What Makes Ronnie Roll: Jimmie, Angela, and “Arise”

1-22-2016 11-08-58 AMMonday the 18th had been a whirlwind of celebrations centered around Martin Luther King’s birthday. Sweet Home Church once again had been the host for the ceremony (or more accurately, “service”), and the Round Island Men’s Choir “tore it up,” as they always do.

However, someone very special was missing, and that was the “Jimmie” of this article. Veteran Athens City Councilman Jimmie Gill is in a serious “street fight” with cancer, and Mayor Ronnie, wanting to be respectful of Jimmie’s privacy, asked him, “Jimmie, what do you want me to tell caring people who call this office?” Jimmie’s response was as follows: “Tell them I am battling stage 2 cancer, and am starting chemo on Jan 25th.” But, the unsinkable Mr. Gill was not through—he also said, “I plan to whip this and be a candidate in 2016!” Mayor Ronnie then added, “We really missed Jimmie. It just wasn’t the same without him.”

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Every year, our school system has an essay contest in connection with Martin Luther King’s birthday, and there were 48 entries. It is significant to note that 30 of the 48 were from Julian Newman Elementary School.

We talked about Arise And Build, the original play being produced by Frank Travis and Charlotte Fulton, based on Charlotte’s book on the history of Trinity School as commemorated in Holding The Fort. The play is going to be presented at Athens State University on Friday, February 5th, Saturday the 6th, and Sunday the 7th. For more information, see Holly Hollman’s Special Feature on page________ “This is a big deal,” said Mayor Ronnie, and he added, “we have so much cooperation and support in our community that comes from business, the schools, the County, and the citizens.” We celebrated the “unscripted healing” that has taken place in our community because good hearted folks have chosen to do the right thing. We agreed we could use a serious dose of “arising and building” all over our nation.

We were then off to something that was genuinely stunning, and that was the Sankofa African-American Museum on Wheels, exhibited in the Athens State University ballroom on January 19th and 20th. The “rolling museum” was part of the Livingston Concert Series. It is the lifetime labor of love collected by Angela Jennings, and we could have stayed all day. There were heavy shackles used on slave ships which she had procured at auctions held by Christie’s and Sothby’s. There were original receipts for the purchase of slaves, Tuskegee Airmen memorabilia, kente cloth made out of silk, displays of invaluable inventions (such as the cell phone), which were made by African Americans, and so much more. “Every dime that I have has gone into this, “she said, and she is gone from her home in Denmark, SC for more than 300 days of the year making sure people have a chance to see it.

It was my pleasure to hear Mayor Ronnie tell her about Judge Horton’s decision to put everything on the line right here in the Limestone County Courthouse to see to it that the Scottsboro Boys got justice, and to watch her soak in the benefit of that act of bravery. It was also my pleasure to tell her about getting the chance to personally attend the last of the 16th Street Church bombing trials when I first got here, and to again see her enjoy the fruit of justice being served. But the true twinkle in her wise, soft eyes came when I told her what kind of history was made when the Swampers were Aretha Franklin’s back-up band when she recorded her breakout hit “I Ain’t Never Loved A Man” at Fame Studio in Muscle Shoals. She promised me she would get the DVD of Muscle Shoals from PBS and devour it.

It was time for Ronnie “to roll” to the Youth Commission Meeting, and I stayed behind for awhile to experience the depth and beauty of Ms. Angela. We talked, hugged, prayed, sang, and had church. I finally tore myself away, so proud to be a citizen of Athens. Ms. Angela said she had been “treated like royalty,” and I was not surprised, because this is not just how Mayor Ronnie rolls, this is how WE roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner