Shown above: Dr. Carol P. Zippert and John Zippert Co-Publishers of Greene County Democrat with Senator Hank Sanders displaying the 1st and 1,500th Senate Sketches
On Saturday March 19, 2016 more than a hundred community leaders from around the state of Alabama convened at the Bridge Crossing Theater in Selma to celebrate the writing and publication of the 1,500th Senate Sketches column written by State Senator Hank Sanders.
Senator Sanders has been writing sketches for fifteen hundred consecutive weeks starting on April 29, 1987. The Greene County Democrat, weekly newspaper published on Wednesdays in Eutaw, Alabama, has printed each Senate Sketches column, in its entirety since the beginning 29 years ago. Each Sketches column has a prologue section which deals with an issue in the Legislature, a community concern, a trip that the Senator took, events in his life and family and other timely and meaningful topics. There is also a “Daily Diary” section, which lists events and people that Senator Sanders has interacted with during the past week. Each column ends with an “Epilogue”, which consists of a short reminder of the lessons learned from the prologue and daily diary sections.
Senate Sketches is now also circulated on the Internet, published in other newspapers, read on the radio and distributed in other ways but the Greene County Democrat remains the only publication that has printed all 1,500 columns in full.
The celebration included a reading by a number of people of their favorite Sketches column, special presentations including songs, plaques, poems and comments, and a response by Senator Sanders himself.
Scott Douglas of the Greater Birmingham Ministries read Sketches # 1437, “An Open Letter to Mr. Charles Barkley”. In this column, Sanders takes the basketball legend to task for statements he made that slavery was not very bad for Black people and its impact is exaggerated.
Alphonzo Morton III, a science teacher at Greene County High School and adult adviser to the Twenty-first Century Youth Leadership Movement, read Sketches # 905 “Men and Boys” which speaks to the differences, responsibilities and obligations of men as contrasted to boys.
Sharon Wheeler and her mother, Carolyn Wheeler commented on Sketches #1323 which was a memorial to Kirk Wheeler their father and husband. Sanders delivered these remarks at Wheeler’s funeral.
Faya Rose Toure (Sanders) did a rap about Senate Sketches, sang some songs, helped some community people to put on a skit as part of the program. Faya Rose was instrumental in planning the celebratory program.
Carol P. Zippert, Co-Publisher of the Greene County Democrat was Mistress of Ceremonies and John Zippert, Co-Publisher of the Democrat said, “we are pleased and proud to be friends of Senator Sanders and to have published every word of every Senate Sketches column for three decades. I especially enjoy the Daily Diary section which lists the many activities that Senator Sanders is involved in each week.”
Dave White, a reporter formerly with the Birmingham News praised Sketches, “for its writing and using the newspaper column format to provide very clear ideas in a very clear writing style. He also indicated the great discipline, consistency and perseverance to write a weekly newspaper column for three decades.
State Senator Vivian Figures of Mobile presented Senator Sanders with a plaque from his Alabama Senate colleagues recognizing the achievement of 1,500 columns. Alabama New South Coalition and other groups presented plaques and acknowledgements to the Senator.
In his remarks at the conclusion of the program Senator Sanders thanked the many people who help him type, proof read and distribute the Senate Sketches column each week. He said he was thankful and impressed at hearing people read the words of their favorite column to him. “It was a great and powerful experience,” he said.
The groups in Selma, including the National Voting Rights Museum, Center for Non-Violence, Truth and Reconciliation and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, compiled a book of the best-loved Senate Sketches, which they sold for $20.00 at the program. If you are interested in purchasing a book, contact the Center for Non-Violence, 8 Mulberry Road, Selma, AL 36703; phone 334/526-4533. Proceeds will go to support on-going community work in Selma and the Alabama Black Belt.