By Rick Wolcott*
An estimated 80,000 people marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 8 in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Last year’s motion picture Selma was based on the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches that led to the creation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In late February, members of Crossroads UMC, James S. Thomas UMC and Union Baptist Church in Canton and Faith UMC in North Canton rented a theater at Tinseltown Cinemark for a showing of the film.
The following night at Faith UMC the movie-goers joined with others for an evening titled Broken and Whole.
“This is an opportunity to share and listen to others share about their experience of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in light of the movie Selma, and also to share and reflect on current issues of race and reconciliation in our communities today,” the Rev. Steve Stultz Costello, of Faith UMC, said.
“We need to come together because there are all these underlying currents going on because the issues themselves have not actually been resolved,” said the Rev. Vaughn Gleaves of James S. Thomas UMC. “People need to start having dialogues, so we’re coming together as a community of faith to start with us and see where it goes.”
The nearly 100 in attendance joined together in spirit, word, dance and song. Following an anthem by a joint choir of the four churches, the Rev. Ed Fashbaugh of Crossroads UMC led a recitation of the following litany:
We are here to remember.
We are here to share.
We are here to listen.
We come seeking hope.
We come seeking reconciliation.
We come to repent – and to forgive.
We come for healing.
We come to love one another.
We come to make a difference. Amen.
“Fifty years ago this meeting could not have taken place – would not have taken place,” Charita Goshay said.
Goshay, a Canton Repository columnist, had earlier in the evening read to the audience an article she wrote about her grandparents. It first appeared in print in February 1992, as part of the paper’s recognition of Black History month.
A member of Faith UMC then shared that he was impressed to see that the movie reflected the values of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The fact that he looked not only at the blacks as brothers but he also looked at the whites as brothers. I really appreciate that message that Dr. King had.”
“I thank God for Jesus because he knew that someday something was going to turn around and make it better for the folks in South Carolina and in the south,” said Joyce. The Union Baptist Church member said it was “horrible growing up in South Carolina at that time” and she is glad that her grandchildren aren’t singled-out today because of the color of their skin.
Others shared stories of their own experiences that they will never forget. Sprinkled throughout the recollections – and the acknowledgment that Dr. King’s dream has still not been fully realized – a sense of hope filled the sanctuary.
For Sam Purses, that hope is that racism and hatred might disappear with the end of his generation.
“The kids I saw and taught in high school during the 2000s don’t care if you’re black or white, they don’t care what you believe in – they just love you as a human being,” he said. “We could learn from them. We need to go out from this place and be able to carry forth that kind of love and hope that someday it will stamp out the hate that is around us.”
Goshay told the audience, “It’s ok to be different. Different isn’t good or bad. That’s part of the problem. We pretend we are not different.”
Lydia Aldridge, a campus missionary with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, agreed.
“We learn so much from each other when we are from different cultures and different families and when we have different color skin. We learn so much and have so much to offer each other.”
Tuscarawas District Superintendent the Rev. Benita Rollins was glad to see so many people concerned about race relations in the U.S. but she says that is only one of many issues facing us today.
“It’s not just this issue, there are so many others such as human trafficking, bullying in the schools, and drug abuse,” Rollins said. “Race relations are important but it’s more than race relations this is about humanity.”
Rita Baird of Union Baptist Church summed up the feelings of those in attendance. Just before sitting down after telling a story from her childhood, she said, “we need to pray for each other. I will pray for you and I ask that you please pray for me.”
*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.