We made it to the Martin Luther King March on Monday. About 40 folks showed up at little Moore's Chapel AME Church and the strung out parade walked the broken sidewalks south to the Hickman County Courthouse.(hey, proportionate to our population, that would be 50K in NYC!).
We went down Washington Street singing, following the strong voices of women from Moore's Chapel choir. Young people carried signs they had made for the occasion reading "Hope" and "Obama".
Later, we were told that when asked by their Sunday school teacher if they would like to participate in a march, the children didn't know what a march is.
After a prayer and a short service on the courthouse lawn (did I mention it was REALLY cold?), we walked back to Moore's Chapel to hear children sing and explain the logos on their signs. Adults shared remembrances of the not so good old days.
It is a mixed blessing that so many that participated didn't remember separate bathrooms (blacks went to the basement of the courthouse), separate schools, separate water fountains and separate seating in the movie theater. Clinton City Councilman Howard Dillard recounted how his brother, suffering from appendicitis, was put in the basement of the local hospital - not to be on the same floor with white patients. Howard, a Vietnam vet, traveled through the South to get to his debarkation base and told the wide eyed young people how he wasn't allowed to get off the train. At the time, he thought nothing of it.
Howard told of being in the first class to desegregate Hickman County High, how he and his classmates from his old school walked several blocks up a street lined with parked cars and people who "weren't saying nice things." When he and a friend arrived at the school, they were met by four white high school boys.
His friend said, "I don't know about you, but I'm gonna hit one, then run!"
The boys came closer and closer and stopped in front of the new students. One of the young men, a basketball player on the Hickman County team, said, "We know you are new here and if we can show you around, we're here to help."
Howard never forgot those four young men who met him with hands outstretched in friendship. At least one, Kenny Davis, still lives here. Another visits Howard whenever he is in town.
Rev. Bolen says we'll do this again next year. I hope we do.