An editorial in the March 14, 1965 New York Times had this to say about the turmoil in Selma: “The past week in Alabama has been a time of dangerous competition between the forces of racism and reason, of violence and law, of the defeated past and the struggling future.”
It was a lot to consider as I rode into Selma on a 50-seat plus bus filled to capacity with African Americans spanning several generations, many of them dressed in t-shirts with the faces of America’s first family on them. At one point, police stopped the bus and I told myself they couldn’t possibly be thinking about re-playing the events of the original Bloody Sunday. And of course they were not. In fact, most of these police were black and seemed to take some pride in letting us know that traffic from different entrances into Selma had caused a jam so we needed to move over to a less congested street where we could proceed to the center of town. With that simple misinterpreted moment, I began to understand more about Bloody Sunday than I ever had just from reading about it.
Although shock and dismay can jolt us stupid with pain, they can also infuse us with knowledge. That’s what I felt happening as I got off the bus and stared at the thousands who had arrived before me and the ones still rolling into town, one car and bus after another. I recalled from the earlier days the thickness of an unspoken despair that strangled human souls and suffocated human hearts. And I realized something profoundly different was happening now. As voices rose here and there to sing the old protest songs, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” and “We Shall Overcome,” I thought of a line from Bob Marley’s “Redemption Songs” in which he states, “We foward in this generation triumphantly.”
My awareness of a shift in focus and intention intensified as I went to an inaugural service in one magnificent church and then stood outside another where crowds and media gathered to hear activists proclaim why this moment in history was not the time to forget Bloody Sunday. It magnified even further while I simultaneously jotted notes and joined the crowd as it began to move toward the still-standing Edmund Pettus Bridge. I could add here that somewhere in the crowd were Civil Rights Movement veterans Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and others whose presence caused photographers and reporters to jockey for shots and interviews. I might point out as well that a few years ago President (then Senator) Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton had crossed the same bridge now looming like a giant burning cross, or possibly like a brilliant pair of angel wings, several blocks away in front of us.
However, it is probably more important to note at this time that in many ways the whole of America is revisiting Selma, Alabama, and crossing anew the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Only instead of shedding blood, this time around, we have the opportunity to exercise greater wisdom, to share a deeper level of compassion, and a fuller measure of love. I promised myself I would not forget that once I got on the bus again and headed back to Georgia. Like those keepers of the faith who have been returning to Selma for almost half a century, dedicating themselves to remembering and giving meaning to Bloody Sunday, I would match their pledge with one of my own.
Causes * Aberjhani Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: