Keeping your Selma Warm

Much of our experience on the march involved us examining, “What is your Selma?”

My friend Jeimy from #bus2 (and Puerto Rico)  remarked at one of our final reflections that as a community, we’ve created a quilt…and now we can keep our Selmas warm for one another.

What does it mean to “keep your Selma warm?” 

For me, it means that when I’ve got a friend whose Selma is providing access to high-quality education to children, I believe her when she tells me what their challenges are in her classroom. Maybe I donate to the school. Maybe I tell them how much I appreciate their work. I don’t say, “Oh, you’ve got summers off, you can’t complain.” I keep her Selma warm by honoring her efforts and her work.

Can I help keep your Selma warm?

I’ve got some friends who are LGBTQQI activists. They tell me about how voter ID laws disproportionately affect folks who aren’t gender-conforming. So, I learn what it’s like to show up at the polls as Gabby when your photo ID says Gabe.   I don’t say, “Ugh, you people. It’s not that big of a deal.” I keep their Selma warm by listening without judgement, and asking how I can learn more.

Let me keep your Selma warm.

Plenty of folks on our march work on issues of environmental justice. Maybe that’s not my Selma, but I can recycle my water bottles at the end of the day. When they’re working on a local initiative and ask for help with a petition, I say, “Where do I sign?”  I don’t say, “Pffft…doesn’t matter. Treehugger.”

When I help you keep your Selma warm, it’s not that I take on every cause. I can’t donate to everything. It’s not that I become an expert on the intricacies of every injustice that needs to be righted. It’s simply that I have the moral imagination to believe  that an injustice is being committed, either by an individual or by a system. I keep your Selma warm by believing that even if the issue doesn’t directly affect me (yet, that I know of) that my world will be richer if my brothers and sisters live in justice. And if there is a specific action I can take, like writing a letter to an elected official or considering an issue when I vote, that is my responsibility. I’ll keep your Selma warm.

Just because I’m not a Black man and I’ve never had an encounter with law enforcement that was anything less that helpful or routine, doesn’t give me permission to not imagine it’s different for some of my fellow marchers. Just because I’ve never had my access to healthcare denied doesn’t mean that I get to pretend that people going without good quality care are doing fine without it.  Just because I have a passport and my work permission in order doesn’t let me off the hook for doing hard thinking about what my choices would look like without those documents.

My fellow marchers, I salute you. I honor and respect your Selmas. Something tells me that Selma is a small town with a lot of intersections, so keep it warm for me when I come in, too.

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