Saturday, December 29, 2018

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1646 - The ride to save the last five!

  The Ride to Save the Last Five. It’s a slogan that makes sense only when we know the background. When we know why we were on a ride to save the last five, we understand the slogan. When we know the situation of the last five, then we know that it is really a matter of life and death.  A Ride to Save the Last Five.

  Murder of African Americans in Selma, Alabama is a crisis of monumental proportion. Last year, Selma ranked first in Alabama and eighth in the country among the most dangerous cities in the United States of America. Those rankings are for last year. However, we don’t know the rankings for this year. We do know that it is likely to be worse, much worse.

  Many are concerned about these murders. People meet and talk. People meet and pray. People meet and sing. People just meet and meet and meet. I must say, however, that most people don’t meet; they just despair in their own private spaces.

  We met in front of Brown Chapel AME Church on a Saturday morning. Twenty-eight persons got on the purple bus. Three traveled in a car. Nearly all of them were from GWC homes. (That’s George Washington Carver homes). Everyone on the bus was male by design. The trip had been preceded by several meetings with young males from GWC. Five young males had been killed during the days around the Thanksgiving holidays. Two of the victims carried the last name Sanders. We knew that some young males were considering retaliatory strikes. That’s how the meetings at our law office came about. That’s how this particular activity came about. The Ride to Save the Last Five.

  We believe that a profound culture change has to take place to stop these killings. That means these young Black males must understand why they are killing each other. They have to understand their history and how White supremacy plays a critical role in this killing culture. It goes back to the gross devaluing of Black lives. The very same White supremacy that causes many Whites to grossly devalue Black lives also causes many Blacks to grossly devalue Black lives. It is so much easier to kill other human beings when we don’t really value their lives.

  The bus stopped briefly at the Rev. James Reeb Memorial in Selma. Reverend Reeb was brutally murdered in March of 1965 for supporting the rights of Black people to vote. A second stop was in Lowndes County where Tent City existed back in the 1960s. Black People were put off the plantations if they tried to vote. They had nowhere to go, so they lived in tents. We also noted where Viola Liuzzo was brutally murdered in 1965 while transporting marchers involved with the Selma-to-Montgomery March.

  We rode on to Montgomery where we spent a couple of hours in the Legacy Museum. These young men were able to see the graphic illustrations of Africans being captured and enslaved; being separated from their families and villages and tribes and continent; being shipped thousands of miles in the packed holes of ships across the Atlantic Ocean; being placed on slave blocks for public sale; being considered subhuman; being brutally enslaved for hundreds of years.

  We then observed how slavery morphed into oppressive segregation and segregation morphed into mass incarceration, another form of slavery. The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for the abolishment of all slavery except for those convicted of felonies. Incarceration is another form of slavery. That’s why this country with 5 percent of the world’s population has 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.

  We visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is commonly called the Lynching Memorial. We saw how thousands of Black People, mostly males, were lynched. Most lynchings were public events. The perpetrators were clearly recognizable and well known. However, few were convicted or even charged. Lynching is state-sanctioned domestic terrorism. Black lives just did not matter. More than 4,400 lynchings are documented in the Lynching Memorial. Additional lynchings are still being documented. Most lynchings will never be documented.

  Then we took the young men to lunch. It was an all-you-can-eat affair. And eat they did! Then Professor Robert White of Alabama State University shared with us. He helped to cap off the understanding that while some Whites and others may devalue Black lives, we must value Black lives more than ever just to save ourselves.

  The Ride to Save the Last Five was conceived and implemented by Faya Rose Toure with the help of Reverend Michael Bowen, Percy Sanders, Anthony Blevins, and Brother Kalim Muhammad. I helped just a little bit.

  When we arrived back in Selma, I made certain that every person shared their reactions to this powerful experience.The Ride to Save the Last Five.

Epilogue – Nothing moves us like matters of life and death. I am being moved by matters of life and death. None of us really know how to stop the deaths so that life can triumph. But each of us must try in our own way. I am so glad to join all those who participated in The Ride to Save the Last Five. It is only a beginning, and we ask you to help in your own way. 

  About the author: Hank Sanders represented District 23 in the Alabama Senate from 1983 to 2018.

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