Addie Mae Collins
Today social justice activists frequently remind us of Black victims who have suffered at the hands of white supremacists. We have grown accustomed to folks reading old names and adding new names to the list, such as George Floyed and Breonna Taylor.
Today in 1963—at the 16th Street Birmingham Baptist Church, Black social justice activists were accustomed to reading a list of names of Black folks who were murdered by white supremacists. You know the list of folks as the four little girls. You see, much like the elephant, society was built to exclude them. Instead of restructuring their homes, these girls would not live to see 15. My Mom was living in Selma, AL at the age of 12 when this happened.
Their lives were cut short because segregationists despised the aspirations of Black people to vote, receive an education, own a home, protect themselves, and receive a fair treatment in courts. They died because they were at church that morning desiring to be a better person. I was reminded by my calendar of the ubiquitous nature of white supremacy. Then my Mom called asking if I knew what today meant to her; I failed my Mom because she had to remind me. I did not share my Mom's story with you--this story. It is important that you know this story; it changed how she saw the world, and how she raised her sons.
The poet Langston Hughe’s told us that,
Four little girls
Who went to Sunday School that day
And never came back home at all
But left instead
Their blood upon the wall
Just three weeks before the bombing, MLK stated in his epic speech at his famous March on Washington D.C., that he had a dream of a day when little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. Weeks later King attended the funerals of these four little Black girls; he had to explain why these little girls would never hold hands with anyone again. He had to explain why they were martyrs not for the content of their character but for the color of their skin.