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Senate Sketches #1414

By Sen. Hank Sanders 

A nice house makes such a difference in our lives.  I vividly recall the difference it made it my life.  It changed the way I saw myself.  It changed the way I saw my family.  It changed the way my family saw me and others in the family.  A nice house made a powerful difference in my life.

I know that in our moments of idealism we say that material things should not make a difference.  Maybe they should not, but they do.  An appealing house makes a powerful difference in our lives.

I see a difference between a nice house and a nice home.  A house is a structure.  A home is an institution based upon relationships.  You can have a nice home without having a nice house and vice versa.  It’s best to have a nice house and a nice home.

Let’s go back, way back.  We lived on a dirt road about a mile from the highway.  It was a three-room house built out of rough lumber.  It was unpainted – you cannot paint rough wood.  The two windows were made of wood and swung on hinges to open or close.  It was really three rooms – a kitchen, a middle room and a front room.  At one point, nine children and a mother and father – 11 persons – lived in these three rooms.

There was no electricity; we used kerosene lamps.  There was no bathroom; we went behind the chinaberry tree.  There was no running water; we carried water from a spring a quarter mile away. There was no heat in the middle room; we heated and wrapped rocks to keep our feet warm in winter.  The house sat on heir property in which my core family had no ownership interest; our relatives who owned heir interests harassed my mother continuously and unmercifully. We had use of 13 heir property acres to farm in Blackshear, Baldwin County, Alabama.

I did not know how the house defined me in my own mind.  I thought that I knew how it defined us in other people’s minds.  I discovered that I did not even know that.  I did not know how it defined us in each other’s minds until we moved to a better house.

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The house that we moved to was rental property.  However, I remember so clearly the feelings of pride of family members, individually and collectively.  The house had six rooms with electricity and running water and a bathroom and glass windows and was painted white.  It set on 60 acres on the main highway.  We were so proud.  I felt differently and thought differently and acted differently.  We saw ourselves and each other differently.  I think we saw the world differently.  I could not help but notice that others saw us differently.  This house made such a difference in our lives.

I have lived in various other houses. Each one impacted me in a special way.  After we could not make a go of farming the 60 acres, we moved 20 some miles to a rental house in Bay Minette.  We soon bought 10 acres of land in Tall Pine, some several miles outside of Bay Minette.  We expanded the four-room house so there was more room, including a bathroom.  It was not as nice as the six-room house on the main highway in Blacksher.  However, there was a special pride because we owned it.  Owning the house and the 10 acres of land made a difference well beyond the condition of the house.

I want to share one more house experience.  When I moved to Selma, I rented a room in the home of an elderly woman.  When Faya Rose moved down from Huntsville five months later, we rented a house in East Selma.  It was a decent house, and Faya Rose fixed it up nicely.  We were satisfied.  But then we had an opportunity to purchase an old two-story house on the corner of Union and Minter near Selma University.  It was the first home we would own. I remember the joyful feelings of just looking at the house.  Before the purchase was concluded, I would park down the street and just look at the house.  I also remember the joyful feelings as we fixed it up after purchase.

By this time, I was no longer a young boy struggling with the double whammy of extreme poverty and unabridged racism.  I had some accomplishments to stand on. I had graduated from college and law school. I was married, and I had traveled to Africa, Europe and other places.  I had established a law firm. I did not feel the great weight of poverty and the heavy burden of racism as much as in my younger days.  After all, the law said I could now go in any establishment to be served.  It also said I could vote. But I was still strongly impacted by owning our own house.  I do not think my identity was wrapped up in the house, but it made me feel real good and special in a different way.  There was power in owning a nice house.
I recently had several experiences in helping others secure nice houses.  I felt the power in helping.  I wish everyone could experience the joy of living in a nice house.  I wish everyone could have the joy of owning a nice house.  I do more than wish; I try to help when the opportunity presents itself.  A nice house makes such a powerful difference.

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday, July 5, 2014 – I walked and handled many matters on this Fourth of July weekend.  I communicated with a number of leaders and others.

Sunday – I walked, did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy, and visited my newest grandbaby and her mother and father.  I communicated with various persons.

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Monday – I walked, handled many matters and worked into the night on various matters, including Sketches.  Among those I communicated with were the following:  Gloria Pompey of Selma; Melissa Milligan of the YMCA; National Coordinator for 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement (21C) Jerria Martin; Tom Coker of Lowndes County;  Greene County Commissioners Marvin Childs and Allen Turner, Jr.; Arron Drake of Selma; Emily Law of the Alabama Black Belt Commission;  Paula Bird of Greene County;  Melodie Ellis of Montgomery;  Amadi Sanders of Nashville;  Josh Hayes of Tuscaloosa;  Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery;  Lorraine Capers of Selma;  and Robin Lewis of the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

Tuesday – I walked, handled various matters, traveled to Lowndes County, handled additional matters, had lunch with Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas, returned to Selma and worked into the night on a number of matters including preparing for a presentation in Atlanta the next day.  Among those I communicated with were the following:  Bea Forniss of ADECA;  Montgomery Businessman Frank Jenkins;  Bob Geddie of Montgomery;  Dorothy Hulett and Frank Kummell of Lowndes County;  Ola Morrow of Maplesville;  Veronica Williams of Selma; Maria Jones of Washington, D.C.;  and Dr. Daniel Boyd and Yvette Patterson of the Lowndes County School System.

Wednesday – I left early for Atlanta, participated in an extended preparation meeting, attended a meeting with the Regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director and others, and returned to Selma.  Among those I communicated with were the following: EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney; former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove;  Rep. Anthony Johnson;  Jerusalem Eyob of the United Nations;  Carolyn Wheeler of Tennessee;  Sharon Wheeler of AEA;  John Teague of Montgomery on his 70th birthday;  Greene County School Board President Leo Branch and Superintendent Dr. Emma Louie; and Senator Marc Keahey.

Thursday – I walked, called in on the radio program Faya’s Fire, handled many matters, participated in the SOS conference call, traveled to Lowndes County where I had dinner with education leaders, and returned to Selma.  Among those I communicated with were the following: Lester Brown of the Greene County Board of Education;  Aubrey Carter of Alabama Power;  Dr. Roberta Watts and Gertie Lowe of Gadsden;  Dr. James Mitchell of Wallace Community College Selma;  Minnie Pompey of Selma on her 90th birthday;  Cherie Welch of Atlanta;  Lowndes County School Board Members Ben Davis, Steve Foster, Robert Grant and Annie Hunter;  and others.

Friday – I walked, started writing Sketches, handled other matters, and went to visit my grandbaby Asha Rose Fortier and others.  I communicated with the following:  Arcola Young and Rose Hill of Wilcox County; Abina Billups of New York/Washington, D.C.; Beni Ivey of Atlanta; Connie Tucker of Atlanta; Monica Washington of AEA; Dr. Joe Reed of ADC (Alabama Democratic Conference); Coumba Toure’ of Senegal, West Africa; C.C. Curry of Gadsden; and others.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes we do not know the full impact of a certain thing on us until circumstances change.  When we truly know, we never forget.  When we truly know, we try to help others.


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