My wife took me to see the movie Selma this weekend and it stirred up vivid memories of my life during the fifties, sixties and seventies. During the fifties I was in my hometown of Trenton, North Carolina under Jim Crow laws of legal segregation.
When you grow up in that kind of society, you realize the color of your skin is the only thing that prevents you from socializing with others of a different color which makes no sense at all. Television was new and you could see what other people were doing in other parts of the country and after listening to relatives that come home from up north you know that life could be different.
So I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and leave as soon as possible. As they say “catch the first thing smoking”.
As I watched the movie and the scene where the four girls are talking to each other as they walked down the stairs at church and the bomb goes off, it jarred me much like it did the day I heard the news. My emotions went from sad, then angry, and I said to myself there is still much work to do.
As the movie went on I realized again that freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday of your life. I witnessed the marches of the sixties and recalled voting for President Lyndon B. Johnson and listening to his “we shall overcome” speech to Congress and the country. I could not believe he was saying what I heard him say but it was true. Johnson was pushing the Voting Rights Act and wanted Congress to pass the bill. Congress did pass the bill and now today some in the Republican Party want to revisit that law and take that right away if you can not meet certain requirements such as proper identification.
Again I said, there is much work to be done and freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday. I am glad I went to see the movie because I always wondered why it took three tries to walk across the Pettus Bridge in 1965. My wife had the good fortune of walking across it when she went on a southern Underground Railroad tour in Alabama.
After the movie a young lady who recognized me remarked, “we have a lot of work to do” to which I replied, “yes the fight continues.”
In the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 6 it reminds us that the older generation has a responsibility to impress upon the younger generation our history of how we got over. If we do not tell them of our struggles and tribulations then they will not know how to negotiate, demonstrate, and resist when it comes to fighting unjust laws.
For example, in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, Blacks make up seventy percent of the city and yet they feel unrepresented in the government. They have not been told how to exercise their voting power to elect people who will make laws that represent their interest. The police force has only three Blacks on staff and Blacks pay over 95 percent of all traffic violations in the city. Somebody forgot to tell them the history of how to use their power at the ballot box to correct that issue.
Because the young Black voters decided not to vote in high numbers last year, this action might result in some voting rights that we fought for 50 years ago being changed. If that happens the numbers and diversity of elected officials in Washington and some states will also change. That will mean fewer people of color and women will be appointed to the courts with your interest in public policy.
So we must continue the fight because freedom is not free and because if we don’t it can be taken away.
Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.