Alabama Senator Hank Sanders and his wife Rose Sanders brought their published books and stories of the civil rights movement to the Back on the Blocks Celebration in the Belmont and DeVilliers Historical Business District at the Gathering Awareness and Book Center. The event was hosted by its owners, Georgia and Johnny Blackmon. It was classic story-telling by Senator Hank Sanders who has visited Pensacola numerous times in association with events sponsored by the Gathering.
Senator Sanders shared with the Pensacola Voice that every year for the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Celebration (which is part of the National Voting Rights Celebration) books are prepared on the civil rights struggle to give these attendees something to take home which continues to inform, and inspire. Documentation of these experiences has been captured by both the senator and his wife. Senator Sanders wrote “The Death of a Fat Man” embracing the various struggles that people go through in life. The book takes the approach of letters to his grandchildren describing struggles with different facets of life. His wife Rose wrote “Martyrs of the Movement”, “Couples of the Struggle”, and “Invisible Giants” and all copies of these books can be purchased at the Gathering.
Georgia and Johnny Blackmon invited the Sanders couple to Pensacola for this event because Georgia says she is all about education on the movement and so are the Sanders’. She went on to share that Rose Sanders was instrumental in establishing the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Celebration and the reenactment of the bridge crossing. Georgia hesitated for a second and said with a silent passion that, “They are beautiful people and they are definitely fighters. I want to share the experiences of fighters in the civil rights movement with my community because we need to know about them as they are still in the fight. I was raised with fighters, so I want to share this information”. In fact, the Blackmons are still in the fight and are featured in the book, Couples of the Struggle. Senator Sanders commented that for a husband and wife team to be immersed in the civil rights movement is a unique situation that deserves to be honored.
The Blackmons recently moved from its location on North “E” St. where there was a back room that resembled an African-American museum with historical newspaper clippings and pictures of community and civil rights leaders on the wall. Now many of the same memorabilia is in full view of the public at the Gathering Awareness and Book Center in its new store front retail space formerly the home of the Gumbo Gallery in the Belmont and DeVilliers Historical Business District. Senator Sanders commented on the new location in the business district when he said, “I really like the atmosphere of the area because of the business and community development I can see taking place”.
African-American Heritage Tourism is hot around the nation strengthened with the opening of the National African American History Museum opening in Washington D.C. and new local and state museums opening around the country. Selma, Alabama will host the 50th Anniversary of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee Celebration in 2015 on March 5th through the 9th. Senator Sanders shared that there is much preparation taking place to ensure that this anniversary is a memorable experience for all that attend.