If you are a cyberspace friend of Red’s Rants and Raves and/or The Old Woman Slow’s Photos, you know South Carolina Pride was this past weekend in the state capitol of Columbia. I took 163 digital images over the weekend and posted my favorites on the blogs. I am a believer in the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and these pictures are images of hope, faith, love and joy – and the occasional unsmiling prophecy pretenders. I love the pictures, but I can’t resist the thousand words, give or take a few.
When I look at these images, I hear the voices of America singing. I hear the cries of Paul Revere on his midnight ride and the loud sounds of argument and heated debate as the Founding Fathers (yes, Virginia – there were no mothers present) drafted the Constitution of the United States with a Bill of Rights guaranteeing individual liberties.
I hear the sounds of slaves who could not speak to their masters, and I hear the whispers of abolitionists who spirited those slaves away in the darkness. I hear the cries of the wounded and dying Confederate and Union soldiers as the artillery fired around them on the fields at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, and I hear the cannon fired in Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumter.
I hear the choruses of the suffragettes who held a convention in Seneca, New York, and marched and dared to dream that women had the right to vote – which they hoped would lead to greater equality, and I hear the roll call of states that refused to ratify an Equal Rights Amendment which attempted to level the playing field for “the weaker sex” in the 1970s.
I hear the singing of the marchers in Selma and Birmingham in the 1960s as they walked to overcome their harsh treatment. I hear the voices of angry rappers today in Fullerton, Missouri, over the endless struggles for fair treatment in a country where equality is, too often, lip-synced.
I hear the voices of the drag queens at Stonewall in 1969 as they refuse to be treated inhumanely and stand firm against the oppression of the gay community. I hear the sounds of pleas by children who are thrown out of their homes and into the streets when their family confronts their sexuality. I hear the sounds of comfort and support from people who respond with love to these children in distress.
This is what I hear when I look at the digital images of the Pride March, but what I feel is entirely different. When you grow up feeling you are somehow not right, that there is something wrong with who you are and that you will never be good enough, and when you spend a lifetime being denied basic dignities and respect and are continually marginalized by being a part of a sub culture, and when you march in your hometown for twenty-five years and in those earlier years the prophecy pretenders outnumber the people who march with you, then the South Carolina Pride March this past weekend was like a parade for the astronauts who walked on the moon – minus the confetti and streamers.
I wish I had the gift of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe my feelings as I rode on the Pioneers Float Saturday, but since I don’t, I’ll borrow his words:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like any man I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now…God’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know today that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, today, I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.”
I’ve been to the mountaintop.