Better together: Ginger Rye-Sanders’s hopes of uniting Carbondale community


Ginger Rye-Sanders is in her dimly lit living room, sitting at a chestnut brown Victorian-style desk in the corner with pictures of her children, 16 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren hanging on the walls. She sees her town as family as well.

“Carbondale is a place that is geographically divided, but it is a place where there’s a lot of love, there’s a lot of hospitality, people are concerned about each other,” said Rye-Sanders, Carbondale city councilwoman and founder/president of the Women for Change organization.

“Our motto is that we’re better together,” she said.


Women for Change offers many different programs for both women and men to learn life skills and ways they can help others in the community. Some of the programs include a garden program, a sewing program and even a lawnmower program.  

Because Sanders has so many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, most of them male, she keeps an eye out for them and makes sure they have a community to lean on. 

“I just thank them (family) for their support and I know they get tired because I work them all the time, but that’s good for them because they have learned to give back,” Sanders said. “I think you should always give that back because no one is an island. We all need each other.”  

During the pandemic, the Carbondale City Council provided several grants for businesses to help with the big hits they took, but after Sanders looked into it, she realized that the assets were not being distributed fairly among Black people and White people in Carbondale.

“We have a Black Chamber of Commerce, and it is my endeavor on the city council that we take our commitment seriously. We said that we would exercise and practice diversity and inclusion and equity and we need to take our commitments really seriously as far as the city is concerned, because we do not do as much as we could, you know, for Black businesses,” Sanders said. 

Sanders ran for the city council in 2019 because, during the pandemic, she had a lot of time to reflect on herself and realized she had more fight left and needed to do something about it, with equity, diversity, inclusion and minority rights as her strong points.

“Well, I think I speak up enough, I just know that those are concerns and we must do better. We really must do better, because I really feel that equity and diversity inclusion starts with not just us coming together and meeting but it starts with our money,” Sanders said. 


She said the community is so nurturing, especially for Black people who need the extra love and advice, which is why Sanders feels so strongly about defending the community and making it the best it can be.

“So I just learned to protect them and I was the advocate for them and I would make sure that their rights were being protected and that nobody violated their rights,” she said. 

Carbondale has issues with crime and violence, but the root of Carbondale is a nurturing place to grow up, the community is welcoming and, without politics, Carbondale would be much more peaceful, Sanders said.

Being a Black woman who is an advocate for women’s rights on the city council is one of the largest challenges Sanders has faced, she said. 

“Well, when I first got on the council, I was told that I didn’t know how to play the game and I always did wonder what the game was. And I guess some people are uncomfortable with me because I do speak up and I speak out and I ask questions, and I wonder why this is done,” Sanders said.

In Carbondale, almost half of the population is made up of minorities, yet there are still companies that either discriminate or just don’t do anything about diversity in the workplace, Sanders said.

“There’s 88% employment in the city of Carbondale and 42% of our community is people of color, and it’s not a reflection in our city hall. It’s a problem when I see that our police officers are 88%. And, that diversity, that demographic that we have, it’s not reflected in our police department. It’s not reflected in our education system,” Sanders said. 

Even at the Eurma Hayes Center, where they have events for Black children, there are no Black teachers to give the kids hope that they can have a job when they grow up, Sanders said.

Sanders hopes that she, the rest of the city council, the Carbondale community and Women for Change can continue to speak out and change things. 

“And I know you can’t change things instantly, but I believe if you’re consistent and persistent about change, things will happen,” she said.