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SANDERS: Something small can change the world

Not Today. These two words capture a moment in time. Let me tell you about the circumstances that made these two words powerful.

I, along with others, was in front of the Selma High School gym. People were coming in droves. It was a rivalry game.  One team was Selma High School. The other was South Side High School. They are only eight or nine miles apart. The competition is always fierce. Sometimes the fierceness erupts into violence.

Sometime earlier, I met with former Rep. Yusuf Salaam, Faya Rose Toure and others. Among other issues, we were struggling with the violence in Selma. We were exploring all the big things we could do to stop the violence. One man, Ron Lane, said, “We need to do something simple.” I think that he is a coach at Selma High.

We agreed to do something simple. The next big game was the Selma High/Southside High basketball game. This game always overflows with spectators. The intensity is always high. The likelihood of confrontation is always high. The possibility of violence is always prevalent. It is a real rivalry.

The game was set for Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. We all agreed to be there. However, January 19 was a bad weather day. The game was cancelled and rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. We were there this time.

When I arrived, Faya Rose and others had been there for an hour or so. Former Rep. Yusuf Salaam had been there for 30 minutes or so. I joined in the simple idea. I picked up a sign. About 10 persons were already carrying signs. The others were there before I was and stayed after I left. They did much more than I did. I salute them highly. But I want to tell you what I did from my personal perspective. I want you to feel the power of this simple idea bearing fruit in the moment.

So many become greatly concerned when deadly violence claims another life in Selma. So many promise to do but don’t do. There is an old saying that “A stitch in time saves nine.” When we used to sew our torn clothes, we tried to catch the tear at the very beginning when one stitch would repair it. If we waited, it would require nine stitches (or more). A timely act is very powerful. This was a timely act.

The signs we carried had just two words. Not Today. When I observed persons coming to the ball game, I would go up to them and say:  Not today! Not today! I explained that Not Today means no violence today.

I watched their faces manifest understanding.  I watched their body language manifest agreement.  I watched their beings reflect hope engineered by a simple idea. They didn’t want violence either.  But violence comes unless we prevent it. They did not know how to prevent the violence. They were appreciative that someone was trying to do something, even if it was a simple idea. Not today.

After awhile I went one step further.  I asked each person I encountered to say the words – Not Today. Nine out of every 10 persons uttered the words with power. It is one thing to hear the words, not today. It’s another to say the words, not today.  Saying something with meaning reinforces our commitment. It propels us to work toward the goal.

I found it interesting how people reacted to their State Senator being in front of the school gym holding up a “Not Today” sign. One lady said, “It must be really bad if Sen. Sanders is out here with a sign.” She was very pleased that I was helping with this simple idea. As time went on, we commence to saying:  Not Today. Not Tomorrow. Not Anymore.  Not today. I don’t know for a fact that this effort impacted the spectators at the game.  I like to think that it helped prevent violence. The principal told Faya Rose how much she appreciated our effort.  Others who heard about the Not Today effort expressed their appreciation. Not today.

Sometimes a small idea is just small.  But sometimes a small idea is very powerful.  Sometimes a small action can have a powerful impact.  Sometimes small is powerful. Can we do something small to change the world?