More Voices of Selma

March 8, 2015

Next on my journey, I met Mrs. Rachel Jones who will be turning 83 this Tuesday.  She made the trip all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio, with her family of Eight.

Mrs. Jones traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio on a bus with 38 other people- eight of whom were her family members.  I saw her smiling from the other end of the street.  I was immediately drawn to her. Mrs. Jones was born in Selma, but raised in Ohio.  

"I haven't been here in close to 30 years.  I wanted to see how different Alabama looks now."

Her daughter, Marsha Prophett, lovingly held her mother's hand.  You could just feel the love in the air as Mrs. Jones was surrounded by her family.  Her son, Gary Mapp,  was joking around with his mom and Mrs. Jones' grandchildren Jordan Prophett and Deja Mapp, teenagers full of enthusiasm, were excited to be on this pilgrimage with their grandmother.

I asked Marsha what the experience meant to her, coming to Selma with her mother and family on this fiftieth celebration 

"This is family history coming full circle."

Gary wanted to be part of 50 years of history.  He was just a kid up North when Bloody Sunday happened in Selma, Alabama, and said

"When Dr. King was murdered, I was about 10 years old.  I came home from school and my parents were crying.  Everyone was crying and I was old enough to understand what had happened.  I will never forget that day as long as I live."

I asked if Mrs Jones, at age 83, was going to be able to make the trek across the bridge. Before she could speak up, her son Gary answered for her quickly

"We will carry our Mama across the bridge if we have to."

Mrs. Jones' hope for the next 50 years:

"I hope as Dr. King said, that blacks and whites will march together and that there will be more love among each race, every race.  I want my grandchildren to know that people are free now, more together. And just love,  I want them to love."


Tom Joyner was excited to get his ticket in hand and head through security and get to the bridge.  I'm not usually star struck, but I love his morning show.

Tom Joyner with his ticket to see the President.

My final visit of the day was with Ms. Dorothy Coleman of Birmingham.  She was a fountain of love and information.

Dorothy Coleman, was born at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma in 1945 and lived in Selma until she was 15 years old.  

When she was a child, she remembers heading into town on Saturdays to shop and go to the bank. When I asked her if the environment was hostile she said

"Oh yeah! Your parents told you when to talk and what to say and what not to say.  We could only go to the movie theater on Saturdays and then we had to sit in the balcony. 

There was a park on this side of 22 that was integrated.  Sometimes they would bring in a fair or a circus, but only on certain Saturdays could the black kids go.  And mostly we didn't go into restaurants or cafes unless they were black owned. 

Back then we had Trailways and Greyhound buses in Selma. When we would ride the bus, blacks sat on one side and whites on the other.  I remember having to drink out of black only water fountains."

Ms. Coleman's mother migrated to Birmingham when the schools had to be integrated.  There were only 6 white children who came across the Cahaba River to Orville High School where Dorothy was enrolled. The powers that be closed Orville High School, forcing Dorothy and the other black students to go to a school back in the woods. 

To get to this new school in the woods, Dorothy would have to get up at 4 a.m. to catch the school bus.  Her strong willed mother had the strength and vision to move her family to Birmingham and Dorothy Coleman ended up graduating from Wenonah High School in 1963.  

"We used to come back and visit my Aunt who lived here.  Her son, my first cousin, he's deceased now, but he was a Freedom Worker.  He was supposed to ride with Viola Liuzzo the day she was killed.  By the time he got back to Selma, she was dead.  

In Birmingham, we lived around the corner from Chris McNair.  My daughter, Susan Payton, played with his daughter, Denise, when the girls were little.  Our whole community was devastated when the church was bombed and Denise McNair was killed. 

Listen, during that time, my first cousin, who was really light skinned and could pass for white (because my Aunt was half Dutch), was traveling with her boyfriend on a bus and they were arrested in Kentucky.  Can you believe that they had to stay in the jail in Kentucky until her birth certificate was certified from Montgomery that she was indeed black?  They had to go to jail because they appeared to be an interracial couple.

What do I want my Granddaughter  to learn here today?  EVERYTHING.  I want her to learn everything and remember how far we have come.  In the next 50 years, I think there is so much intermarriage, that there ain't gone be no color.  Just like people who live in Britain- they don't say they are black or white- they just say they are British.  We need to all say that we are Americans. 

I don't know why anyone teaches their children to hate?  God made us all and I don't think that he sees any of us differently; we are all His children."

More to come about my Selma journey.
Love y'all,

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