Traveling the Path of the Civil Rights Movement
In late February, Susan, Sandra and Antonia, along with Cone Health Foundation Board Members, Tom Cone and Robert Pompey, joined 70-plus fellow community members on a unique, three-day opportunity to travel the path of the civil rights movement. Pivotal places (Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham) begin to tell this still-evolving story of injustice.
Susan with Jamilla Pinder (left) Cone Health Assistant Director of Healthy Communities and Marcy Green, Impact Alamance, Vice President of Programs
Organized by Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Greensboro Jewish Federation, International Civil Rights Center and Museum, and Mount Zion Baptist Church, the trip was profoundly moving. Travelers learned from oral historians who knew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., walked across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge and toured the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in a bombing on Sunday, September 15, 1963.
Billy Planer (left) served as one of our hosts and has over 20 years’ experience in leading synagogue youth programs and educating Jewish young people. Martha Hawkins, is the owner of Martha’s Place (where we enjoyed an amazing lunch) in Montgomery. “I did meals at First Baptist Church. We made sandwiches and chips and took water and met the marchers when they would be coming from Selma,” she said.
While history records the 16th Street Church bombing as a turning point in the civil rights movement leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, much remains unjust for African Americans. The national crisis of COVID-19 magnifies the disparities and inequities in our society. There is mounting evidence of the disparities in early reports of how African Americans are weathering the pandemic. African Americans make up 21% of North Carolina's population, but they make up 39% of COVID-19 cases and 37% of its deaths, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
These alarming outcomes are in large part the result of longstanding inequities in an array of social drivers of health, including limited access to health care, and limited access to affordable housing and fresh foods. These drivers have led to higher rates of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 among minority populations.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.