We interviewed author Lynda Blackmon Lowery when she was visiting a friend in Manhattan recently. Her book, "Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom," is an incredible story about being one of the youngest people to march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.
How does your new book "Turning 15 On the Road to Freedom" inspire young people?
I am hoping it inspires young people to think positive, to let them know that they are our future history makers. Let them know that they can make change. Every day, I think, is a journey into freedom. And when I say a journey into freedom, I mean the freedom of getting older and wiser. And you make history every day. So every day you can make change.
If you could go back in time, what would you change?
I would make everyone color blind. Just blind to color. Therefore, I would think that there would be nothing like segregation or hatred or racism. If everyone was the same, I don't think they'd be so willing and so eager to hurt somebody else. Or be afraid of somebody else hurting them.
What do you remember most?
The scars there still remind me of what happened on Bloody Sunday. Now I can talk about Bloody Sunday without crying. For years I could not talk about it unless I started crying. Now that chapter and that phase of my life is over with. I have dealt with it, I am really free of it and that makes me happy.
What did you learn from the experience?
I learned that fear is going to be with you every day. If you're doing something in a positive manner, and what I was doing back then was what Dr. King told me, I would be able to do it at 13. I would be able to get someone to do what I wanted them to do with steady, loving confrontation and he was saying that in a positive way. He wasn't saying it in a negative way. With non-balance that's steady, loving confrontation, you can get people on your side to understand what you are about. To want to help you and that's what we did.
What did you learn from your jail experience?
I learned that it was our right to be afraid. I learned that I had more friends than enemies at the time. I learned how to help one another and what true friendship was all about. When we were in jail, we were all young, scared, some were more frightened than others. We kept singing songs like "We Shall Overcome" and "Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Set on Freedom" and things like that that kept us together. So in jail I learned what love was really about.
Do you think the problem of racism has gotten better or worse from when you were a little girl?
I think racism is about the same. I don't think it's gotten any better or any worse. I've seen affirmative action over the years and through voting over the years a change, but the covert racism of the '60s has never changed and now it's coming back out like it was in the '60s kind of to me. So I haven't seen much change good or bad in racism over the past 50 years. Doctors say that hating causes heart trouble and diabetes, headaches and other physical ailments and if it does that to the person who is doing the hating, just think what it will do to the person that is receiving that hate. Racism hurts. It hurts to this day.
You went through some scary times, what scares you now?
Very little scares me now. I have seen a lot of things in my lifetime, but very little scares me now. I think the thing that I could say I'm afraid of now is just the fear for our young black children. I think black lives matter and just the fear that something could happen to my grandchildren, to you, just young black children.
Did you actually talk to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?
I spoke to Dr. King, I've been hugged by Dr. King. I've shaken his hand, I've gotten peppermint candies from Dr. King. But just to sit down and have a conversation with him about what we were doing, I never did. I used to sing behind Dr. King in the Freedom Choir.
What other leaders do you admire and why?
I admire our president, President Barack Obama. And I admire his wife. I don't see any leaders that I would follow right now for anything. Because when you follow people for something, you're putting your life, your beliefs, everything on the line and there aren't any . . . I don't have any that I would follow right now.