We arrived in Selma, AL Sunday morning. What a day!! We found a parking space in the downtown area (it was a miracle to find that space.) We walked the dogs on a grassy area that was quite clear of broken bottles and debris. It was decided I would go to the rally outside of Brown Chapel, the organization center during the original walk, while Doug stayed with the dogs.
I have never before felt like such a minority with my very white face. At the same time I have never been treated as politely in my life. Everyone greeted me with a smile and hello. We met eye to eye, almost as though we knew we had a common purpose - the right to vote.
I struck up a conversation with two ladies, mother and daughter from New York state. We had plenty of time to talk as we viewed what was going on in the church on a big screen. I learned so much from them about the point of view of middle class blacks. I even asked them, " Why would a black person vote for a Republican?" They said they are the ones getting things done for them. I think they meant on a local level.
The last speaker was Al Sharpton. I said to the ladies, " I wonder how many more speakers there will be." "Oh he's the last one", they said. "No one could follow Sharpton." Well, I'm no Sharpton fan but he really said it. He began by pointing out the need to stand up for all rights. He said I know you don't want to hear it, but the rights for homosexuals and immigrants too.
As he got going with his speech it started to feel more like a church service. Some ladies next to me started to repeat phrases. The cadence of words was just wonderful. One lady raised her hands, not in the don't shoot symbol but in the sign of worship. It was just so interesting I had to pinch myself to see if it were real.
I tired of waiting for the march to the bridge to begin so I joined Doug at the car. He was sitting in the back of the van with Yulee next to him as they watched people walk by. Doug had struck up a conversation with one of the men outside the store where we were parked.
Doug had spent most of his time talking to this man. If he were to be believed, he was 10 years old when he and his mama went to the march. He told Doug lots of stories, mostly about his mama. Doug had a great time talking with him
When I say we parked in front of a store let's just say it was a multi-use building. It was a beauty shop/ barber shop/ restroom (which could be used for $2.00) and out of a doorway near the back of the building they were selling food.
We watched people walk down the parade route and finally decided to join the group. Doug had made arrangements with his buddy to watch the dogs and car.
As we approached the bridge the crowd was tremendous, but there was no pushing and shoving. We just all shuffled forward together. We found a group of Unitarian Universalists in their "Standing on the Side of Love" shirts and more or less walked along with them. We felt so triumphant as we walked up that bridge! The arch is so high you cannot see the road to Montgomery until you get to the top. But 50 years ago they did get to the top and beyond -finally. How ironic that the bridge is named for a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
By the way, my hat was a success. I put a black band around my hat and tucked names of some of the people killed in the civil rights movement in the band. One lady came up to me at the rally and said, "May I take one of the names from your hat for a minute." She took the name Viola Liuzzo and proceeded to tell a young girl about her. (Viola Liuzzo came from Detroit. She was driving an African American activist to Montgomery on the last day of the march when she was followed by the Ku Klux Klan. She was shot through the window of her car.)
I wanted to share this with some of you to give you a taste of what we experienced. Doug keeps saying "We did it!!". That's one to check off the bucket list.
Proud marchers for civil rights,
Doug and Linda Weeder