An update from Chrysta, a senior dance performance major, with a human rights minor:
Today we rocked Selma, Alabama. I wore my “No Apologies Necessary” shirt, therefore representing both SMU and the Dance Majors of 2010. “No Apologies Necessary” was the name of our senior dance performance. The title was based on the Thoreau quote “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Basically, our show was about boldly going into the world with all of our brilliance and forcing the world to recognize it. So I though it was appropriate to wear the shirt when we participated in the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday Celebration. Throughout my four years at SMU, I’ve had a handful of moments where I could stand back and think to myself that I was glad I chose SMU as a school. Today, however, I was really proud to be an SMU student.
Forty-five years ago, members of the black community, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, intending to walk to Montgomery to protest the murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson and for voting rights. They were stopped by state troopers and given three minutes to turn around, but were mercilessly beaten within one and a half. The beatings continued into the night.
The whole celebration is a big event, but considering how important it was in the struggle for voting rights, I think it should have been bigger. I am having a difficult time reconciling the fact that I had never heard about this event before college. Anyway, I digress.
People who actually marched that day were there and shared their stories, including the guy who will forever be known as “Pants On the Ground” (Larry Platt, in photo), who was, in fact, a freedom fighter back in the day. It was really interesting and amazing to hear the stories from the people who experienced it. They talked about how afraid they were when the beatings started. The amazing thing is that the next day most of them were back for the March to Montgomery a few days later.
I asked one woman why she came back injured, bruised and justifiably scared, especially since she was a teenager and couldn’t vote at the time anyway. She smiled and looked at me and said, “For you.” I didn’t catch her name, and she doesn’t know mine, but she went through that for me – it’s Biblical, beautiful and overwhelming.
Anyway, we gathered behind the SMU banner and began to march across the bridge. Before you actually step onto the bridge you can see the flashing lights of police cars. I will admit, for a split second I wondered if I would actually make it to the other side without injury. I realize the year is 2010, but here is the thing you have to understand – Selma is a really different type of place.
Many times during the day I had to stop and ask myself where I was. Selma seems as though it is still stuck in the 1960s. The buildings, the streets, the houses, it seems like something from a movie. So walking up to that bridge seemed more like a flashback from another life.
Then Jasmine, one of the girls on the trip, asked if I wanted to hold the SMU banner. One of the groups was leading songs – “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Freedom,” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” It was surreal to be a part of it.
One of the things that anyone who made speeches stressed was that the struggle for Civil Rights still continues, and it was an honor to be able to pick up the torch, so to speak, and march where they left off.