BY ERIC SMITH
There has been some trepidation and in some cases vocal reservations on the part of those who are opposed to the Republican Party & its racist reactionary agenda to take our struggle against the GOP (or as I prefer to call it the POG-Party of Genocide) to the next level by getting our message out to a much larger audience via Google Plus, Unite Blue, and OFA. These reservations are understandable to a point and on a personal level they remind me of that time in January of 1987 when in the second & final semester of my senior year at Morehouse College I was driving around with some friends through downtown Atlanta when we stopped to observe a parade in what was the second observance of the King Holiday.
Now I had been a youth leader as a teenager in New York and had never missed voting in a major election (I still haven't) and I thought I was politically engaged. However, as I leaned out the window and observed the passing parade one of my classmates saw me and rather than wave back at me as I waved at him, looked at the driver of the car in which I was a passenger and while pointing in my direction "He!" meaning me. "Should be out here marching with us!" Needless to say I jumped out of that car mighty quick and joined the procession. That evening on the news I saw horrifying images of the late Hosea Williams, a lieutenant of Dr. King being literally stoned by angry residents of Cummings GA as they attempted to march through a part of Georgia that had not had an African American resident since 1912 and who had driven out every person of color who had entered into that county since with the rope and the gun.
I immediately knew that it was time to leave my comfort zone and that I had to join the followup march that was sure to come. The night before my departure from Atlanta to partake in that demonstration I called my parents in New York to in effect to say goodbye because it was so volatile and so dangerous that I had serious doubts about leaving that county alive. Both of my parents were sad and distressed at what I was about to do but all my Mom said was "I know you have to go." and left it at that.
I remember that bus ride from Atlanta; the sharp shooters on every overpass on the 35 mile route, of being told not to rest my head against the window of the bus so as to lessen the chance of it being shot off en route, the rednecks in their pickup trucks with loaded rifles and Confederate flags, of a little boy being slapped silly by his parents for having dared to wave at me as we marched, his parents holding a sign which read "N*****s ain't got no God!", the flag of the Klu Klux Klan with the drop of blood in the center of a cross, a Klux Klansman in full white robes & pointed hood himself, and the screams of terror on the part of my fellow marchers after I left the ranks to go to the aid of a woman who'd fainted and unknown to me, nearly backed into that very Klansman who raised his hands as though he were about to strangle me. I remember kissing the ground in front of Ebeneezer Baptist Church (the embarkation & return point) after our safe return and glancing up at the floodlit tomb of Dr. King and thinking that a true angel had watched over me and others that day.
I say all of this to remind everyone in the words of Dr. King of "the fierce urgency of now." I say this to tell everyone that we all have a needed role to play in this struggle, and that we, all of us, can make a profound difference if even the only weapon we use is the sound of our voice & the expression of our thoughts. This is not the time for standing still. This is not the time for being complacent or playing it safe. I can tell you from experience that the dangers of social media are absolutely nothing compared to the dangers & the terror of literally putting your life on the line; of walking into a place in defense of your ideals knowing damn well that there's a good chance that only your physical body will leave.
This is not a game. It is not a moment to preach to the choir. It is a time that demands we preach the Gospel of Liberty & full Equality for All from the top of our lungs in every venue through which we can give voice. It is time for us to be counted, to be heard; to do our part to leave this nation & this world a better place because we lived, because we cared, and because we did our part to bend history towards justice. So do not run from but rather towards those who urge you to get out of your comfort zone, to redouble your efforts; to take the fight to the enemies of justice and bring closer that day when injustice dies and freedom is made eternal for human beings; not just in this nation, but all over the globe.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To learn more about the Forsyth County Civil Rights March of January 1987 click here.
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