An Accountable Beneficiary
By Darryl Jones
Special to the Outlook
Editor’s Note: Local resident Darryl Jones joined thousands in Selma, Ala. to take part in the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” He just returned home and shared his experience of the weekend’s festivities.
On March 7, I joined thousands at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to witness the 44th President of the United States of America be introduced by a man whose gallant efforts 50 years ago, at this same site, was the reason for our assembling. When President Barack Obama and Civil Rights icon and Congressman John Lewis embraced, there was a collective sigh punctuated by sniffles and cries and “amens” and shouts of praise at what we had just witnessed.
Angela Hardiman Cole told me she was proud that I traveled to Selma, Ala., because I was truly an accountable beneficiary. What an odd choice of words. Beneficiary, as I have often used it, means a person who is given something great through no great effort of their own.
You paid no insurance premiums but you get the settlement. You paid no mortgage but you get the house. You purchased no stocks, bonds or annuities but you collect the proceeds. It could be likened to “reaping where you have not sown and harvesting what you have not planted.”
Certainly, it was not lost on the crowd how Obama was a beneficiary of Lewis’ literal “courage under fire.” But Obama was not the only one. All subsequent generations were beneficiaries of Lewis’ struggle for equality. Witnessing the president’s address on Saturday and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday, it made you feel like Lewis and Hosea Williams and the march in Selma and their non-violent gallantry and bravery on Bloody Sunday was as heroic as General George Washington in Yorktown and General Ulysses Grant in Vicksburg.
A.M.E Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson, Jr., Resident Bishop of Florida and the Bahamas was also in attendance and he said it best, “It has been bequeathed to us to continue the fight. It is more than symbolic, but a reality of our present day –” we are beneficiaries.
Then I am reminded of the words of our Savior, “to whom much is given, much is required,”—therefore we are all accountable. For me and my best friend Tola Thompson, also in attendance, it was that sense of obligation for what had been done on our behalf in Selma, which was the common thread that linked everyone in attendance Saturday and Sunday. This linkage was made more poignant by the conspicuous presence of SNCC Founder Lewis and other Bloody Sunday protesters like him—50 years later our coming together was ethereal because it was both beneficiaries and benefactors—the elders and the heirs. Bishop Richardson, Jr., said “It was important to be present, not to celebrate, but to commemorate sacrifices that were made for civil rights and voting rights.”
Over the course of two days of speeches, there were frequent references or allusions to Sir Isaac Newton’s, “If I have seen further today, it is because I stand squarely on the shoulders of giants.” The Civil Rights Movement and Bloody Sunday should specifically remind African Americans that we stand on more than shoulders. We stand on tombstones and coffins and the bloody boughs of trees.
Although there were hugs and kisses and pats on the back when seeing old friends as we retraced the same steps as Lewis, Williams, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy and others—the sacrifice and martyrdom of Jimmie Lee Jackson, Rev. James Reeb and Viola Luizzo evoked a solemn gratitude. Like Bishop Richardson and the 70,000 others present and the millions of others who have the right to vote and enjoy their civil rights, I am a grateful accountable beneficiary—To God be the Glory!
Darryl Jones is executive director of the Bethel Community Development Corp. of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, chair of the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Commission and a member of the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Foundation Board of Trustees.
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