Hosea Sanders grew up in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, one of five children of the late Deacon Hosea and Garrett Ann Sanders. He shared that his father did “hard, backbreaking work” to lay track for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad and used the discarded cross ties to build fence posts and barbeque pits. Sanders’ mother worked in many positions, including a boat factory assembly line while attending school. She worked as a cardiac care nurse, EMT, ambulance driver, and the Vice-Mayor of Arkadelphia. Sanders recalled, “My parents had 5 children to feed and clothe. My mother would go down to the county fairgrounds every Wednesday to get government-distributed food for us to eat. During her trips to the fairgrounds, my mother would pick up extra food and distribute food baskets and other items to people in our community. I told my mother that when I get to be a big boy, I’m going to buy you some food with pictures on it. I began working with the Greater Chicago Food Depository because of my mother’s dedication to serving the people of our community.” “We worked in the field – my dad called it the ‘garden’ – and we cut lawns; we always had summer jobs,” he added. In addition to hard work, the family took time to enjoy sports. “My dad was an avid sports fan and he passed his love of sports to us, cheering us on in our sports activities,” Sanders shared.
Forty Years of Reporting
In a career spanning 40 years, Sanders has worked as an anchor/reporter at television stations in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Little Rock. Since 1994, Sanders has served as an anchor/reporter and program host at ABC7Chicago and has earned 16 Emmy awards. In addition to reporting the news, he has covered entertainment features and hosted and contributed to the “Chicago Proud” series of stories that give voice to everyday Chicago-area heroes. Sanders’ work includes spotlights on the differently-abled community in the “Celebrating Abilities” series, which was commended in a story published in the Columbia Journalism Review. He is also the co-host of the Emmy-award-winning series, “Our Chicago: Black Voices of Change,” focused on Chicago’s African American community. Sanders is also one of the hosts of the Chicago Defender Charities’ annual Bud Billiken Parade.
In addition to his Emmy awards, Sanders shared that his career’s biggest accomplishment is surviving and being able to continue telling stories in a genuine and authentic way. He provided, “I am proud to tell stories that wouldn’t be told, and stories in our everyday communities, and to be able to find experts who look like us. Only we can tell our stories – no one should take control of our narratives; no one should dictate our stories to us,” he explained.
Mentors in the Midst
When Sanders came to Chicago in 1994, he was unsure if he wanted to be here. However, upon arrival for his interview at ABC7, he introduced himself to Russ Ewing, whose work assisting people wanted by the police to turn themselves in, was featured in Jet magazine. Sanders jokingly said to Ewing, “Make sure I get taken care of, o.k.?” Mr. Ewing turned to the interviewer and said, “You need to hire this young man.”
After joining ABC7, Sanders was introduced to several Black journalists, including Bill Campbell, Bob Petty, Harry Porterfield, and Charles Thomas, who all introduced him to Chicago’s movers and shakers. “I have never seen that many Black men, who I considered legends in the industry, in one newsroom. I looked up to Bill Campbell. I had heard about him while working in Dallas. His way of relating to people and his generous, low-keyed spirit drew me to him – and the fact that we were frat brothers in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.,” said Sanders.
Working in a Pandemic
As many have struggled to work in the midst of the pandemic, Sanders has used resourceful ways to continue telling stories while in the confines of his home. He shared, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have gone to the studio three times. Working from home, I consider myself ‘creatively free’. I am booking and producing many of my own stories. I went on Amazon and ordered a backdrop of the city, purchased a light kit, and went to YouTube to relearn how to do lighting and to figure out the technology. This pandemic has forced me to come up with innovative ways to connect with people by going inward and using the tools and skills that I have gathered over my years in the industry and community,” he provided.
Hosea Sanders was recently honored as one of the 2021 Chicago Defender’s Men of Excellence.
Donna Hammond is a contributing writer and seminarian. Follow her on Twitter @deelois623 and on Facebook, DeeLoisSpeaks.