"..He was a part of Selma and knows a piece of history that you can not find in textbooks. Yep, that's right..."
Sounds like the beginning of a great joke, right? I was on a business trip for Strategies for Justice to acquire a new perspective on lynching and slave narratives from Montgomery, Alabama, for a presentation I am doing in 2020. I just got done spending the day at the
EJI's Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial and an evening checking out Angie Thomas, author of The Hate You Give and On the Come Up. By the way, if you ever have the opportunity to hear her, she is very inspirational.
After a long day of reading, speaking to people, and acquiring new knowledge, I've decided to end my day by posting a reflection video on Facebook. See below!
As you can see from this video, I was still very emotional (even after spending the evening listening to Angie and having some southern BBQ). After this video, I walked back to my car and checked out my itinerary for the next day. It didn't start until 10 AM, so I figured that I can grab a couple of drinks at the bar since the bar was so conveniently outside my hotel room. But make no mistake, I wanted to be left alone. I didn't want to speak to anyone. I just wanted to have my fireball with sprite (favorite drink) and process all that I have experienced that day. Well, as you may have guessed by the title of this story, that didn't happen. As I sat down, at what I thought was a quiet bar, I heard a man say in a very thick southern accent, "I know the drinking buddy to my right, but who is my drinking buddy to my left."
Even though I was looking down at my drink, I knew he was speaking to me, as I was the only other person at this bar.
"Hi, my name is Terry," I said, not to be rude. "Nice to meet you."
The gentleman went on to introduce himself to me and to the other two men at the bar with him. As you may have guessed by the title. They were all lawyers.
They were in town for a case and were all staying at the hotel. The conversation quickly landed on sports, specifically college football. Now I can not remember who rooted for which team, but Alabama, LSU, and Auburn were all mentioned between the three men. Me being the only "Yankee" amongst them, I said, "We Are."
After the sports conversation, which I am used to and can contribute a fair bit of knowledge, the first gentleman asked me the question that I was dreading. "So, why are you in town?"
For those who do not know me, I am usually always up for engaging folks on things like racism, history, politics, you know, challenging topics that generally are taboo for discussion. But as I said, I was emotionally and mentally drained. And although race consciously does not have a factor in my decision to discuss these topics, I must be honest, it did cross my mind that I am a black man and I am talking to three old white men at a bar in freaking Alabama. I took a deep breath and said, "I am here on a business trip acquiring about slave narratives and the history of lynching in America from EJI and local Alabamians."
Now, this is where the story becomes worth writing about. The guy to my immediate right, who was doing all the talking and engaging, was totally vibing with me. The other two were having their drinks and paying no mind, until this moment. "Oh, how long are you out here for?" the guy at the end asked.
"I am here for four days. Tomorrow is my last day in Alabama, then I drive back to Atlanta to fly home."
"What places have you visited so far?" the guy immediately to my right asked.
I told them about the EJI spot. The MLK place in Atlanta (also worth the visit) and tomorrow, the Rosa Park's museum. I explained that I was hoping to visit Selma as well as the church of the four little girls, but I am not going to be able this trip."
The guy in the middle and the guy at the end started to chime in about places they have visited as well that, as I say in my book, holds America accountable for its treacherous history. They talk about visiting sights in the south in which the history of racial terror has been forgotten. I explain that this is one of the reasons why I take these trips. See my future book for details.
"So I am a collector of narratives and stories. Today alone, I spoke to about four individuals about being from Alabama and what it means to have a spot like the EJI." I told them.
"You know what, though, they [EJI] collected the soil from the places that those lynchings took place," the guy at the end said.
"I know, "I replied
"So you know about the history of the march on Selma?" they guy to my right asked.
"You know what," he interrupted. He turned to his buddy to his right. "You remember [name of a mutual friend]? He was a part of Selma and knows a piece of history that you can not find in textbooks. Yep, that's right. He won't tell anyone either. I tried to get him to tell this story or even write a book about it." He turns over and looks at me.
"Oh," I said. This piece of information would be worth starting this conversation.
"People don't know this, but on the second march that Dr. King held, there were two marches that took place on that day. The one that Dr. King led and the other leaving Tuskegee, which my friend was a part of. The plan was that these two marches were to happen simultaneously, and they were to meet at Montgomery."
"Wow!" I said. "I know that demonstrations were happening in the schools in the south, but I never knew that."
"No one does," he said. "My friend won't tell this story because he thinks it will take away from the historic march that Dr. King led. But according to my friend, all of the troopers and police were focus on Selma. No one paid attention to the folks marching from Tuskegee. My friend said that they got there and was like, 'where is everybody?' No one was there, so they just held up at a local church until they were kicked out."
Side note for those who don't know about this historic time. Dr. King, along with the other protesters, kneeled and prayed on the bridge and then turned around, due to a federal court order.
This was some new information to find out. I wish we could learn more about the group that marched from Tuskegee, Alabama.
We talked about what I do for a living and what I hope to accomplish. One of the men recommended that I visit Martha's Place (which I did) because of my role as a disability advocate. Then I moved to leave. Before I left, the same guy that opened the conversation said to me.
"Well, it looks like you are going to have to make another trip out here," he says. "The next time you come to Alabama, there are three other places you have to stop by. One, Tuskegee, two Selma, and three Mobile to have more drinks with me."
With that said, I shook their hands and headed back to my room