From Chicken Soup for the African American Soul

The Day I Walked and Walked

The greatest inspiration is often born of desperation.

Comer Cotrell

I remember getting ready to go downtown with my mom. The day was really pretty. The sun was out, the flowers were in full bloom, and I was so happy. My mom and I were going shopping to buy me a new Sunday dress for church. We always wore our best clothes for church. Church was a very special place. It was the place that we went to say “thank you” to God. As I sat down on the bus and looked out of the window, I thought to myself how lucky I was. I felt good and special and loved. I had a lot to be thankful for.

When we got off the bus, my mom took my hand like she always did and we started walking toward the store. As we passed a giant building, we saw hundreds and hundreds of people. They didn’t look happy at all. Some people were crying, some were talking in loud angry voices, and some were just staring. They all looked so sad. We stopped and watched. All of the people were black and they were all grown-ups. I didn’t see any children at all. To the side of us there was a really big group of people, and they were walking very slowly.

My mom questioned a woman standing nearby. I couldn’t hear what she said, but I felt her grip tighten on my hand as she led us into the group walking. After a short while I realized that we were actually walking around the big building. Because I was so little I could only see feet and legs and even those looked sad. Their dragging feet made a squishing sound as they walked.

Well, we walked and we walked, and it seemed like we walked around that building for a long time. And now I was feeling sad, too; something just wasn’t right.

I tugged at my mom’s hand, “Can we go now? I’m tired and I want to get my dress.”

“In a little while we’ll go.”

And we walked some more. Then I got really tired and I had to go to the bathroom. “Can we go now? I wanna go.”

I will never forget the look on my mother’s face as she looked down at me. Her eyes filled with tears, and she gently pulled me out of the line and squatted to look me in the eyes. She put both her hands on my shoulders, and I could see the pain on her face as she searched for words to explain why we were walking—why, we weren’t going to get my dress today, after all.

She wiped away her tears like she was trying to push her emotions out of the way so she could speak.

“Last Sunday, some very bad people set a bomb that blew up four little black girls just like you while they were at Sunday school. We are walking in this line because we want those bad people to know that it is not okay that they killed those little girls.”

As I looked at my mom, I could see tears rolling down her face and hurt and sadness in her eyes. All I could think about was how much I loved my Sunday school class and my church. I thought about those little girls and how they probably loved their church, too. And then it hit me. It could have been me in that church. I stood frozen in time and space.

When we moved back into the line I was completely changed. I was not just a little girl walking with her mother. I was a little girl walking for justice. I stood up as straight as I could, threw back my head, and I made a promise to myself. I will walk and I will walk and I will not stop walking. Everyone has to know that no more little girls will ever be blown up again. That day I walked and I never looked back. I never put my head down, and I never got tired. I felt good, and then I felt happy again.

I was walking to show the world those four little black girls mattered. They were more important than getting a new dress, they were more important than me getting tired. That day, they were the most important things in my world, and I was walking to show it.

Ahmon’dra (Brenda) McClendon

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