Living the Dream

_C1_6474Martin Luther King, Jr. was 26 years old when he helped organize and lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott and brought nonviolence and civil disobedience to the nightly news. He was 34 when he described a dream of racial equality to 250,000 people. He was 35 when the Civil Rights Act outlawed segregation and he marched from Selma. He was 39 when he was shot down.

In other words, he was young. He wasn’t even middle-aged when he built those bridges to a better country.

Yesterday’s march, vigil and banquet in downtown Fayetteville focused on today’s 20- and 30-somethings. The push for social and political equality isn’t over, marchers said again and again, and it’s going to need new Kings. Hundreds of people came out. I wrote about it all for today’s paper.

_C1_6469

_C1_6463

_C1_6471I was thrilled for the chance to cover this day — the timing was perfect.

Nationwide protests against the deaths of people of color at the hands of police continue. This year is the 50th anniversary of the push for voting rights in Selma. A movie dramatizing the marches from that Alabama town — and the sometimes deadly police and civilian brutality that met them — is out this month. Marchers of every age and color Monday chatted and laughed together, then joined in hymns and chants that rang out during demonstrations decades ago.

Our history and present feel particularly connected these days. It’s an amazing time for a journalist to dive into these complex, immensely important issues. I was glad to be there, and I hope my story did the day justice.

_C1_6475

_C1_6483

_C1_6495

_C1_6502

_C1_6506

_C1_6555The University of Arkansas hosted the post-march vigil, and in a speech there, Arkansas State Rep. Eddie Armstrong of North Little Rock addressed the students directly. He called on them to use their education to keep building those bridges to a better country, as a 26-year-old did a generation ago.

“The leaders of tomorrow are sitting here in this room,” he said. “You have to take charge of the life that’s in front of you, because if you don’t, the bridges stop getting built.”

Thanks for looking,

Dan

#Ferguson

_C1_4637Today has been a day of protest over a St. Louis grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting the unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown back in August. People nationwide and in other countries, including a diverse bunch here in Fayetteville, gathered to voice their disgust with what they called a justice system stacked against people of color. (You can see Ben Goff‘s official photo gallery for the paper here.)

There’s a ton of passion throughout these events, obviously — in Ferguson last night, rage over the decision turned into violence. The 80 or so people here in Fayetteville stayed peaceful, loudly chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and other slogans and holding signs saying the lives of non-white people still matter.

_C1_4709

_C1_4648

_C1_4733

_C1_4657Four people were arrested after they blocked traffic for a few minutes after noon, but Fayetteville police and everyone else involved were calm during the civil disobedience and handcuffing. It reminded me of the Occupy Lincoln protests I covered back in school. Here, at least, people trusted their police.

_C1_4689

_C1_4690I won’t wade any further into the furious disagreement over what happened that August day; you can take a look at all of the evidence that exists here. But I do want to talk about one or two things in all of this.

White men who committed or are accused of terrible crimes — shooting dozens of people in a movie theater, shooting dozens of people at a political rally or allegedly killing a police officer — lived through their arrests. Brown is one of many unarmed black children and men in recent years who didn’t live through theirs.

A lot of people see these as coincidences, biased sets of examples or otherwise justifiable in some way. One fellow came out today with a little sign saying Darren Wilson is a hero.

A lot of other people, including the Fayetteville protesters, disagree. They instead see this situation as a pattern that won’t go away no matter how hard they try. That’s what the protesters were fighting, they said.

As for me, I want people to be and feel safe around cops. I want people happy and safe in their skins. I hope the people working to make these things happen, whoever they are, succeed. I can’t say much more and remain an observer.

_C1_4679

_C1_4720

_C1_4725I also hope you’re happy and safe. Thanks for looking.

Dan