“No one can win the war individually, It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy”
– Glory from the Motion Picture Selma
Frederick D. Reese is a Legend. And although the acts throughout his life were incredibly courageous, his legacy of love for the next generation is what made him legendary to us.
The first conversation we had with Dr. Reese was in the midst of a battle. The forces of racism and oppression had come knocking at our door trying to stop a youth movement to bring unity to Selma. It seemed so intense at the time. With people calling the local government and threatening to pull funding from our school if we didn’t stop.
But Dr. Reese had withstood many battles of his own. From being a part of the Courageous Eight who compelled Dr. King to come to Selma, to leading his fellow teachers time and time again to the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse. Yet, here he was talking to us because he believed wholeheartedly that we mattered. And that a march led by youth, no matter how it seemed to others, was worth marching again.
Months before, we had met with government officials to plan a unity dance with youth from all over Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the infamous Bloody Sunday occurred in 1965. As the date came closer, the city government was under a lot of pressure to pull support. When they told us we could no longer host the dance because “you can always do the dance somewhere else”, it ignited a fire in everyone to protest the decision and march on the day we had planned to dance.
But we needed guidance. And when we asked to meet with Dr. Reese, he gave us his full support. Not because we had done everything right, but because he believed our cause was right. Time and time again, he would invite us to teach the dance to kids at his church or talk to his members about the project. It was incredible to be walking in step with one of Selma’s greatest heroes, but also be so understood and welcomed.
Dr. Reese, thank you for standing with us. For never turning a blind eye to injustice, no matter if that injustice took away the right to vote or the right to dance. You lived a legacy of love and we pray that we can carry that legacy forward for more generations.