Our visit to Selma: I have lived in many places and when I have returned to them for a visit, the visuals and the emotions were not what I thought they would be. But, when I returned to Selma; to Brown Chapel AME Church where we gathered in preparation for the Selma to Montgomery March, it was as though I stepped back into a past that had not passed. The Church was as I remembered it; a bit more sparkling and polished because it is now a significant Civil Rights location. The steps on which we stood were the same. It was on those steps that as I stood next to the late Episcopal Bishop, James Pike, I remember him saying as he looked out at the gathered crowd; "This is one of the greatest interfaith gatherings in the history of the world." (A paraphrase) My emotions: As we walked into the church, tears formed in my eyes. I remembered that almost every seat on the main floor and balcony were filled on that Tuesday, 45 years ago! I was told by our guides and hosts that that Tuesday has been named, "Turn Around Tuesday” because we gathered in the church for preparation, worship and celebration; then marched to the Bridge and stopped; held a prayer service and returned to the Church. Martin Luther King had in consultation with officials in Washington had agreed not to begin the march that day because the matters of protection for the march had not yet been worked out. Some were very disappointed and felt that Dr. King and the leaders had compromised without letting us know. But I, with a sense that my being there allowed me to participate in a history-making moment, made the decision that I would return to Alabama for the final phases of the march into Montgomery. And I did.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge: This bridge leading out of Selma, looked the same as I had seen it years before. I discovered that during our picture and film making moments, I could walk on the sidewalk on the Bridge, but with cane in hand and "Younger Sister" by my side, I could not walk to the crest of the bridge and to the other side, because of a combination of factors: uncertainty because of my walking disability, a sudden onslaught of hesitation/fear because of the height of the bridge and the water below, and probably because the emotions stoked by my memories of the past, had a bit of an immobilizing impact upon me.
Why did we go to Selma? When Marilyn suggested this visit in the beginning phases of our "Truth in Progress" journey, I was neither excited about the visit, nor did I completely comprehend how a visit to the site of one of the significant Civil Rights events related to our desire to explore the intersections of bias against persons because of their race or because they were lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender. But, my return to Selma, being there with Marilyn, proved the wisdom of her suggestion. My ally/advocacy for the rights of LGBT persons is inextricably linked to my activism in the justice struggle for the rights of blacks. Being in Selma made me remember the words in "Lift Every Voice and Sing"; "We have come over a way that with tears has been watered; we have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered..." These words capture the pain and pathos of the journey of blacks toward justice, liberation and freedom.
We need spend no time talking about the differences in the journeys of persons because they are black, or because they are LGBT. The similarities of bias, bigotry, prejudice, and negative stereotyping directed at persons because of race or sexual orientation/gender, are obvious. Truth in Progress seeks to prompt reflection and discussion in order to liberate us from being only one-justice issue persons.