Before I get started, let me get this out of the way. Family, you may again say, “Told you so!” This is my first extended trip using my smartphone, which allows me to access the Internet and provide a hotspot for my laptop without being dependent on finding an outside wi-fi source. Very convenient (but cheap, it ain’t).
Woke up surprisingly early, so I left with the hope that Nashville’s morning rush would be over. HA!! Took twice as long to get to Fisk University as it should have. Got a few great pictures of Jubilee Hall (if you don’t know who the Fisk Jubilee Singers are and their connection with that hall, there’s concise information on the group’s site.
I found a great, free parking space outside the campus library only to discover I had absolutely no motivation to go inside and study! So, I drove out to Opryland (big complex) with the idea of coming back to Fisk in time to meet a colleague who is on the faculty there. Unfortunately, I apparently managed to hit the next stop on my GPS itinerary, rather than the previous stop, and found myself way in the wrong part of town going in the wrong direction. I decided to keep going and contacted Gary with my sincere apologies for the mix-up.
As it worked out, I needed that time. The traffic all the way into Alabama was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday afternoon, so the going was slow at times. Anyway, when I crossed the state line into Alabama, that made the 46th of the 48 contiguous US that I have visited. The traffic was too heavy for me to feel safe getting out of RB to get a good picture of the welcome sign, so this one will have to do.
I only had two sites I wanted to visit in Birmingham–the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Civil Rights Institute, which happened to be next door to one another. I also discovered that there is a park across the street with signs and artwork dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement. The most striking was a sculpture clearly dedicated to the four girls killed in the 1963 bombing of the church.
It was a beautiful day, not too hot (to me, anyway), and visitors to the site were racially mixed–which I admit I was glad to see. This is part of American history, after all.
I then drove to Selma, the site of Bloody Sunday and subsequent marches. Below are a few shots of the Edmund Pettis Bridge and the tributes set up nearby to that day.
I circled back to get a fish dinner from the Church’s Chicken I’d passed on the way and found a shaded parking lot at a church along the way back towards the bridge (I was parked there at the beginning of the video I plan to add below). As I sat there, an older lady came out of the church and started walking towards the other car parked in the lot. She glanced in my direction and then came towards me. With a friendly smile, she said that she noticed the “SINGIN1” on my car tags and that they were from out-of-state, so she wanted to say hello. She told me that she was the church’s music direction (a musical jack-of-all-trades, as many of you fellow musicians know).
She then told me that she was a 15-year-old Selma resident during Bloody Sunday and remembered the tensions in the small town, especially because of the white-robed and -hooded Klansmen who filled the streets then. She said that she was a volunteer for the 50th anniversary march, providing water and assistance to the 100,000-plus visitors.
What moved her most was seeing all the church women garbed in white on the streets during the commemoration. The difference she felt between the support they represented that day in comparison to those angry men so many years ago was striking.
I couldn’t help but sense how much she was affected by the recollections she shared with me. It was the unexpected highlight of my day, and I’m sorry I can’t adequately describe how powerful her words were.
When I pulled out of the lot, it was with an even stronger sense of the history of the place. Below is the dash cam recording of my drive across the bridge:
I reached Montgomery too late to enter the museum that honors Rosa Parks, but I did take a few pictures of the facade and a nearby mural tribute to the Civil Rights Movement:
At that point, I turned towards my next destination: Miami Beach and the Comic Con that starts on Friday. The original route calls for a pretty direct route through Central Florida, but I have visited that area several times over my many years residing in the state. So I created a route that takes me down Florida’s Atlantic coast since I’ve not seen it.
The music for this part of the trip was exclusively B’s, especially since I not only added several performers to the playlist, but reshuffled the “The” folders to integrate them with the rest of the playlist to provide even more variety to the play through. For example, The Beatles and The Beach Boys are now grouped with the other B’s.
The timing of this part of the playlist was good because there were lots of uptempo songs I could sing with and help to keep engaged with the challenges of the drive. Between the heavy traffic, construction, and the serious twists and turns of the state roads along the way, there was no time for contemplation.
But that was okay….