Posted by: wordofexcellence | February 1, 2012

Of Rights and Justice Denied

What follows is a poem I wrote a number of years ago. I was much inspired by what I found on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website at the time, describing all the folk who were murdered in the Southland of these United States between 1954 and 1968.

It’s Black History Month here in America. Let us rejoice in the freedoms won, but never forget those whose lives were lost in the battle.

I’m not exactly an activist, but I fervently believe in civil rights, and I’ve stood up for those rights in a variety of venues through my lifetime.  I’m prayerful that what follows will move someone; it moved me in the writing.

Civil – of or relating to the state or its citizenry;
Rights – something to which one has a just claim;
Civil Rights – the nonpolitical rights of a citizen.

Forty people dead…victims of violence
working for civil rights in America
a freedom struggle – to be continued.

The Rev. George Lee – May 7, 1955, Belzoni, Mississippi
Lamar Smith – August 13, 1955, Brookhaven, Mississippi
Emmett Louis Till – August 28, 1955, Money, Mississippi
The last, 14 years old
Mississippi – a state of death – murdered all.
John Earl Reese – October 22, 1955, Mayflower, Texas
Age 16 – shot dead
Willie Edwards, Jr. – January 23, 1957, Montgomery, Alabama
Off a bridge
Killed in the name of segregation
Mack Charles Parker – April 25, 1959, Poplarville, Mississippi
Herbert Lee – September 25, 1961, Liberty, Mississippi
Cpl. Roman Ducksworth, Jr. – April 9, 1962, Taylorsville, Mississippi
Paul Guihard – September 30, 1962, Oxford, Mississippi
The carnage continued from a variety of killers
Mob, legislator, cop
William Lewis Moore – April 23, 1963, Attalla, Alabama
Killed wishing for liberty and equality
Medgar Evers – June 12, 1963, Jackson, Mississippi
A leader assassinated
Addie Mae Collins and Denise McNair and Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley – September 15, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama
School girls, in church, a bomb
Virgil Lamar Ware – September 15, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama
At age 13, riding a bike
Johnnie Mae Chappell – March 23, 1964, Jacksonville, Florida
Louis Allen – April 7, 1964, Liberty, Mississippi
Fear, ignorance, prejudice…senseless death…
The Rev. Bruce Klunder – April 7, 1964, Cleveland, Ohio
Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore – May 2, 1964, Meadville, Mississippi
Murder most foul
James Earl Chaney and Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner – June 21, 1964, Philadelphia, Mississippi
Struggling to help establish rights – shot dead
Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn – July 11, 1964, Colbert, Georgia
On his way home
Jimmie Lee Jackson – February 26, 1965, Marion, Alabama
The Rev. James Reeb – March 11, 1965, Selma, Alabama
Viola Greg Liuzzo – March 25, 1965, Selma, Alabama
A bloody month in a bloody state
Wars waged on American streets
Oneal Moore – June 2, 1965, Bogalusa, Louisiana
An officer of the law – no matter – he was black
Willie Brewster – July 18, 1965, Anniston, Alabama
Jonathan Myrick Daniels – August 20, 1965, Hayneville, Alabama
Month after month, more dead
Samuel Leamon Younge, Jr. – January 3, 1966, Tuskegee, Alabama
A new year, same old story
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer – January 10, 1966, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Ben Chester White – June 10, 1966, Natchez, Mississippi
Clarence Triggs – July 30, 1966, Bogalusa, Louisiana
Brought to remembrance
Three more now dead
Wharlest Jackson – February 27, 1967, Natchez, Mississippi
Benjamin Brown – May 12, 1967, Jackson, Mississippi
Blood running in the streets
Samuel Ephesians Hammond, Jr. and Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith – February 8, 1968, Orangeburg, South Carolina
On a college campus, blood is shed
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee
Righteous, gifted, peacemaker, holy man
Shot down for his beliefs

Until the killing of a black mother’s son
Becomes as important as the killing of
A white mother’s son,
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
Recall the word…Amos 5:24
But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like a mighty stream.


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