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Op-Ed

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama from Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders

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Hank Sanders

 

Dear President Obama:

We love you. We respect you. We support you. We strongly supported your becoming President and have continued to support you through all the trying times. We continue to love, respect and support you.

Mr. President, I write this letter with the greatest of respect and appreciation. I write this as an open letter because it is important that you know and all people know that we are not trying to stop you from coming to Selma at any time you want to come. Our door of welcome is always wide open to you.

President Obama, based upon our true love and respect, we want you to know that the Bloody Sunday March is sacred. It was not Bloody Saturday or Bloody Monday or Bloody March 7th. It was Bloody Sunday. Therefore, the Bloody Sunday March must go on as planned on Sunday, March 8th.

Bloody Sunday is sacred because blood was shed on the first Sunday in March in 1965. Long-oppressed people were peacefully seeking their constitutional right to vote and protest the brutal murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson. They were beaten so badly that blood ran into the Alabama River. It was Sunday, March 7, 1965, but it was not Bloody March the 7th. It was Bloody Sunday. Within days after this ordeal, the moment was christened “Bloody Sunday.” The words “Bloody Sunday” captured the sacredness of the moment, of the day, of the struggle, of the blood, of the sacrifice. It has been widely used for 50 years. Bloody Sunday is sacred.

President Obama, the moment was sacred because blood was shed. The moment was sacred because the blood was shed on Sunday, a holy day for so many. The moment was sacred because the day, the blood and the struggle came together in that time and space. Bloody Sunday is sacred.

Mr. President, we are informed that the group “The Faith and Politics Institute” unilaterally decided to move the Bloody Sunday commemoration from Sunday to Saturday in order to have a celebration in Montgomery on Sunday at the time the Bloody Sunday March always takes place. This was an act designed to diminish Bloody Sunday. They could easily have had their Montgomery event on Saturday and joined in the Bloody Sunday March on Sunday. They chose instead to try and move Bloody Sunday to Saturday. The Bloody Sunday March cannot be moved by anyone or any group, especially on the 50th Anniversary. Bloody Sunday is sacred and therefore bigger than any of us or any group and must go on.

The Bloody Sunday March has been commemorated on Sunday in Selma every year for 40-plus years commencing in the early 1970s. I have joined with others in lifting it and commemorating it every one of those years. The Selma-to-Montgomery March is usually celebrated/reenacted every five years, but Bloody Sunday is so sacred that it is commemorated every year on Sunday. As you will recall, Mr. President, you came to Selma in 2007 on Bloody Sunday. President Bill Clinton came in 2000 when he was in office and again in 2007 on Bloody Sunday. Vice President Joe Biden came in 2013 on Bloody Sunday. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came in 2007 on Bloody Sunday. Many leaders have come every year on Bloody Sunday for decades because it is a holy pilgrimage for them. Bloody Sunday is sacred.

We understand that the Faith and Politics Institute is a powerful and influential group, and we respect that. However, they do not know that Bloody Sunday is sacred. They do not know that blood made a difference. They do not know that Sunday made a difference. They do not respect the 40-plus years of continuous sacred commemorations on Sunday. Bloody Sunday is sacred.

Mr. President, it was the sacredness of Bloody Sunday that moved the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to put out a national call for religious leaders of every stripe to come to Selma. It was Bloody Sunday that was captured on film and plastered on television screens across the nation and around the world. It was Bloody Sunday that moved President Lyndon Baines Johnson to make his famous speech in support of voting rights, concluding with the words, “We Shall Overcome.” It was the sacredness of Bloody Sunday that made it possible for the Voting Rights Act to become law and for you to be elected President. Bloody Sunday is sacred.

Mr. President, Bloody Sunday is a symbol for voting rights struggles, not only in Selma and Alabama but across the country and throughout the world. It is not Bloody Saturday or Bloody March 7th, it is Bloody Sunday. The symbol is inspirational and revered by so many. People come from all over the world because Bloody Sunday is sacred.

Mr. President, back in 2013, we invited you to come to Selma for the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday on March 8, 2015. We renewed the invitation in 2014. Because your election is both a result of and a symbol of Bloody Sunday, we knew how much your presence would mean for this once-in-a-lifetime 50th Commemoration. We are very glad you are coming, even on Saturday, but the Bloody Sunday March must go on because it is sacred.

People from across the country and around the world are contacting many of us. Some are just confused. Some are upset. And some feel violated. Many have planned the trip for the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday for years. We want you to come at whatever time you can or desire. However, we want everyone to know that the Bloody Sunday March must and will take place in Selma on Sunday, March 8th.

With voting under such relentless attacks, we all need to work together in every way to protect and restore the right to vote. Therefore, please know we will work with you in every way. Bloody Sunday is not just a time to recall and celebrate but also is a time to reassess and recommit. Bloody Sunday is sacred, and we welcome you with open arms.
Yours in respect and appreciation,

Hank Sanders
Alabama State Senator

 

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Bay Area

GETTING TO YES 

BAYSIDE BALL PARK OR WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

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Howard Terminal Courtesy Port of Oakland website

Arguably, development of Howard’s Terminal has been in the making for long time.  According to Councilmember Gallo, Oakland’s previous city officials Robert Bobb and Jerry Brown entertained development of Howard’s Terminal, for the Fishers and A’s, during their tenure as city manager and mayor respectively. 

Let’s be clear, the A’s initially pitched its development project at Howard’s Terminal as a Bayside Baseball Stadium, when in essence its project goal has always been a major condominium-housing and business development, along Oakland’s waterfront … the stadium was then and is now just the shinny thing.  Many argue the Coliseum site is more suited for a new stadium development, if that’s really what the A’s want. 

On Tuesday, July 20, 2021, Oakland City Council held a special meeting to consider the Oakland A’s proposal submitted in April 2021; the A’s pressed Council for this special meeting so as to give the A’s an up or down vote on their proposal.  Council voted 6-1, with one abstention, not to support the A’s proposal as submitted.  Council did agree, however, to support the A’s project proposal with certain City amendments.   

Oakland City Council considered their vote to be a big win for Oakland.  On the other hand, A’s President, Dave Kaval, called the City Council’s vote “a swing and a miss.” Based upon the complexity of the pending issues, it appears more time – extended ending – will be necessary for both sides to get to a mutually beneficial yes. 

According to the A’s Kaval, progress has been made in negotiations but, the plan Council voted for on Tuesday “is not a business partnership that works for [A’s] us.”   Moreover, Kaval claims the A’s had not seen some of the amendments Oakland city staff presented to the City Council Tuesday morning before the council’s vote. 

Council-member Rebecca Kaplan said the City Council’s amendments addressed the A’s biggest concern, having to pay for offsite transportation, and infrastructure improvements. However, the A’s still could not agree with the city’s overall offer.   

 Also, the A’s waterfront development project proposal includes some 3000 units of condominium-housing, but the A’s proposal ignored adequate provisions for affordable housing.  The A’s wants the City to waive the A’s legal requirement to provide for affordable housing.  Oakland’s City Council determined that fact to a major sticking point. 

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who worked on the amendments with Vice Mayor Kaplan, said, “It’s (now) at the beginning of the eighth inning.”  As a matter of fact, Council advised the A’s to use Council’s just approved amended Term-Sheet as a road map for further negotiations. 

Following the City Council meeting, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the City and A’s are very close to an agreement, but Kaval said “in some ways it’s too early to say how close the two sides are.”  

Kaval expressed hope that the A’s can get the City Council vote on some terms his team could agree on before Council’s summer recess.  Council President Bas’, office said no council meetings are scheduled before the recess to further negotiate the A’s new waterfront proposal.  

 Negotiation between Oakland’s City Council and the Oakland A’s appears to be headed for extra innings.  The complexity of the issues and public reactions, after Tuesday’s Council vote, gives many citizens cause to pause and wonder if we are at the end of the seventh inning stretch or the bottom of the ninth; either way, getting to a mutually beneficial yes will require a walk-off hit. 

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Activism

Formerly Incarcerated Can Help Bring Peace to the Streets

This wave of violence is very brutal but not new. And unless there is a miracle from our most high God, this violence won’t be eliminated.

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Hasan Almasi/Unsplash

The uptick in violence and discord that we see permeating the Bay Area is also occurring nationwide.  It seems that we are entering a state of vindictive racial, cultural and religious chaos that is affecting all segments of our society.

This wave of violence is very brutal but not new. And unless there is a miracle from our most high God, this violence won’t be eliminated.

But we, by working together in harmony, can do something to develop pathways towards quelling the violence.

Through collective effort we can design an approach that focuses on the causes of these random acts of violence.

As we address the root causes of this daily increase of violence in our community, we will discover that it can be attributed to a variety of reasons which include acts of domestic violence, turf struggles and revengeful acts by some gangs, some rogue activity by a few police officers along with many other senseless racially motivated crimes toward Asians, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans.

To help find solutions to some of this frightening violence we must conduct an extensive outreach to our neighborhood and community groups, civil rights groups, churches and non-profit organizations to find knowledgeable persons who also have extensive experience in the streets of Oakland.

I responded to a challenge from Paul Cobb, the publisher of the Oakland Post, to utilize the network of the readers of my column to solicit solutions to crime and violence. Mr. Cobb and his wife, Gay, attended my graduation while I was in San Quentin and they told me to use my voice to help bring peace and healing to Oakland. 

When I heard that he, along with the Pastors of Oakland and several groups such as the NAACP, Chinatown and the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce had called for peace and unity at Chief Leronne Armstrong’s rally, I accepted his challenge to do outreach to members of the formerly incarcerated community.

I participated in a meeting with the formerly incarcerated and asked them to join with me to meet with Armstrong and any other official who want to employ solutions to the root causes of violence.

Some of the formerly incarcerated who were once complicit in carnage and destructive actions now say they truly understand why they must use their stories to help bring peace to our communities. 

More importantly, they know the ways of the streets and they know how to communicate with and are not fearful of the youth and others who are involved directly and indirectly in destructive acts.

They know they won’t be able to curb the violence in its entirety, but they have clearer insights as to why and what methods or solutions should be employed.

Many of the formerly incarcerated individuals who I have talked to want the media, the police department and our elected leaders to use their power to provide resources to help them bring peace to our community.

Under the auspices of “R.O.C.S.” (Restore Our Community Services), the formerly incarcerated want to work with the churches and other people of power and influence to bring positive approaches so we can witness some positive more peaceful results.

Let’s not allow violence to become the universal panacea for everything that is wrong within our minds. Violence can’t be allowed to replace the practice of civility. Let’s also use community diplomacy to resolve our differences.

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Commentary

Texas Democrats Are Getting into ‘Good Trouble’

Here’s why dozens of Texas lawmakers are in Washington, D.C. this week.

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Person casting vote/Unseen Histories via Unsplash

One year after the death of the great civil rights icon John Lewis, a group of Texas Democratic lawmakers is following Lewis’s lifelong call for people to make “good trouble” and “necessary trouble” to secure equality and justice for all. 

Congressional Democrats should bring the same level of commitment to resisting and overturning a new wave of voting restrictions that voting rights activist Stacey Abrams has labeled “Jim Crow 2.0.”

Here’s why dozens of Texas lawmakers are in Washington, D.C. this week.

Texas is the latest Republican-run state where legislators and the governor are trying to impose new voting restrictions—banning drive-through and 24-hour early voting, restricting distribution of absentee ballots, imposing new voter ID provisions—that they hope will make it harder for Democrats to win future elections. Their voter suppression laws are aimed at Black and Brown voters and others more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Republican officials are also trying to make former President Donald Trump happy by giving credibility to his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. They’re using his lies about “election fraud” and “election integrity” to justify new restrictive voting rules.

In Texas, Republicans control the state House and Senate. And hard-right Gov. Gregg Abbott is eager to do Trump’s bidding. Back in May, Texas Republicans tried to push their election bill through the House just before the close of the legislative session. 

Because the Texas House is required to have two-thirds of its members present to conduct official business, Democratic legislators stopped the bill from passing by walking out of the chamber.

But Abbott is so set on getting his new voting law that he ordered legislators to come back into session this month to push it through. To prevent the state’s Republicans from forcing new voting restrictions into law, more than 50 Democratic legislators left the state.

Abbott and Republican Senate leaders have threatened lawmakers with arrest to try to force them to attend the session. And he has said he will keep calling special sessions until he gets his way. That’s why the Texas legislators came to Wash., D.C. They brought an urgent message to members of Congress: the only way to protect voters from voter suppression at the state level is to pass national voting rights legislation.

The House of Representatives has previously passed the For the People Act, which would reverse many new voting restrictions and includes several priorities specifically outlined by John Lewis during his lifetime, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would help prevent future voter suppression efforts from taking effect.

Both are essential to protect democracy and voting rights. But right now, U.S. Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to block the For the People Act, and they could do the same to the VRA.

President Joe Biden has just made a strong speech in defense of voting rights. He denounced new voter suppression efforts. And he called for the Senate to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

I am grateful that President Biden has called attention to the urgent need for congressional action. Now we need him to use his leadership to get voting rights legislation through the Senate. And if Republicans continue to block it using a filibuster, he must work with Senate leaders to break through that obstruction.

John Lewis nearly died in the struggle to pass the national Voting Rights Act. He dedicated his career in Congress to defending it. I am steeling myself for the disgust I will feel when Republican officials praise him on the anniversary of his death at the same time, they are undermining the cause to which he devoted his life.

Texas Democrats are honoring John Lewis by making good and necessary trouble. It is time for Democrats in Washington, and any Republicans committed more to country than party, to do the same.

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