I step onto this stage using a phrase based on William Shakespeare’s famous play, Richard III, where King Richard expresses his feelings of discontent regarding living in a world that hates him. He begins his soliloquy by stating, “Now is the Winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York…” (Act-1, Scene-1). My very own ‘season of discontent began last year in Northwest Alabama when racial tensions arose in my hometown.
In the last year, I have been educated on some ugly truths regarding the underlying purpose of confederate statues erected in the south after the Civil War and early 1900s. An example of such is the horrendous 1903 dedication speech of the confederate statue in Florence, AL, in which African Americans are referred to as “mongrels” and later stated, “….nowhere here is (an African American) accorded social equality.” That is what greets everyone that enters this house of justice? In 2020 joined forces with the local educational organization Project Say Something (PSS), focusing our efforts on relocating a confederate statue from the front of a county courthouse to its original intended location in the Soldier’s Rest area of a local cemetery. My choice to join PSS’s peaceful efforts is twofold, with the first being that I grew up in the midst of segregation in this very town.
I was a mere five years old when I first experienced the feeling of being appalled (a harrowing experience for a five-year-old). At that time, school did not start until six years of age, and my five-year-old mind was thirsty for knowledge. I filled this void with life experiences. During a visit to the local Rogers department store, I learned that African Americans could not enter the front main entrance. Instead, they had a separate entrance, separate water fountains, and separate bathrooms. One day at the elevator in this store, I witnessed an elderly black man shunned. It was too much for me.
On a long elevator ride, I spoke out to my mother regarding respecting our elders and what I was learning of God’s way in Sunday school: that “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red, yellow, black, and white.” When I was taught about the Civil War in elementary school, I realized the local statues, both at local courthouses, were Civil War soldiers. I looked around for statues of those that were emancipated. There were none. I didn’t inquire as to why there were no statues for those freed due to that war. I had learned that reason at five years old. Again, I was appalled.
The Second reason I joined PSS’s efforts to relocate the statue is I am a Veteran. I come from a long line of men who served in the military, beginning with a Revolutionary War hero, Lt. Colonel William Farr (see Farrand Near Farr: descendants Colonel William Farr of Union County South Carolina 1735). of the Farr descendants and descendants on other sides of my family served during the Civil War.
Ancestors served in The War of 1812 and several of the more current wars. Some of my family arrived in the unsettled territory of Alabama and married Native Americans. One of these Natives was Umatooetha (his name means Water Hunter, meaning he hunted from the water), who signed the Hopewell Treaty prior to the Removal Treaty. The Natives that signed these treaties were either chiefs or leading warriors. If not for these Natives’ willingness to share their knowledge of living-off-the-land, many of my Caucasian ancestors at home in Alabama during the Civil War would not have survived.
Having taken an oath to die for my county in the military, I have a great disdain for treason. Going to war against The Republic is treason. Those that served in the Confederacy committed treason. The law was enacted prior to the insurrection of the Civil War. As with all wars, the winners reap the spoils. The same can be said of the Revolutionary War.
I have no family stories of heroism nor hate for African Americans handed down from the Civil War. Instead, stories of starvation, persecution by the Confederate Home Guard, and stories of persecution of my Native ancestor abounded. The Civil War was NOT “the crowning glory of their lives,” as engraved on the side of the confederate statue at our local courthouse. My immediate family’s stories center on the remarkable achievements after the Civil War by those that participated in said war.
What I have seen in this season of my discontent from counter-protesters regarding the relocation of this treasonous confederate statue convinces me there are those among us that carry an ingrained, handed down disregard and hatred for fellow human beings. I have seen in them a total disregard of the teachings of the Bible, which many profess to follow. It saddens me each time I see such hate or read threats on social media for physical harm toward PSS members. A local actually took to social media to announce she had fantasies of running over peaceful protesters. She acted on her fantasies by accelerating her car through a pedestrian crosswalk and almost hit marchers, including a young boy. She was flying a huge confederate flag on her car. Local police pulled her over, spoke with her, and let her go. Legislators even created a law to protect the removal of the confederate statues.
There is pending legislation targeting our area regarding restrictions on peaceful protest. The persecution continues. I currently have the same overwhelming feeling of grief for the persecution of any human being I had at the age of five. And here I stand, once again, appalled. May a higher power deliver us from this grief.
May we evolve to a higher state of consciousness. May we put public display of persecution to rest with the soldiers. May we celebrate our different cultures and embrace love for one another. May we reside in love and peace for all in the coming seasons of our lives. In your grace Lord, a veteran standing by for healing and love in the Homeland. Peace be with you,
Kathy Frederick US Navy, Federal Armed Response Officer, Artist, and Activist (title added by Victorine)