We were still in Selma today. We checked out the Voting Rights Museum. I feel a little angry with pretty much every American History teacher I’ve ever had. How have I gone through my entire life, and this semester is the first time I’ve ever heard about John Langston and Joseph Rainey, Black government officials elected in the 1800s? I feel like that’s a very valuable piece of history. It is a piece of information that I might have liked to know. I went to take pictures of them, and the overly excited facial recognition mechanism on my camera recognizes their faces as people. So why, pray tell, doesn’t history?
We had a tour with Miss Joanne Bland. She gave a tour of Selma and has lived there for most of her life and participated in the marches on Bloody Sunday, to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and to Selma. I’m pretty sure she said she was 11 at the time. She is a force. Jasmine, one of the girls on the trip asked Miss Bland, if she felt that things have changed since the ’60s. “Look at everyone on this bus,” Miss Bland said. “Have things changed?”
One of the most memorable moments was when she had us walk to the spot where they met before they began the first march on March 7. She had us each of us pick up a rock. She used those rocks to tell us the stories of the “remembers” of the march, including her own. She told us to take the rock and put it in a place where we could see it. She said whenever we felt insignificant, or that we couldn’t do anything, to remember the power of the “everyday people.”
We toured some more and then took a break for lunch at a soul food restaurant called Essie’s. I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to eat because I’m a vegetarian. On my dad’s side, pretty much everything, even the vegetables, is made with meat. But there are a whole lot of people who love me and, as the Good Book suggests, I tasted and saw that the food … I mean, Lord, was good.
Next we drove through Lowndes County, which is considered the birthplace of the Black Panthers. We also drove by a cotton field, which was next to the woods. The whole scene was eerie, even more so because we made that leg of the journey in almost complete silence.
We stopped by Viola Liuzzo’s grave. She was killed by klansmen while driving people from Selma to Montgomery. There is a gate surrounding her grave to protect her from vandalism because they couldn’t protect her from death. I held on the bars of the gate for what seemed like quite a while. The wind was blowing really softly, and it was very peaceful. For reasons I cannot explain I felt a connection to Ms. Liuzzo. I looked up into heaven and sent her a “thank you” before getting on the bus.