Selma to Montgomery 1965 Photos by Alfred Loeb followed by My Father’s Yellow Feet: Essay by Emma Rosenthal

These are my father’s photographs from the march from Selma to Montgomery.  He shot these images with a Leica camera and a 50 mm lens.

His participation in this march, when i was very young, had a lasting impression on me and shaped the work I have done my whole life, which I tell in my essay, My Father’s Yellow Feet, which is included here, following the photographs.

Click on any image to see enlarged view.

My Father’s Yellow Feet
By Emma Rosenthal

The year I was conceived, the FBI took out a freshly pressed manila file, put my last name on the file tab, and waited for my birth to fill in the rest of the information.
My father was just another Jewish activist so there was little doubt that this child; his first born, who would be raised in red swaddling cloths, on picket lines, boycotts and demonstrations; would need to be monitored.  That year,  my father, a staunch supporter of gun control, a man who despised gun ownership, placed a loaded shot gun beneath my parents’ bed because of threats on his life, on our lives, because of work he was doing in fair housing.  In that bed, over that loaded gun, I gestated for nine months.
I was five when he went to Selma to march to Montgomery with Dr. King.  By court order only 200 marchers would be allowed to travel the full distance to be met by a larger rally in Montgomery, if and when they finally arrived.  I was unaware of the danger and was only filled in awe.  Jewish freedom riders did not always arrive home safely.    My daddy was going to march for freedom. Freedom; a word that would echo through my home for many years.
This was the second march.  The first one ended in a bloody riot when the police attacked the marchers and they were forced to turn back. My father was gone for the longest time but all I really remember were the calloused deformities he had when he came home.   His feet recovered from that journey but he still bears hard yellow reminders of that long march.  I remember him resting on his bed after he had returned. I looked at those bruised, yellowed feet and said with all the determination my five year old spirit could muster;  “The next freedom march you go on Daddy, I’m going with you.”
The next march I remember was a memorial service in Philadelphia, as with other cities all over the world.  Someone had shot Dr. King.  I remember standing in the line of humanity, I remember the air on my skin, I remember the green, green lawn of the arboretum, I remember the somber spirit of the crowd, I remember the voices echoing through microphones and speakers.  I remember being nine  years old,  and somebody had shot Dr. King.
A year later my father made plans to take a bus to Washington D.C. to march against the war.  These were safer times to march, but the sting of the fifties, the threats against his life, the assassination of the Rosenbergs, the McCarthy witch hunts, Cheney, Shverner and Goodman, four little girls, Malcolm, Evers, King and many others, still were fresh in his mind.  He would not take me.  It wasn’t safe.
I had to go.
This was freedom and I had promised his calloused yellow feet that I would go on the next march. “If a man does not have something he is willing to die for he is not fit to live”  I said as I quoted Dr. King.  It was 1969. I was almost eleven years old.  I’m not sure how much I understood about rice paddies, napalm and imperialism, but my father was going and I had to go with him.
I had to go.
There was no way I could let him go without me.  I argued and polemicized with him for days until he finally conceded that he would take me.   My mother packed us reubens for lunch and he made me wear a dress so that we would look respectable, no torn blue jeans for us.  It was a green sweater and a matching skirt that just reached my knee.  I remember.  I remember because it was a cold day in Washington in 1969, November 15.  I remember the bus and the old woman who gave me brownies to eat and the edges had been burned in the pan.  I remember the rows and rows of yellow busses, I remember the button, long since lost, a white hand forming a peace sign against a black silhouette of the capital building.  I remember seeing the marble buildings of the Capital and L’Enfant Plaza, with its large light bulb street lights, the Washington memorial.  I remember the pro war protesters telling me to go back to Russia, a place my ancestors had lived in and died in and could never return to.  I remember the smell of marijuana, the chanting and the singing, the speakers, the crowds.  I really remember the cold, my stockinged legs, the cold air and no protection from it, but most of all I remember not caring that I had to get up at four in the morning, not caring that the air burned my skin, not caring that I was hungry or thirsty.  I just cared that I was there, that he brought me and that I would do this again many, many times.
I am sure that my initial FBI file has swollen and perhaps fills many boxes. For years my mail has sporadically arrived opened and the clicks on the phone are reminders that very little is truly private. My name appears on hit lists and blacklists. I receive the occasional death threat. I turn away from cameras at demonstrations unless I know the photographer.  And I have photographed them too.  (I have my own files.)  There may yet be a day of reckoning.
I am tired of police officers in uniform holding video cameras.  I am tired of the cops who come right up to me and shoot my picture while I stand under a red banner.  Most of all I am tired of the ones out of uniforms;  the G-men and women who sit in on meetings and pretend to fight for freedom, who feign that longing in their eyes, all the while taking notes and foaming discontent within the group.  I know we have made mistakes, over the years of organizing I have seen movements come and go, groups break and splinter.  I only wish I new which mistakes were ours, which discord was truly part of the movement and which was caused by infiltration, government espionage and counterintelligence programming.
I wish I knew.
I march with my small child and keep my eyes on the baton yielding men with helmets on horseback.  I am ready to grab up my child with the power of motherhood and run if need arises.  I am afraid for him in demonstrations, I am afraid for him as he grows into a man in a society afraid of its youth but I bring him.  He never had to ask.   “No blood for oil” was one of his first sentences and for years he would point to the Federal building and call it “Peace now.”  I carried him on the picket line of the L.A. teachers’ strike and nursed him between picket duty and cluster meetings.  I carry my father with me too.  He doesn’t march with me any more, not in form, but he is there in spirit and I remember his feet, his calloused feet he brought back form Alabama and the promises I made to them.  I will always remember those feet.

Update: I did a random internet search of “Martin Luther King Jr” + “Alfred Loeb” and found the following link:

ebonymagazinepicAl Loeb is the man marching in front of the priest.

This entry was posted in ALFRED LOEB, HUMAN RIGHTS, MY FATHER'S YELLOW FEET, PHOTOGRAPHY, SOCIAL JUSTICE by emmarosenthal. Bookmark the permalink.

About emmarosenthal

Emma Rosenthal is an artist, writer, educator, reiki practitioner, farmer and human rights activist, living in Southern California, whose work combines art, activism, education and grassroots mobilization. As a person with a disability she is confined, not by her disability but by the narrow and marginalizing attitudes and structures of the society at large. She is the founder and co-director of The WE Empowerment Center and Café Intifada, and she lives and works at Dragonflyhill Urban Farm. As an educator her emphasis has been in the areas of bilingual and multicultural education. Her experience as a grassroots organizer, political essayist and speaker has been life long and has included many progressive causes. Her work seeks to combine art, activism, education and grassroots mobilization. Her poetry and prose is impassioned, sensual, political, life affirming and powerful. In her writing she explores the use of art and literary expression to elicit an ethos more compelling than dogma and ideological discourse, providing new paradigms for community, communion, connection and human transformation. She has been a featured poet and speaker throughout Southern California at a variety of venues and programs including; The Arab-American Festival, Highways Performance Space, The Autry Museum, Barnes and Nobel, Poetic License, Borders/Pasadena, Beyond Baroque, Freedom Fries Follies (a fundraiser for The Center for the Study of Political Graphics), KPFK, Arts in Action, Chafey College, UC Irvine and Hyperpoets. Her work has appeared in several publications including Lilith Magazine, The Pasadena Star News, The San Gabriel Tribune, The San Gabriel Valley Quarterly, LoudMouth Magazine (CSLA), Coloring Book; An Eclectic Anthology of Multicultural Writers (Rattlecat Press 2003), Muse Apprentice Guild and the Anthology, Shifting Sands, Jewish-American Women Speak Out Against the Occupation, Spring 2010. Her work has shown in several galleries in the Southern California area, including the Galleries at Whittier College, and Pasadena City College, as well as Beans and Leaves Coffeehouse in Covina, CA.

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