by Jenny Beatrice
I had the privilege of being in Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the marches for African American voting rights. On March 8, 70,000 people made the pilgrimage to walk in solidarity with the first 600 marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. For the 600 marchers, their peaceful protest turned violent, with the police beating them with billy clubs. It became known as Bloody Sunday. The protesters were beaten but not beaten down, as many more marchers, including clergy from all denominations (including Catholic priests and nuns) traveled to Selma to be part of more marches and of the movement.
Today, this movement has multiplied exponentially as people continue to raise attention to the issues of race relations, revealing what is in people’s minds and hearts that have been hiding under the surface.
I believe that is why 70,000 made the journey this year. At the 50th anniversary events—the presidential rally and the re-creation of the march–all the crowds were friendly and caring. Laughing, telling stories and looking our for each other. All races, all ages, standing literally inches from one other without violence or conflict. It was model of the way things could be. All the people walking as one, step by step toward change.
My stories, relationships and images I experienced were historic and profound. I could write so much about the grandiosity of the weekend, but ironically, it is the smallest of images that keeps coming to mind.
In a quiet moment in the Alabama early-morning light, I was at the kitchen sink in the nun’s home where I was staying. There sat a yellowing and stained inspirational calendar, the kind where you turn the page for a reflection each day. Although it was March 9, the calendar was still on March 5. It seemed like the words sat there a long time waiting for me to read them.
“A man who walks with God always gets to his destination.”
All those who marched in March 1965 walked with God. All of us who went to Selma last week walked with God. All of those people who experience discrimination in their daily lives walk with God. All of those people who are challenged to see beyond skin color walk with God. And in God, all of our paths will ultimately reach the same destination.
Now that the 70,000 people are back in our own cities on our own streets, I pray we will continue walk toward equality together in solidarity, step by step to our destination of unity.
Reflection: What challenges are you facing that you pray will resolve quickly, but that you can only move forward step by step? How is God with you on the journey toward the destination?