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Threescore years

Remembering the Birmingham 4 who lost their lives on September 15, 1963

by Leslie McGraw, Elbert Williams Voting Corner

As we publicly reflect on the four little girls who were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing sixty years ago, I remember when this became real for me. I was at a Martin Luther King program at my church and the Sunday School Superintendent (at the time), Mrs. Helen Brown-Oliver, talked about the little girls that were bombed. They had attended Malachi Leroy Wilkerson Elementary School, which at the time served students Kindergarten through eighth grade.
Prior to that morning, all I knew was what was contained in the optional (lesson helper) paragraph of our school textbooks.
I found out that Mrs. Oliver didn’t just know them…she had been to the church, played with  girls before, knew their families and personalities…to think that my Mrs. Oliver could have almost been one of those little girls made me cry. Not little girl tears…thoughtful, worldly, adult-sized tears.
Later, I looked up the situation and found out that there were other little girls that had been maimed and injured due to this bombing including one that was blinded from glass shrapnel. In fact, over twenty people were seriously injured that day. Additionally, in the chaotic aftermath two teen boys were killed that same Sunday.
When I think about it now, I have a mix between the original feeling of a child that has to think about the pain like a big person and an adult who longs to have the optimism of a child when it comes to race relations.
Unfortunately, in recent years, my disappointment outweighs my optimism. Or rather, my hope and optimism is now a much more sober variety. I will NEVER understand how someone thought bombing a church with little children in it was a good idea. Or…how nobody intervened or redirected the bombers? I’ll NEVER understand Why this crime didn’t quiet the nation and put us in the path for conciliation.

And, most importantly, I’ll NEVER forget Carole Robertson, Carol McNair, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Wesley. And, now that I know their names, Johnnie Robinson and Virgil Ware.
I still have hope. For all of us. 
Note: In the video below, the first audio was scraped from today’s radio show: Legacy in Action with Talia Rodriguez. The song you hear later in the video is entitled ‘1963’ by Candi Staton. I do not own the copyright to this video.
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Leslie discovered the power of the pen in the third grade after her family moved to a new school district. Writing became a way to sort out her new surroundings and escape to fantasy landscapes. That child, and voice, has matured into a poet, writer, blogger, journalist, online content creator and editor. Leslie is a social entrepreneur with a demonstrated commitment to community. She is an active community member in Washtenaw County (Michigan) with expertise in social media marketing and content management systems, volunteer coordination and writing and 19 years of experience in the areas of online community management, training, leadership development, and social networking. She is interested in facilitating connection with both community residents and businesses. Through this work, the economy of the community is improved and the organizations are financially successful. Her main mode of advocacy and online community, however, is through writing.

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