Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1574: Through the eyes of children

  Through the eyes of children. From the mouths of babes. We all, including children, have our perspectives. We reveal these perspectives through our words. On many national and state issues, we rarely view these issues through the eyes of our children. We rarely hear or read the words of our children. This is an opportunity to hear our children on voting. August 6th was the 52nd Anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law by President Lyndon Johnson. It is truly a historic day. It is also a good time to share the experiences of our children.

  Leaders from Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, Greene County and Tallapoosa County made a sojourn to Washington, D.C., on the fourth anniversary (June 26) of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The sojourn was led by Faya Rose Toure, John Zippert and others. Congresswoman Terri Sewell was reintroducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act around the June 26th date. I was unable to go on this voting rights sojourn, but I helped sponsor the trip. Among those I sponsored were Desiree Robertson and Zion Small. I want to share in their own words some of their experiences and perceptions.

Desiree Robertson, age 13:

  “We met at the law office in Selma at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 25th. We got on a van with some other people. We went to Montgomery where we met up with some other people in another van. Then we rode to Atlanta where we met “T Rose.” We then traveled on to Washington D.C. It was a long trip because the vans got lost a few times. We did not arrive in Washington, D.C. until Sunday about 7:00 p.m., more than 24 hours after we left Selma. We went straight to our hotel rooms to sleep because we were so tired from the long trip.

  “The next day we went to the United States Capitol. We were divided into groups. Most groups had at least one young person, one adult, one Black person, one White person, one male and one female. Our group went to Congressman Greene’s office.We also went to the office of a congressman from Florida. I forget his name. Congressman Greene’s Chief of Staff met with us. My group included Josiah, Tosh and Zion. Mr. Jones was also with us.

  “The chief of staff person really listened to us. And we listened to him. He told us how the congressman got into office. He was a community person. The chief of staff person also told us how he met President Obama. It was really fun and we learned a lot. We also took some photos. A lot of people don’t get to do what we did.

  “Then we went to Howard University Law School. There were four speakers talking about voting. One talked about when he was in Selma years ago. One was a preacher who got paid just one dollar a year. It was interesting. We went back to the hotel to spend the night.

  “The next morning, we had a voting rights rally in front of the U.S. Capitol. Congresswoman Terri Sewell was there with two other members of Congress. Congressman John Lewis drove up but did not get out of the car. Then he left. Congresswoman Sewell said that she was trying to get as many Congress people as possible to sign her Voting Rights Advancement Bill but some would not sign. One of the Congress people said he would help her get other Congress people to sign her bill. There were a lot of people at the rally.

  “Congresswoman Sewell took us on a tour of the Capitol. Her assistant finished the tour. We took lots of photos. Then we went to Union Station to eat. It was a long trip back to Selma.

  “About sixty or seventy people went on the trip. Most of them were grown-ups. I did not get the full point of the trip until I got to Washington, D.C. We learned how people fought for the right to vote. We learned that some people died. We learned how some people are trying to take away the right to vote. We also learned that we have to fight for voting rights so we can vote when we get eighteen years old.  We also learned how to talk to Congress people.

Zion Small, age 11:

  "When we were in Washington, D.C., we were walking to the U.S. Capitol. A white man was explaining the security equipment. I think he was a Secret Service man. He told us he did not like what President Trump was doing. That’s all I want to say about the trip except I learned a lot."

  Through the eyes of children. From the mouths of babes. I have shared the perspective of two children in their own words. I hope and pray that you receive their words and appreciate their perspective in the spirit they shared. I have one other perspective from a child on that trip that I will share in the near future.

Epilogue – I truly listen to children. I truly learn from children. I encourage you to listen to children. They have something worth saying. They have something worth our hearing.

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

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