A convergence in Selma

Today by accident we drove through Selma, Alabama.

Eerily, the buildings seemed unchanged from when violence confronted the civil rights marchers in the first half of the sixties. 

We drove through the main street slowly. It was easy to imagine the hatred being hurled upon the marchers, the era seemed to live on in the building façades. You could feel the 1960s South still everywhere present.

We — me, Ann, MomJo — tried to bring the events to life for Zane, but we were flailing.

There were plaques on either side of the famous bridge where the march to Montgomery began.

We pulled over to the far side of the bridge first, and within a few minutes another car pulled up. Two black women, a teenage girl and a boy almost exactly Zane’s age spilled out.

I had wandered over to one side reading about the leaders of the Selma movement to register black voters. MomJo — ever engaging, nearing 80 not slowing her down one bit — was already talking to the women by the time I circled back, asking questions.

What exactly happened on Bloody Sunday . . . ? How do you like to call yourself, African American? Did you grow up here? What was it like?

The two women were sisters, and they were here with their kids because they too were traveling through . . . We and they had dropped off a kid to college that day.

For all of us it was a first-time experience. How humbling and yet supercharged was the feeling standing there, black and white families, talking of the divide that had begun to be breached fifty years ago.

The women talked of growing up in Mobile, going to a majority white school . . . and not feeling racism in their own experience coming of age. They’d heard the stories from older relatives. And as adults they would see flashes of prejudice and realize there’s still a distance to travel . . .

At one point we realized all three kids had wandered off.

“My god,” I said, “We’ve already bored the kids.”

We laughed.

Today we’re celebrating two things:

Those courageous ones, black and white, who rose up against an established order that violently tried to put them down.

And two families who through the quirk of timing shared a profound moment made possible by those courageous ones. We were living a special moment in the future they dared create.

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