Too often, we see these black and white pictures from the 1960’s capturing the Civil Rights Movement workers. Most of the time, we do not know these heroes’ names or even if they were directly thanked for making history happen in law. There is usually no story around them. Around their thoughts that day and the overwhelming rush of emotions they stored. Here is my fictional depiction of what the young lady in the picture was thinking about as she made history as an UNKNOWN hero.
“Nobody told me to be a hero today. I am just full of doubts right now. My breakfast from this morning is swirling fast around in my belly. I can taste a little as it comes up. I am nervous. Nervous! So fearful yet calm. I know every move now counts. Whether it be me or them. Every move must be watched and calculated. They are talking about me, calling me every name but mine. But mine giving to me by my parents. Why….am……I…. here??? Because I got to be.
Tonight, was my turn to cook but I asked my baby sister to take my turn and I will take her’s tomorrow. If tomorrow comes. I realize I spoke too soon. I assumed too much that the outcome from today will be pleasant. It is all I got. It is all I have, hope. I ain’t asking for much but to have my dignity and some respect. But I am so scared, I just want to go home now.
I am so shook, I have forgotten the mission. I have forgotten the why. I am here for exactly what is happening now. I am tired of being a spectacle to their amusing. I am tired of going through the back door for any and EVERYTHING in life. I am tired of the “If looks can kill” looks I get. I feel their laser sharp eyes piercing through my soul right now while they chant, “Go home, you ain’t good enough to be here!”
Why am I not good enough? I am human. I bleed red just like you. I guess they will see that in a minute as I fear they will physically attack us. I do not believe I am getting out of this one. I am hurting. Hurting in my soul and mind because of how they treat me. How they treat us! I am at the bottom and I cannot get up. I am here with my bottom gently kissing this cold concrete while the heat of the day and their fiery hearts create a ring of lava around me. Do I get up and run? Do I just sit here with my mouth closed? Do I get up in their faces? I dare not!!!! If I have a quick death wish I can do one of those things, but I do not. I am here so one day my unborn children and grandchildren do not have thoughts like me. I am here so I can create a change that maybe one day as an old lady, I can sleep peacefully at night. I can go outside and sit with my neighbor Nancy of a different race and talk about the news and weather. Together, without pressure.
I am not a hero what was I thinking??? I am not built for this but I am. I am not dressed for this, but I am here anyway. I am here because my pride and dignity are being challenged for something, I had no choice in being. For something you need to take up with a higher being other than me. I am hot, hungry, and tired. I just want to make it home. I want to go home tonight. I want to see my family. If this will be the last moment in life, I am so sorry I did not say goodbye to daddy. I am sorry I did not do better with my sister; we fought all the time. I am sorry if I was a disappointment to my family. I am sorry if I seemed weak when I was just scared.
I am grateful Bernard is here to hold my hand. But he is nervous too. How can I feel comfortable if he is not? They are closer in relation to him than me. He is squeezing my hand so tight. I know he is scared. We both are just being still while they figure out if they are arresting us. He looks at me and ask, “Do you have the little black notebook I gave you this morning?”. I replied slowly, “Yes, it’s in my purse.”
The police finally came to put us in the squad car. They booked us on trespassing and took us to jail. We are being jailed for expressing our 1st amendment right. For wanting all people to be treated fairly. Once we arrived, they handcuffed me to a bench. They took Bernard out of handcuffs and allowed him to sit next to me in a chair. He then asked me for the little black notebook. I handed him my purse and he quickly retrieved it. I am not sure why he asked me to hold that.
The 1st officer walks over to say we are being processed and arrested with a bail for Bernard at $1,000 and for me, $10,000. I fainted. Fell right to the floor because my parents are going to be mad. They do not have that kind of money. I didn’t even tell them where I was going today!!! They picked me up and whisked me off to the cell. As I am being dragged, I can see Bernard looking helpless and speaking to a captain. I began to weep and realize this is my fate. I wanted to die in my home of old age, but it looks like it will be this jail cell. As I am thrown on the bed, the door is slammed behind me. I throw my hands over my face and begin to cry hysterically.
Who am I??? Who did I think I was??? Why did I do this??? Look at me!! It has gotten me locked up for nothing. All because I wanted my voice heard. I laid there sobbing for hours but it felt like an eternity. The cell is dirty, and I am sure houses more diseases than people. I am sitting in the corner crying, trying to keep from taking my own life. I do not want to give them the satisfaction. I will end this misery myself so they will not get the last laugh. Hating me for something out of my control. I am hating them for hating me. When does the hating stop?
Four hours pass by and a 2nd officer comes to my cell. I was free to go home. All I can think of is my family went to a loan shark or borrowed from someone. I know they did not have that money. I stand up with the little strength I had and walked out the door. As I walked out, I can see the other officers looking bewildered like who the hell helped her.
I am walking so fast I just shot right through that front door. Bernard is standing outside at the bottom of the stairs. I run to his arms and just cry uncontrollably. I looked at him and said, “Who got me out?” He replied, “I did. I asked you to hold my little black notebook because I hid an envelope in it.” I was confused. An envelope?
I said, “An envelope, what do you mean?” He stated, “I gave you an envelope with $20,000 cash to hold for us. I asked one of the organizers of the march last night for some help and when I showed up this morning, they handed it to me. I knew this morning we was going into this day needing to protect our bodies, but cash is what got our asses out!” I laughed!!! In this flash of a horrible time, we were able to share a quick and faint chuckle. I was so thankful we both lived. I live to see another day. And even though this was rough, I live to do it again, for the future. For my people. For the civil rights of all.”