During my second year at Southern University, I heard Martin Luther King had
organized a march and sit-in at the Woolworth store in Baton Rouge. I
was curious, but the dean of students had spread the word that anyone caught
attending would be expelled. The man I respected most in the world, I
kept up with Dr. King’s crusade and watched television coverage of all
his marches and demonstrations. When I learned of the Baton Rouge march,
I wanted to go, not to participate but to watch and listen to the speeches. For
me, just being there was important. I planned to stay in the background,
not get close and certainly not get involved.
The following morning, I jumped
on a bus and rode into Baton Rouge. To
my young eyes, the demonstration was an amazing spectacle. Hundreds of
brave men and women faced violent retribution from institutional authority
and marched unflinchingly for their freedom. Seeing people of color determined
to gain for themselves the rights and freedoms other Americans had handed to
them profoundly affected me. This was determination and perseverance
like I’d never seen before and more beautifully and magnificently expressed
because it was for the good of the many. In my mind, their acts were
the very definition of selflessness and altruism.
- The scene that unfolded in Baton Rouge during the civil rights march reinforced
in Sidney a sense of duty and self-sacrifice to a noble cause. Deeply
moved by the experience, later, he took his deeply held altruism half a world
away to fight a war in a place few Americans had even heard of.