On September 15, 1963, a bomb planted by white supremacist terrorists detonated at the predominantly black 16th Street Baptist Church–injuring 22 people and killing four young girls. By 1965, the FBI has confirmed the identities of the perpetrators but as was often the case, justice was not sought. The investigation was reopened in 1977, resulting in the first conviction. Two of the other terrorists were convicted in 2001 and 2002. The fourth had passed away in 1994.
While reflecting on the anniversary of this horrific, pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement, the amount of time it took for the system to seek justice, and the implications of the privilege I was born into, I can’t help but remember MLK’s words to his fellow clergy in the infamous letter from Birmingham jail:
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
These words are just as relevant now amidst repeated, failed attempts to indict police officers for unjustified killings throughout the United States. Rest in Power Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Carol Denise McNair. May we remember their names and be reminded that waiting isn’t an option for those who are being killed.
Photo source: http://a.abcnews.com/images/US/AP_brimingham_bombing_girls_03_jef_130913_16x9_992.jpg