To the Selma High Class of 1978

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 30, 2007

To the Editor:

I love Selma!

It is not just my hometown; it is and always will be home.

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Even after my husband’s 20-year naval career and all the places we have had to make a home, Selma remained my home.

While my husband says that &8220;home is where we are,&8221; I can agree with him only so far.

To me, home has always been Selma.

I am a proud graduate of Selma High School Class of 1978.

The four years I shared at Selma High with my twin sister Anita and our classmates were precious and still make me smile.

Those are sweet memories, like walking into my mother’s kitchen and smelling the luscious aroma of her pound cake baking in the oven.

I was thrilled to hear of a 30-year class reunion.

I began looking up classmates: &8220;Hey, have you heard about the reunion?&8221; It was a thrill to hear their excitement, too.

Have we, the SHS Class of ’78, really been out of high school for 30 years?

My excitement quickly turned to disappointment and disbelief.

A classmate told me about rumblings about holding two reunions: One for Caucasians and a separate reunion for African Americans.

I could not believe what I was hearing as my classmates filled me in.

Dumbfounded, I thought, &8220;This is 2007, not 1957!&8221;

My heart sank.

I remember when Parrish High School became Selma High School in the early ’70s.

My older sister was a senior.

It was a tense situation. Those initial days were filled with schoolyard fights between black and white students.

By the time the class of ’78 arrived from Westside Middle School, the tension had died down and the black and white students seemed to converge on the campus with ease.

We all had advanced from Westside to Selma High and we knew each other; we were not strangers.

While I am not naive to think that there was no tension, the 1978 school yearbook displays a &8220;we can get along&8221; picture. And it was true. The members of the Westside football team were now all members of the Selma High School football team.

So how did we get from that unity to today’s &8220;separate, but equal?&8221; I am stunned to learn of efforts to create separate reunions for one class.

How can it be that in 2007 Selma citizens &045; some of my former classmates &045; have not moved beyond the past?

Sure, Selma has had it share of problems, but this effort by some of my classmates has set the city back, well, 30 years!!

This is an insult to all the people of Selma and other cities in the country who journeyed to Selma to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for the civil rights of African Americans.

It is an insult to the legacy of the civil rights movement. It’s an insult to all the people who fought and lost their lives in the fight for equality and justice!

How dare we, the African American classmates of SHS Class of ’78, say we don’t want to reunite with the rest of the class?

I remember the protests of 1965, and the worry that enveloped my mother and aunt when my brothers and cousin went &8220;down to the march.&8221;

It was scary.

I remember all the students who were jailed.

But good did prevail.

The saddest thing is what we are showing the children of Selma.

What will they remember?

There were two reunions in 2008 for the class of 1978 because the races could not find common ground and come together to celebrate the fact that 30 years later, we are still here and for the most part thriving!

Has history taught us nothing? What example is being set, and what will the children say about their parents who don’t want to join with their classmates?

And what if the situation were reversed?

What if the white students started planning a reunion and said we are having a reunion of the Class of 1978, but you all &045; the African Americans &045; are not welcome?

Can you not imagine the response?

It would have been plastered all over the newspapers and TV stations.

And of note, there were a few of the white students who were also against a unified reunion.

But there was consensus for a unified reunion, and the naysayers came onboard because, simply, it’s the right thing to do. It is interesting to note that the majority of the African-American classmates of &8216;78 that I spoke with directly who have moved away from Alabama are in favor of a unified reunion.

His letter is also an appeal to my classmates.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said it best. &8220;We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters or we will all perish as fools.&8221;

This is a great time in our lives.

Most of us have established our careers, raised our children and have so much to be thankful for.

What better reason than this to come together and celebrate?

We have an opportunity to come together, savor our memories, share our stories, and show the next generation of Selma &045; regardless of the color of their skin &045; that there can be unity.

Benita Clay-Davis

Chesapeake, Va.

Selma High School Class of 1978