Friday, October 27, 2006


From the teller’s stage at the Jonesborough Festival, 88-year-old Kathryn Windham tells us about the Sunday afternoon comb concerts on the lawn in front of the Selma Alabama Public Library.  Selma Alabama—that town sounds familiar.  What do I know about it?


It was March 7, 1965 when a group of marchers formed in Selma under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King.  They were protesting the literacy rules that prevented many of Alabama’s black citizens from voting.  Police attacked and killed one of the marchers.  They attacked again at a protest held March 16.  Still the vioence would not end.  People involved in a march from Selma to Montgomery between March 21 and 25 were killed.  These far-away events made the news here in Alberta.  As a child, I could not help but hear about them, and I listened in wonder, having never met a Negro, not being able to understand why they couldn’t read, why they couldn’t vote.  


And here, in 2006, stands Kathryn saying: “There are still a lot of wounds to heal.”  She tells us about the remarkable act of forgiveness shown by a black man named Ernest Dawson.  Though the Selma library denied him access as a child, he later donated $10,000 to purchase children’s books for its collection. 


And the comb concerts?  Well, according to Kathryn, everyone is invited to play in the comb orchestra that practices on the lawn in front of the Selma Public Library.  Using waxed paper over comb teeth, you vibrate your lips and make music under the direction of a local choir leader.  The vibration tickles your lips.  The tickling makes you laugh.  The person next to you is laughing also.  According to Kathryn, it is impossible to laugh with people and hate them at the same time. 

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