Gardenia’s Garden Podcast Episode #13
Bloody Sunday, as it was called, March 7, 1965, when the late John Lewis and other civil rights leaders led a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama to demonstrate for voting rights. They did NOT get there that day.
I remember that Sunday as a day of pain and agony. It was the one time that I did not mind washing the dinner dishes because my tears rolled down my cheeks, into the kitchen sink and merged with the soapy dish water – unnoticed. My parents were glued to our black and white TV in our living room, watching the news with close friends.
Their silence and looks of sadness were intolerable. There were no outbursts; no words spoken, deadly silence really, which made my tears flow even more.
… the most stubborn flower breaks through stone of challenges (obstacles) – Grandmother
TV coverage continued throughout – Walter Cronkite, news anchor, reporting. Was there a lesson that Selma wanted to teach us, as Blacks, as to what we could expect as Americans? Was there no empathy toward our fellow brothers and sisters; rather, what exists is how much cruelty and lawlessness that can be inflicted upon us? Do they not understand that our pain is also their pain – our fight. Do they not understand what my Grandmother taught us – the stubbornness of the sidewalk flower – the most stubborn flower breaks through stone of challenges (obstacles).
As a child, even then, I knew that this would not deter the movement for voting and human rights. We would gather our thoughts and come together even stronger. Like other Black communities, we had to hold on for better and what we believed was a right fight for human justice.
That night, my parents, called us together, before going to bed. They reminded my sister, brother, and me that we were loved. It was the first time that my father spoke as much on such matters. He usually allowed my Mom to talk the most. That night, I saw him in a different way. I knew he was the bread winner of the family, but it was the first time I saw all his pain as a Black man in America. I had seen him stand firm in personal moments; stand up for his beliefs, yet this was the first time I saw his inner pain come to the forefront.
I went to bed with that image. I am unsure when I fell asleep. I could hear the voices of my parents even though I was unable to understand what they were saying.
The next day was a school day and we were expected to be “about it.” The bus ride to school was solemn. There was not the usual chattering, but, that day was my day of reflection like no other.
When President John F. Kennedy was killed, the principal, Mr. James Bulluck, assembled the entire school into the auditorium and reminded us that we were as good as anyone else; therefore, I was expecting an assembly. There was none. Still, it was again, at G. W. Bulluck Elementary School, that pain and anger, was infused to spring forth my resolve. The words came from my 4 feet 9 inches fifth grade teacher. Miss Lucas, was her name – not Ms. Lucas. She made that clear day one in her class.
She was not a nurturing teacher; stern but fair. We called her “mean.” My sister had warned me, that she is shorter than Mrs. Tyson and meaner than any teacher she had known. So, my fear of her, had been certified and sanctioned by my Sis. I had been in her class since September and I had never seen Miss Lucas smile. She was not about to do so today after scenes from “Bloody Sunday.” This “mean teacher” sat from her desk and delivered words that have impacted my journey by simply saying, “Choices.” Miss Lucas loved Science. Science to her was balance in life – it was physical, chemical, biological, and reactionary. The choices we make in life brings reactions and changes. In essence, she said, “If one chooses to do homework, the reactions and changes affect your life. If one chooses NOT to do homework, those reactions affect your life. If one chooses to do good, reactions and changes affect your life. If one chooses to do bad, the reactions and changes affect your life. Chain reactions stimulate the world. Your choices are yours; but know that for every cause there is an effect; anticipate the chain reaction. Hatred can cause a chain reaction that fuels combustion. Therefore, consider and make choices, in life, that will lead you to changes for the good.”
I think about Miss Lucas – that “ole mean teacher” with eye-glasses hung around her neck, held by a chain. From then on, I saw her differently. She was not an old spinster to me anymore. She was smart; she made choices; she chose to teach; she chose to be a single woman; a surrogate Mom to us. Now, I see her with an attitude of gratefulness. That day, she gave this little girl, a deeper understanding about reactions and changes. I no longer despised those Science lessons. I had POWER to change the things around me. I had POWER to change things for the good. Yes, my parents, Sunday School teachers, and many strong figures, gave me great advice. What this 4’ 9” woman gave was a belief that I had unused POWER as a kinetic force which could draw reactions and make changes personally and globally. I have the POWER to change this world – take my anger and pain to do good (maybe I can remove the pain I saw in my father’s eyes).
Somewhere, in this world, some little child, feels the same as I did that day. Somewhere, that child will see pain, anger, and hatred of fellow citizens, and make a declaration, saying, “Just watch me make change!”
“I can do all things, through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me.”
Background – We do not own the music rights – Music performed by Mr. George Furlow