by Marion Williams, Ph.D.ret
Alabama State Senator Henry “Hank” Sanders was the Keynote Speaker at the annual Business Information Lunch and Expo sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Georgia and Johnnie Blackmon of the Gathering Bookstore, Saturday morning, July 16, 2016 at the Booker T. Washington High School Cafeteria.
Senator Hank Sanders was introduced by his former college classmate, Ms. Mamie Webb-Hixon at Talladega College in Alabama. Mrs. Donna Woodard served as Mistress of Ceremonies. The printed program was followed and a scrumptious lunch was served to approximately 100 attendees prior to his speech.
Ms. Webb-Hixon noted that Senator Sanders was and is a brilliant attorney and founder of the Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders(Rose Toure), and Pettaway, P.C. Of Selma, Alabama for 35 years. It was one of the largest Black owned law firms in the state at one time. In addition, He also established the “New South Coalition,” 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, a state-wide youth leadership training organization which is now international in focus; The Black Belt Human Resources, and The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute to mention a few.
“Hank” as he is often called, is one of the outstanding legal minds and “Black Legislators” in his state. Finally, Senator Sanders serves as the Chairman of the powerful Finance and Taxation Committee which handles the $6.8 Billion Education Budget. His firm has spent the past 35 years serving the poor, children and the underrepresented in his state. There is power in “Economics” of working together. Thus, “Political Power” is economic power and vice versa.
In his smooth, melodic yet funny talking style, Senator Sanders held the audience spelled bound as he laid out facts and rationales of how Blacks have a $1.2 Trillion Spending and Buying power in America. Hank started by telling a story of how Blacks have been taught since slavery the “Psychology of the Oppressed.” That is, the we were taught to “Not Buy or Sell or purchase” anything from other Black folks: The Slave Code!” If fact, Senator Sanders narrated that one could receive lashes on his or her back for helping other Blacks. This divide and conquer mentality still exists today. Only 2% of our actual spending power is “shared” with other Blacks in business, even though whites and other minority groups exist in our communities and often mistreat those whom they served, noted Sanders.
What then, is the answer to this pressing problem? Well, noted Senator Sanders, it is very important to have Black Businesses which in turn hire our people, but if just 10% of our spending power was used, many positive things occur. He suggested that by using our own “Creativity,” we can support our children, set good examples and serve as role models!
Hank shared the story that it was during Slavery times that the Master would have a pig or hog slaughtered and take the best parts of the meat for himself, while the slaves took what was left. Then, creatively took over. The “Head” was used to make Hog’s head cheese, the feet and ears made pigs feet and ears, and the the guts were used to make “Chitterlings.” By using our creativity, we can “Take what we have and Make what we need.” This is gospel of self-determination! Black folks have always been creative, particularly during national elections. His analogy was transferred to sports, medicines, inventions, etc..
Senator Sanders further extolled the audience that if you can get another person to set aside small amounts of capital, and to go in business with each other, our dreams can be realized. His perseverance and hard work is a stellar example of what one can do to be successful. Senator Sanders also noted that when one purchases “land,” one is treated differently. It was Senator Sanders’ firm who represented the “Black Farmers” in Alabama. Throughout his presentation, Senator Sanders noted that working together is the key to overcoming odds. As he wrapped up his inspiring speech, a “question and answer” section followed.
Some of the questions raised were: 1) What can be done to give youth in Pensacola something to do? Answer- “We must help children by doing what we can to meet their needs. 2) What can be done to stop routine traffic stops in the Black community? Answer- Go before the City Council in large groups and present your concerns. 3) How can we start a “New South Coalition” in Pensacola? Answer – Senator Sanders offered to send help to organize our community and provide technical support. We will need to come together locally and regionally, “the more we get together economically, the more we come together politically”!
Finally, Sen. Sanders noted that when we put our minds to it, we can create positive things in our community. When finished, the audience gave Senator Sanders a standing ovation for his outstanding speech. His book was available for purchase as the Lunch/Expo concluded with drawings for door prizes. It was an afternoon well spent.
If you have not had a chance to hear, Senator Henry “Hank” Sanders, this author would highly recommend that you do!