Friday, March 15, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1657 - Selma has given so much; we must all give back

  Selma has given so much. We must give back. Selma has given so much to Alabama. Alabama must give back. Selma has given so much to the South. The South must give back. Selma has given so much to the United States of America. The United States of America must give back. Selma has given so much to the world. The world must give back. Selma has given so much. We all must give back.

  Selma is a powerful symbol. A symbol for struggle. A symbol for overcoming great odds. A symbol for freedom. A symbol for voting rights. A symbol for democracy. A symbol for nonviolence overcoming violence. Selma is a symbol all across this country and around the world.

  Selma became a symbol because of the voting rights struggle. Struggles for voting rights were ongoing across the South and well beyond. But Selma was the place where these struggles came to a head with Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, and the deaths of Jimmie Lee Jackson, Reverend James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo. Selma was the moment from which a great victory sprang in the form of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Selma became a worldwide symbol that has inspired freedom strugglers all over the world.

  Without Selma, the South would not be the power it is today. There would not be these great urban metropolises: Atlanta, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; Houston, Texas;  Memphis, Tenn.;  New Orleans, La.; Dallas Texas; and so on. The spirited Selma unleashed the dormant energy of freedom in the South. Selma unbound the roaring energy of economic growth and the lifting power of culture in the South. Selma has given so much.

  The spirit of Selma freed America politically. No longer are African Americans and others legally barred from participating in the political arena and therefore the arena of democracy. No longer was America a glaring symbol of contradictions. This political freedom manifested itself in the presidency of the United States of America, the U.S. Congress, and big cities across the country. Selma stimulated energy for the Women’s Movement.

  For fifty years, Selma inspired democratic movements across the world: Africa; South America; Asia; Europe; and other parts of North America. The spirit of Selma is implanted around the world, inspiring struggles for liberty and democracy.

  Selma has fallen on hard times. Selma’s population was about 28,000. Now it’s around 18,000. That’s a 36 percent loss of population. Worse still, people are leaving daily. We must create conditions so people come to Selma to stay rather than leave Selma to get away. We must give back to Selma.

  Selma has great poverty. It is the second-poorest city in Alabama. It is the ninth poorest city in the U.S. out of some 19,354 cities/towns in these United States. Selma did not get this way on its own. It resulted from the interaction of various forces. We must find ways to stop the increasing poverty in Selma. Tens of thousands come to Selma each year to experience its powerful symbolism. I see them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge each time I pass that way. However, nearly all leave the same day without adding to Selma. They take from Selma but do not give anything.

  Selma met and overcame powerful White supremacy violence with powerful Black nonviolence. Now violence is all too prevalent in Selma. Selma is the eighth most violent city in America. It is the most violent city in Alabama. There are too many murders in Selma. There is too much violence in Selma. We must employ the same nonviolent techniques of the Sixties to reduce violence in Selma today.

  Selma’s politics have broken down. There is too much conflict. A low, low point was reached when 68 Selma employees were terminated just before Christmas of 2018. People struggled just to put food on the table. We must lift our politics to a true version of nonviolence advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Selma cannot cure these maladies on its own.

  The U.S. government must give liberally. Every year a number of high governmental officials come to Selma. On special occasions, we have presidents, vice presidents, and governors coming to bathe in the symbolism of Selma. But they take and do not give back. Every department of the federal government must share a little of its resources in rebuilding Selma. The same is true for the State of Alabama. If a number of federal and state agencies give just a little in coordination with other efforts, Selma can have the resources it needs to rebound. There are many ways to give: time; resources; ideas; energy; etc.

  Selma’s education foundation is weak. Selma’s cultural foundation is challenged. Selma’s family foundation is struggling. Selma’s children are under siege. Selma is well worth our every effort to build a community consistent with its worldwide symbolism. The symbolism still inspires. The symbolism still lifts. The symbolism still helps. But the symbol must rest on a true foundation in order to endure and continue inspiring, lifting, and helping the whole world. Selma must become the beloved community. We must give back to Selma.

EPILOGUE – It is really hard to rebuild. The vision that goes with initially building is clear. People can envision a building anew. It is far more difficult to envision a rebuilding. What existed keeps getting in the way of what can be. In spite of these challenges, we must rebuild Selma. However, we must start with a vision of a rebuilt Selma.

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

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