Friday, March 6, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1447: Selma sacrificed and sowed the seeds of freedom

  It’s Harvest Time for Selma. Selma sowed abundantly in 1965, 50 years ago. It sowed blood, sacrifice, courage, struggle, victory, freedom and more. People all over this country and across the world have reaped the fruits of Selma’s sowing. Yet Selma has benefited little from that which it sowed. Now it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  It was a powerful struggle. Freedom hung in the balance. One side had everything: all the laws and lawmen; all the guns and gunmen; all the businesses and jobs; all the banks and money; all the offices and officeholders; all the media and other resources; everything. The other side had virtually nothing. Yet those with almost nothing took marching feet, singing songs, praying prayers and a spirit of non-violence and wrought a great victory. Selma sowed but did not reap. Now it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  Selma became a symbol of struggle for voting rights. Others all over the world drew inspiration and strength from the Selma Struggle and Selma Victory. Selma sowed the voting rights seeds but did not reap the fruits. The fruits were reaped near and far but not by Selma. Now, it’s Harvest Time in Selma.

  The seeds of freedom sowed by Selma took root, blossomed and produced fruit all over this land, but they produced most bountifully in the Old South. Great cities sprung from the fruits of freedom sowed by Selma – Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, etc. But Selma remained stuck in the past for many years. The same mayor who was in office on Bloody Sunday in 1965 remained in office 35 years later until the year 2000. Selma sowed but did not reap. Now, it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  Those in power in 1965 fought tenaciously and effectively to hang on to political as well as other power. Even today, Whites hold six of the seven countywide offices in Dallas County including the most important ones such as probate judge, sheriff and district judge. They control the county commission as well. Selma sowed but did not reap. Now it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  I came to Selma in 1971, nearly 44 years ago. I envisioned Selma becoming a shining city on a hill with an abundance of freedom to buttress its worldwide symbolism. Selma’s mayor is Black and so are a majority of city council members. However, I believe it is the only city in Alabama that does not allow its citizens to speak at council meetings. Its police chief is Black, but bail bonds for those arrested are higher than anywhere in the world. Yes, Selma sowed freedom for millions, but it did not reap. Now, it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  I envisioned a city thriving economically, but Selma was stuck in the past. It has opened up in the last 15 years, but it was so far behind. Over the last decade, ten industries have come to Selma and Dallas County. However, the unemployment rate is still 10.1 percent, almost twice the state average. Moreover, the poverty level of Blacks is nearly nine times that of Whites. The unemployment rate for Blacks is at least three times that of Whites. Selma sowed but did not reap. Now, it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  I envisioned a city deeply grounded in non-violence. The sowing was seeded by non-violence though great violence was wreaked upon those practicing non-violence. Selma, however, is ranked fifth on the violent crimes list for the State of Alabama. Selma sowed seeds of non-violence but did not reap the non-violent fruits. Now, it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  I envisioned Selma becoming a city of racial peace and cooperation. Whites, Blacks and others came from near and far to engage in struggle and forge the victory. However, enmity in Selma has been so entrenched that even to talk honestly about the past or making changes for the future or to talk frankly about race is threatening. Selma sowed but did not reap. Now, it’s Harvest Time for Selma.

  Now here we are 50 years later. People all over the world recognize Selma’s sowing. Few, however, fully understand how little Selma reaped from its sowing. On the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, tens of thousands will come to celebrate and commemorate Selma’s sowing 50 years ago. The President of the United States will be in Selma. A former President will be here. So will hundreds of elected officials, thousands of leaders and tens of thousands of citizens. They will celebrate the great sowing. But there has been little reaping for Selma. Now is Harvest Time for Selma.

  I call upon those who come to Selma and all those who are touched through the media, the Internet or word of mouth about Selma’s sowing 50 years ago to help ensure a Harvest Time for Selma. Let’s help Selma be a place of freedom, justice, peace and democracy. Let’s help Selma develop a thriving center for non-violence at Wallace Community College and a practice of non-violence among its citizens. Let’s help Selma get more good paying jobs so poverty will be reduced. Let’s help Selma and Dallas County have Blacks and Whites in representative numbers in countywide offices as well as other positions. Let’s help the National Voting Rights Museum and the Slavery Museum to build a tourist infrastructure so people stay several days rather than coming and leaving the same day. Let’s help in educating our children so they stay in Selma. Let’s help Selma be more democratic where the voices of its citizens are heard in our governing bodies. Let’s help Selma be healthy and environmentally safe. Let’s help Selma become a model city for freedom and justice. Let’s give Selma a Harvest Time.

EPILOGUE – I have observed over the years how those who do the most to open doors of opportunity rarely get to enter those doors. I did not realize that this happens to geographical areas in the same way it happens to individuals. Now I realize that is what has happened to Selma. I hope that we can belatedly help Selma to enter the doors of opportunity that it so valiantly helped open.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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