Pages

That bridge



Based on the words of John Lewis in an interview with RTÉ Washing Correspondent, Caitríona Perry, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma March.

Because of what happened, we made a decision to march.
And so, after kneeling and joining together in prayer,
We left the little church in an orderly line, to cross the River.

We thought we might be arrested and put in jail. But we knew nothing.
(I had two books. I wanted to have something to read.
I had one apple and one orange. I wanted to have something to eat.
I had a toothbrush and toothpaste. I wanted to be able to brush my teeth.)

From the highest point on the Bridge, we saw a sea of white ahead.
When we came within earshot, the captain declared:
“This is an unlawful march and will not be allowed to continue.”

A young man walking beside me, leading the march with me, asked,
“Captain, give us a moment to pray. Let us say a prayer together.”
But the captain didn't give us a moment, he did not want to pray.
He turned away from us, and gave his men the order to advance.

And we saw the men advance. And we saw them putting on their gas masks
And we saw them lifting weapons. We saw them beating us with bullwhips,
We saw them trampling us with horses, and saw the gas being released.

I was struck on the head with a nightstick. My legs went from under me.
I suffered a concussion at the Bridge. I thought I saw Death at the Bridge.
I spent three days in the Good Samaritan Hospital with a fractured skull.
I do not know how I made it back across the Bridge. But I heard my friend say

“We are going to walk non-violently and peacefully,
To let the nation and the world know we are tired now…
We have waited a long time for freedom.”

And we walked non-violently and peacefully.
And we let the nation and the world know.
And we are tired. And we have waited,
Waited a long time, and still wait, and still march.

I could not reconcile in my mind, I cannot reconcile in my mind,
How they could treat a group of fellow citizens that way. But
That march was a holy march. That march was righteous and pure.

And we crossed that River. We crossed that Bridge.

No comments: