Monday, April 1, 2019

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1659 - Selma must help Selma!

  I recently wrote a Sketches and editorial about how we must give back to Selma. Giving back to Selma is just one half of what must be done. One half comes from those outside of Selma – from Alabama, around this country, across this world. The other half must come from Selma itself. Selma must give to Selma.

  I do not claim to have any special knowledge or any special wisdom. However, I will venture a few thoughts. I invite you to share your thoughts, ideas, hopes, and fears. No thought is too insignificant; no thought is too crazy. I share my thoughts in spite of my reservations, my fears and the likelihood of attacks.

  Selma needs so much. Among the many things Selma needs, which Selma can help give, are the following: more economic institutions; some reduction in violence; political and community leaders making more of an effort to work together; development of a common/collective vision; and development of a collective commitment to make Selma what it needs to be. There are others, but these five are enough with which to start.

  The most critical need is a common/collective vision. We must see in our minds what we want Selma to be and what Selma can be. A vision unleashes dormant energy. A vision directs energy, commitment, and creativity. A vision can be put forward by any person or group of persons. However, they cannot claim ownership because it must be allowed to grow. Others must feel free to contribute so it becomes a collective vision. No one outside can give Selma a vision. Selma must do that for itself because it must be Selma’s vision. A vision helps each of us to see where our piece fits in to make the puzzle a reality. Selma must give to Selma.

  Selma must build some additional economic institutions. I don’t mean institutions brought into Selma. I mean businesses initiated and built in Selma. One opportunity involves tourism. Many come to Selma, but they don’t stay. They come and leave the same day, and many don’t even stay a full day. Therefore, they don’t leave anything in Selma and don’t give anything to Selma. Selma needs to establish additional cultural attractions for people to experience. There must be enough attractions to require multiple days to experience then. Such entities and institutions will create a new spirit of building.

  Selma must reduce the violence in Selma. This cannot be left to law enforcement. This cannot be left to political leaders. The people must begin to assert ownership in their neighborhoods. This requires a measure of courage. But a few people from our particular neighborhoods can join together in groups of a half dozen or so and go house to house, talking to others in the neighborhood. To reduce fears they can sing as they go from home to home. Singing is a powerful antidote to fear and inaction.

  Selma must develop a new culture of working together. Anyone can start. All we have to do is tell those with whom we are in a struggle that we are willing to work with them, and we must mean it. This requires a spirit of humbleness and patience. I hope that each leader – political, religious, or community leader – will reach out to those whom we think have been difficult to work with. This approach is a start; it is not a miracle potion. It must be cultivated and nourished with additional actions as needed.

  The most difficult challenge is to develop a collective commitment to make Selma what it needs to be. We do not start with such a commitment. It grows from the other four things that I have set forth. If we had that shared commitment, these other things would be so much easier. Commitment multiples hope, energy, and creativity. It can morph into a kind of faith that overcomes any and all obstacles. We must give to Selma.

  I deliberately did not give my version of a vision of Selma. I shrunk back. However, I am going to take a leap and share a rudimentary vision. I want Selma to be the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others put forth in the 1960s. I remember the broad concept but not the particulars. Here are my particulars. I see a Selma that values everyone regardless of status, gender, race, education, and more. I see a Selma where people really love each other. I see a Selma absent of violence. I see a Selma where everyone has rewarding work and pay. I see a Selma that values our children.

  Back in the 1960s in Selma, one side had all the power. One side had all the rights. One side had almost all the money. One side had law enforcement to protect them. The other side was oppressed at every turn. They could not vote. They could not hold office. They could not go into most public places. They had virtually no rights. We want the beloved community of Selma in the 21st Century to be for everybody and not for one race or group of people.

EPILOGUE – We have so much to give, but we don’t know all that we have to give. Our greatest challenge is to understand what we have to give so we can then give what we have to make Selma a beloved community. Will you assess what you have to give? Will you urge others to assess what they have to give? Will you join us in a vision of a new Selma?

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

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