Today, persons will remember the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge that occurred fifty years ago on Sunday, March 7, 1965. Already a movie, Selma will be a buzzword and a hash tag. It will be a trending topic today and perhaps for a couple more after that.
We will wear t- shirts and other memorabilia to capitalize on the event, standing in materialistic support. We will impress ourselves with catch phrases and slogans that recapture the spirit of the movement. We will praise the work of history and curse the fate of the next generation’s future less we do something quickly. We must do it now while we have the momentum and the minds of the people.
Discussion panels will rehash the event and draw comparisons between Selma and Ferguson. They, along with the viewing audience, will resolve to fight social injustice, to change the laws that oppress us, to change the tenor of the conversation on race. We will remind ourselves of history’s threat of repetition and vow to do things differently.
Networks will replay the black and white footage in two- hour specials. Surviving participants will be interviewed. We will sponsor and attend dinners, give awards and medals and speeches. President Obama will visit the bridge and make a speech. Persons will listen and write about it, critique and quote him.
The day will be reenacted and the story redacted as persons put themselves in the shoes of those who were actually there, having still not taken “the inward journey,” to use the words of the mystical preacher Howard Thurman, needed to make the trek. Many people will be talking about that “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama state troopers attacked protesters as they marched peacefully for civil rights.
The bridge will attract a crowd and will receive the red carpet treatment as celebrities will flock to it, wanting to be a part of the celebratory memory, hoping to be upfront and arms locked with those who were there, singing the songs sung, remembering the iconic preacher who paved the way, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They will want to be apart of remembering a moment that has already passed.
Which makes me wonder about the present moments that we don’t show up for? What are the Edmund Pettus bridges of today for which leadership is marked absent? Where should we be marching and for what causes should our foot prayers be offered? Or, does time have to tell us that this was the bridge that we should have walked across?
And what of our lives? What ways are we making for others? How do our lives move people? What passage does our life provide to others? Are we bridges or are we standing in the way?