Friday, April 2, 2010

Walk. Think. Realize: Looking back on Greensboro

Trail of Dreams

Posted on April 2, 2010 by grey

There’s a stream of thoughts that run through my head as I walk the streets of this city. I walk and think.

Walk. Think. Realize.

It happened here, over 50 years ago, where a spark of justice inspired 4 individuals to publicly condemn the oppression and suffering felt in the city. Divided and segregated by Jim Crow laws, Greensboro saw the first direct and intentional action within the civil rights movement through their sit-in at the lunch counter in Woolworth’s store. It started here, in this city, enveloped in a rich cultural mosaic of people, places and things that intertwines a harsh past of struggle and hardship with the present beauty and glow of a booming metropolis. We walked those streets, seeing a mixture of characters, a beautiful tapestry of people, brothers and sisters, in the freedom land.

A bell rings. In my head I hear: Thank God Almighty, we are free at last. But are we?

The “warm and fuzzies” are purged from my body. I stop and re-ground myself. It’s a bittersweet moment to realize the nature by which we accept this concept of “freedom” in a country priding itself in justice and equality for all.

For all?

This concept eludes my consciousness because I can hardly fathom what this would mean to me, in a society where freedom could pervade. I DREAM with my eyes open. I stop looking at the picture that looked back at me for an instant. I had traveled the city just then, in my head. I do this, from time to time, to escape to a place, where only I can feel at peace.

I suddenly realize where I’ve been all that time. I’m at the International Civil Rights Museum and Center, a living memorial to all the sweat and tears of those that held up the civil rights movement. Ingrained in these walls are the incessant cries of help; I hear them. I want to run.

I walk further into the museum and I had to stop myself from seeing a familiar face, a man holding up a sign bearing the words, “justice for all”.

In my head, I see images and glimpses of my family often. Right then, I see an image of my mother and the urge to run, subsides. My mother, a woman plagued with paranoia because she doesn’t know whether or not the police will stop her at the next street light, is one of the many faces I imagine through this journey into the past in this place.

We continue to walk inside these walls and I now I see why people say “if only walls could talk”. These can and they do. They tell us of the stories of the black men who were lynched every time they walked to work, the young women and children that died in KKK bombings, and the young boy who was found murdered, facially unrecognizable, by his own mother. These stories ran deep in our blood, as it boiled with the anger and impotence, which we all felt.

I see Felipe cry and I think of his pain internalized by this feeling of hatred that this country felt towards our African American brothers; this hatred reigns rampant today as folks have found a new scapegoat in a day and age where lessons should have been learned from the past.

He feels it. They feel it. I feel it.

A flash of the word "IMMIGRANT" goes off in my head.

I feel the tears run down my cheeks uncontrollably as I try to hold back these feelings of sadness and hopelessness. I breathe.

I pinch myself, just then, to make sure I’m there. I only affirm to myself that I am real, that I am human.

As a young girl, I felt discriminated for my skin color. I was called racial slurs and names because I was brown. I was ashamed of my parents for who they were and who they came to represent in the eyes and minds of those around me.

Words flicker in my mind:

Dirty dogs. Illegals. Alien. Colored. Slaves. Segregation.

These words mean so much then and now.

I cry again…

Growing up, I felt ashamed. When I found out I was undocumented, I felt this shame grow into a dark cloak of anger, despair and hopelessness. It’s these thoughts that plague my mind sometimes, a microcosm of feelings in a corner of my heart. I push them back every day through the happiness and enjoyment that I feel of just living life as a human being. I push them back by hearing the stories that the DREAMers tell. I push them back by knowing that I am free in my heart, body and mind. I push them back with love.

I see my friends and allies. In this Trail, they have overcome their own demons-ones which all of us succumb to in our lives. But they walk naked, with no reservation and they walk towards the light, out of the shadows. In this museum, we walked together, painfully living through the fears of our brothers, the shunning of society and the pain of oppression. But we came out stronger. Our tears renewed and rejuvenated our strength and fortitude.

Mi mama me dice a veces que nos hace bien llorar. I believe her.

On this day, I was renewed. On May 1st, we arrive in the Capitol. With them, next to them, beside them and behind them, there will be thousands of us not SEEING history, but making history.

There’s a stream of thoughts that run through my head as I walk the streets of this city. I walk and think.

Walk. Think. Realize.

It’s OUR movement. May 1st is OUR sit in.
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