Abernathy: ‘I do not weep’

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 6, 2016

If Juanita Jones Abernathy had said no more than her opening remarks at the opening ceremony of the 15th Annual Leadership Conference at Troy University Friday night, she would have said it all

“I do not weep at the world. I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

Abernathy, the wife of Civil Rights leader Dr. Ralph Abernathy, quoted from American folklorist Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored” as she described the mountains that had to be climbed during the Civil Rights Movement. She described the trials and tribulations of African Americans as they trudged the paths and weathered the struggles before them.

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“I never worried or felt sorry because I was raised to know who I was and the standards that were set and what to expect,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy said she did not bargain for a leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement but she was willing and honored to be a part of the movement that changed America.

“And, it started here in Alabama, in Montgomery, with the Bus Boycott,” Abernathy told the body of the 2016 Leadership Conference that filled Sartain Hall. “Alabama saved America. Alabama saved America from herself.”

Abernathy said the incidents that occurred in Alabama – in Montgomery and in Birmingham – changed America.

“And I was there,” she said. “Nobody had to tell me about the movement. I was there when Rosa sat down.”

Abernathy said the Civil Rights Movement was a non-violent movement, because those involved were “doing what Jesus taught us to do.”

“But there is more to do,” she said. “Progress has been made. But it’s not like it should be. Racism is alive and well. God will make it right, given time.”

The 2016 Leadership Conference will continue today at Troy University with breakout sessions beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Trojan Center. The conference will close with a noon luncheon featuring Jasmine Guy at the keynote speaker.