Saturday, February 28, 2015

Selma Is More Than A Place; Selma Is A People!

Selma is more than just a place; it is a PEOPLE. 

For the past few weeks, I have been working my tail off the last week for a project with my job to take a funder delegation down to Selma for the 50th Anniversary of Selma to Montgomery March. I have been so excited about the event but the closer that I get to March 6-8th the more my feelings are changing form joy to fear. Over the past few months, my feelings for my city have gone from being deeply disappointed by the countless stories of murders of people that I know, unexpected deaths, rising unemployment and a growing sense of hopelessness; however with the release of the film Selma I have experienced feelings of pride, love and   supreme elation over both the new beautiful film Selma and growing interest in this small rural community. 

As the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee gets closer I am filled with both EXCITEMENT and CONCERN. My excitement is rooted in the belief that people from all over the world will head to Selma next weekend to commemorate the amazing work of the civil rights movement. However, my CONCERN is that when everyone leaves and the celebrities are gone, the cameras are gone, and the President is gone...will America still care? Will we care enough for the people of Selma and the Blackbelt that we will be willing to work with them to create vehicles that bring in investment, attract jobs, strengthen local businesses and support leaders that are working to increase the quality of life for Selma's citizens? How many national organizers will plan "strategy meetings" in Selma without organizing and/or even including voices from the region? How many events will be so VIP focused and cost prohibited that many of the people of Selma will not be able to afford or attend? How many people will capitalize on the freedom movement of Selma but have worked against change at every turn? How many of us will come see the President, buy our t-shirts, eat our smoked turkey legs, and then head east of Highway 80 back to our homes...and think no more about the people of Selma. 

So much of my life has been spent in this little town. I can't tell you how many countless conversations I have had with my friends on "how can we help our community." Many of us really tried to keep the legacy alive and worked tirelessly for years on quality of life issues. I ran for public office, created businesses, organized election turnouts, protested injustice, built relationships, loved, danged, played, and worked with hundreds of youth because I so badly wanted to make a difference. In many ways I think we made a difference; however I struggle everyday feeling like I simply gave up. Did I move to Atlanta start a new lifeand career because I felt frustrated? Perhaps  I  left Selma because it was the site of me feeling like I failed at so many of my high hopes and dreams. But what I know for sure is that Selma taught me perseverance.  

Selma is the place where I learned about creating lasting friendships, hanging out a the Brown Y as a teen, eating barbecue sandwiches at Lannies, organizing for social justice, working with brilliant young minds, raising my children, and  opening my first businesses. Selma is the place that I felt the BIGGEST HOPE that change can actually happen but ironically its also the place that I felt the BIGGEST sense of HOPELESSNESS. Selma Lord Selma! Thinking about Selma sometimes gives me headaches BUT it is my LOVE for the PEOPLE of Selma of why I can't let it go. Selma is more than a place; Selma is a People. A people that I love. 

Not sure of why I am writing this other than I feel very FULL emotionally. I so want to see remarkable change in this community. I want to see bold and innovative leadership. I want to see happy people leading a purposeful life. I want to see investment that translates hope in
to economic opportunity. I want to see the children of Selma receive a quality education and feel safe. I want to see churches do more than talk about Jesus but do the work of the Messiah. I want to see beautiful black men feel proud and productive. I want seniors to have excellent care and experience true Golden years. The thought of this brings me to tears as I write this.

I am in my feelings today because I soooo want to stand in LOVE but fear is lurking behind. The FEAR that people will celebrate next weekend but the lives of Selma's citizens won't be changed. The fear that tons of resources will be placed in this community for "the commemoration moment" but not a dime will be left behind to support the long-term growth of the community. the fear that when the cameras leave Selma will go back to business as usual. The fear that the people of Selma will wait for someone to come save the city when we have the power to be self-determined. 

My current struggle of LOVE & FEAR are real for me today. Therefore, I will just PRAY for this moment. I will pray that God grants some of us an extra dose of courage to work for real social change in the blackbelt. I pray that God will touch every person that walks across that bridge to recommit themselves to help bring justice and equality to all of God's people. I pray that leaders in Selma will have the humility to know when to ask for help, the openness to receive the help and the integrity to get out the way and let others lead. I pray that those that TALK about change will turn their words into ACTION. I pray that God grants us all peace and understanding so as we go forward that TRUE social change really takes place in that community. I pray that God shows me and the many others like I can best be of service. Amen 
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