Thoughts On Selma From A NAACP Freedom Fighter Re-Educated On the Movement

Time to say what I learned today about civil rights as I traveled to Dallas County, Ala where the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march began in 1965.

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Today's experience in Selma, Ala. will be remembered most because of the tens of thousands who came here to mark the 50th "Bloody Sunday" anniversary
Today’s experience in Selma, Ala. will be remembered most because of the tens of thousands who came here to mark the 50th “Bloody Sunday” anniversary

SELMA, Ala.–  I don’t believe it was a mere coincidence that my NAACP Youth Council Adviser called me on my mobile phone at the moment I was approaching the Edmund Pettus Bridge today.

Mrs. Ora Lomax is still the youth adviser for the NAACP Youth Council in Richmond, Va.  But, she didn’t know I was here in Selma.

My mother didn’t know I was in Selma as a faculty facilitator for more than 200 University of Alabama students traveling to the 50th Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

But, when I called her this evening, she said she saw the live coverage on the national news and asked my father “Where is George?”

Something told her that I probably was somewhere in the vicinity.

Only the good Lord could have orchestrated the chain of events that remind me of my upbringing as a NAACP freedom fighter, who learned about the hows and whys of civil rights marches and direct action as a high school student back in Richmond, Virginia 30 years ago.

The man who was once president of the Richmond NAACP Youth Council today is a life member of the NAACP and still actively seeking to change to world around me wherever it needs to be changed.

New Found Understanding and Context

As I approach my 45th birthday next week,  I am reflective on traveling here to the city that was both a flash point and turning point in Civil Rights Movement.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.36.18 AM Why me, why now? What does it all mean?

Last week, I tweeted that my voting in a Tuscaloosa, Ala.  tax referendum was one of the best ways to honor those who were hurt on “Bloody Sunday.”

Now that I know who Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young black man murdered not far from Selma in Marion, Ala. just before “Bloody Sunday,”  I can say my vote was for him.

If ONLY I had Known Then What I Know Now

Amelia Boynton Robinson in 1965 and recently on her 103rd birthday.  Photo Illustration Courtesy www.teabreakfast.com
Amelia Boynton Robinson in 1965 and recently on her 103rd birthday. Photo Illustration Courtesy http://www.teabreakfast.com

In my years as a working broadcast journalist,  I associated Amelia Boynton Robinson with Lyndon LaRouche and not with what happened here in Dallas County, Ala.

Seeing photos of Ms. Robinson this weekend at 103 as she was wheeled across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Saturday  gave me a whole new view of this significant freedom fighter.  I read recently about her experience and saw her depicted in the Eyes on the Prize “Bridge to Freedom” documentary.

I knew about Alabama State University because it was an historically black college in Montgomery.    Until today, I didn’t know that it was the place that birthed so many civil rights leaders and where Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King stayed after their Montgomery home was bombed.

Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, President of Alabama State University
Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, President of Alabama State University

Alabama State President Gwendolyn Boyd told the “ASU Story” in her remarks at Brown Chapel AME this morning.

Her speech set the tone for others who followed in a 3-hour service that was played on a jumbotron on Dallas Avenue as thousands gathered for the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

I knew the Rev. Jesse Jackson as the 1984 Presidential Candidate/Operation PUSH Leader who’s often over-covered in the media.  Today I saw him lift an offering and quipped about his own fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, Inc.

I knew the Rev. Al Sharpton as the very outspoken African American leader who has his own show, PoliticsNation, on MSNBC.    Today I saw him “preach” for the first time at the Brown Chapel AME Church.    He took a Biblical text and developed it well even as he made some strong points about the current state of voting rights in America.

Crowds gathered on Dallas Avenue and watched the Sunday service from Brown Chapel AME as it was shown on closed-circuit television.
Crowds gathered on Dallas Avenue and watched the Sunday service from Brown Chapel AME as it was shown on closed-circuit television.

My journey to learn more civil rights history isn’t over yet.    But, I promise you it will definitely inform my civil rights present.

As a diversity instructor, who also teaches media literacy, there is an inherent social justice component to what we do.  It’s not enough to sensitize students to poverty or injustice if you don’t advocate for them to use whatever tools they have to do something about it.

I believe that comes through in my work as a faculty member at the University of Alabama working to inspire students of from all racial backgrounds, regions of the country and world.    It’s one of the GREATEST privileges I have.

Journalist and Freedom Fighter

You can be a freedom fighter and be a journalist.    You can use the power of the pen to tell important stories.

You can use your skills as a scholar to create knowledge and provide context, sometimes context to spur a reader to take action.

That’s my story.

At 44 years, 11 months and 20+ days,  I have learned at least that much.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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