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 post, Scott Britton, who traveled to Selma with his two children, offers his thoughts.
There are many emotions I tried to contend with on the weekend trip our family took to Selma, and I believe I’m still processing the events that were a commemoration of what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The 600 marchers’ first attempt at making the trek from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965 was met with opposition in the form of a vicious attack by Alabama state troopers at the behest of then Governor George Wallace. The troopers used batons and teargas to impede the marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. (Pettus, by the way, was a Confederate and the Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan … amazing who can get a structure named after them.)
That Saturday, I got goose bumps as I watched President Obama, a black man, elected by a mosaic of Americans (who the marchers on Bloody Sunday dared only dream of when they sought equality for voter registration) give a barnburner of a speech. Even more, I was moved by the ocean of humanity my family was a part of: individuals of every ethnicity, who gathered to pay homage to those who sacrificed time, energy, money, blood, sweat, and, too often, their lives to protest the unconstitutional disenfranchisement of millions of American citizens because their skin color was like mine.
The day after the commemoration, we began the morning with a walk across the bridge that was the sight of so much violence, yet, this time, it was with the classmates, teachers, parents, and administrators from the school my children attend, alongside students from Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy. Next we were treated to a visit to the Jackson family home, where Dr. King and his lieutenants were fed, slept, and strategized. This was a well-to-do black family, with a five-year-old daughter and everything to lose, but still they opened their home. Later that day, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of George Wallace gave an emotionally jarring speech that reminded me that change begins with each of us.
Rev. Piazza’s sermon this past Sunday, entitled “Traveling Third Class,” got me thinking more about how we “travel” through life, and which “class” we select. It wasn’t until Dr. King and others challenged brothers and sisters of faith, coupled with the horrid images shown on televisions and vividly described in print, did privileged folks in “first or second class seating,” feel compelled to travel in “third class” and get actively involved. Why does it require so much to do what is right?
Charity has its place, but my wife and I work hard to raise children who are not only charitable and empathetic, but unafraid to ask the questions: Why is there suffering, and what can be done about it? Whether it is access to health care, marriage equality, foster parenting, homelessness, income inequality, police brutality, or any other social injustice, how often do we elect to send a check, rather than get dirty and do the real work? We know we have to be better models of the behavior we desire. That weekend in Selma, we were reminded that we owe it to our children, and the world they will inherit, to understand, appreciate, and feel compelled to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.