Sandra Webb, Albany native and author, speaks of her involvement in the Albany Civil Rights Movement at a Martin Luther King Jr. observance at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany on Tuesday. The program was presented by the Albany chapter of Blacks in Government and MCLB-Albany. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
MCLB-ALBANY — Nearly 46 years after his death, the legacy of one who sought to bring about change is celebrated not just for what he did but also for the work that still needs to be done to make his vision a reality.
That’s the sentiment of the Albany area chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG) and Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany which held a memorial observance for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the base’s chapel on Tuesday morning, the day before what would have been the civil rights leader’s 85th birthday.
“Very few of us know what it is like to be one of those few men and women (to break barriers),” said Col. Don Davis, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany. “We see them as visionaries after they are gone; Martin Luther King was one to those … he shared with us a dream he once had.
“Those who were part of the Civil Rights Movement made this world a better place.”
The keynote speaker for the program was Sandra Webb, Albany native and author of “Beneath the Bars of Justice.” Having written the book in the late 1980s, it was initially put aside because she was unable to get it published.
The work was finally published in August of last year. “It’s about Albany and the civil rights struggle here,” she said.
Webb is a graduate of Monroe High School and Albany State University. She served as an executive with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before retiring. Since then, she has lived with the memory of a week in July 1962 that she spent in a Camilla jail along with 66 other young girls when they took part in one of the Albany Civil Rights Movement marches.
In her remarks, she spoke of how King inspired her to help others, and of recollections of what it was like being an active participant in the movement.
“Martin Luther King was a gift to us, and equipped for (the responsibility) that stood on his shoulders,” she said. ” … The hope God gave through Dr. King was tangible. He brought hope alive.
“When the water hoses tore into our bodies, we stayed calm. They gave us instructions on how to remain calm.”
Webb went on to describe what circumstances were like for blacks in Albany and across the South at the time, when there were segregated movie theaters and schools — and how they were allowed to shop at downtown stores but unable to try on clothes. It was also a time in which the Radium Springs Casino served as a nice family spot for whites, but it served blacks only in that it gave them employment as bus boys.
Even though she was 13 years old at the time, that did not make her too young to be thrown in the jail in Camilla, Webb said. Having a parent who worked at the Marine base in Albany, there was potential for her participation in the movement to impact the entire family, she said.
While in the jail, visitors had to yell through a fence. King showed up there with a megaphone.
“He said he was proud of us and encouraged us to stay strong,” she said. “It motivated me so much that I would have stayed in jail and fought for him forever. At the time, I really felt that way.
She also spoke to reporters Tuesday on what the celebration means to her personally.
“It means quite a bit because I was around at a time King (was active),” she said. “He was my hero. That’s the reason I marched for Dr. King … (People need to) to keep the dream alive, and to not let it stop there. There are so many issues today, and we all have to take action.”
The charge she said she wanted to leave the audience with was to focus on the needs of young people.
“I don’t think it’s a cliche. To know where you are, you have to know where you came from,” she said.