobile and dragged down South Patterson Street in broad day light in Valdosta Georgia while citizens looked on in glee, (Ref. The Crises in July 1918).
34. In addition, an eight-month old Black Fetus was cut from its mother’s abdomen (Mary Turner), and its head crushed by the heel of a certain White man boot. This history is also omitted from the South Georgia Media Network but has been documented and a book is now being written with the potential of becoming a movie about this South Georgia Area by a White lady in Florida. A few months ago a Representative from the 144th Congressional District Ellis Black sponsored a bill to rename Negro Branch west of Quitman---to Pride Branch. This was the result of informed students attending Brooks County School system requesting the change from a segregated and shameful past. This is a great gesture by Congressman Black.
35. However, the branch has never been called “Negro Branch.” I am from Brooks County and it has always been known until this very day as “NIGGER BRANCH.”
36. No one in Brooks County knows of a “NEGRO” Branch. This proves that few Whites want to address the real issues of the day concerning heritage. It should also be noted that the fifteen freedom fighters names that were arrested by the orders of the Mayor and Council never appeared in local newspapers or on television. They were only published in the Crime Report of the Valdosta Daily Times on 6 May 2005. When in truth, they should have been recognized as the great followers of the Nobel Peace Prize Winner the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Mayor and Council this is NOT just about Barber Park or Minister Rose as many have tried to make citizens believe. It is about leaving 1860-1965 and coming into the 21st Century of inclusion, love, justice, and truth.
37. You all must understand that a squeaking wheel can only stop squeaking by applying grease to the problem (wheel). Mr. Mayor and Council! Do you not understand? That the conditions of the times brought into existence a Mosses, David, Queen Ester, Ezekiel, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Joseph Lowery, Tyrone Brooks, Nat Turner, Elijah Mohammed, John Brown, Malcolm X., Jesse L. Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and others. In the same manner that the sick conditions here in Lowndes County demanded that Minister Floyd Rose and the fourteen others arrested be brought into existence. And there will be more to follow because the conditions of the times in this County demand that they come. Our God will always send agitators and liberators to meet the needs of his people as in the past. Now Mr. Mayor and Council, your actions have put the “Eyes of the Nation” on Valdosta and Lowndes County Georgia. That was something we could never have done without God working through you---on our behalf.
38. Therefore, I thank you for allowing God to use you in our quest for justice, equality and liberation. Be it known! That “We the People” will not bury our head in the sand like the Legend concerning the ostrich and pretend that we are in heaven.
39. Nor will we stay on our knees and refuse to stand up on our feet for what we know is right. Renaming Barber Park is right, examining the At Large Voting System in Valdosta is right, Respecting jailed inmates Constitutional Rights is right, eliminating the after burner of an 1860 charter is right, and its just right to be right. Therefore, Barber Park’s name will be changed. There are signs and symbols all around this town paying tribute to Whites. Even though many of these signs and symbols had their beginning in Africa the homeland of ancient and modern man. Every American must understand that before the Confederate Flag became the Confederate Flag. It was engraved in stone in Africa, and before the Cross of Saint Andrews there was the Cross of Osiris in Africa.
40.Even the Great Seal of the United States of America was engraved in stone in Africa. This has been documented but suppressed, controlled, and kept away from the American People as the local media is attempting to do today. There are Masonic signs and symbols on buildings in and out of the Courtrooms in Valdosta Georgia. Valdosta State University has the Jewish Star of David practically everywhere. Hate groups have their signs and symbols of pride down town on buildings. The only thing missing is their eyes to keep ordinary people ignorant.
41.Mr. Mayor and Council if you fail to do the right thing others will come to straighten out what you have made crooked. Because Luke 4:18 cannot be ignored without paying a great cost. It is easier to embrace the 21st Century of change, fairness, and inclusion by standing on the side of TRUTH, JUSTICE, and EQUALITY. Because when truth comes FALSEHOOD must vanish, and FALSEHOOD is forever a vanishing thing.
42. It vanished in Selma, Little Rock, Montgomery, Birmingham, in the heart of Governor George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and other cities across this nation. So today, it is only fitting and proper that Truth, Justice, and Equality come to South Georgia. The days of control suppression and abating is coming to an end. The only question is how costly it will be for those who reject change, fairness and inclusion.
43. Mr. Mayor, Council and especially Councilman Sessions---don’t ask Blacks to forget their segregated, and painful historical past without first asking the Jews, and Native Americans to forget what happened to them. It has been reported that 6 million Jews were killed under Hitler. Blacks cannot begin their count under 100 Million. You can ignore our pain and tell yourself that it is all about renaming Barber Park and Minister Floyd Rose. But this issue is much larger than a Park and is growing everyday---that it is delayed. It is about treating your neighbor, as you yourself would want to be treated.
44. Today the word is out among many National Civil Rights organizations because of the arrest of fifteen law-abiding citizens. This matter is NOW completely in the hand of the God who delivered Daniel from the Lions Den, the Hebrews Boys from the fiery furnace, and Jonah from the belly of the beast. And He will surely deliver us from what seem to be an 1860 mentality that exists throughout local government. That seem to be in lockstep with the South Georgia Media Network, and the Status Quo that ignores the power of the human spirit housed in both Black and White Right People in Lowndes County. These are a few of the facts that have become the peak of the pyramid and the capstone of this South Georgia Town. But in the end truth will win and the outside world will know. As Paul Harvey would say and now you know the rest of the story?
45. It appears that Rev. Joseph Lowery of the SCLC, an activist who marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was correct. “That Lowndes County would be the Selma, and Montgomery of the 21st Century for Civil and Human Rights because of its refusal to adequately address the ill conditions that have existed for too long in South Georgia.” He said, “that the Civil Rights Movement by-passed Lowndes County.”
46. It appears that the stage is NOW being set for the fulfillment of this divine prophecy. Lowndes County dilemma goes beyond a Black or White thing. It is a right thing, and though we have lost some battles in the past. Our just war is a certain victory. Because we have cosmic companionship with the God of Righteousness!
President of the Valdosta Lowndes County Branch of the NAACP,
A concerned Citizen and brother of humanity!
PS: The Valdosta City Council Meeting (19 May 2005), following the arrest of Minister Rose and the fourteen others were conducted as usual. However, all comments made at the meeting by Blacks were totally ignored by the media as if they were not even in attendance at the Valdosta City Council Meeting on 19 May 2005.
a. Again this seems to be a routine practice in this South Georgia Town (See the 1860 City Charter Article 100, Section XI). ALTHOUGH, BLACKS SPOKE AS FORECEFULLY AS THEY DID AT PREVIOUS MEETINGS OVER THE LAST FIVE MONTHS.
b. The South Georgia Media “Whiteout Machine” did not publish one word concerning the issues Blacks brought before the council on 19 May 2005, concerning the purpose for which fifteen Citizens were arrested on 5 May 2005. In addition: A local firefighter also had some concerns on another issue but his presentation was also omitted. This is the insensitivity, and arrogance of our Southern White Male dominated News Media Network system that goes unchecked, unreported, unchallenged, and unchanged apparently from the Old City Charter Days.
c. Therefore, local citizens in South Georgia have been ill informed for too long with no change in sight. I am convinced that nothing will change in this South Georgia Town without an independent outside investigation or the Federal Government from outside this area coming in and understanding Luke 4:18. Inmates, call Valdosta a “Hell Hole” for blacks. (Extracted from Inmates signed letters and notarized statements dated July 2003). Available upon request because in the end only truth will set us free. Peace! I gave verbal excerpts from this address to the Mayor and Valdosta City Council on 19 May 2005 during their Monthly meeting.
d. I also, thanked the Mayor and Council for my arrest on 5 May 2005 at 7:04 PM. I got to witness the ill conditions of the Lowndes County Jail 1st hand. (P.S. To The P.S),
How could any PUBLISHER and EDITOR, in South Georgia or elsewhere, NOT be interested in disseminating to local citizens the following information published in the Valdosta Post------by Al Parson, on 3 June 2005. These are the words of LEIGH TOUCHTON, a “White Lady” who was incarcerated in the Lowndes County Jail with fourteen other freedom fighters. It must be noted that these problems are not new but have existed since 1988.
e. All local elected officials have failed to represent the people who put them into office, and in my humble opinion local media has contributed to this long-standing dilemma in South Georgia. LOWNDES COUNTY DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY, AND I AM CONFIDENT THAT IT WILL EVENTUALLY BE CHANGED!
GEORGE BOSTON RHYNES
Retired United States Armed Forces
A concerned citizen and brother of all humanity
WORDS FROM A WHITE FEMALE INMATE, WHILE IN THE VALDOSTA-LOWNDES COUNTY JAIL. THIS IS HER TRUTH......
MY NAME IS LEIGH TOUCHTON: I am the former President of the Valdosta, Lowndes County Branch of the NAACP.
INTRODUCTION: I am the first white woman to lead a branch of the NAACP. I have corresponded with the Georgia ACLU previously about the Lowndes County Jail. Last Thursday night, 15 of us refused to move from the podium of the Valdosta City Council over a civil rights issue. We were arrested and taken to the Lowndes County Jail. I was personally subjected to the following:
1. I was not allowed to make a phone call when I was booked. My case number, which is the PIN number for making phone calls out of the cell, was blacked out on the receipt paper that I was given by a sadistic female guard named Giddens, or Giddings, a white female guard. I was not allowed to call family in order to have my prescribed medicines brought to me until 20 hours after I was booked. I missed two doses of my medicine and almost passed out. Two women with me were also not allowed to make a phone call either and were on prescribed medicine. Two of us received our medicines 20 hours after our booking, one woman never received hers. We were all bonded out approx. 24 hours after we were arrested. I was told that if you were arrested on a Friday, you would not be bonded out until Monday. I was denied any food for the first 13 hours of my incarceration (from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. the next morning). Male protesters arrested with us were given dinner. The phones in the cellblock did not work properly. The inmates had to stand at the phone for hours trying to get a line to go out. Many inmates were locked into their rooms for the night before getting a phone call to go out. I was one of those inmates.
2. I was not given a towel or a comb. The sink in my room did not work. I was locked in my room for over 6 hours without access to drinking water. I saw many female inmates with dirty, stinking jumpsuits that they had been issued upon their arrival but were not allowed to send to the laundry. One woman told me she had been wearing hers for over a month. I saw many female inmates washing their underclothes and tee shirts and boxer shorts in the toilet for lack of a place to wash them. The holding cell that I was placed in upon arrival (for 3 hours) had two non-functional toilets filled with human waste.
3. There were trays of spoiled food in the holding cell that had been there for days. The milk I was given in the morning (at 5:00 a.m.) was spoiled. Thirty other inmates from another cellblock reported spoiled milk. The milk was warm and had obviously not been refrigerated for several hours. I was given breakfast and lunch. There were no fresh fruits or vegetables or whole grains available at either of these meals. There was no fruit juice available. There were no vitamins or calcium supplements or iron supplements available. I was told that I could not have Tylenol or Advil for my headache without filling out a pill call form and it would take 3 days to receive the pills. I was told that I was limited to two Tylenol pills per week. I was on my period and was not able to receive any sanitary items until 16 hours after I was incarcerated. I had menstrual wastes running down my legs the entire 16 hours because the toilet paper I tried to use would not stay in place. I was told that I had to purchase tampons but that the next available purchase would not arrive until I had been in jail 7 days. I was forced to sleep on the floor in a modified hospital stretcher. I saw at least 15 other women also sleeping on the floor. I was told that every room had women sleeping on the floor. One window in my non-air conditioned, non-heated room was rusted closed and would not open. One was rusted open and would not shut. Both windows were approx. 4 inches by 30 inches in dimensions. The temperature outside went down to approx. 50 degrees the night I was incarcerated and I had to sleep under an open window. I had only my jumpsuit and one blanket and it did not keep me warm. My cellmates reported that during the summer when South Georgia temperatures reach into the 100's, that women strip down to their underwear, wet their towels in the sink or in my room, the toilet, and lay the wet towels across their bodies to keep from getting heat stroke. Towels can only go to the laundry once a week. We believe that a male inmate named Sonny Graham died of heat stroke. We believe that a female inmate also died of heat stroke. I was incarcerated with women who saw her die and their descriptions sound like heat stroke (I'm a biology professor with some medical training). The mattress was less than one inch thick and flattened to approx. one-half inch. The dimensions of the "boat" were so narrow and so short that many tall or heavy women could not fit in them.
4. The arraignment holding cell where I was taken with approx. 20 other women had one bench where 5 women could sit, the rest had to sit on the floor. At one point, when there were 20 of us in the holding cell waiting to be arraigned, it was standing room only. There was a 70-year-old woman who had to stand up for 3 hours. There was a pregnant woman with us who had been in the cell for 7 hours without access to any food, either brought to her at regular mealtimes, or access to her commissary items. We were kept in the holding cell, waiting to be arraigned, for almost 4 hours. I was told that when prisoners are locked into their rooms at night, that no guard comes to check on them until 5:00 the next morning when Kool-Aid and milk arrive. I stayed awake all night. A female guard came about 2:00 a.m. and counted us in our beds. The next morning the other inmates told me that it was the first time a guard had come to check during the night "for weeks". There were four sets of doors between us and the guards' station. There were several hundred feet between us and the guards' station. Had someone had a medical emergency, or if a crazy inmate had started a fire, there would have been no way for the guards to have heard our cries for help. The doors are solid metal, there is no passageway for air or sound.
5. There is no air-conditioning and no fan in any prisoner room. There is one large fan in the common area. The common area does not have enough benches for all the women to sit down at one time. All books and magazines are banned except the Bible and Koran. The commissary prices are outrageous. Many prisoners must supplement their diets with commissary items. They are only allowed to spend $55 per week. They must purchase their own socks, underwear, bras, tee-shirts, and shorts. But they must wear their jumpsuits in the common areas and hallways, but they never get to wash their jumpsuits! I was allowed to keep my underwear and bra that I was wearing. I was told that it would be 7 days before I could purchase any underwear. Many women go without bras and underwear. Pregnant women are given a different tray of food that does have a fresh orange, but I could not see any different treatment. I was asked whether I was pregnant when I arrived. I was not asked about tuberculosis or checked for lice. I was told that women who come in "off the streets" with obvious lice infestations and communicable diseases are not separated from the general population and no one is "de-loused". I saw a pregnant woman fall down the stairs in our block. She was lucky she did not hit her head. She received no medical attention.
6. A diabetic woman who was arrested with me received no different medical or nutritional items than the rest of us. We kept telling the guards that she was diabetic and the sadistic female guard, Giddens, kept telling us that dinner was over. I kept saying she is going to go into a coma! They finally brought her a bag lunch about 3 hours after we had been arrested. There was only white bread and bologna in the bag. She needed something like juice or fruit because she is diabetic!! We believe that a male inmate named Willie McFarlane died of diabetic shock because of lack of medical care. The Sheriff, Ashley Paulk, told me that he "wanted to die" and refused to take his medicine. When diabetics are in diabetic shock, they cannot make decisions!! When I was finally allowed my one free phonecall, the phone still didn't work. It took 20 minutes of the guards messing with it for me to finally make a phonecall. I was at the nurse's station when I was brought in, giving my medical history, and the first nurse I saw allowed me to have two Tylenol. The second nurse I saw (when I looked in on her as I was making my free phonecall, 16-17 hours after I was arrested) told me "there isn't any".
7. I was given flip-flops to wear but no socks. I was told by inmates, that I could purchase socks and sneakers, but it would be a week before they arrived. No guard told me anything except my Miranda rights and made me sign a paper saying that I had been told my rights. However, being told that you can make a phone call is not the law. Being able to MAKE the phone call is the law! There were no working phones!! Inmates told me pregnant women receive no medical supervision such as blood pressure screenings. No accommodations are made for morning sickness or any of the host of other things that go along with being pregnant. Many women were incarcerated for over 6 months waiting for trial. One woman had been there nearly a year waiting for trial. I was told that sometimes women are arraigned, have bond set, but then the guards take them back to their cells and forget about them until the next day. I was told that women go to the exercise yard once a week for an hour. I was told that the last time they went a male inmate on the second floor masturbated and shot the semen into the yard on the women. When I was in the holding cell waiting to be arraigned, our cell was situated at right angles to the men's holding cell so that they could see in and leer and make comments. We would form a shield with our bodies so that one of us could use the toilet.
8. We were in there for almost 4 hours. Some women were in there longer than that. One woman told me her court appointed lawyer had met with her twice in 9 months and would not accept collect calls and she had no money to buy a phonecard to make calls to him. The only protein sources on the commissary list were peanut butter and tuna. One in six American women has unsafe mercury levels (causes brain damage, especially in fetuses) and tuna is the primary source. You can see the information under the FDA warnings on the internet. I was told that it would be 7 days before anyone could visit me. I was told that the phones in the visitation area do not work and people have to write messages on paper and hold it up to the window in order to communicate. Obviously, people who cannot read and write cannot communicate with family!!
9. I was not allowed to have my reading glasses, but other women were. Even if the guard had not blacked out my case number to make phone-calls, I couldn't read it without my glasses. But it wouldn't have mattered, because the phones didn't work!! The walls were filthy, with scum, mold, and unknown substances "flowing" down them. The women told me they would clean them but the only cleaning supplies they were given were body soap and a mop and bucket to clean the floors. The cells we were in had previously been used for male prisoners. There was urine and semen leaching out of the floor around the toilet. The women told me that when they were first put in there, they demanded some Comet and sprinkled that around the toilet to "cut the smell". The showers were in the same state of unsanitary conditions. It was raining outside and sewer smells were coming up out of the drains in the showers.
10. Six years ago, I requested a tour of the Jail from Sheriff Ashley Paulk. I was shown only the common corridors and the arraignment holding cells, which are pristine in comparison to the living quarters of the inmates. The inmates told me that anytime a group comes to tour the jail, they are locked into the cells so they can't communicate with them (for instance, our local Grand Jury tours the Jail once a year). Although I was not strip-searched, I was told that when guards want to "get back" at prisoners, they strip-search the entire cell block, sometimes once a day for days on end. None of the guards had their names visible on their uniforms. The inmates told me, and I saw them putting complaint forms in a special box in our common area but they told me nothing ever happens to satisfy the complaint.
11. I was told by a cell mate that she had been stripped naked and thrown into “the hole” by four guards, where she was kept in total darkness and total isolation, for 4 days. She had no clothes, no bed, no blanket. I was told that when guards brutalize prisoners, that the prisoners are isolated in “the hole” until their bruises and cuts heal so that family members won’t see the evidence of the beating. There were fifteen of us and we are all educated, literate citizens with no prior records.
12. I think we would make an ideal group to go forward with a lawsuit to rectify some of these conditions and I pray you will help us.” Best wishes,