Congresswoman in Selma on MLK Day
“Yet, Selma, Alabama became a shining moment in the conscience of man. If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March
On Monday, as MLK Day dawned on a city that has more reason that most to remember the man for whom the day is dedicated, I had the opportunity to take part in a wide array of events honoring Dr. King and his legacy – I saw Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) blast the rhetoric of a divided White House and call for unity among those who suffer beneath its follies; I watched loving hands box up mounds of food and place them gently into the hands of struggling and grateful people; I heard voices boom from the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge pleading and demanding for an end to the violence that continues to plague this city.
Perhaps the most chilling moment, the one that stuck in my mind as the day finally came to a close, was walking down Broad Street holding my children’s hands as former President Barack Obama’s voice echoed off of the old buildings that surely dotted the landscape of King’s journey through the Queen City.
How far we’ve come and how far we still have to go!
Such a realization, I suppose, is uncommon among Southern white men and is even harder to be acted upon with respect and integrity – how, indeed, does a white man, who has never personally known the degradations and injustices suffered by the freedom fighters who once walked the streets of this town, reasonably celebrate and uphold King’s legacy?
And then it occurred to me – I honor that legacy with the small hands gripping my own, by teaching these children that all people are worthy of love and respect, that no person is beneath another and that justice and equality are things that must relentlessly be sought after and fought for.
My contribution to maintaining King’s legacy in this most trying of ages is not only realized in the type of people my children will grow to become, but the way in which I teach them each day and the example I set for them in my actions and my words.
Being in Selma on MLK Day is a spiritual experience, no doubt, and one that should be experienced by all who support and heed King’s call for civility and equitability.
But perhaps even better would be the ability to bottle that experience and give it to those who don’t support and heed King’s call, those on whom the message is lost, for those are the people who stand to gain the most from being in Selma on MLK Day.