The buses finally arrived on October 15th, 2011.
Mostly chartered or owned by churches, they carried hundreds of the devoted—from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Weary travelers with swollen feet and sleepy eyes gingerly navigated bus steps. Many had risked their lives and done their marching. Their bones ached and their eyes flinched against the bright D.C. sunlight. After fifty years of waiting—no need to “break a hip in a hurry now.”
After all, Dr. King was still dead.
Grandmothers, great-grandmothers, grandchildren and great-grandchildren—generations decked out in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’ best. The women smoothed their garments and the men straightened their hats.
The clumped up support hose—the mark of a lifetime “domestic”—gathered around swollen ankles. It’s unladylike to pull them up in public. Besides:
Self-consciousness is for girls
And Dr. King is still dead
Signs in bus windows told their stories
Jackson, Selma, Birmingham, Atlanta, Mobile
Four baby girls bombed at the Baptist Church
Selma to Montgomery—the dogs, the hate, the fire hoses
“Yes, sweet girl, it is good to be here
Right where we marched in ’63”
Craning arthritic necks—looking up, up, up
And there it stood—a thirty foot-tall granite statue of Dr. King, erected right between Lincoln and Jefferson—stunning against a big blue sky—wide open—finally.
But, Dr. King was still dead.
A “wall of inscriptions” surrounded the celebrants in the warm embrace of Dr. King’s words. The first of fourteen quotes came from the “I Have a Dream” speech. Delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, those famous words rang out from America’s national pulpit. That was back when most of these travelers were young and still living in bulwarks of Jim Crow.
Change is slow. Deadly slow.
“Good spot for Dr. King.”
An elderly woman pointed her cane upwards—”Now honey what does that say?”
Her dark eyes had gone milky.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Dr. King’s “single garment” quote now spanned the ages and the continents.
But, he was still dead.