Wabash Blogs Immersion 2009: Expressive Culture

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An Historic Sunday

Sam Prellwitz ’10 – Forty-four years ago today, on a bridge sitting high above the Alabama River, civil rights activists marched and were brutally assaulted. This day came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” Today, 44 years later, a massive group of marchers ascended that same bridge stretching from the heart of Selma, Alabama and received no blows.

At 10:00 Sunday morning we walked into a small church in downtown Selma. We did not emerge from Tabernacle Baptist church for another three and a half hours. I spent that three and a half hours video-taping some of the most charismatic preaching, spine tingling singing, and animated crowd participation I’ve ever witnessed. It was my first experience in an African American church and I fell helplessly in love with it. By the time the sermon rolled around it was 12:30 and we’d been going strong with various other speakers and choral performances for at least two hours.

I was exhausted from standing most of the service for the purpose of taping, but once the sermon started, I could barely keep myself from clapping my hands and letting out an Amen. The sermon was over the topic of two generations: the Joshua generation and the Moses generation. With a multitude of illustrations and even more “preach on preacher’s,” “Amen’s” and “Teach its” the preacher built to his grand finale, or celebration. He connected this generation to the Joshua generation and hailed Barack Obama as its leader. He did this to coincide with this year’s Jubilee theme, “The Bridge to the White House.”

Yes, the bridge that set into motion the events that would ultimately lead to a man of African decent standing equal to all other men and women in a campaign for presidency, stood at the center of the weekend. We made the short trip to the bridge after church.

The atmosphere surrounding the event was vibrant. From the sheer magnitude of those who turned out to remember “Bloody Sunday” to the famous individuals (Rep. John Lewis, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson, to name a few) who provided wise words and even better photo-ops, crossing the bridge in a sea of people broadened my understanding of the civil rights movement and the experiences of those who fought and continue to fight for their rights and their dignity.

Finishing the evening, our entire Wabash crew was treated to a wonderful dinner and tremendous hospitality by Gary James’ family.

Gary’s parents, brother, sister and friends greeted us in York, Alabama with open arms. After such a long, emotional, and exhausting day those open arms were a welcome sight. Finishing the day around a relaxed dinner table seemed like the most appropriate ending to a day as busy as this one.

A Church, a bridge and hospitality… what a day.


Sam, Gary, Stephen, et al.
Keep up the good work. I feel like I'm on the trip with you. Powerful!