Why I must go

I grew up in a town on the south side of Chicago that had two high schools. The one I attended, TF South, used a confederate soldier as their mascot. He would run onto the football field carrying a large confederate flag.

It was just a thing. Nobody found it right or wrong, it was just there.

In 5th grade history, we touched on the civil war, but nothing was said about what that flag truly stood for. But as I got a little older, I learned that this was not just a thing. By the time I got into High School, I was aware it was wrong. But to my surprise, nothing was said or done. It was just a thing. Ritchie Rebel still ran onto the field with that flag and everyone cheered. This was 1980.

I recently found my high school varsity jacket in a storage container. To my relief, there was no Ritchie or flag patch on it. I know other students had that, but mine did not. I do not remember the details of the day we ordered it, so I do not know if there was a conscientious effort to not put those patches on or if it was a price thing, but I am glad I found it without that. I still threw it out that day.

I attended two very diverse schools after high school. I got to know many people and made many friends. I learned a lot from them about diversity and how people were treated due to their color of their skin. It angered me to see someone treated differently, but I just watched it happen and went on with my day.

I always told myself that my parents generation lived through the time of the 50’s and 60’s and learned that they should be better. I felt that my generation was the one that was going to end the hate and race. I may have spoken out about racism but never got out of my comfort zone fully. My generation failed. I did as well.

Then on January 20th, 2009, change arrived. I was so proud to be an American. My son was 2 months old and he was entering a world that was going be more united. I took a photo of my son in front of our TV with Barrack Obama being sworn in as president and I cried. It is one of my favorite photos of all time and one of the greatest days in this country. I though: “My son is going to grow up in a world of equality for all.”

But that didn’t happen. I was naive to think this, because I had no idea about how much is still happening. This quote: “This is not a history lesson, it is still happening today” is horribly accurate. I need to learn more and do more. I have to do better, especially for my son. I need to expose the issues to him, face the facts and be better. I need to teach him that every person walking on this planet is EQUAL, no matter who they are. And that there are no exceptions. NONE. We talk often about racism, hate, and other injustices of the world. I tell him how wrong it is and to never be like that. I know he is listening. I am proud to see he is learning, but there is more to be said and done.

So, when I heard that there was a group going down to Selma, I begged Pastor Kyle to come with. Okay, I didn’t really beg, I more like invited myself. My previous Pastor, current friend and bus stop buddy agreed. Thank you for letting me tag along Kyle.

My plan on this trip is to learn, watch others reactions, listen and collect valuable stories and information, and honor those that were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. I will take that information and pass it on to my son and whomever wants to talk with me about it. I hope I can express how important this is to my son so that he may take a trip like this someday and feel what I will feel. Maybe we will go together. I hope we do.

Thank you for reading.

Brian Dykes