OccupyDC — As I See It. Civil Rights, Selma Alabama, Joe and Me

Pettus Bridge, Selma Alabama, 1965

I woke up with a realization this morning. There’s not much difference between the Occupy movement and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. OK, I know you’ve figured this out already, but I’m kind of slow. Deal with it.

In April of last year I was on a solo, unsupported, cross-country bicycle trip. Didn’t have any particular route or agenda in mind…the goal was to just get to California – by myself and under my own power.

I had the opportunity to ride the Selma to Montgomery route that the Civil Rights Marchers did back around 1965…although I rode it in reverse. You can read some about that section of the trip by clicking here.

When I got to Selma, I met up with an old black guy named “Joe”. Joe was in his 70s and owned a bicycle repair shop. I spend several hours with Joe talking about the weather, bicycles and the Civil Rights march. Joe had plenty to say about the first two, but wouldn’t talk a lot about the third.

Pettus Bridge, April 2010

Joe and his family thought the marchers were just going to cause more problems for the blacks – or “coloreds” – as they were known then. Joe and his family didn’t understand what the real purpose of the march was. As long as everyone stayed in their place, it would all turn out ok.

When the march was going on Joe was busy in his bicycle shop fixing bikes. While 8000 people set out on a fifty mile march to stand up and speak out for freedom, Joe and other folks quietly went about their daily lives – hardly noticing that history was being made just a few blocks from where he and I stood talking that spring morning.

This blog is NOT meant to denigrate Joe or the other blacks in Selma that did what they thought they had to do. It’s meant to get you to thinking about some other parallels between the Civil Rights March then and the Occupy movement today.

I wonder what Joe is up to these days. I’ll have to get back down to Selma to see him.

Jerry Nelson is a nationally recognized photojournalist. His work has appeared in many national, regional and local publications including CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Earthwalkers and Associated Content. Nelson travels the country seeking out the people, places and things that make America unique and great. Nelson currently is in Washington D.C. pointing his camera at OccupyDC and freelancing for The Washington Times the second largest paper in the nation’s capital.

CLICK HERE to see more of Nelson’s work or to hire him for a shoot.

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