It’s humorous the nice issues that come from a recent perspective.
A few years in the past, Montgomery — the birthplace of the Civil Rights Motion — lastly elected town’s first Black mayor, Steven Reed. When he walked into the workplace on the primary day, every part modified in Alabama’s capital metropolis.
Issues that had gone unaddressed began to get consideration. Marginalized communities all of a sudden had a receptive ear.
That is how variety works. Hiring and electing individuals from completely different backgrounds, who’ve completely different experiences and completely different viewpoints, ends in completely different views and completely different objectives. Targets like making inclusivity a citywide precedence, or emphasizing police-community relations that spared town from harmful protests, or addressing lingering problems with racism and discrimination which have existed within the metropolis for generations.
That’s how Tuesday happened in Montgomery.
A day when town stopped honoring a accomplice traitor and began honoring an honest-to-goodness American hero. And when it lastly, lastly, lastly began righting the unsuitable achieved to Claudette Colvin.
From nearly the second Reed walked by way of the door to the mayor’s workplace, he needed to do one thing to honor lawyer Fred Grey — the best civil rights lawyer in American historical past. (There’s no level in you arguing that distinction. Once you discover me somebody who desegregated all Alabama faculties, made the Selma-to-Montgomery March attainable, defended Rosa Parks, helped plan and execute the Bus Boycott — the best protest in American historical past — and managed to get Martin Luther King Jr. acquitted of tax evasion by an all-white jury in Alabama within the Sixties, then we’ll speak.)
Whereas historic markers are good and all — Montgomery erected a kind of to honor Grey just a few years in the past — Reed needed one thing a bit extra symbolic of Grey’s accomplishments. One thing like renaming the road Grey grew up on, and within the course of eradicating the identify of the primary president of the confederacy and placing instead the identify of a Black man who fought his entire life towards segregation and discrimination.
With Grey and his household in attendance on Tuesday, the brand new road indicators went up. Jeff Davis Ave. is now formally Fred Grey Ave.
Shortly after that occasion, there was one other, equally essential occasion — this one to lastly clear the identify of Claudette Colvin.
In case you don’t know Colvin, it’s in all probability as a result of Alabama didn’t train an correct historical past lengthy earlier than it was standard to ban instructing an correct state historical past. Earlier than Rosa Park’s arrest, which touched off the Bus Boycott, Colvin was dragged off a bus in Montgomery for refusing to surrender her seat to a white man.
For a short second, Colvin was going to be the identify everybody remembered. Nevertheless it wasn’t to be for a wide range of causes — most notably, Colvin, 15 on the time, turned pregnant (she has stated beforehand that the being pregnant was the results of a statutory rape) and civil rights leaders felt which may make her much less sympathetic to the general public.
Colvin, who was represented by Grey, was left solely with the cost of assaulting a police officer after different prices have been dismissed. However that cost, it caught. Colvin was hit with “indefinite probation,” and so they have been critical in regards to the indefinite half.
Some 66 years later, she’s nonetheless on it.
And that’s the place town and Reed and that entire new perspective factor are available. Again final 12 months, when town was planning to commemorate the sixty fifth anniversary of Park’s arrest, Reed instructed his workers that he additionally needed to do one thing for Colvin. His prime coverage advisor on the time, lawyer Phillip Ensler, bought on the job.
“Nearly instantly, we began speaking in regards to the felony document from when she was a teen and whether or not we might do one thing about it,” Ensler stated. “(Reed) needed to expunge the document. So we appeared into that, however as a result of it was in juvenile courtroom, and a number of other different elements, that wasn’t attainable.”
However Ensler bought in deep. He talked to Colvin’s household about getting the document expunged, sought out their recommendation and put in a good quantity of labor. When he left town for his personal observe, Ensler didn’t cease working for the Colvin household.
Colvin’s document ought to have been cleared way back, however nobody bothered to do it. And neither Colvin or her members of the family ever pressed anybody as a result of they didn’t belief anybody to truly do it. As an alternative, Claudette Colvin merely walked round in worry for years.
“Even after she moved off to New York and would come again to go to, she feared that one thing could be achieved to her,” Ensler stated. “The household was very a lot conscious that this was nonetheless on the market.”
And so, Ensler began engaged on righting that unsuitable. With a bit of assist from town and mates. Reed and town will assist the expungement. Montgomery District Lawyer Daryl Bailey has written a advice saying his workplace helps the expungement. Rep. Merika Coleman is planning to introduce laws that makes the expungement official on the state stage.
And on Tuesday, together with her outdated lawyer and her new lawyer at her aspect, Colvin filed a proper request for expungement with the presiding decide of the Montgomery County juvenile courtroom — the courtroom that by some means has authority over this matter involving an 82-year-old.
“I don’t imagine it should take lengthy for this to be authorised,” Ensler stated. “I’m simply pleased I might assist and be part of this.”
He may not be completed with the expungements. Along with Colvin, Mary Louise Smith and Aurelia Browder even have felony data which have lingered for many years. Smith and Browder joined Colvin and Susie McDonald because the named defendants within the lawsuit towards Montgomery’s segregated busing system. Grey represented all 4. Ensler stated he could be pleased to work on the remainder — a noble dedication for a person working professional bono.
The Browder v. Gayle lawsuit was, after all, profitable. It launched the Civil Rights Motion and the profession of a younger lawyer with ambitions to “assault every part segregated.”
And on Tuesday, town of Montgomery, the state of Alabama and the whole nation was reminded of these two fearless Individuals. Younger college youngsters bought to listen to about American heroes they need to have heard about way back. And the remainder of us bought a pleasant second in a time after we really want just a few good moments.
Simply look what a change in perspective can do.