I continue to think about (and work towards) becoming a white ally since reading Janee Woods’s advice to … “white people who are sick and tired of racism.” This month’s Afterthought includes two more sources of inspiration and education. One is the January 15, 2015 podcast of On Being, Krista Tippett’s interview with Congressman John Lewis. I cried several times as Congressman Lewis, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and one of the first to be beaten unconscious by police as he led the 1965 peaceful march in Selma (“Bloody Sunday”), spoke of his commitment to nonviolence.
The movement …what I like to call a non-violent revolution… was love at its best. It’s one of the highest forms of love. That you beat me, you arrest me, you take me to jail, you almost kill me, but in spite of that, I’m gonna still love you.”
After I listened to the podcast, I went to my bookshelf and returned to a book I’ve read several times, Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus—A Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey by Ana Maria Spagna. The memoir chronicles the story of someone I think qualifies as a “white ally”—Ana Maria’s dad, Joseph Spagna. In 1957, he joined the Tallahassee Bus Boycott. Fifty years later, his daughter embarked on a journey to learn about this event, one that she’d never been able to talk to him about because of his untimely death when she was eleven. Test Ride also inspires and teaches me.
I sent the podcast link to Ana Maria, because I knew she’d be interested in Krista Tippett’s conversation with John Lewis. Ana Maria writes movingly in Test Ride about hearing Lewis speak at the 50th anniversary of the Tallahassee Bus Boycott. It was at that speech that she took to heart his plea: “We must tell the stories over and over again so that our children and their children will never, ever forget what happened.”
By telling her dad’s story—one of the lesser-known stories of the Civil Rights Movement—as well as those of the other bus riders, Ana Maria has done important work as a white ally, too. I don’t know where my efforts to be a white ally will lead me, but I’m committed to honor what John Lewis told Ana Maria when she met him after his speech, “Don’t forget.”
“Afterthoughts” are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, comments overheard, maybe even bumper stickers.