Thousands March in Alabama

Freedom Riders Meet with DREAMers in Dr. Martin Luther King’s Church

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Last weekend, thousands came together in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest that state’s notorious immigration enforcement law. Carrying “One Family, One Alabama” and “Not in My America” signs, Civil Rights leaders from across the country and thousands of Alabamians called for the state and country to move toward the future rather than marching backwards in time. Echoing the footsteps of earlier struggles, more than 2,500 people marched from Alabama’s Capitol to the Governor’s mansion.

Just across the street from Alabama’s statehouse is Dr. Martin Luther King’s church, where the evening before, Civil Rights Movement Freedom Riders met with DREAM students to exchange histories across generations. And to talk about overcoming fear to work for justice.

Asked how they had overcome their fears half a century ago, Freedom Rider C.T. Vivian said, “Fear is so basic. And it’s what stops most people. It’s why they belittle you, call you names. If you belittle yourself, you can be controlled.”

Freedom Rider Catherine Burks-Brooks said, “Fear will lock you down, but fear is natural. You have to talk to yourself and…realize that you’re supposed to be here. Then you have to make a move and join with others feeling the same way.”

Before a crowd in the church that night, and the next day under brilliant blue skies on the steps of Alabama’s capitol building, DREAM student and longtime Alabama resident Victor, said, “I am undocumented, and I am unafraid.” With a strength of spirit hard to believe could come from a 19-year-old, he and others called on lawmakers to create an immigration system befitting our nation’s principles.

Reverend Vivian had other words for us in the church that evening: “Either we’re all going to be free, or none of us are going to be free,” he said. “When we see others struggling for freedom, we must join them. Others joined us because they understood it was their duty as a human being.”

And for those who say, “I’m not going to be bothered with that mess,” Reverend Vivian had this to say: “If you’re born in that mess you’re in it. You’re going to have to deal with it.” His words apply to us all. This mess is on all of us – and it’s time for all of us to deal with it.

Nebraska Appleseed is a member of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), which organized the Immigrant National Convention in Montgomery, Dec. 16-17.

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