A few years ago in 2012, I had the distinct honor of leading a group of educators on a treck through Civil Rights landmarks across Alabama, beginning in Birmingham, stretching through Montgomery, Selma, and the black belt of Alabama’s coast. During our trip, we marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, commentating the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, two pieces of legislation which where then (and now) under fire.
Here were my reflections:
We marched in silence. Two by two, side by side. I and a colleague of mine Jenee Henry led the marchers. The civil rights activist (Sam Walker) who was only 11 years old himself at the time of the first march, had asked for volunteers to be his Hosea Williams and John Lewis. Our hands shot up. They were the brave souls to lead the marchers on Bloody Sunday. Our courage was much less in stature, but still significant. We wanted to do them justice. We wanted to march for ourselves and our future.
And so we marched. Side by side. In silence. I was struck by the cadence of our feet as they hit the pavement. Coming across the crest of the bridge, I could imagine the sea of blue that civil rights legends decades before had seen, ready to meet them with their menacing defense. I thought it strange that as we began our march, we started slowly, but once we reached the apex of the bridge, on the decline we picked up speed. How quickly the momentum shifted. While I marched I hummed the tune Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. It was the song they sang as they marched, and somehow, I started to understand what they meant.
Finally, as we crossed the bridge onto the pavement of the other side almost 50 years later, we were greeted not by police officers and billy clubs, but by a monument to the slain.
Here’s what I know now, several years later after that march: there’s still more work to be done. Looking forward to continuing the work.