Sen. Hank Sanders

Number 1446 - February 25, 2015





          History is powerful.  Black History is powerful.  If we know our history, we harness its power to stand on a stronger foundation, reaching higher and seeing farther.  If we don’t know our history, the power of history stands on us, weighing down our minds, our emotions, our hearts, our spirits, our lives.  History is powerful.

            These past weeks have reminded me of the power of history in general and Black History in particular.  Of course, this is February – Black History Month - so I’m generally reminded.  I spoke on Black History at a prison in Jefferson County, attended a Black History Program in Greene County, presented on Black History at a church in Lowndes County, made remarks at the 50th Anniversary Jimmie Lee Jackson Commemoration in Perry County, discussed Black History on a radio program in Montgomery and on a radio program in Selma, wrote an article about The Power of Youth in Black History and crafted a Sketches concerning the power of Black History.  I know the power of Black History.

            History tells us where we were, where we are now and how we got from where we were to where we are.  It also tells us where we can go.  History not only deals with the past as many of us recognize but with the present and the future which few of us recognize.  History is powerful.

            So many of us disdain history, especially Black History.  Therefore, I want to illustrate how history not only tells us where we were, but where we are now and where we can go in the future.  In our minds, let’s take a trip.  Let’s take the entire Selma population of 20,000 and put a blindfold on each of us.  Then, let’s bus every one of us to Montgomery, steering clear of the shopping centers and/or the State Capitol.  Then let’s take the blindfolds off and ask each of us where we are.  We will not know where we are because we do not know how we got there.  And Montgomery is just 50 miles from Selma.  History is powerful.

            On the other hand, if we are bussed to Montgomery without blindfolds, we can be taken any place in Montgomery and we will immediately know where we are.  We know we are in Montgomery because we know how we got to Montgomery.  History is powerful.

            Going one step further, if we see how we negotiated the 50 miles from Selma to Montgomery, we can envision how to negotiate the 100 miles from Montgomery to Birmingham, or the 165 miles from Montgomery to Atlanta and so forth.  History not only reveals the past and defines the present but opens a vision to the future.  When we don’t know our history, we are blindfolded.  Therefore we don’t truly know where we are and/or how we got there.  When we know our history, we take off the blindfolds.  We know where we are, how we got there and where we can go.  History is powerful.

            The more we identify with the history, the more powerful it is for us.  This is true whether it’s personal history, family history, community history, religious history, gender history, geographical history, organizational history or racial history.  That’s why it’s critical for Black people to have Black History.  Sometimes we may not identify with the history but if we know it, we are better able to understand others.  That’s why Black History is important for White and other Americans as well as African Americans.  Black History is powerful.

            I often tell the story about how mean I was as a child.  Many said I was the meanest child they had ever seen.  In my meanness I placed an axe in my mother’s hand, got down on my knees, placed my neck on the chopping block and repeatedly screamed at my mother, “Chop it.”  My saving grace was a lesson in family history.  My aunt told me about how mean my mother was as a child but she grew out of it becoming so wise people came from near and far to seek her advice.  She also told me that my grandmother was extremely mean and she grew out of it.  Because I strongly identified with my family history, I believed that I could grow out of my meanness.  Therefore I commenced a journey that transformed my life.  Black History is powerful.

            Sometimes we think that if we don’t talk about our painful history, that history will not impact us or at least it will impact us less.  In truth, it  impacts us more for it weighs us down and we don’t even know why we are weighed down.  When we openly acknowledge our history, no matter how painful or shameful, we lift its weight from us.  When we embrace our history, we are able to stand on that history, reaching higher and seeing farther.  Black History is powerful.

            I have heard people say that we should not keep bringing up “that mess.”   “That mess” is usually the history of the Civil Rights/Voting Rights struggle and/or slavery.  Slavery is particularly taboo.  Because we try to bury certain history, it closes in on us with a vise-like grip. When we acknowledge our history, we release ourselves from its powerful grip.  When we embrace our history, we stand on it, reaching higher and seeing farther.  If we don’t stand on our history, it will surely stand on us.  Black History is powerful.

            Now on to the Daily Dairy.

            Saturday, February 14, 2015 – I walked, handled many matters, met with a reporter concerning the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, worked into the night and attended a late night Valentine’s Day dinner with my wife, Faya Rose Toure’ and her sister, Emily Diggs.  I communicated with the following:  Norma Jackson and April Caddell of Tuskegee; Selma Businessmen Floyd Tolbert and Bailey Dawson; Connie Tucker and Heather Gray of Atlanta; Edwin Ellis and Askhari Little of Selma; and Reporter Flores of Miami.

            Sunday – I walked and did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy and Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard, traveled to Lowndes County for a Black History speech at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, returned to Selma, handled various matters, traveled to Perry County for the Jimmie Lee Jackson Memorial Program where I made remarks, returned to Selma for a meeting and worked into the night.  I communicated with many including the following: Pastor Eric Brown of Mt. Olive Baptist Church; Senator Bobby Singleton; Dr. C. T. Vivian of Atlanta; Congresswoman Terri Sewell; Rev. Albert Love of Atlanta; Hale County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins; and Earl Ford and Walta Mae Kinney of Perry County.

            Monday – I exercised, traveled to Birmingham, stopped at Miles College, returned to Selma, handled many matters, traveled to Greene County, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Alecha Irby of Miles College; Circuit Clerk of Montgomery County Tiffany McCord; Bobby Segall of Montgomery; Shelley Fearson and Jeanette Thomas of Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC); Gloria Pompey of Selma; Frank Barragan of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ); Reporter Blake DeShazo;  Senator Vivian Davis Figures; Veronica Williams of Selma; SCLC President Charles Steele; Barbara Brown of Selma whose husband is in the hospital; Elouise Robinson of Baldwin County; Greene County School Board members Leo Branch, Carrie Dancy and Dr. Carol P. Zippert.

            Tuesday – I walked, facilitated a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting, participated in a Selma to Montgomery March 50th Foundation meeting, traveled to Montgomery for a dinner with fellow strugglers, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Wallace Community College Selma (WCCS) President Dr. James Mitchell; Ola Morrow of Maplesville; Rita Lett of WCCS; Felecia Pettway of Wilcox County; Carolyn Varner of the National Voting Rights Museum (NVRM); Yvette Patterson of Lowndes County; Ronald Handy of Montgomery; President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s daughter, Luci Baines Johnson, of Austin, TX; Kimberly Stokes of Maryland; Montgomery Businessman Greg Calhoun; Lowndes County Banker Dorothy Hulett; Sharon Wheeler of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) on her birthday; Carolyn Wheeler of Signal Mountain, TN; Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard; Greene County Probate Judge Earlene Isaac; and Ollion “Trell” Wright of Alex City.

            Wednesday – I walked, handled various matters, traveled to Montgomery, then to Lowndes County, back to Montgomery for an Alabama State University Radio Program, then back to Selma.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  James Anderson of Montgomery; Bill Gamble of Selma; Lowndes County Commissioner Carnell McCalpine; Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas; Monica Washington of AEA; Kim West of the Lowndes County Commission; Ralph Paige of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (the Federation); Abina Billups of Selma; and Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd.

            Thursday – I exercised, handled many matters, met with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, participated in multiple conference calls, met with leaders from Atlanta and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Representative John Knight; Andria Boone of Atlanta; Lotta Stenroos of Finland; Chris Simpkins of Voice of America; Ryan Hagood of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF); Columbus Mitchell of Selma; Atlanta City Councilperson Clarence Martin; Pearlie Duncan of Stillman College; Sam Walker of Selma; Representative Barbara Boyd; and Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford.

            Friday – I walked, read Sketches over Faya’s Fire Radio Program, handled many matters, met with an international group from Hungary, participated in a conference call concerning the 50th Commemoration, traveled to Montgomery for a meeting and press conference about the Selma to Montgomery March, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  I communicated with the following:  Representative Thad McClammy; Bishop Leo Lewis of Montgomery; John Teague of Montgomery; Montgomery Businessman Frank Jenkins; Representative Randal Gaines of Louisiana; Mildred Dupree de Robles of the U. S. Justice Department; Ben Patterson of Montgomery; Joe Espy of Montgomery; Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery; SCLC President Charles Steele; and Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights.

            EPILOGUE - There are things all around us that can empower us if we allow them.  However, we often do not recognize these empowering sources.  History is one of these.  We all have histories and our history will be powerful no matter what.  The only question is whether it will be powerful for us or powerful against us.  It’s in our power to choose.