The events of March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama comprised one of the most revolutionary acts of democracy in American history. A dozen people from Virginia-Highland Church attended the 50th anniversary observance. We would like to share their reflections about the day.
In this entry, Rev. Kathy Burton, our Minister for Congregational Care, shares the story of Miss Diamond, a lifelong resident of Selma.
On Saturday, March 7, I road-tripped to Selma with a group of folks from Virginia-Highland Church for the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march that is known now as “Bloody Sunday.”
We had decided to drive down Saturday morning not knowing what we would be able to see or do, but wanting to be a part of this momentous occasion. My personal priority was to get to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in time to hear two of my heroes, Congressman John Lewis and President Barack Obama.
We arrived in Selma about an hour before they were scheduled to speak and found total gridlock on the road to the west side of the bridge, where the ceremony would be taking place. My group decided that, rather than risk missing everything, we would remain on the east side, where, we were told, the dignitaries would walk after the speeches. Sadly for us, that didn’t happen.
Part of me wishes we had tried harder to get to the other side of the bridge, but, at the same time, I think circumstances put us where we needed to be. We spent the day with many Selma natives, who shared with us the lack of progress that has been made in the past 50 years in their city in the area of racial equality, from its still-segregated school system to the lack of jobs for African-Americans.
Miss Diamond, who has lived her entire life in Selma, shared that the area we where we stood is called Selmont, and that it is not considered part of the city of Selma. So, she and her neighbors are not allowed to vote for the mayor or city council of Selma. The irony was not lost on any of us when she said that Selma ended at the foot of the bridge, which was where the Bloody Sunday attacks occurred.
For the 900 or so of us on the Selmont side of the bridge (by my count, fewer than 10 of us were white), there were no porta-potties, no food vendors, not even a trash can. Only 50 or so state troopers making sure we stayed off the bridge. As a pastor, a Christian, and an American, I needed to be there that day, to be reminded that we need to do better, that we are called to do better, in all the Selmas throughout our nation.
Rev. Kathy Burton