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County woman testifies at Congressional forum on poverty

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes SignalOn Tuesday, June 12, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) convened a forum at the U.S. Capitol to examine poverty in America. And two women from Alabama, a Lowndes County woman and a Selma woman, were among those to testify.

Pamela Sue Rush, of Lowndes County, Alabama, spoke of her struggles living in a mobile home with two kids and open sewage in their yard among other issues. And Callie Greer, of Selma, spoke of the death of her daughter, Venus, because she did not have healthcare and no health insurance.

The event was a Congressional forum on poverty and economic opportunity and was held in the Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Panelists included the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and in place of the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, was Karenna Gore and other individuals who shared personal stories about poverty and economic injustice.

Barber said Theoharis was not present because she was in jail. He said she was arrested for praying on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 11th.

In a statement read by Gore on Theoharis’ behalf, Theoharis asked, “Did you know that a quarter of a million people die in the United States from poverty and related issues every year? Callie Greer from Selma, Alabama does. Her daughter, Venus, died in her arms five years ago because she couldn’t afford health insurance after the Alabama Legislature refused to expand Medicaid.”

According to the statement, Greer’s daughter, Venus, had breast cancer, a disease that if caught early has a 99 percent survival rate.

She also said, “Did you know that 13.8 million families in this country cannot afford water, and that poor rural communities face the additional problem of lacking access to piped water and sewage systems to begin with?”

She said, “Just ask Pamela Sue Rush from Lowndes County, Alabama. Pamela has to live with mold in her trailer while her 9-year-old daughter has to use a CPAP machine.”

In his own statement, Barber said, “We demand the expansion of Medicaid in every state and single payer healthcare for all… We demand fully funded public water and sanitation infra structures…”

Rush, 48, said she lives in a mobile home with her two children for which she is being charged $114,000 and which is “falling apart.” She described it as being filled with mold and mildew, opossums and cats coming in and said, “I’ve got raw sewage, I don’t have no money. I’m poor.” She also cited the problem of high utility bills, up to $300 per month in the summer, with a trailer that doesn’t hold air conditioning.

Barber added that Rush can’t get out of her loan because of predatory lending in Alabama.

Greer of Selma said her daughter, who was unemployed and without health insurance, found a little lump in her breast. And she said Venus used the emergency room for her care and was being turned in and out of it until a doctor asked her about a smell that she said was her breast “rotting.”

Greer said Venus was then sent to a cancer center with fourth stage breast cancer.

She also said the cancer spread throughout her daughter’s body while she had to be approved for every piece of equipment she needed.

Toward the latter part of her life, Greer said, Venus was waiting to be qualified for breathing equipment and a CAT Scan when she lapsed into a coma and was brain dead.

Greer said, “No one should have to bury their baby like that because she doesn’t have insurance.”

There were also others in attendance from Kentucky, North Carolina, California and other states where Poor People’s Campaign actions are taking place.