TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Joanne Bland became a part of history at the young age of eight.
Bland was raised in Selma, Alabama and was in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.
“I grew up in George Washington Carver Homes,” Bland said. “And George Washington Carver Homes became the center of the movement. I’m an A.M.E and I grew up in Brown Chapel A.M.E Church which is smack dab in the middle of that housing project. And it was hard not to be involved if you were there.”
At that young age, Bland marched on days like “Bloody Sunday” and “Turn Around Tuesday.”
She easily recounts the time she decided for herself she was going to take part.
“One day I was downtown on Broad Street on the main drag through Selma,” Bland said. “And there’s a drug store there, Carter’s Drugstore, it was there in the 60’s. It had a lunch counter and I wanted to sit at the lunch counter but my grandmother said I couldn’t. She said, ‘colored children can’t sit at the counter.’ Didn’t stop me from wanting to sit at that counter. Well that particular day my grandmother was talking to one of her friends, and I was doing what I always do. I was peeping in that window looking at those white kids wishing it was me. My grandmother leaned over my shoulder and she pointed to the counter and she said, when we get our freedom you can do that too. I became a freedom fighter that day because i made the connection that it was a different kind of freedom.”
Bland says many current world events connect right back to the Civil Rights Movement, asking where the love is in our society.
“Isn’t it amazing though that in 2016 we’re still fighting some of the same battles we fought 50, 60 years ago,” Bland said. “That’s ridiculous. And what does that say for the United States?”
Bland uses her experiences and speaks to groups around the country.
Reminding people everybody has a hand in change.
“I’d like to leave with the audience tonight for them to realize that social movements, movements for social change are like jigsaw puzzles,” Bland said. “Everybody has a piece. And Hunter, if your piece is missing, is the picture complete? No. Because you’re the most important piece.”
Bland spoke at the Terre Haute Human Relations Commission’s 5th Annual Banquet.
You can learn more about her by visiting her website.