I admit to being ignorant about the American civil rights movement. What I know about that era are from history books, a couple of movies and a play. I know about Martin Luther King, and his "I have a dream" speech. I can picture Rosa Parks on that seat on a bus.
I acknowledge that we as a nation have come so far, while also agreeing that we have so much work to do.
Echoes of the Struggle follows a 30 year old writer, Daniela "Dani" Joseph. Born to a family of upper middle class privilege, artists and a prominent lawyer for a father. When a family friend - nay, a child - is gunned down, she retreats into her own grief. When an opportunity arises about going on a Civil Rights tour, she hesitantly accompanies her friend.
Janelle Gray takes Dani on a civil rights pilgrimage, which in our current climate, would serve us best if we follow suit. I felt Dani's frustrations about the pieces in history that were forgotten, or left behind. Every name, every action, every soul that took part in that period - be it in marches, sit ins, helping someone who looked different than ourselves - make up the backbone of the movement. And they deserve more than passing sign, more than a blip in a commentary. Her narrative reminded me that I know nothing but names, and a recollection of places and time in history.
They were someone's grandparents or great grandparents. The 50s and 60s are not far removed from any of us but we walk around proud of what was accomplished and ignorant of what it took to get there. I felt Dani's anger take a hold on me and shook me from my own preconceived assumptions.
Every word that a tour guide uttered, I actually highlighted. These are important. This history, those moments, the faces, the fear, the hate, the anguish. All of them carry weight. They weigh our decisions, our prejudices, and ties our hateful past and our indifferent present. How could we possibly hope to move forward in today's world, if we barely remember the echoes of those that struggled?
Well done, my friend.
And what are you going to do, colored girl?
About the Author:
Janelle Gray is a writer, poet, vocalist, and author of Mosaic: Pieces in Poetry, a poem collection. Echoes of the Struggle was inspired by her experience on a guided civil rights tour. In 2014, Janelle left corporate world and the US to pursue writing full time. She currently resides in Colombia where she also teaches English.
Find her and subscribe to her blog at www.echoesofthestruggle.com
I think bravery had more to do with making the choice and less to do with the choice itself. In that situation, bravery is both living and dying.
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