Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Viola Liuzzo and our comfort zones
As we observe Black History Month, we remember the heroes of the movement that expanded rights and freedoms for us all, regardless of race or ethnicity. Hidden among the legendary figures of that turbulent time is the name of someone who is nearly as obscure as the life that she lived and lost.
The 1960s were the decade of Donna Stone and June Cleaver, so we don't normally give much currency or credit to the 'average' housewife of that era. The women of that time were supposedly mopping floors while wearing a fabulous mink stole, cleaning toilets with a string of pearls around their neck or fussing over a fixing dinner for a surprise visit from her husband's boss.
These indeed were comfortable times for many suburban Americans who watched helplessly while young people from all walks of life risked their lives in the killing fields of the Deep South. So, why did Viola Liuzzo, a white woman from the Wolverine State, take it upon herself to leave her domestic life to get entangled in the bloody civil rights movement?
She saw the injustices being committed against her fellow human being. The flickering images of Selma inspired her to stop viewing life from the sidelines and she took a stand; she was already attending her local Unitarian church in Michigan and joined the NAACP. This however, was not enough.
Mrs. Liuzzo believed that she was fighting everyone's fight when she decided to go south to do what she believed was the right thing. She marched from Selma to Montgomery to show the voices of hatred and intolerance that the voices of love and peace are louder than any bigot.
Mrs. Liuzzo, tragically, was killed by four klansmen for committing the unforgivable sin of ferrying protesters in her family car. She left her comfort zone, as many Americans dared not do, so future generations could enjoy the freedoms and liberties that we take for granted today.
Mrs. Liuzzo's death did not end injustice or prejudice, but opened the eyes of a nation to what can be done for others. If only we would leave our own comfort zones to take the brave step toward building a better nation that works for all. We are Mrs. Liuzzo's legacy if only we speak out wherever and whenever we can.
Thank you, Viola Liuzzo (1925-1965)