Saturday, January 26, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1650 - The power of celebrating service and the power of the humble servant!

  A lot was packed into this one event. The event celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s actual birthday. It had a swearing-in for a recently elected official. It has an activity for the Selma Nonviolence Center that included over a hundred students from the Midwest. A lot was packed into this one celebration.

  It started out simple. Faya Rose Toure and I were talking about a special person who is such a good community worker and gives so much. However, she is almost never honored or appropriately recognized. I wanted it to be a simple dinner, but Faya wanted it to be a surprise and more. I did not think we could keep it a secret.

  Faya suggested that we hold the event on January 15th, the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The national birthday celebration for Dr. King is on the Third Monday of January, which is on the 21st this year. That approaching date added another dimension to the celebration.

  Malika Sanders Fortier was elected as an Alabama state Senator in November. She was sworn in a few days later. However, she wanted to be sworn in before the community in each of her eight counties. That is a great challenge. This was such a community gathering, and a public swearing-in for Dallas County was added. This added further dimensions to the event. A lot was packed into this celebration.

  The Selma Center for Nonviolence has more than 100 young persons in Selma as part of its many initiatives and activities. Instead of holding a separate event for them, this initiative got added in as well.

  I did not fully realize all these things had been added until I arrived at the Bridge Theatre. I knew I was going to say something to honor this special community servant. I learned a day or two before the event that we would also have a swearing-in ceremony. I was asked to do that in my capacities as a notary public and former Alabama state Senator. I gladly agreed.

  As soon as I arrived at the event, the Mistress of Order approached me. She said that they had not asked anyone to speak about the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She had heard me do something in the past, so I was asked to incorporate that in a short presentation about the importance of Dr. King. I agreed to do so.

  I shared my experience of being in the last leg of the Selma-to-Montgomery March where Dr. King did the famous refrain of “How Long?!” with the crowd responding “Not long!” in his speech.  I had driven down from Talladega College in a Volkswagen Beetle with other students. I also shared my experience of coming to Lowndes County in November 1966 to help get out the vote for the first general election after the 1965 Voting Rights Act was enacted. I then shifted to the sacrifices Dr. King made, the attacks he suffered, and his great commitment to justice. A lot was packed into this one celebration.

  I administered the swearing-in of Senator Malika Sanders Fortier. I first explained why state law requires elected officials to take an oath of office. I explained that elected officials swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Alabama Constitution. However, the moment they swear to God, they put God first. Any time we swear to God, we come to God in a special way. The oath goes beyond the time in elective office to include all the time such persons are citizens of Alabama and the United States.

  The executive director of the Selma Nonviolence Center explained the power of nonviolence, which is a driving principle of Dr. King’s life and his work. She shared the nonviolence principles. Others also shared.

  My favorite part of the program involved the Humble Servant Award. The award went to Dr. Margaret Hardy, a truly humble person and a true servant. A number of persons made remarks. Dr. Hardy has been working diligently in the Selma community for more than 40 years. She has worked with many organizations including the Black Belt Arts and Culture Center (BBACC), Black Belt Human Resources Center, McRae Learning Center, National Voting Rights Museum, Bridge Crossing Jubilee, etc. She leads various efforts in her church, Freedom Baptist. She handled the money for various organizations and has never had even one accusation, which is a difficult accomplishment in a community full of suspicion. Dr. Hardy has co-hosted the Sunday School Lesson with me for nearly 20 years. She is always sharp, informed, and profound. She never seeks recognition for her work and is rarely lifted. She is just always there. She is truly a humble servant. It was truly a surprise for her. I could see how touched Dr. Margaret Hardy was by the Humble Servant Award. A lot was packed into this one celebration, but it all came together beautifully.

EPILOGUE – It is powerful to celebrate those who have contributed greatly and are greatly recognized. That is what we do with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday celebration. It is also powerful to celebrate those who have contributed much but are not widely recognized. That is why the Humble Servant Award is so powerful.

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

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