Can WRONG be made RIGHT?
In 1961 U.S. Representative John Lewis and a fellow civil rights worker were brutally beaten by a mob of angry whites at the Greyhound station in Montgomery, Alabama. Rep. Lewis was a part of a group of young activists called the Freedom Riders, whose primary role was to increase voter registration among the Black voters of the south. Fifty-two years later the current police chief of Montgomery, Kevin Murphy, has offered an apology to Rep Lewis for failing to protect the Freedom Riders in 1961—stating in his remarks, “When you got off the bus in 1961, you didn’t have a friend in the police department. I want you to know that you have friends in the Montgomery Police Department—that we’re for you, we’re with you, we want to respect the law and adhere to the law, which is what you were trying to do all along.” Then Chief Murphy removed his badge and offered it to Rep Lewis stating that, “This symbol of authority, which used to be a symbol of oppression, needs to be a symbol of reconciliation.”
Dick Gregory has finally gotten his star on Hollywood’s highly regarded Walk of Fame. The long overdue honor comes some 50 years after Gregory’s iconic brand of comedy and political satire broke down all kinds of barriers for other black comedians and entertainers. When asked why it took so long Gregory replied, “You know damn good and well why it took so long. I’ve been a bad boy.” The 82-year-old entertainer/activist has spent most of his long career on the frontlines fighting for equality and social justice.
In the height of the civil rights struggle in 1960, Ray Charles, who was born in Georgia, received a lifetime ban barring him from performing in the state as a consequence of his refusal to perform in segregated venues for whites only. On March 7, 1979, as a symbol of reconciliation after years of conflict, Ray Charles was invited to perform his iconic hit “Georgia On My Mind” before the Georgia General Assembly. After the performance, the Assembly adopted the song as the official song for the State of Georgia on April 24, 1979.
Marion Anderson was one of the best American contraltos of all time. She was the first African American singer to perform at the White House and the first African American to sing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She was a celebrated performer winning recognition worldwide. However, in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Anderson to hold a concert in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC because she was a black performer. The incident helped to focus public attention on racism and as a consequence, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt withdrew her membership from the organization and had the U.S. government offer the Lincoln Memorial as the alternative site for Anderson’s concert, held on Easter morning. The performance drew an audience of over 75,000 people and millions more heard the concert over the radio.
The aforementioned examples are evidence that it is possible to symbolically revisit past situations of horrendous injustice, omission, legalized discriminatory practices including stolen property, stolen dignity and even stolen lives, and recognize that you have participated either actively or passively as a member of society, you can acknowledge that wrongs have been done and then DO SOMETHING to make a CHANGE. Everyone can DO something one step at a time.
Up Next Week: Things done in GOD’s name…. POTUS is On POINT!