Sunday, May 02, 2010

In Silent Solidarity: Tha Artivist Takes Part In The 50th Anniversary Of The Silent March

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. TV: In Silent Solidarity: Remembering 'The Silent March' 50 Years Later...A Conversation With Rev. C.T. Vivian

In Silent Solidarity: Tha Artivist Takes Part In The 50th Anniversary Of The Silent March

April 19: A Special Day In History

April 19 has proven to be a very monumental day in the annals of human history and events…Both in terms of tragedy and triumph:

• 1775 American Revolutionary War: The Battle of Lexington and Concord which began the American Revolutionary War.

• 1943 World War II: In Poland, German troops enter the Warsaw ghetto to round up the remaining Jews, beginning the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

• 1971 Vietnam War: Vietnam Veterans Against the War begin a five-day demonstration in Washington, DC.

• 1987 The Simpsons make their television debut in the short "Good Night" a segment for The Tracey Ullman Show.

• 1993 The 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian building outside Waco, Texas, USA, ends when a fire breaks out. Eighty-one people die.

• 1995 Oklahoma City bombing: The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, is bombed, killing 168. That same day convicted murderer Richard Wayne Snell, who had ties to bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, was executed in Arkansas.

• 2005 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger elected Pope Benedict XVI on the second day of the Papal conclave.

April 19, 2010 also marked a day of reclamation of true people’s history and a recommitment to the ideals and agenda of the American Civil Rights Movement. 50 years ago to the day young people armed only with love, idealism, and a sense of shared purpose (destiny) stared down the oppressive glare of Jim Crow and valiantly reached into the belly of that wretched and twisted beast and within themselves to find the moral fortitude, mental audacity, and human dignity to break the back of the American apartheid system…They were both students of academia and clergy well versed in the non-violent-direct action philosophy which would be become the weapon of choice for many in the movement…The names of the participants in this seminal event now reads like an iconic Who’s Who of Civil Rights Headliners & Legends (Diane Nash, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Rev. James Bevel, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Rev. James Lawson, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., and Dr. Colia Clark just to name a few)…

According To The Urban Epicenter (2008):
In the early morning of April 19, 1960, the home of Attorney and Mrs. Z. Alexander Looby was bombed. The Movement quickly organized the Silent March which began at 11:00 am. It was the first major march of the Southern Nonviolent Freedom Movement. There were no signs or even talk. IT WAS A SILENT MARCH. It surprised the very wide spread opposition to economic and social and racial justice in Nashville and across the country. The superb dignity and discipline of that nonviolent technique impacted Middle Tennessee and the nation.

Me being a history buff and artivist knew that I wanted to be a part of this important commemoration as soon as I read about it in e-mail…Bro. Fred Douglass once said that “there is no progress without struggle”…And furthermore Bro. Nietzsche wrote “he who has a why can endure anyhow.”…Needless to say that those were some of the truest words every spoken and written…”Wanting” & “doing” of course are two different things and I knew I had to have the right mindset and discipline to see the task through…
On Colored People’s Time In Order To Seize The Time

Well being in Memphis with the event happening 3 hours away in Nashville, I knew I would have to start day very early and be very brisk, methodically and strategic in my preparation…Unfortunately my body had other plans…After a night of hanging out late with friends and barely getting 3 hours of shuteye due to chronic insomnia, I found myself suddenly awakened from my minute slumber to see that it was 6:41am central time and that I was 2 hours behind my scheduled departure time! However, I did not panic…I have been using as my zen mantra since the beginning of the new year the phrase, “if you pray don’t worry, but if you worry don’t pray”…It calmed me and so I reasoned that if I could not make the actual march then at least will be able to take pictures and get interviews with some of the participants post-march…And the networking opportunities also made the $50 plus investment in roundtrip gas fare worth it...I also reasoned that it is not how you start a race, but how you finish that counts.

I did not leave the house until almost 8am central and was speeding to upwards of 95 miles per hour on 240 East towards Nashville…I saw state troopers several times during my sojourn and I was miraculously not pulled over due to me either breaking and slowing down at the right moments or the fact that GOD wanted and needed me to be at that historic event…It had to be a mixture of both…

I reasoned I could get there by 11am and could catch the marchers marching on Jefferson St. towards City Hall or either make my way towards City Hall to capture some of the remarks by dignitaries and other participants…

When I made it to Nashville by 11am I was surprised to see a throng of several hundred people still lined up @ the Tennessee State Campus being prepared, prompted and readied to commence onto City Hall…I made it in time with moments to spare! However I wanted to get extra batteries for my digital camera and badly needed to urinate so I parked my car and walked to the nearest Family Dollar which was several blocks away…Although I was successful in obtaining batteries I wasn’t allowed to use the restroom (they said they didn’t have a public restroom)…Somewhat disappointed I was resolved that I would use the restroom at the church where the marchers congregated…

However, I was caught off guard as soon as I stepped outside…I saw marchers of all races, genders and persuasions walking in twos on the sidewalk in silent harmony and solidarity, a true rainbow coalition…I also saw the warm smiles and faces of my good friends and fellow freedom fighters John and Judy Gibson form Arkansas…My need for relieving myself quickly vanished from my immediate thoughts and I began to enthusiastically take pictures of the marchers…As I got to the end of the procession I was instantly motivated to join this march by the march marshals…How could I resist documenting as well as being a participant in this people’s history?

The march reminded me of the scene from the movie Malcolm X where Malcolm led a disciplined army of Black Muslims down the heart of the Harlem to the police station to protest the brutal beating, incarceration and mistreatment of their fellow Black Muslim brother and to demand his immediate hospitalization…Like life imitating art, time stood still in the heart of Black Nashville as we made our way to city hall…Motorists honked horns and asked for information which was eagerly given to them by marshals…Business proprietors and homeowners stood on their porches looking in either admiration or indifference…People stared out of Barber shop and restaurant windows either transfixed by the dedication or perceived lunacy exhibited by us marchers as we literally stopped all major traffic without the assistance of police due to our sheer numbers (500 in all), audacity and discipline…Also when you are a part of a protest you don’t need permission or protection from the powers that be…Like 50 years ago we were not going to be denied our shared moment, our shared destiny…

What I originally thought to be a walk around the corner turned out to be a 5.2 mile silent odyssey into the recesses of my thoughts, actions and conscience…During this time I was able to think over how much true freedom would cost...Also I wondered when I figured out the cost would I be willing to pay the price?
When we made it to City Hall you could hear people rejoice in the small victory…There were African drummers providing the soundtrack for our victory and struggle on the steps of City Hall…Highlights included speeches by Civil Rights legends and original Silent Marchers Rev. James Lawson and Diane Nash…Also youth (student), faith and grassroots community leaders made up the powerful cadre and provided the stimulus for many of us to realize that although we came along way we still got ways to go yet in realizing a more perfect union and that we must truly develop dynamic and pro-active intergenerational relationships if we are going to reverse the curse of apathy, injustice and low expectations for generations to come…

Rev. James Lawson & R2C2H2 Tha Artivist

One major theme that was rampant throughout the City Hall rally, was the corporatized takeover of our democracy…Rev. James Lawson aka “The Conscience of the Movement”, a man who helped MLK “overstand” the power of the nonviolent-direct action philosophy, who introduced MLK to one of his most important strategists in Rev. James Bevel and who asked for his participation in the fateful Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, picked up where his fallen comrade MLK left off in denouncing the military industry complex as well as our morally depraved economic system along with our barbaric if not antiquated idea of what health care access should be for our citizens.

Tha Artivist & Diane Nash

The petite Sis. Diane Nash, “The Quiet Giant Of The Movement” & SNCC Co-Founder provided choice words weighted with wisdom, history and purpose to encourage the young and young at heart to actualize their own potential by becoming the leaders of their own liberation. In her own unique fashion she reminded us all that it is always the work and sacrifices of the committed few that change the world to benefit the many.

Freedom Fighting The Next Generation: Breaking Bread With And Sharing Food For Thought With Bro. Min. Bernard Lafayette III

Tha Artivist & Bro. Min. Bernard Lafayette III

When you participate in moments like these the chances for connecting with like minded folks as well as forming possible life long and meaningful friendships are great. I had the pleasure of meeting and fellowshipping with Bro. Min. Bernard Lafayette III, the son of the original Silent Marcher and master civil rights movement strategist Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. and civil rights activist and educator Dr. Colia Clark (whom he affectionately refers to as ‘The Radical’)…He is definitely the great blessed and ripen fruit fallen from the trees of true freedom fighters…

We share food for thought and literally broke bread at the Subway near the TSU campus…Eerily, the Subway was next to the Grid Iron 9 restaurant owned by football great Steve McNair, who was a victim of a murder-suicide this past summer…The substantial conversation we had for 2 plus hours made the trip a slam dunk all by itself…Bro. Min. Lafayette III added so much more dimension and reverence to the legacy of April 19, 1960, by being a socially conscious academic/theologian and effective community organizer in Nashville area as well as in Columbia, TN.

Our conversation like the ingredients in our respective sub sandwiches (he had the spicy Italian and I had the meatball marinara with pepperoni) was diverse, texturally rich, colorful, wide ranging, spicy and delicious…nothing was off limits…We did a lot of questioning and concluding…Legend has it that the great Black intellectual and famed columnist George Schuyler would travel for miles to have exceptional conversations like this…

As we spoke about legacy and purpose, Min. Lafayette relayed to me an important story about The Silent March and the Nashville lunch counter sit-in movement. When victory seemed imminent for the movement participants, the movement leaders met with the top management of one of the food cafeterias they were protesting…When the executive asked if they were hungry and what they would like to eat, one of the movement leaders said that they were not interested in having lunch with him but desegregating his was at that moment that Min. Lafayette Jr. intervened and said that they were integrating the restaurant by eating lunch with the white businessman…That beautiful story told me that it is possible to win a victory and then possibly lose it by not knowing when to stop…

This is what the movement was about and should be about today: each one teach one to reach all! It took the power of the people to move the agenda then and it is going to take the power of the people now to do it again…It is up to us to turn a people’s history into a people’s victory today!

(All Colored Photos Courtesy Of W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News)

The Urban Epicenter. (2008).  April 19, 2010 A SILENT MARCH. Last Page Update Unknown. Last retrieved 5/2/2010 from

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