On March 25, 1965, I was only 15
years old and already confused. I was grateful to this fine land for taking me
in as a refugee, and had no patience for troublemakers like Martin Luther King
saying there was anything wrong with this magnificent country. The confusion
was that these marchers were carrying American flags as they tried to cross the
Edmund Petus Bridge in Selma, and somebody was attacking them with police dogs
and water cannons. Somebody was beating on my adoptive countrymen, and that
So it was that a young bigot was
set on a course for redemption. The rest forms history book quizzes for our
kids. But for those my age, we lived through it.
On March 25, 2016, I had the good
fortune to be able to commemorate this American journey we have all shared. I
threw in with a bicycle club that needed a photographer for the remembrance
ride from Selma to Alabama's capitol in Montgomery.
A long ride on a ratty bike
provides ample time to reflect on the past 51 years.
Most inspirational were not just
the black and white mix of the bikers, but the folks driving by. We all wore
shirts proclaiming what we were doing, and not one angry epithet from the cars
passing by -- but plenty of yowls of support.
Sitting in the Ebeneezer Baptist
Church in Atlanta some days later, listening to a recording of one of Dr.
King's pastoral sermons, he just happened to be talking directly to me. As a
minister, he of course liked Bible stories, and that time he preached about the
prodigal son, the young sinner who pulls himself together and comes home to
lead a righteous life.
I never understood why the prodigal
son's dad was so happy to see his son recover, given that he had another son
who had never strayed. Dr. King helped me understand.
Our liberals in Berkeley don't earn
that many points for practicing racial justice, but Alabama rednecks coming
from generations of racism and hatred, to change their hard hearts to
tolerance, and even brotherly love, now that is worth celebrating. Not that
bigotry has left the world, but seeing first hand the changes in the South, I
understood why the prodigal son's dad threw a party.
Inside the casemates of Fort Morgan
Prattville Mill Dam
Brown Chapel where the Selma-to-Montgomery
the marchers' gift of brotherly love
A victory for justice
I was already tired
Johnnie Hall remembers his dad and the marchers
Patriots remembered on the Montgomery Capitol
(Overlay from diorama at Lowndes County Interpretive