“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” — John Lewis, civil rights leader and congressman, written shortly before his death on July 17.
We walked with the wind today.
Not that there was an actual breeze on this steamy summer day in Midway, Kentucky, but the fifty or more participants who walked in the Honoring Black Stories in Midway March were powered by wind energy that the late John Lewis spoke of.
The march, in celebration of the resiliency of Midway’s Black residents, was organized by Milan Bush and other descendants of families whose school was ransacked by a mob of White men on July 31, 1868.
Starting at City Hall, our diverse group walked to the Stephens Street site of the long-gone school that was positioned on the corner of what’s now the Midway University soccer field.
Along the way, we stopped to hear from Joyce Thomas, an octogenarian who told us that while Black Lives Matter represents a worldwide movement, it also speaks for one person at a time.
“When you think about your genes and your family in Midway, think about me, too. This about us. See us for who we are,” she said.
Ms. Thomas said she doesn’t blame today’s White residents for the 1868 incident, nor for the decades that followed, when Black citizens weren’t accorded equal opportunities. Instead she asked us to take advantage of the change that is happening in America … and in Midway.
It helped me to hear that.
My relatives have been in Midway—or on surrounding farms—for something like 200 years, and while I don’t have evidence that they supported the Confederacy or mistreated people of color, neither do I know if my forebears spoke against slavery or the subsequent mistreatment of Black men and women.
I was eager to be there today, but Ms. Thomas told us that we need to do more than walk.
“You can put up a plaque and say the right words, but also … put it in your heart,” she said.
In my 62 years, I have walked for miles on Midway’s streets and sidewalks: on Halloween nights with my family, during growing-up days with my friends, and on moonlit evenings with a sweetheart.
But today I walked with purpose in my heart. I walked in the spirit of peace—as John Lewis implored—with my sisters and brothers.
For today in Midway, we walked with the wind.
Photos: Grayson Vandegrift