Why did I go to Selma? Maybe to ask forgiveness for the many times I did not speak up when someone was being disrespected, the times I heard a black joke and did not say that it was wrong.
I remember an incident that happened in high school. A friend told me he had blackballed a fellow black friend from joining a club. I was shocked. How in 1978 could this be an issue? He said our school was not going to be the first to induct a black member. He went on to explain that, if our school did, our friend would be targeted with violence as well as the school. How could we do something so bold for our black friend?
Needless to say we did not. Our friend showed us his bravery by going to college and becoming a fine teacher. He died recently, and I was so moved to read the obituary and the notes left by friends of his great work. I am sorry we did not have the courage he had.
Attending the march in Selma was wonderful. Scenes of beauty were everywhere. People of all ages walked hand in hand and dressed in colorful clothes. No one was shoving or pushing but all were respectfully walking across the bridge. Many sang songs, shed tears, laughed with joy, and stopped to take pictures of the historic occasion. I was proud to be there. I was proud to be a part of saying “No longer is it right to suppress another person’s rights. We are all one.”
Jeannie Smith is the Director of the Student Success Center in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies