After much thought, I decided not to write a blog this year for Black History month. However, I happened to come across some digital photographs that I took on a road trip from Albany, Georgia to Dallas, Texas in 2007. These photos sparked a remembrance so important, I was inspired to share. As my wife and I were leaving Montgomery, we talked about traveling the same route (in the opposite direction) that the Voter Rights Marchers traveled in 1965. As we approached Selma, we wondered aloud if we would cross the Edmond Pettis Bridge. We did. Crossing the bridge was a life changing experience. After we crossed, we parked the car in downtown Selma and walked back to the base of the bridge facing the direction of Montgomery. I snapped the picture. The scene was breathtaking.
I thought about what a 23-year young John Lewis had done for all of America. More than a decade before attempting to cross the Edmond Pettis Bridge on Bloody Sunday, a very young John Lewis was inspired by the radio sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Before Bloody Sunday, he served as a Freedom Rider and was attacked in Rock Hill, South Carolina as well as Aniston, Alabama. Before Bloody Sunday, he participated in sit-ins as a college student in Nashville, Tennessee. Before Bloody Sunday, he was elected president of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Before Bloody Sunday, he had the experience of being the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.
On Bloody Sunday, John Lewis didn’t know if he would survive. Others had already lost their lives, and Dr. King was not in Selma on that day. John Lewis marched to the apex of the Edmond Pettis Bridge leading a group of nonviolent protestors. He calmly faced individuals with guns, clubs, pipes, and baseball bats wrapped with barbed wire. The only protection he had was a trench coat and a backpack. He believed that if he didn’t die, he would certainly go to jail that day. Evidence of that thought was in the fact he brought three books to read and an apple to eat with him. I saw the events of Bloody Sunday live on TV. I remember his bravery first hand. I assumed that he wore a suit and tie so that he could make the best impression for the media. Most importantly, at age 13, I remember that he did not flinch.
I stood in the spot on that bridge as a 54 year old, where John Lewis stood at 23. Now as a 68 year old American of African descent, I’m stating clearly that much of what I’ve become is because of John Lewis’s actions on March 7, 1965. I’m positive that much of our progress as a nation is because of John Lewis’s bravery on that Sunday in March of 1965. His life is and always should be remembered as, Well Lived.