Genarlow Wilson: We Protested to Continue the Fight
I looked out over the crowd. In the mini sea of protesters I saw faces of despair. Faces of frustration and faces of disappointment. I saw women who could have been my mother. Mothers who could have been seeking some level of justice for their sons, bothers, or husbands. I saw men who looked broken. Defeated and tired. We all were waiting to be militantly stimulated by a word of encouragement, faith, and persistence.
It was an emotional sight. So much so I could not contain my emotions. The more I swallowed the more I filled my Che Guevara handkerchief with tears. I was crying, but what for? Why was I crying at such an uncontrollable pace? The tears would not stop flowing. Even my cherished Che t-shirt was soaked with my wet symbol of emotion. My feelings were filled with anger and resentment. I was in that familiar place of not believing that we (black folk) still have to march and sing those sad songs of hope. It was not We Shall Overcome that I was hearing in the background. It was one of those songs that if heard you would know with certainty that slaves articulated it with harmony while picking cotton and while sitting in their open-air churches. Churches that capsulated aspirations, hopes, faith, and not premeditated entertainment and religious pimpology.
What I experienced on July 5th in Douglas County is what our ancestors routinely experienced: a daily struggle filled with dreams of freedom, justice, and equality. I was in this southern county, which is only 10 minutes from one of the blackest cities in America, to lend my support for a cause. Approximately three hundred of us like-minded descendents of slaves were in attendance. We were called there to support Genarlow Wilson. Something unseen forced us to travel in an extremely organized caravan from Martin L. King, Sr.’s former church, Ebenezer Baptist, to the steps of the courthouse in Douglasville, Georgia. About an hour away from that 1960’s fiery state of Alabama. The home of Selma and Montgomery. Those places where men, women, boys, and girls were killed just because they were black. It was their blackness that motivated the Klansmen to treat them with such hatred. No other reason. For this reason also, Mr. Genarlow Wilson is incarcerated. Some may say he is in prison because he and the others broke the law. I agree. However, I will refute anyone’s statement that does not mention he is locked-up because of his race. Genarlow is in jail with murders, rapists, and burglars because he is that symbol of fear: Black.
A couple of weeks ago I was engaged in a contentious debate with a black friend who led me to believe that he understood race not to be a factor in America’s make-up of today. I could not believe that this young man who may be a product of affirmative action believes race is not the United States’ number one domestic problem. At first I thought that I misunderstood him, and he contends to this day that I did. At the time, I did glean this miscalculation of race relations from his statements and personal insults. I could not have been wrong. He was too adamant and convincing. In the end, we were somewhat on the same page. I exited the email debate respecting his opinion, but his position on the matter still haunts me. I just can’t believe a black man who is more than likely viewed by his white peers as ‘My Black Friend’ - and not ‘My Friend’, believes race is irrelevant and Jim Crow in theory and action is dead. What will it take for me to believe his final statement?: “Race is relevant.”
At the rally for Genarlow I kept hearing, “Race is relevant” in some form. It was like I wanted it to be an additional reason for me to be there waiting for Rev. Al Sharpton to grace us with his words of defiance. When Al finally had the crowd hypnotized while chanting: No Justice, No Peace a lone voice extinguished our mesmerizing state. This voice momentarily quelled our spirit of togetherness. Someone was disturbing our cause and our unity. The rattling voice came from a stringy-haired, out of shape, homely West Virginia-looking white girl. She was yelling, “This case is not about race.” What audacity! The black woman I was standing beside on this hot and humid day was floored. She was ready to grab this white girl’s jugular!
“You mean to tell me this white chick has the gall to stand among us and defy our position on this important matter?” I could not believe this chick’s impudence either. I also thought that it takes an insanely brave person to enter a sanctuary of black purpose, and disrupt the message we wanted to send to the newly named Uncle Tom: Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker. But I was not surprised. (White folk move into the black neighborhoods we avoid. They ain’t scared.)
This woman was not crazy. She was just utilizing her First Amendment Right. Her boldness only empowered us protesters to yell louder and louder: NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE. In this act of solidarity we were successful at getting rid of that gnat. Her annoyance soon transcended into a victory, and all of us were recharged with vibrant determination to express more passionately our Freedom of Speech right while chanting: Free Genarlow Wilson.
Freedom is costly in America. Somebody has to pay for it. Some pay for it with money. Some pay for it with doing time. Others have to sacrifice. Sacrificing was easy for black men and women of the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. They did it for you and me. But, we fail daily to honor their sacrifice. We will not do what is necessary to maintain the little piece of freedom we think we now have. I have asked time and time again: What will it take for us (ALL of US) to understand that the struggle is not over? What will it take for us to understand that race STILL does matter? What will it take for you to join me and hopefully hundreds of other marchers/protesters on July 14, 2007 to support a black man wronged by the white man’s tool (judicial system) to keep us in bondage?
Join me: http://www.westmetronaacp.org/. Even if you are not the ‘fight the system type’ please come out for the exercise. Exercise with us folk who will have a dual workout: Marching and being heard.
Written by Muata. Inspired by Genarlow Wilson mother’s pain. It is written all over her face.