Black History Month In Brief: The Meaning of Freedom

BY A J Sidransky (@AJSidransky)

I have had the distinct pleasure to meet and speak with Athelstein Sullivan Parrish known to her friends and family as “Mama T” who will be 100 years old this month and who was in Selma during the historic events of 1965. I am forever grateful to her for sharing her history with me.

“What was it like?”

She looked at me, 100-year-old eyes deep with passion and memory. “It was normal.” She was very matter-of-fact.

“How could that be?”

“That’s just how we lived. We accepted it.”

“When did that change?”

“That day on the bridge, with Dr King.”

“You knew him?”

“Yes.”  She gazed into the distance through the window at the frozen Hudson. “You know, you couldn’t look into his eyes for too long, they were ablaze.”

I saw that fire in her eyes. “What did you feel that day?”

She smiled, clapped, then shouted, “Free, for the first time. Free!”

A J Sidransky is the author of two novels set in upper Manhattan, Forgiving Maximo Rothman and Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon. He lives in Washington Heights.


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