Hope is My Middle Name

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withcornellbrooksNAACPLast week on America's March for Justice I had tired legs but a full heart. I had the chance to walk the talk. Only 23 others marched with me along the highway from Athens, GA to Augusta, GA. They inspired me. Five of them were marching the entire 860 mile journey. Each of them had put their lives on hold for a month and a half to March for Justice. One of them was Ivan, marching 20 miles a day with a cane – at a pace that was hard to keep up with. Another, Keshia Thomas, a human rights activist who wants to demonstrate with her life that violence is not the answer. When Keshia was 18 years old the KKK was holding a rally in her hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. Keshia was one of hundreds who came out to protest the rally. Suddenly, a mob began to attack one of the alleged Klansman. He was down on the ground with people stomping on him. Without hesitating, Keshia leapt forward and put her body over his, protecting him. A photographer from LIFE Magazine captured the moment, and from that time on Keshia has promoted peaceful resistance.

Two proud symbols accompanied us on our journey, the American Flag and a Torah. One, a symbol of freedom and democracy, the other a symbol of truth and justice. In many ways it's been a heartbreaking year for the American people, from the streets of Ferguson to a Church in Charleston. Bigotry has once again reared its ugly head. Voting rights are threatened. Poverty is perpetuated. But on our journey, hope came to greet us.

As Jews we are well acquainted with hatred and persecution. We understand the long, hard, bitter struggle for freedom. "Standing on the parted shores, we still believe what we were taught before ever we stood at Sinai's foot; that wherever we go, it is eternally Egypt; that there is a better place, a promised land; that the winding way to that promise passes through the wilderness. That there is no way to get from here to there except by joining hands, marching together. (Michael Walzer, as appears in Mishkan T'filah)."

There is still a long way to go on this journey for justice. Let us join hands and march together.