Anthony Hodge completes his personal journey from Selma to Montgomery | West Orange Times & Observer
Pastor Anthony Hodge spent the last week recreating the 54-mile black suffrage march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama — just like the walkers did 57 years ago — and he got found on the steps of the Alabama Capitol Building on March 25 — just as the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. did on this date nearly six decades ago.
And just like King, Hodge recited the “Our God Walks” speech on those steps.
But, while King made the trip with thousands of walkers — starting with 8,000 and ending with nearly 25,000 — Hodge did it alone.
He called it a spiritual and emotional journey.
Hodge, the founder of Finding the Lost Sheep Ministry and Impact Ministry in Winter Garden, began his solo trek on Sunday, March 20 and covered 15 miles of US Route 80 that first day. His wife, Sharee, and 3-year-old daughter, Miracle, followed in their car.
“It was quite an experience,” Hodge said. “This walk allowed me to understand what people were going through to do this walk and continue this walk. … They were marching for something important, for justice, freedom and equality. And I’ve experienced that going up those hills and crossing those valleys. As I was coming up those hills, I understood what (King) had said.
Hodge gave this same speech in front of the Capitol:
“Last Sunday, more than 8,000 of us began a mighty march from Selma, Alabama. We traversed desolate valleys and traversed grueling hills. We walked on winding highways and rested our bodies on rocky paths .…”
As he spoke, multiple cell phones captured his speech and shared it on Facebook for friends and family back home.
HILLS AND VALLEYS
Hodge admits what he endured on his walk – adverse weather and traffic – was nothing compared to what walkers faced in 1965 as they walked the 54 miles with King . He kept that in mind as he continued to put one foot in front of the other. He logged 15 more miles on Monday, 12 on Tuesday, seven on Wednesday and five on Thursday. He walked the remaining two blocks on Friday.
He went live on Facebook several times a day, updating his followers, reflecting on the moments and sharing King’s words along the way.
He walked despite a tornado warning Tuesday night, and he walked along desolate and busy sections of the highway.
“As I walk, I can see the crowd and the people seeing the crowd, and the crowd stands for something,” Hodge said. “And so, by walking, I represent something. It’s a spiritual journey for me. …And when people saw the crowd, they knew a change was about to take place.
Hodge has documented many historic sites along the Selma to Montgomery Trail, including the Edmond Pettus Bridge, the site of the Civil Rights marchers’ Bloody Sunday beatings. He stopped at markers and signs along the way and took to Facebook to share it with his followers. He pointed to each of the four campsites where walkers lay their weary bodies overnight.
He felt the aches and pains in his own body, but he continued remembering those who had gone before him. It was not an easy or easy walk, Hodge found.
“But they did,” he said in one of his Facebook Live posts. “When you walk for a purpose, when you walk for freedom, when you walk for equality, when you walk for justice, nothing will stop you.”
It was pure joy to finally reach those milestones, Hodge said.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It was like something had been accomplished.”
Along with his wife and daughter, Hodge completed the final two blocks accompanied by Lorraine Smith, Sharee’s aunt; Patricia Canterbury, a family friend; Jim Crescitelli, director of the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation; and Julie Butler, representing Winter Garden First United Methodist Church; and a journalist from West Orange Times & Observer.
“One of the main reasons (for marching) is to bring awareness back to America, to people about what happened in 1965 – due to the fact that voting rights are under threat today,” Hodge said. . “What the niggers did in 1965, and the whites too, people of good will got together to make it happen. And so my reason for walking was to experience walking and to understand why they were walking.
The Hodges stayed in Montgomery for more than a week, and before the march they visited the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which was built on the site of a former cotton warehouse where men and women did forced labor in servitude.
The museum was filled with haunting images of chained black slaves, earthen pots from dozens of lynching sites, and staggering, mind-numbing statistics. The final room was filled with portraits of famous and influential black people throughout history – including Charles R. Drew, for whom the former East Winter Garden school was named.
Hodge and his family also visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, informally known as the National Lynching Memorial, to commemorate black victims of lynching in America.
These visits made Hodge even more determined to fight for justice.
He returned home, but said he would continue to march in Winter Garden to fight black-on-black crime and other injustices. He also wants to make the Selma to Montgomery pilgrimage an annual event. Next year, he hopes to take more people on the journey with him.
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