As we drive away from the “Beloved Community Center” on the bus in Greensboro, NC headed to Charlotte, NC, I am in astonishment on how impactful this experience was and this is truly only the beginning. I am not your typical blogger, but as I share my thoughts on this website, I am interested to see how my perception of civil rights change as we travel further and further into the south. I wanted to write this blog post as soon as we left the “Beloved Community Center,” because I did not want to forget anything from the visit. As we arrived in the center I was a bit confused on the reason why we were there to hear this speaker. As time progressed and we heard from Rev. Nelson and his graceful wife Joyce Johnson about their experience is Greensboro we were all astonished at their story, which went something like this. On November 3, 1979 Rev. Nelson organized an event outside where him and some other individuals would be speaking on issues in the community including minimum wage. As the day progressed Rev. Nelson explained to our group how before the event took place he had met with the police force to ask for officers to be at the event for the safety of those involved, which they agreed. Unfortunately, on the day of the actual event there were no police in sight, but rather people who were how shall I say, not welcome. These unwelcomed guests included the Ku Klux Klan and a group of Nazi individuals. Lets pause here for a second. For me to hear that these individuals existed and had the guts to come interrupt this event made my heart ache because of what happened after they arrived. As Rev. Nelson continued on with the story he explained how the Ku Klux Klan as well as the Nazi group decided to open fire on these innocent & unarmed individuals. The saddest part about the story is that the police were aware of the Klan’s plans to come to the event and open fire, which is why they told Rev. Nelson to make sure everyone was unarmed, as it is legal to have a weapon in North Carolina. After hearing this I was completely astonished that something like this would be allowed. Rev. Nelson explained that after this traumatic event people from within the community started to blame him for what happened, stating that it was intended for the event to turn into a shootout, which is highly unlikely since him and his supporters were unarmed. What was even more astonishing and probably the saddest part is that these individuals responsible were acquitted of their crime and were able to walk away as free men.
After speaking with Rev. Nelson and his wife I was inspired by what his wife, Joyce Johnson told our group. To sum it up she looked at us intently in each of our eyes saying, it is important that we glean information as we move through these various states and cities and museums, but where the real change happens is when we are on the bus, where we are able to share our experiences with those we do not know and learn something new that way; truly inspiring! I am so excited to see what lies ahead as we travel to Charlotte and then Atlanta, GA.