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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Selma’s Footsoldier

An update from Sarah, a Master of Liberal Studies student:


[Joanne] Blanded.

I debated with myself whether or not to ask a question. If I raise my hand, it better be a good one! OK, go.

JB: “Yes, what’s your question?”

me: Do you think that Selma will ever change the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge? [Confederate General]

The Bland Stare.

JB: “Girl, what’s wrong with you!”

“No. Why would we want to do that?” If you erase the name of the bridge, people can say ‘It wasn’t so bad.’ If you remove the bridge, people will say ‘it never happened.’ ”

Joanne Bland is a Selma Footsoldier in the true sense. She still is … as they say, Once a Marine, always a Marine. So it is with the Selma Footsoldier.

Ms. Bland is a Footsoldier who survived Bloody Sunday, fought through fear to march again two days later on Turnaround Tuesday, and then joined in with the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. She has insisted on better grocery stores, inclusion of EVERYONE’s history in Selma, and is passionate about the education of Selma children.

Our Pilgrims found out that the police riot on Bloody Sunday went on all night long. The Marchers predicted a violent resistance to the March, but not the deliberate entrapment on the bridge with law enforcement’s vicious attack on peaceful protestors walking on the sidewalk two-by-two. I did my best to replay what it must have felt like as I walked across the bridge. My heartbeat sped up, and I clung to my walking partner. I will never know.

Ms. Bland helped me to understand the stories behind the story. When I spoke with her privately, Ms. Bland was soft-spoken, gracious, and even loving for a moment.

Then it ended.

JB: “Tell your children. Make ’em want to get involved. Now, when are you going to invite me to SMU?”

I’ve been Blanded. I’m proud of it!

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    One Response to Selma’s Footsoldier

    1. Betty McHone says:

      I love the term “blanded,” and anyone who has met Joanne will know exactly what you mean. But her comments are solid.

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