Saturday, October 15, 2016

Visit to Selma

Two weekends ago Michael and I had the opportunity to travel down to Selma, Alabama! In preparation for the trip we watched the movie Selma and I read this book so we would better understand the significance Selma has played in both the civil rights and voting rights movements.

The movie, Selma, tells quite accurately the story of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery in hopes of getting the government to remove restrictions keeping African Americans from being able to easily register to vote. Some of the scenes in Selma are hard to watch -- the police beatings, the deaths that were perpetrated, the frustrating injustice and government indifference. But this is real history, that really happened not that long ago and bears a direct relationship to what is really happening on our streets and in our cities today.

Here is the famous bridge in Selma that features so prominently in the voting rights movement.

Michael and I loved all the historic buildings that were everywhere in Selma. This hotel that we stayed in first opened in 1837!

The rooms were tastefully furnished:

And we had a view of the bridge from our window:

I loved the tile floors throughout the hotel:

History was everywhere in Selma: from Water Avenue with its historic buildings like the St. James Hotel, to all the sites relevant to the Civil War, to the buildings prominent in the voting rights movement of the 1960's.

Another view on Water Street.

For many Americans it is easy to live life in a bubble of sorts and ignore the social issues that plague others, perhaps even others that live on one's street or across town. Becoming aware of others' stories and what their life is truly like and through that knowledge developing empathy seems to be one of the first steps that needs to take place in this whole conversation about racism.

I had a few hours on my own to wander the town and take pictures.

 I even had a few minutes to attempt a watercolor of the bridge!

I visited the historical center that has on display all kind of information regarding the voting rights movement. It seemed so pertinent to history at this very moment with the elections taking place in a few weeks that we should be here in this place where voting rights for ALL became so important.

Saturday afternoon we had a tour of the town of Selma with specific focus on the places surrounding the voting rights movement.

Here is a picture of First Baptist Church where organization of the voting rights marches and events took place. I find it fascinating that so much of the civil rights movement and voting rights movement was led and directed by ministers! Martin Luther King was a minister! And it was the churches in Selma that coordinated the march to Montgomery! I could wish that more ministers and churches were at the forefront of these kinds of activities today.

Here is the Court House where people had to register to vote.

Our tour guide showed us this old cinema where she would come as a child (before integration) and would enter at a side door to go up to the balcony where their segregated seats were. She told us with a chuckle that after integration it turned out they had the better seats anyway!

Later in the afternoon a friend and I took a walk around Selma and admired the many large, historic homes.

But these large, beautiful homes spurred a lot of conversation after we'd spent the afternoon talking about civil rights and voting rights and seeing a lot of the poverty that coexists in Selma (of which I failed to take pictures).

We discussed racism and the Christian viewpoint that each person is a sinner and thus automatically prone toward racism (and this racism may look very different from one person to another). This wicked sin must be confessed and repented of constantly with prayer that Christ would grow us in love toward one another. I think pretending that racism is not a problem for us only fuels the issue and fails to allow us to show empathy. We may have grown up in wonderful, loving circumstances and been taught to show love in many ways but sin always nags at our heels and must be continually resisted. Avoiding perpetrating the evil of racism is only half of the issue too -- what about the work and energy needed to bring justice to the myriad racial injustices which still run rampant in our country?

We walked street after street....

Just look at the size of these houses!

This brick home had a double lot with a gorgeous garden!

And this house had fancy brickwork and trim work.

Most of these homes had historic building markers on them. Just think of all the history that happened here!

And there was Spanish moss!

It would be hard to choose a favorite house......

Here's a glimpse at the courtyard of our hotel.

And the courtyard lit up at night.

This is the hotel dining room and on Saturday night we enjoyed dinner here with the members of the Selma Reformed Presbyterian Church.

 And that's the church we were headed to Sunday morning!

The Selma RP church was formed in the 1870's, originally as a mission school for former slaves and eventually established as a congregation. Again, so much history! We loved their building! Too bad there are no empty buildings like this sitting around up here for our congregation!

We had a most wonderful day of Sunday School, worship, communion, fellowship lunch, visiting, and then a Psalm Sing and Prayer service in the evening. It truly was a wonderful weekend of getting to know these brothers and sisters in Christ and having such good fellowship together. (Incidentally, it seemed that many of the members of this congregation had participated in the 1965 voting rights march in one way or another and hearing this made the history even more personal.)

Before we knew it Monday had arrived and it was time to head home.

We travelled the highway from Selma to Montgomery just like those on the voting rights march had travelled. Here is a cotton field we passed:

We stopped in Montgomery for a quick visit to my dear friend Andria!

And look at this amazing tea she fixed for us!!!!!

Never thought I'd make it to Todd and Andria's house in Alabama and yet here we were!

And I couldn't leave the south without at least one foodie moment -- I found these Mustang grapes at a local stand. They are wild grapes and have the most amazing flavor -- like a Concord grape without the tartness.

So that was our trip to Selma! So much to think about and ponder and many new friendships to remember!

Please note this post contains affiliate links.


Lilly's Mom said...

I really enjoyed your post today and reading about the history of Selma. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I think I sometimes forget about the struggles that took place and still take place in parts of our nation. Thank you for enlightening us through your travels. Pat

Pom Pom said...

Hi Heather! Wow! I loved reading (and viewing) this post! Awesome!
The houses and the history. Incredible.

Margaret said...

Great post and pictures!

Anonymous said...

What an interesting and thought-provoking post. I agree that we need to be on the (inner) lookout for any wrong thinking about people who are different from us, and weed that out. The other day our family watched The Help, and although I didn't grow up in the South, there were a lot of similar things I recognised from my 1960s childhood.

elizabeth said...

looks like a really special time! how beautiful!!! if only more beauty was in the world!!! It's hard to see poverty too. Lots of it where I live here; hard to know what to do about it. So much pain and struggle in our world. but thank God also so much beauty and wonderful beautiful people.