Race defies stigmas, racism that permeates community

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2006

“I started boxing at 11,” he said. “I used to go to school by the Selma Youth Development Center on Plant Street and would walk by there every day. One day, I decided to go in and give it a try. By the time I was 12, I was boxing and training almost every day. That was 8 years ago,” said Pierre.

Pierre and I met for the first time yesterday.

Our meeting didn’t come about by a passing in the grocery store, or sitting beside each other at a ball game, but rather our meeting came as we were bound together for miles by links of a chain in the annual Defiant Run.

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Pierre just finished boot camp and nearly three months of training for the Marine Corp reserve.

He wants to be a police officer and after running with him for more than an hour yesterday, I am sure he will be able to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.

In between attempts to catch our breath and climbing over hay bells, we traded stories.

I told him about my recent marathon and he told me about his goal of becoming an Olympic boxer.

We shared stories about our boot camp experiences and encouraged each other to push on to finish the race.

Because of the race, I have made a new friend. He doesn’t socialize in the same circles that I do.

He isn’t in a civic club with me or on any of the boards I serve on.

He is a very bright young black man, who has all the potential in the world. He is a black man who I never would have had the opportunity for friendship with had it not been for the Defiant Run.

It is no secret that there are a number of people both black and white that are opposed to the event and maybe even more the name

– “Defiant” run.

“More white people would run the race if he (Frank Hardy) would just change the name,” said one white man.

“Why would I want to walk around chained to a white man, when he won’t talk to me in public,” said another black man I know.

I am glad I didn’t listen to those people, because if I had – I would had never met Pierre and learned first-hand what great work Frank does at the SYDC.

The idea of connecting a white person and a black person by the links of a chain just doesn’t sit well with some people in Selma and even throughout the South.

But if you were to ask one of the 70-plus people gathered at the Selma Mall Saturday, they would tell you that there is nothing wrong with the Defiant Run or the word Defiant.

What they would tell you is that they had fun walking or running and learning about someone of a different color. That they were not worried about what people thought about them or what had happened 40 years ago or even centuries ago. They were defying all that!

Frank Hardy, who has given so much to our community, continues to do so by putting on this event annually with the help of numerous volunteers. Unfortunately, he still hasn’t received the type of support from the city and county that is needed to get this event to fulfill its potential.

The potential is astronomical, the idea, though, is even bigger.

But because people of both colors – black and white – want to hold on to feelings that previous generations endured – the race hasn’t grown in participation.

There is a time, though, when the differences will be put aside, whether in this life or another.

For us in Selma, let’s begin working on our differences now. It doesn’t need to take a race for us to make new friends of different colors. We shouldn’t wait until next year to tell someone that is not like us that we love them, and that we don’t want racism to be a constant in our community anymore.

Jesse Lindsey is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal.