Last night (Monday) I watched NAACP national President, Cornell William Brooks, speak on PBS’s “After Charleston.” I watched his summary of what the NAACP-led Journey for Justice accomplished. Indeed, something extraordinary happened this August and into mid September. And the so-called MSM has written or presented little about it. But what Cornell William Brooks, Middle Passage and a group of dedicated marchers did was extraordinary.
Starting in Selma and ending in our nation’s capitol, the NAACP’s Journey for Justice walked to advance equality of justice for all. Led by Brooks what was a rather small band of brothers and sisters marched through state after state in staggering heat, day after day, almost a thousand miles. They walked for voting rights, equal justice before the law, and greater economic fairness. They walked for equality in education and health care. And they walked toward a place where one day Martin Luther King Jr’s dream of the beloved community exists at long last. It is long past time we built it.
For Middle Passage, a 68-year-old Colorado man with physical disabilities, #JusticeSummer was an act of selflessness and love. His name originated in the era of the slave trade. I began watching the Journey as it left Selma. Every day Middle Passage bore the US flag at the front of the line. Pictures tumbled onto my FB and Twitter feeds. Our friend, Andrew McFadden Ketchum,who first posted photos and video of the march and ultimately joined it for 10-plus days, became our eyes and ears. And soon I watched for photos of the march each day, especially at day’s end.
On September 9th, the group was to arrive in Raleigh. At 5 PM they rallied at Bicentennial Plaza, where we have rallied for Moral Monday gatherings before. I had hoped to walk just a bit of the long trek, as it approached Raleigh, even registering for a part of the walk. I had hoped that by the day for the rally, the series of injections for my knee would have kicked in. But it was too soon. When the day came I still couldn’t walk more than five minutes on the treadmill. Additionally the heat index would be extreme. I am old, older than Middle Passage, and I had to make the heartbreaking decision not to go.
The next day, we went to downtown Raleigh, where the group was spending a few of the nights in a church. We were to have dinner with our friend. (For several days they’d walked during the day and a bus would bring them back to Raleigh to sleep.) While there, we also met Cornell William Brooks.
A few short days later, Middle Passage was gone. He collapsed and died in Virginia, as the group got close to the end of its journey. He gave everything for this march. His was a gift necessitating a response by all who know his story.
What I can do is further develop my own journey toward justice. Here in NC, as you know, we have found ourselves at the nexus of a new battle as the 1% has obstructed voting rights for too many Americans. I have written of this before, and I will tell you more about just how far they have gone.
Vote suppression happens in Virginia too. In the Webb-Allen race for US Senate, there were at least 8 or 10 incidents of vote suppression, some voters in Richmond even getting calls falsely telling them their precincts had been changed. Others got flyers on their cars telling them the election day had been changed. The fact that there are few to no prosecutions for these illegal tactics speaks volumes of how far we have to go still.
The incidents repeat time and again. And one wonders how many more journeys for justice must there be? How many times must Cornell William Brooks lose pound upon pound walking a distance no one should have to walk? How many Middle Passages will collapse from the heat and the difficulty of the journey? In another era, John Lewis was arrested at least 40 times and endured head injury so that others could vote. When will the abuses which make such journeys necessary end? When?
I did not walk this #JusticeSummer. But I will never forget it or those who gave up their summer to bring change for others. Cornell William Brooks, who is also a minister, said last night that we have to walk with our feet. “We have to power faith, but it is faith in action,” he said. Indeed. May our varied faiths and philosophies propel us to action making this a better journey and country for us all.