March Ahead

Fifty years and two days after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Carroll County branch of the NAACP joined the national organization for 22 miles of the 860 they are walking, from Selma to DC, to protest the gutting of that legislation. I’m a member, and I went; we started at the Alabama state line and went a bit past La Grange, Georgia.

At first, I planned to take a picture of whatever brought me tears of joy, sorrow, or other, but I gave up in overwhelmment after about 10 minutes. Here are just a few moments:

What else can we do?
The Torah comes too, and is passed from marcher to marcher.
This man carried that flag I cannot tell you how long. This is towards the end of our morning–after 10 miles in 98 degree heat. He is limping some, and she is holding on so tightly to his arm.

And, here are some videos, which I took to capture the singing. They are from a bit later in the day–it doesn’t look like there are all that many of us, but the number waxed and waned; the bus in back was a place for respite, and people came and went. I think about 75 people were walking that day, with another 20 or so supporting.

The man up front is Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, President of the GA NAACP. On the bus to where we started he said, “…and this is not just about getting a room for us in the house. There are those who would call for racial justice but at the same time deny our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters their rights.” He decried racism, yes, and also sexism, and homophobia, by name, and included environmental justice in our songs, and that young man next to him is his son Thurgood.

Mostly, it was uncomplicatedly good to be there. We walked two by two, and sang, and chanted, and were quiet, and cheered for shade, and people along the way cheered for us and waved, including the many law enforcement officials who constantly (supportively) surrounded us. I got used to the front, back, and side escorts–I’ve never felt so actually protected and served. I got to talk with people and just walk beside them. As one marcher said at a particularly hot part of the day, “my body is tired, but my soul is rested.”

A part I am grappling with and that I don’t want to tell you about: I got interviewed by the La Grange Daily News. You can read articles here and here. You can tell I had just walked 10 miles in the sun–I’m not my clearest. The grappling is with the uncomfortable awareness of how afraid I am to misspeak on this matter, to mess it up, and how easy that makes it to not talk about it at all, or to talk in head-ways instead of heart-ways. Sharing these articles is an exercise in affirming that I am not going to do it perfectly and I still have to do it. And also: I said way more than is quoted about systemic racism, and about what gets in the way of white people acknowledging it (i.e., what’s gotten in my own way), and at the end, I said something that is hard to admit, but here goes: as I was taking off my little wireless mike, wrapping up the interview, I said with some jokey anxiety to the reporter who I assumed would be editing and posting the video, “Don’t get me killed.” They’d read me a bunch of pretty awful Facebook comments about the march that had shown up on their page in response to a video they’d posted, so I was feeling vulnerable to…what, exactly? That’s the part that’s shitty of me, and I have to name it. You know who doesn’t actually get killed due to systemic racism? White people. Me. The risks of physical brutalization experienced by people of color not just marching through Klan areas in Georgia, but just being, all over this country, are something I know only from the outside. I basically take zero substantive risks in my daily life, so saying a few things very publicly felt like I’d jumped off a building, and that makes me uncomfortable to realize, but also determined to do it way fucking more, to do it as poorly as I inevitably will and to do it in ways that aren’t safe and comfortable, because white people need to change–I am who needs to change.

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