I’ll never forget the day I was in Selma, Alabama on the 39th remembrance of “Bloody Sunday.” It was March 2005. It was a sobering time for me. I was the lightest-skinned person in a crowd that mingled at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where state and local lawmen drove back civil rights marchers with billy clubs and tear gas when they attempted to march to the capitol in Montgomery to seek voting rights for African Americans.

 Edmond Pettus Bridge

Alabama 040I had just spent four days in nearby Montgomery attending a conference. On the plane ride to Alabama, I read my friend Arnold Gibbs‘ gripping fiction, The Ties That Blind, of his own near-to-real-life journey through bigotry and racism. During open times in the conference schedule, I drove to the significant sites of the Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr.  I was poingnantly moved by the epic bygone happenings at each location. History reveals, those risk-taking demonstrations eventually shook the conscience of our nation and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Alabama 095I grew up in rural Oregon
, attending a 3-room K-8 grade school. Our family didn’t have a television. I was surrounded entirely by white people except for a few seasonal farm-laborers from Mexico. I didn’t know any African Americans until after I graduated high school. From the northwest area of the United States, I knew very little about what was going on in the opposite corner.

I met my wife during our first year in college and learned her experience was the reverse of mine. She grew up as the minority white girl in inner-city Youngstown, Ohio. Most of her classmates and friends were African-American. She remembers the schools shutting down due to racial tension. In our early years of dating, I was on the fast-track of learning our nation’s embarrassing history as I visited her community and met her friends. For the first time, I realized just how sheltered I had been from the nauseating evils that had occurred in our nation’s journey to freedom for all people.

MLKJrSo on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the day of the second inauguration of our African-American President, I’m grateful for leaders who paid a huge price to pave the way for the generations behind them. While the journey has been long and grueling and we still have a distance to travel, we have made progress. And, this is a memorable day.

QUESTION: Any reflections you care to share? Use the comment section below.

4 responses to A Memorable Day

  1. R od Partington on January 23, 2013 at 11:39 AM Reply

    I couldn’t agree more! Like you,I grew up in an enviornment (Vancouver B.C Canada) that was overwhelmingly white. I was raised by deaf parents who taught us to never ever judge people,especially by something so ignorant and arrogant as skin color.I have seen some ridiculous prejudices towards them while growing up.My parents,especially my Dad,were very intelligent,hard working,respectable people,the only difference is they couldn’t hear! My parents would comunicate to hearing people by simply carrying a note pad and writing back and forth to each other. I will never forget one day My Dad wrote somethig to this guy and he in reply wrote on the pad in huge letters that resembled a “For Sale” sign. My Dad calmly wrote back on the next page in normal writing and said ” I’m deaf,not blind” It used to irritate me so bad that people associated deafness with being retarted or something like that.
    I have great friends of all different races and backgrounds. And I sincerely love them all. God loves variety,He made every single one of us.Whether or not you believe it,the fact of the matter is we are ALL equal. Deal with it!

  2. Paul Vernon on January 21, 2013 at 7:13 PM Reply

    When I first read the comment on the rememberance of “Bloody Sunday” I thought “what does Dennis know about the terrorist troubles in Northern Ireland and why would people in Alabama be remembering it”, however on reading further I realised that we were thinking of different events. How easy it is to get the wrong impression and judge something wrongly when we just look at part without looking at the whole.

  3. Arnie Gibbs on January 21, 2013 at 7:08 PM Reply

    Thanks for sharing your most moving blog entry with us. Retrospection often forces toward introspection, awakening in us a sense of shame and regret for the harm we might have done or a sense of pride for the good we might have done for to others. In either case, I believe that Christ is the only hope of civility among and toward all people in a world where the evil of racial discrimination once abounded. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jorge Acevedo on January 21, 2013 at 4:12 PM Reply

    Dennis: Thanks for this touching part of your history and its significance for all did and is happening today. I am honored to call you friend and colleague. Jorge

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