Savannah Morning News
June 25, 2000
By Bret Bell
State flag, racism take center stage at the GABEO summer convention. Embattled Liberty County Tax Commissioner Carolyn Brown on Saturday received support from the state's largest organization of black politicians. About 200 people who attended a morning session of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, meeting at Savannah State University for the organization's summer convention, included Brown's cause among seven issues that the organization agreed to support. Other issues included changing the Georgia state flag, lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba and supporting a Putnam County sect that has two 40-foot pyramids and a giant sphinx on its property.A judge has ordered Brown to repay Liberty County $1.2 million in fees, commissions and legal expenses she collected from property taxes and vehicle tag payments. Two weeks ago, a judge ruled that Brown is ineligible to run for re-election. The item about Brown was tagged on at the last minute to the list of issues that the association will support, just prior to a unanimous voice vote on all seven topics. Little information was given about the history of the Brown case or issues surrounding it.The vote shows that "we are totally supportive of the struggles in these communities," said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, president of the organization. "It's important for us to come together as African Americans because we have problems that are unique to us."Brown said she was pleased that the debate was"moving outside the box of Hinesville," saying support from the outside was necessary because Liberty County officials who don't want her in office are unfairly targeting her. But the issue that took center stage Saturday was changing the Georgia state flag, which incorporates the Confederate "Stars and Bars." The Rev. Nelson Rivers, director of field operations for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pressed the issue during the event's keynote speech, saying the flag was "symbolic of the hatred of you because of your color.""The Confederate Flag is about white supremacy," Rivers said. "What flies above the (Statehouse) ought to be the symbol of all the people. ... We don't want a flag for some people, we want a flag for all people." Rivers said Gov. Roy Barnes, who has not taken a position on the state flag, must be stronger on the issue."He has to take a stance before the stance takes him," Rivers said. "It is clear that Gov. Barnes would not be governor if it were not for the African-American vote. At the minimum he should say, 'I respect you enough to remove this symbol of slavery.' " A good portion of those in attendance Saturday were from the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a black group located in Eatonton whose members claim to be descended from the Egyptians and from a tribe of American Indians indigenous to Georgia. Egyptian architecture, including pyramids, are located on the group's property in central Georgia. Group members have been in a dispute with Putnam County authorities over voter registration and zoning issues. They claim election officials there have been unfairly challenging the residency of Nuwaubians in order to prevent them from voting in the predominantly white county. Justice Department officials have become involved because of the charges of racism. Convention attendees voted to support the Nuwaubians, Brown, the flag issue, efforts to lift the Cuban embargo, as well as efforts to combat alleged racism against officials in Treutlen County, Cuthbert, and black people in Richland.Brooks said up to 1,000 members of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials would attend convention events over the course of the weekend. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had been invited to speak at Saturday's event, but could not because of scheduling conflicts. Savannah Mayor Floyd Adams Jr., who was scheduled to give the welcoming remarks at a Saturday luncheon honoring the founders of the organization, has been ill for the past few days and was unable to attend.
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