To the Advertiser-Gleam:
The Black Lives Matter marches earlier this year, the first in Albertville, the second in Guntersville, changed everything for Marshall County. What had been thought impossible became a reality.
Thanks to the willingness and efforts of Unique Morgan Dunston, an Albertville native, black, brown and white folks from all over the county stood up, stood out and peacefully marched for equality in the small southern towns we call home, where racism, unfortunately, still has its hold.
Over one thousand folks in Albertville and nearly just as many in Guntersville took to the main streets, waving banners, flags and signs as well as chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.
Know justice, know peace,” all at the top of our lungs.
For me, seeing members of our community come together to stand up against hatred was soul-healing. To see young men, black and white, link arms together, and march... to see aged and infirmed mothers, black and white, unable to march, but stand or sit on the sidewalks as we passed, cheering us on... to see families, black and white, rich and poor, the parents holding their children’s hands or carrying them on their shoulders, and march... to see veterans and soldiers stand up for the American ideals they fought for, and march...
To hear the names of George Floyd and Breona Taylor invoked, as well as those of other black folks, murdered by police violence, was heart breaking and eye opening.
As a white man, I’ll never be able to fully understand the experiences of black folks nor their history as it has been lived. I’ve never been the victim of racism, police violence or judged negatively for the color of my skin. White privilege has been good to me. But it has also been a curse. Because it has kept me from seeing, really seeing, the world I live in and the pain that has existed there for people of color. But I’ve learned that I can listen to black folks tell their own stories and define who they are.
I learned that I can speak out when I hear people use words that hurt others. I’ve learned that I can call them out, and hold them accountable.
I said earlier that the marches changed everything for Marshall County. And I believe they have.
I see people, black, brown and white, challenging the status quo. I see them resisting, peacefully, the injustices perpetrated against people of color. I see people standing up against racist monuments that uphold the racist history of a lost civil war that was fought against the United States.
But most importantly of all, I see people, of all kinds here, willing to, as John Lewis, the great civil rights leader, said, “get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
(Will Smith originally wrote this for the fall edition of the Lakeview Community Civic Organization newsletter but wanted to distribute it to a broader audience. What's your opinion? The Advertiser-Gleam accepts letters to the editor on local issues. Email them to email@example.com or mail to P.O. Box 190, Guntersville, AL 35976. Please include your phone number. We don't publish phone numbers, but like to have them for verification purposes. We also ask letter writers to include their address.)