Wednesday, January 9, 2013

We All Need to Be Foot Soldiers

January 8, 2013

Today was a very moving day. Today we left Montgomery, AL, and drove the 54 miles to Selma, AL – the exact same route that the march followed from Selma to the Capitol building (except in reverse). There were several things on the slate for the day: Bus Tour with Mrs. Bland, Slavery Reenactment, Voting Rights Museum, and then a march across the bridge in the same manner the original march took place (the second of which was successful). Of course, not everything goes as planned every time.
Meeting Mrs. Joanne Bland was a wonderful experience! She was part of the original group of protesters to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in their march to the Capitol to hand a petition to Governor George Wallace to extend voting rights to African Americans. She is certainly an interesting person to talk with, and I very much enjoyed meeting someone who was actually present for this part of history.

We then went on a bus tour with Mrs. Bland. She gave us a thorough history as she recalls Selma from “back in the day.” Selma is very largely an African American community and always has been. It is very poverty stricken and it is heartbreaking to see a place with so much history be so run down.
The Slavery Reenactment was perhaps the most emotional part of the day. We were lined up like slaves. Treated like slaves. Talked to like slaves. At first I was appalled and wanted desperately to speak out against the “master’s” intolerance, but had to remind myself of what I was experiencing. This reenactment was definitely hitting a few nerves, but it was nowhere near the intensity or cruelty present back in the times of slaves.

We also went to the Voting Rights Museum, which was interesting to see all of the different faces and places involved in the push for voting rights. Towards the end of our walkthrough of the museum, there ended up being an incident on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, so we were unable to do the march across.

My professor for this class (and also the organizer of this trip), the Associate Dean of Students, Jodi Thesing-Ritter, has been and will forever continue to be a role model for me. She has done great things and I’d just like to acknowledge how much she is appreciated for the work she does. Jodi and I were discussing the march across the bridge, and how marching across the bridge could be a very moving experience for me because I support the fight for LGBTQ equality, and the movement really has to be about ordinary people making a difference, not just a couple people who speak on behalf of equality – the gay rights movement, too, needs their own “freedom’s foot soldiers,” as the Civil Rights Movement did. I plan on marching across that bridge in the morning before we leave town!

That’s all I’ve got today, folks. 

Greg Hofmann
Junior - UWEC
Political Science & Student Affairs

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