SELMA BOUND by Tiffany Nashville
“I missed it 1965 but I made it in 2015” This tagline was on banners and tee’s throughout the city of Selma.
The feeling of history inevitably engulfed me as soon as I stepped into downtown Selma and again in Montgomery. To put it simply, I was overwhelmed by the experience. (But then I had a 10+ hour car trip back to St. Louis to reflect and take it all in.)
Greeted with a parade on Saturday, March 7,the vibe in Selma was uplifting and the energy positive. The Jubilee happens yearly, but, of course, the 50th anniversary and the ever growing activism mindset of millennial protestors brought people from hundreds of miles away.
I was thankful to be able to grab a seat on the Amnesty International van. They were thoughtful in planning our outings and choosing activities for the group.
We traveled to Montgomery after the speeches of such greats as Congressmen John Lewis and my POTUS, Barack Obama. While there, I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge of the docents in the Freedom Riders Museum in Montgomery’s Historic Greyhound Bus Station. They had so much to share. There is always more to learn when it comes to history, and while this museum wasn’t physically large, history lined the walls – inside and out.
Our next stop was the Equal Justice Initiative. We were welcomed with a quote from Lillian Hellman:
“For every man who lives without freedom, the rest of us must share the guilt.” I knew I was in for a great experience. (Not to mention Netta and Deray already shared how awesome their experience was when they visited the EJI.)
If you’re wondering why we went to a building of attorneys, the EJI is helping to change the injustice that occurs for those incarcerated (among other accomplishments). They helped make it illegal to execute children in the United States. They also helped abolish life without parole sentencing for children.
We viewed a short film titled, What in the world? USA which highlighted three people incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit. The EJI helped to release them.
*Cool moment alert*
So I’ve been reading books and articles, and watching videos and interviews involving one
of my favorite historical figures, Rosa Parks.
Nine months prior to Rosa Parks’ arrest a young woman named Claudette Colvin was the first person arrested for resisting bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama. She is a pioneer of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. And I met her and was able to thank her for her courage while in Selma on Sunday, March 8th for the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Then my friends and I met a man named Ophelius. He graciously let us park on his lot, just a couple
blocks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In talking with him, he shared with us that he was in the Selma to Montgomery march at the tender age ten. Let’s just say the police did not care that he was only ten years old. Though just a young boy, he was brave enough to follow the people. [This is a testament that our children want to follow us, so we must lead them in the right direction.]
Just before departing Selma, the director of Amnesty International spoke with our group about the work being done and the work yet to do. We ended by calling out one word we felt in that moment, in that space, at that time.
Grateful Renewed Empowered Committed Inspired Motivated Challenged Strong Hopeful
People clapped. Others chanted. Some cried.
The celebration is in the work ahead. We are fighting for justice, and human rights because black lives matter and should be valued. Selma and Montgomery offered a powerful space for a powerful moment, and I am honored to say I WAS THERE.