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Nashville and Selma

356. Nashville and Selma

In the turbulent, and early 1960’s I lived in Nashville, Tennessee and had two opportunities to join in the turbulence. At a Church Women United meeting there was an announcement that sit-ins were going to begin at the downtown Woolworth’s lunch counter and they were looking for white women and men to join them. Then a little later a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join a group from Nashville to go to the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights.

In both instances I said no. I believed in the causes but couldn’t put myself there in the middle of it. I had small children but if I mentioned them, I knew I was using them as an excuse. The reality was that I couldn’t do it at that time. I was frightened and I couldn’t do it. In 1963 John Kennedy was assassinated. In 1965 I moved to the state of New York. And in 1968 both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were killed. At that point, I turned the corner and made the decision to join the Poor People’s March on Washington that King had been planning. I was still frightened but went, taking my eight-year-old daughter with me, and joining a group of people I knew.

One of the things that has stayed with me in the years since then has been patience—patience with people who are not where I am. No one jumped all over me or judged me when I said I couldn’t go to the lunch counters or to Selma. I needed time to grow into the decision and to become more grounded myself.

Likewise I believe I need to do the same—invite, not judge, give time.

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