Mama, Are We White?

This is the question my almost-10-year-old daughter asked on the last day of our bus trip through civil rights historical sites in the south.

It’s a more complicated question than it sounds.  The answers are yes, no and maybe.

Yes, we are white. Even though we are darker than most white people and often get “mistaken” for Latino or other ethnicities, most people in the world take one quick look and see white and therefore we are white. Yes, we are white. Even though we are Jewish and haven’t always been considered white by certain racists, and often haven’t seen ourselves as white. Yes, we are white.  Because we have white privilege whether we like it or not – no one will ever follow us around in a clothing store, expecting us to steal; it’s unlikely that anyone will ever assume we got our jobs because of affirmative action; we may never experience what it’s like to be treated as second class citizens or thought of us as inferior in any way based on the color of our skin.

There’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to be white. That feels tired of whiteness and it’s sense of smug superiority. When I recently participated in NPR’s Race Card Project where you write down six words about race, I wrote, “I am tired of white people.” I feel more at home in the company of people of color and identify so strongly with movements for racial equality, I am in some sense a race traitor. But I can’t just give up my white privilege. It’s not an old coat I can drop off at the thrift store or leave at the curb on trash day.  The only thing I can do is work to end all vestiges of slavery, all remnants of white privilege, all aspects of our society and our culture that continue to stratify people based on race (and other so-called differences, whiteness being the norm.)

After visiting the sites where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, preached, lived with his family, marched with his brothers and sisters, and ultimately was killed; after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Bloody Sunday and seeing Klan robes in several museums and hearing about fire hoses turned on children; after being in a Woolworth’s that didn’t serve blacks, and standing on the spot where a white racist bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, and seeing schools where black children had to fight to get a foot in the door; after driving down southern streets where buildings that were once slave holding pens still stand, after all this, I realize why my daughter has asked the question.

Given the history, who would really want to be white? Who would want to be identified with the group that colonized and captured, tortured and terrorized, demeaned and excluded African Americans? Not me.

That’s one takeaway from this trip.

But the other is equally powerful to me. Hundreds, if not thousands of whites – mostly northerners – travelled to the south to join the movement, put their bodies on the line because they knew America could be better (or at least as good as it was on paper). These young, idealist, justice-seekers and righteous clergy risked their lives registering African Americans to vote, integrating buses and terminals, marching for equality. Some sacrificed their lives for our nation’s security and our nation’s soul. For this, they deserve Purple Hearts, along with all of the other fallen activists who strived to make America be the land it says it is and is supposed to be.

The takeaway is that the civil rights movement was interracial. I’m not taking away the primacy and weight of African American leadership or sacrifice, but I’m saying that good whites joined, followed and sometimes led.

If a movement is to succeed in this country, it has to be diverse, it must attract allies who recognize that accepting a status quo of unfairness is precisely UnAmerican. This is a nation born of revolution. That’s the American spirit. It’s a revolution that didn’t end in the 18th, 19th or even 20th centuries. It’s alive still. We don’t have to look far to find it and join today’s movements for justice and equality.

Will you answer the call?

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phone from the museum of the Tuskegee Airmen

I hope you will consider taking this Civil Rights Educational Freedom Tour next year, especially if you have middle or high school children. There is no book or movie or video game or website that can replace the experience of being there, seeing with your own eyes, hearing with your own ears and meeting the people who lived through, fought and survived Jim Crow.

That Montgomery County Office of Human Rights sponsors this tour is nothing short of visionary. Sure, we can visit Glen Echo and U Street and stops on the Underground Railroad in Maryland. But a pilgrimage to the south has a more powerful impact. It will stir your soul and spark not only a renewed commitment to justice, but a renewed faith in the idea of America.

This trip plants a vibrant seed for all of us to continue the work closer to home, on the blocks where we live, in our own school districts and religious institutions, workplaces and public spaces. That’s the call.

Finally, I want to say what a privilege is was to take this trip with wonderful people from Montgomery County. We were a diverse group in every way. I am so grateful to have shared this experience with my mom, Barbara Drizin, who raised me to recognize that I am like no other person, like some other people, and like all other people.

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Mom outside of Dexter Avenue Parsonage, Montgomery, AL.

Julie Drizin, Silver Spring

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Wading in the Water

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cinncinnati sits near the banks of the Ohio River. Ohio was a free state, but the slave-holding state of Kentucky is just on the other side of the river. You can see it clear as day, like an evil twin.

“Whatever your station in life, if you helped slaves, you were committing a crime and you would be punished,” says Jim Berten, a retired GE worker who’s been a docent at the museum since it opened in 2004.

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Our tour guide from slavery to freedom

Slaveholders considered black folks property­, crucial, but not as important to them as their houses or their land or even their pets. Some took out loans to buy their slaves. Berten says the more highly skilled slaves could be worth upwards of $30,000. Helping slaves escape wasn’t just messing with the racial order, it was an intensely economic issue. Theft. These slaveholders had made an investment.

Berten says the Underground Railroad was no child’s game of hide and seek. It was serious and dangerous. And while some white religious leaders used their Bible to justify slavery, others saw aiding and abetting slaves as their spiritual duty. It wasn’t an act of evangelism. Whites were saving their own souls.

They set out by the dark of night. Running into the woods. Sometimes barefoot. Moving quickly, quietly, breathlessly. Escaping the brutal violence, the rape and beatings at the hands of slaveholders. Sometimes eloping in order to avoid be sold and separated from the people they loved most. Running in the dark in the direction of freedom, a foreign promised land. Trusting that a complete stranger would be there to find them in the darkness and lead them to a safe house. Who were these strangers who risked their lives to help a poor slave they didn’t know, a slave who had not a shred to give them in return? The menacing sounds of horses and dogs and angry white men closing in. Fear and hope propelling her forward, don’t trip on a tree root, don’t step on a thorn, don’t bang into a tree trunk. If only she could fly to freedom. She makes it to the water. She’s afraid, doesn’t know how to swim. But she has to go in so the dogs can’t track her. Her dress is heavy. The river bottom is squishy, slimy. A man in a rowboat emerges from the darkness, pulls her into the boat and begins to row in the darkness toward Ohio. Once on the other side, the chase continues, but a righteous white minister and his family leads her to a hidden cellar room under a trap door in their barn floor. She is safe for now, but she isn’t free. She is still hunted. Her owner will place an ad in the newspapers describing her and offering a reward for her return. The freelance slave catchers – the bail bondsmen of that time – will get busy trying to make a buck off of her. She will emerge from that underground cell only to put her life in the hands of more strangers who will shepherd her to freedom in Canada, what feels like a million miles away.

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 Julie Drizin, Silver Spring

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I AM A MAN

This was the infamous sign worn and carried by the sanitation workers of Memphis during the March, 1968 sanitation workers strike.

Garbage collector is easily near the top of the list of the worst jobs imaginable. How many kids say they want to be a trashman when they grow up? I often watch the men who pick up my trash at 7:30 am on Thursday mornings as their loud, massive truck carefully navigates my narrow car-lined street, sometimes speeding in reverse.

I wonder how these workers tolerate the nasty garbage fumes on a hot summer day. It’s a stench I know too well from working at swimming pools in high school and college, where the most unpleasant part of my job was to empty trash cans and heave the bags into a dumpster.  We even had a name for the foul marinade that spilled on us: “trash piss.”

In my Silver Spring, Maryland neighborhood, nearly all the sanitation workers are Latinos. Perhaps its the same story in your town. These men are on the move, picking up cans filled with food waste and dog waste and yard waste and recyclables, dumping it in the back of these insatiably hungry machines. These workers’ upper body strength is impressive; but so is their pace.  I wonder if they have to move so quickly in order to get the job done on time, or if they are moving so quickly in order to get it over with.

“Buenos dias,” I usually say. And, “gracias.” I want them to know that I see them and appreciate them. “Cuidado con esta bolsa, hay vidrio roto adentro,” I say to warn them when there’s broken glass in one of my bags.

Sure, I’m a taxpayer and they technically work for me, but I recognize that they are human beings, working harder than I do to support their families, doing the absolute sh*t-work necessary to keep our communities liveable. Face it: we need them as much as we need teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other agents of “big government.” They deserve respect. And­ –  as I tell my daughters all the time –do not judge people just because they are trashmen or may not speak English or aren’t educated; don’t jump to conclusions about them based on the work they do. Some of them are probably artists and musicians, ya nevah know.

In 1968, sanitation workers of Memphis went on strike after two were crushed to death in the back of their garbage truck. This was not only back-breaking labor, it was dangerous.

Organizers of the strike invited Martin Luther King to Memphis in hopes of focusing national media attention on the issue. But, by this time, King’s relevance had already begun to wane.

With the rise of the Black Power Movement, the armed Black Panthers and other radical, revolutionary groups, the non-violence he preached had lost its veneer. As our Birmingham tour guide Barry McNealy suggested, nonviolence as a practice went against human nature. It required super-human strength to suppress the evolutionary instincts for fight or flight.

Who among us would be truly capable of taking it over and over and over again and never dishing it out?

In 1968, King was steeped in organizing a Poor People’s Campaign and he was speaking out against the Vietnam War, which he saw as directly connected. “[How can this country spend $53 on a poor family and $500,000 for every Viet Cong soldier killed.]”

When he marched with sanitation workers in Memphis, all hell broke loose. This was not a crowd that had been trained in civil disobedience at the esteemed Highlander Center. King was criticized for losing control and for staying in a white-owned hotel.

On the morning of April 4, 1968, The Commercial Appeal, a daily newspaper, ran a front-page story mentioning that King was staying at the Lorraine Motel. What the hell were they thinking? This was a man whose life had been threatened probably more often than any individual in U.S. history. Was the press trying to get him killed or show that he was not a hypocrite after all, now staying in a black owned business? They didn’t mention that he was staying in Room 306, but still, according to my sense of journalistic ethics, there’s blood on the hands of the media.

Commercial Appeal mentions where MLK is staying in Memphis

Commercial Appeal mentions where MLK is staying in Memphis

Still, James Earl Ray already knew exactly where to find King. He’d been tracking him like a hunting hound. He rented a room in a boarding house directly across from the Lorraine Motel. Ray fired his single fateful shot from the filthy bathroom down the hall where he had a clear line of site to the balcony of the hotel.

James Earl Ray fired his shot from this bathroom window.

James Earl Ray fired his shot from this bathroom window.

The balcony of the Lorraine Motel

The balcony of the Lorraine Mote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The National Civil Rights Museum documents the parallel movements of Dr. King and his assassin and includes many original artifacts used to piece together the case against Ray, including his boxer shorts.

Tour guide Ziara Smith says the museum asks visitors to make their own decisions about who killed King and why. Did James Earl Ray act alone, did he have co-conspirators and financial backers. Was J. Edgar Hoover involved? Will we ever know? Does it even matter anymore?

Ziara Smith, Memphis Native, tour guide at National Civil Rights Museum

Ziara Smith, Memphis Native, tour guide at National Civil Rights Museum

It’s an intense feeling to be standing on the balcony where a bullet pierced MLK’s neck, where he lay bleeding buckets less than 24 hours after he prophesied his own death in a dark and exhausting speech to sanitation workers and others. I am here on the very spot where a great man was gunned down.

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The Lorraine Motel room where MLK spent his final hours.

The Lorraine Motel room where MLK spent his final hour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am walking by the room he stayed in, as if it were an open casket. The sound of Mahalia Jackson singing King’s favorite hymn “Precious Lord” emanates from speakers overhead. I close my eyes.

My kids want to know what I am doing.

Breathing it all in and releasing it.

What comes to mind: “Free at last, Free at last, thank God Almighty, Free at last.”

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Bombingham, U.S.A, Part Two

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The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) – across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church – wouldn’t have come in to being if a white Mayor named David Vann hadn’t visited Europe. There, he learned that Adolf Hitler modeled the Nuremberg Laws after Jim Crow. Vann visited memorials that told the truth about Nazi atrocities and commemorated the victims of the Holocaust. If Germany could face up to its past, he figured, so could Birmingham. But he got no support for a bond to raise the money. As BCRI’s Barry McNealy tells it, “Dogs and water hoses are not chamber of commerce material.”

Vann began selling off city properties. Eventually individual and corporate donations started to come in, and they still do. BCRI is one of the best museums I’ve been in: engaging, experiential, with an emphasis on installations that help you feel the sting of the city’s segregated past.

Before taking us on a bus tour of his hometown, McNealy gives us a spin around Institute where he works. Part of his job is to select and train young people to be docents, keepers and storytellers of Birmingham history. With him as their mentor, I have no doubt that he is reaching and changing many lives.

In one exhibit, McNealy explains that Jim Crow segregation wasn’t just a genteel Southern tradition in which people knew their place. It was a carefully crafted world order that made race mixing a punishable crime. “The Alabama State Constitution is the longest constitution on the face the earth,” says McNealy. “The U.S. Consitution has 27 amendments; Alabama’s has 840 amendments, many of which write second class citizenship for blacks into law.”

McNealy asks me to read one of those amendments aloud. It’s a law that forbids blacks and whites from playing together. Playing. No cards. No dice.

Birmingham had a winning Negro League baseball team with stars like Willie Mays and Satchel Paige. White fans wanted to watch the Black Barons play, so Alabama had to amend its constitution. And, of course, the separate section in the stands built to accommodate whites was more comfortable and covered to block sun and rain.

Factoids, observations and cool stuff from the BCRI:

The actual bars from the cell where MLK wrote his famous Letter from Birmingham jail. I touched them.

Bull Connor’s tank (yes he had a tank) the ultimate symbol of state-sponsored oppression (think Tiananmen Square). I asked Barry McNealy if anyone ever bombed Bull Connor’s house. McNealy said no.

After Brown versus Board of Education, white supremacists bombed many businesses that supported integration. There are still over 50 unsolved bombings that took place in Birmingham.

A article in The New York Times quoted Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth calling Birmingham a “racist city.” The City then sued him – for libel or defamation– and won a two million dollar judgment. CBS News followed up with a famous investigation called,“Who speaks for Birmingham?” McNealy says the documentary is required viewing.

In an exhibit abot racial history, Barry McNealy explained there was once a medical diagnosis called drapetomania. Invented by physicial Samuel Cartwright, who died in 1863, drapetomania was a mental illness that caused black slaves to flee captivity. What might you call a mental/medical diagnosis for slave holders? Please offer up your ideas in the comments section below.

Driving around Birmingham, McNealy pointed out the large white house with a wraparound porch house where black power activist Angela Davis grew up. The home is at the top of “dynamite hill” – so named because of all the bombings of African American properties there. Civil rights attorney Arthur Shores lived around the corner. Davis’ parents sent her north to finish high school because they wanted to make sure she’d live to see her graduation. The neighborhood was once a Jewish community; two Jewish cemeteries are still there.

After the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Ebony magazine profiled Birmingham’s A.H. Parker High School and called it the largest black high school in the world. It was the only high school in the county for black students and 5000 attended there, on different shifts. Alma Powell (co-founder with her husband Colin Powell of America’s Promise Alliance) graduated from there.

Birmingham is a city that takes pride in many of its traditions. It’s a very patriotic town that has sent many soldiers off to war. Veteran’s Day was started in Birmingham. Football teams from Birmingham are famous for kicking butt. And the tradition of black bands dancing during halftime started at A.H. Parker High School.

But these feelings of pride are marred by shame. This is allegedly the “New South.” African American mayors and police chiefs and successful businesspeople abound. And other more subtle changes demand mention: Nearly every African American tour guide I’ve met here has made the connections between the civil rights movement all the struggles for human equality and dignity that have followed. Even the name of Harvey Milk is on the wall of one museum. That was refreshing and, frankly, impressive.

But, the New South itself is a myth. Sure, the “whites-only” signs are only in museums (or private collections of racists). I’ll believe there’s a New South when I see white youth giving these tours and white adults talking about what it was like growing up with white privilege in a racist town and white elders telling the truth about what it took for them to wake up and see the world as it really was.

Julie Drizin, Silver Spring

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“No one ever as…

“No one ever asks what is a man’s role in the revolution.”
Black Panther Party and SNCC activist Kathleen Cleaver

From Freedom’s Sisters, an interactive exhibit celebrating 20 women who fought for racial justice.

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Dear Director Jim Stowe

ImageMarch 30, 2013

Dear Director Jim Stowe,

Thank you so much for the tremendous gift you have given me, my mother and my daughters by making this trip possible and powerful.

You warned us from the beginning that we weren’t going to be able to see and do everything. You said that the choices you had made for our itinerary would be unforgettable, mostly because of the special people we’d be meeting along the way.

You did not disappoint. You not only took care of so many details, you made sure that our time on the bus was filled with snacks and nourishment for the mind. At each step of the way, you shared documentaries and Hollywood films about the places were going and the people who made history. It made for a completely immersive experience.

  • This trip was amazing even though it was bitter cold for the first few days and I wanted to see the Southland in the springtime.
  • This trip was amazing even though the wifi on the bus was intermittent.
  • This trip was amazing even though I ate more fast food this week than I do in a year.
  • This trip was amazing even though soul food buffets overdo the salt, sugar and fat.
  • This trip was amazing even though I sat in the back of the bus – near the bathroom.
  • This trip was amazing even though I shared a room with a snoring senior citizen.
  • This trip was amazing even though I had to take my mom to the hospital for vertigo and one daughter complained of nausea for a solid day.

This trip was amazing because that same daughter – who practically committed civil disobedience to avoid sacrificing her spring break on an educational trip –  finally said, “I am actually surprised at how un-boring this trip has been. We’ve gone to some very cool places.”

 Indeed.

This trip was amazing because you made it so. You brought a diverse group of Montgomery County residents together and took us on a voyage of discovery about our nation and ourselves.

For this I am forever grateful and I promise now to carry the legacy forward.

I have no gifts of similar size or depth to present to you. But I offer you my time, energy and creativity because you have given so much of your time, energy and creativity to us. Please feel free to use, edit, share, excerpt this blog site in any way you wish. I pledge to make a presentation about this Civil Rights Bus Tour to an intergenerational group in my own faith community, The Washington Ethical Society. I will spread word about it to the principals at my daughter’s middle school and high school and other educators I know in the DC area. And I will be in touch with you at the end of 2013 to discuss ways I may be able to help you promote this unique opportunity so that others may consider joining the journey and the cause. Consider me a footsoldier in your efforts to help shape our shared future by getting in touch with our collective past.

Thanks for all you do to make my county, Montgomery County, a place where human rights matter most.

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At the Tuskee Airmen’s museum, trying on uniforms and a special salute.

Julie Drizin, Silver Spring

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Why is This Year Different From All Other Years?

If you are Jewish, you get the title of this post. It’s a take-off on the Four Questions that get read by the youngest family member at the annual seder (SAY-der), the ritual meal that marks the beginning of Passover.

I couldn’t hold or attend a family seder this year because I was on this Civil Rights Educational Freedom Tour with my closest family members.

I don’t miss the matzoh, but I do miss the music and the message.

Passover has always been my favorite Jewish holiday. Actually, it’s my only Jewish holiday; the last one left that still speaks to me. Pesach (PAY-sock) is the annual time to remember the Jewish experience and freedom from slavery in Egypt.

The story is easily adaptable to many other struggles for justice. I’ve attended feminist seders, LGBT equality seders, Black-Jewish seders, even a seder related to the sanctuary movement on behalf of Central American refugees. It’s a flexible tradition and any oppressed group fighting for liberation can find rich metaphor in the story.

At the seder table – whether I’ve written the Haggadah (the service) or not – I’ve always made it a point to make connections to the issues of exploitation and oppression of today: global sweatshops, deportation of immigrants; environmental racism. And when we list the plagues of biblical times (frogs, locusts, hail, lice, etc.) we always add: racism, violence, hatred, homophobia, pollution, and the list goes on and on. Although, as a mom who’s had to battle the invisible enemy, I usually feel compelled to keep lice on the list.

One part of the story that I love in particular is the telling of the parting of the Red Sea, an image that has stuck with me vividly from too many viewing of Charlton Heston playing Moses in that kitchy, campy Hollywood movie “The Ten Commandments.”

As the story goes, the Red Sea didn’t part until some took the first step into the water. Somebody must take the risk and lead the way. 

Our journey through the South reliving the civil rights movement has been like a week-long seder – a pilgrimage in which we are re-telling and embracing our own country’s liberation stories. But unlike some seders, we’re not anxiously waiting for the prayers and songs to end so that we can eat. We are already full.

 

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Julie Drizin, Silver Spring 

 

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Bombingham, U.S.A., Part One

Our tour of Birmingham, Alabama begins in Kelly Ingram Park, which sits across the street from the famous 16th Street Baptist Church, where the four little girls were killed in a bombing. Birmingham native Barry McNealy, who directs the Legacy Youth Leadership Program at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, is our guide. He says 100,000 people visit this park every year. And he calls it a sacred site because it’s where young people gathered to do spiritual warfare against the embodiment of evil: Police Chief Bull Connor.

The first thing McNealy points out is the sign that greets all who enter here:

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At the entrance of Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham

He tells us to look down at our feet and take notice of the unique multicolored brick pattern that can be found throughout the park.

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Unity bricks

He sings, “Yellow, black, brown and white; all are same in God’s sight.” That’s not something the majority of “good white Christians” of Birmingham believed during the days of Jim Crow. And even though some of the better-educated types found Police Chief Bull Connor to be an utter embarrassment to the city, he still reigned supreme.

When Connor looked at African Americans of any age, he clearly didn’t see human beings. He saw an enemy whittling away at his white power. And as abolitionist journalist Frederick Douglass wrote, “Power concedes nothing without a fight.”

And the kind of fight Bull Connor put up, in my opinion, should be widely known as a crime against humanity. How else to describe a man so seething with the poison of racial animus that he could order his Fire Department to turn its hoses on a children’s march and blast peaceful demonstrators with a tsunami of hatred and pain.

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These are your children and my children.

The source of Connor’s rage was that he was losing control. Global and national sympathy was building for young demonstrators who considered time in his jail as badge of honor. With 800 protesters crammed in the facility, the city was running out of space. Connor needed to up the ante to prevent the arrests in the first place.

“The minimum pressure of water flowing from a fire hose is 70 pounds per square inch (psi). When that didn’t do the trick, Bull Connor ordered the firemen the to turn pressure up to over 110 psi,” explained McNealy. “I’m a big guy. That would be enough to knock the air out of me and put me flat on my butt. But the women and girls had a special problem. The force of those hoses was so strong that it could grab your hair and snatch it out of your head. Some of the children said the hoses felt like a million needles.”

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Barry McNealy, native son of Birmingham, Alabama. Born 1970. Our fabulous tour guide.

I asked McNealy if any of the firefighters ever resisted orders. (As a journalist and somewhat of a rebel, I am always on the lookout for the up-stander, the one who questions authority. I desperately want to believe that someone – particularly someone whose job it is to protect and save lives – would have a spark of conscience in the moment and not just in retrospect.) McNealy told me to hold that thought.

Preaching against segregation in Alabama was cause for arrest.  Still, religious folks held Freedom Sundays, when blacks and white would challenge Jim Crow by worshipping together.  Folk singer Joan Baez was invited to sing at one of these Freedom Sunday churches in order to raise money for the movement. When she arrived at the church, Bull Connor wouldn’t let her in because she’s “white.” (She’s actually Latina, but in Birmingham, she was white). Baez pulled out her guitar and just started singing.

On the subsequent march to Birmingham city jail, Connor again ordered the fire department to turn on their hoses. But the firemen did nothing and the marchers walked right on by. At this point Connor was fuming. He probably needed a hose-down himself. The firefighters told Connor they didn’t have any pressure in their hoses. And that was the truth, but the reason was that they never turned the pressure on in the first place. After that first violent water attack on demonstrators, the fire chief told his men they that were never again to use hoses against people, unless the order came directly from him. Finally: an act of defiance that can renew your faith in the human spirit.

The Foot Soldier Memorial in the park is a sculpture modeled after an Associated Press photo. Designed by Ronald McDowell, the official artist of the SCLC, it depicts a police officer and his German shepherd attacking a black boy. It’s enough to make any dog lover repudiate the breed.

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Is this an SS soldier or a member of the Birmingham police?

Like the Nazis, Bull Connor loved to use dogs to terrorize people. Among his K-9 patrol was a favored black shepherd that Connor simply called “nigger.” Clever. On the day of the children’s march, this dog’s tail accidentally got caught in the door of a police car. If you really want to understand how Birmingham feels about its African American citizens read on. Barry McNealy tells us that the next day, the Birmingham newspaper had a front-page story all about that brave dog and his poor tail. Shame on the press.

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I don’t have much to say about the infamous bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, except to say it was a moving experience to be in this hallowed space. The building-was designed by the only black architect in Birmingham at the time and he made sure to build a church with exterior walls two feet thick so it would withstand whatever harm might come. It was actually the second church raised on that property. The first one was reportedly so beautiful that city authorities insisted it be torn down because blacks didn’t deserve such an awe-inspiring structure. The 16th Street Baptist is not a museum, but a real, functioning church. None of the familes of the four girls are still members.

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Part Two: Visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and a tour of Dynamite Hill.

Julie Drizin, Silver Spring

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Your Federal Stimulus at Work

Your Federal Stimulus at Work

Sign posted near the home where MLK was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round

Birmingham’s first woman Police Chief Annetta Nunn (tall woman wearing shades), joined by members of the choir from the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, a coalition of 60 churches organized by the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. They sang on the steps of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

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