Bloody Sunday: The river cried out
It was the 51st anniversary of Bloody Sunday, and my colleague Joe McDaniel and I had just the day before been working in Montgomery with members of the Diocese of Alabama’s Commission on Race Relations.
We found ourselves in front of Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, joining a crowd of people from all over the country. Guest speakers from near and far---some who had been severely beaten 51 years ago that day---were addressing issues important to people of color, and I was reminded that white was a color and the issues were important.
Thousands of people were gathering to honor that march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge those many years ago. Young, old, wealthy, poor, people with graduate degrees and those who couldn't spell the word, we found that we didn't have to see eye-to-eye to walk arm-in-arm.
The march, the songs, the togetherness. As we approached the bridge, I looked up to see the traffic light at the corner of Broad Street and Water Avenue turn yellow, as if to say “Caution.” We instinctively moved straight ahead, by the thousands, a virtual sea of humankind.
As we neared the middle of the bridge, from the rush of the upstream waters, I could hear what sounded like ancient cries, old anguish, and I could eerily sense the pain of a half-century old physical injury and racial epitaph meted out by law enforcement officials.
The river was remembering. The bridge, cold and silent.
When I crossed over to the downstream side of the bridge, the sounds were different. The sounds and emotions evoked hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, release, equality. The river was cleansing the atrocities from this place.
As Ruby Sales, who was spared the shotgun blast from the part-time sheriff by Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Myrick Daniels in 1965, once said in Hayneville, “Without memory, there is no hope.”
We went to Selma on Sunday, March 6, to remember Bloody Sunday. The veterans of that day in 1965 who had been beaten and those of us who came from privilege to honor their sacrifices marched together. We all came to remember.
The river reminded us in ever-flowing waters that the cries born from abuse and mistreatment can only be answered by reconciliation, forgiveness, and shared love, hope, and work for our future together.
Gary Alan Moore is a parishioner at St. Paul’s, Daphne.