SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage 2012

During spring break 2012, students, faculty and staff are taking a nine-day bus ride through the American South to visit civil rights landmarks and leaders in the movement. Political Science Professor Dennis Simon leads the pilgrimage with SMU’s Chaplain’s Office.

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Keep on walking

An update from A’Rielle, an accounting major and ethnic studies minor:

“Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody…”

“…turn me ’round” & they didn’t.

With Joanne Bland

Selma, Alabama, is infamous for the horror that occurred on Bloody Sunday. Hundreds of civil rights participants gathered to march from Selma to the capital city of Montgomery to demand their voting rights. On their way out of Selma, they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. There, law enforcement ordered the marchers to turn around, and when they didn’t, troopers unleashed tear gas, drew weapons, and beat the nonviolent protestors.

We met Ms. Joanne Bland early Monday morning at the National Voting Rights Museum, located right at the foot of the other side of that bridge. With her dynamic personality, she led us on a tour of the town, highlighting key sites involved in the movement and sharing personal stories from her days as an 11-year-old member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Ms. Joanne was there on the bridge that day, and she explains that the violence seemed to last an eternity. Eyes burned, lungs filled up with gas, guns shot, bones broken, horses reared, people trampled, senseless bloodshedall protesters were unarmed.

And “…what happened at that bridge … did not stop at that bridge,” Ms. Joanne repeated numerous times. State troopers chased marchers from the bridge and into their neighborhoods, where they terrorized homes and churches, and rioted in the streets all night. These marchers, from all walks of life, wanted one thing: the opportunity to walk down to the county courthouse and register to vote, a task many of us still take for granted.

Pilgrims crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge

She expressed her frustrations with the current state of the black community that arrogantly wears their freedom, doesn’t vote or stand up for injustices, and thinks that the struggle is over because our President is black. She especially dislikes how folks say that people “gave their lives” during the movement. “NO. Those lives were TAKEN,” not given, she states frankly.

She charged us to be the generation that stands for something. Monday, we all walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, two by two, for Ms. Joanne Bland and the hundreds of others, as they did for us in 1965.

“We’re gonna keep on walkin’, keep on talkin’, walkin’ up freedom’s way.”

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