Black history left its mark on Alabama and its citizenry
Today is Jan. 31. tomorrow, 12:01a.m., Feb. 1, begins the month long celebration of African-American history. As I sit leafing through my journals, I realize I am old enough to have memories.
I remember the story, though beautifully silent, of how my parents conceived me. I remember how they patiently nurtured me, how they taught me to be gracious to strangers, to be fair , to be human. And too, I remember how in wisdom they taught me to cherish my history.
And so today as February approaches, I find myself in a glorious state of remembrance. I am remembering some of Alabama's jagged moments in history, moments that scroll the wall of the American historical narrative.
I remember the Scottsboro boys. Those boys were accused of raping two white girls in Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931. Those boys as history has recorded, didn't rape the girls. They were just riding a train; they were just having some fun, but they didn't know that black boys couldn't have fun down in Alabama in 1931.
I remember Johnnie Carr. She is a woman who lives in Montgomery. She is one of the icons o Alabama's civil rights history. She marched with Dr. martin Luther King Jr. For me, southern mothers like Johnnie Carr and Rosa Parks (the mother or the civil rights movement) and Virginia Durr (Caucasians, too, were part of the civil rights movement) ate portraitures of the black woman Taylor Branch describes in his book "Parting the Waters," They are symbols of the African- American women and men who said during the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 "I;m gonna keep on walking and if my feet get tired, I'm gonna crawl," And they did crawl, even in moments when they did not know if bus segregation in Montgomery would be abolished.
I remember the four little girls murdered(yes, they were murdered) at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on a Sunday morning in 1963. I think of them often- Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins, and Carole Robertson. How ironic! They were dressed in white "from head to toe" o the Sunday they were burned. Their innocence was demonized because they were born with the beautiful hue of my own skin: brown.
Hear me, I feel them burning, brown leaves dripping the agony racism causes as they scream - and hear their voices shouting to all of us:
Wear our memories on you lapels Alabamians. Do tell the children our namesl What hapend to us must never happen again. Dotell the children our names.
Today I remember an icon of Alabama's literary histoy, the late Margaret Walker Alexander. A Birmingham girl, I see her walking into the classroom of another literry icon, Sonia Sanchez. Iwathch her smile as she gracefully begins to read from her poem "For My People."
I am one of Margret Walker's people: so are you.
I remember how Alambama has played a critical part in framing the African-American historical narrative. It's a didactic narrative of sturdy struggle and ultimate victory. It is who we are as Alabamians. It hasn't been all good . But it is who we are. It has taught us lessons. It has given us the desired decency to live together, to dream the dreams Martin Luther King ariculated, to pray the prayers shirvering form my mother's lips.
Singing the songs
It is the thing that keeps us singing those freedom songs. It is the thing that keep us drinking lemon. It is the thing that keeps us walking barefoot in the red clay.
Today I am remembering. Today I am proud. I will wear Alabama's histoy-all of it -on my lapel for honor. I hope all do the same.