Death on the Bridge of Life

Author: Jolyna Chiangong

Tags: Alabama, Exploring, North America, USA, Winner

Calm waters shift slowly on one side. Driven, velocious cars journey on the other. A living form of juxtaposition. I feel the shadows of those who marched on the Edmund Pettus Bridge beside me. Heads up, hands bound together as one, ready to voice their concern for undeniable rights. The calm waters mimic the nature of their protest. Peaceful, tranquil, harmonious--all synonyms for the simple demonstration of a yearning for the voting rights of American citizens.

The cars furiously zip past me, lifting my hair slightly. Their brash movements are those of the state troopers on Bloody Sunday. Whipping and slashing in an uncontrollable nature. I walk--walk on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. To me, it is March 7, 1965. The day that John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Marie Foster, and the 600 other African American protesters marched for my voting rights.They were pushed down, beaten, treated as the dirt underneath my shoe--without hesitation. I walk side by side with my friends as we make the journey across the bridge. We sing the lyrics “Now the war is not over, victory isn't won. And we'll fight on to the finish, then when it's all done”. Hand and hand with my companions, I see protesters being struck down. Down to the ground. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. I see tear gas and billy clubs. The blood of Bloody Sunday, spilling into the calm waters. I see myself.

However, the walk on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965 is not over. Standing on the same soil as my ancestors in Selma opens my eyes to see that. There is a new bridge and it is the bridge of life. The bridge that black people are taking a diminishing amount of steps on. The bridge where instead of being beaten with nightsticks, there are guns aimed at a black man's heart before he can even put his hands up. The bridge where my black brothers and sisters fear those who are supposed to protect us. The bridge where I fear I may not be able to cross. The bridge of life.

My journey to Selma is a journey of rejuvenation. An aura of newness falls afresh on me from feeling the agony of my ancestors in my heart. The pain, resilience, and thirst to be treated as an American. I reach the end of the bridge and step off. I reach an end that my ancestors did not reach on Bloody Sunday. I reach an end that white Americans did not want me to reach. I reach an end which has just begun. Walking and feeling the hard concrete and small stones under my shoe soles gives me new strength. It gives me the strength to walk in the protest in my own community. This trip is not just a taste of history, but rather a step into the journey which I have to continue.  A journey which does not end on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.