OLP Faculty Attend “Sisters of Selma” Inspiration Documentary

Four OLP faculty members had the rare privilege to view “Sisters of Selma,” an inspirational documentary by Jayasri Hart as part of Women’s History Month Film Series at the Women’s Museum of California at Liberty Station. The footage traced the historical 1965 march in Selma fifty years ago.

Poignant scenes were filmed such as an exchange between a young Afro-American man kindly inviting a white policeman to pray with him and being brutally refused answering, “Pray in your OWN black church. I’m not praying with YOU!”

We all have seen footage of the fire hoses, dogs and people being killed. But behind the famous scenes were women of faith, courage and heart. They were our own Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who joined with the Sisters of Loretto and supportive priests. Despite warnings from their bishops, these brave sisters were in the front lines of the march. Wearing their three layers of surge they marched through the mud and the streets full of passion for what they believed.

Many people who were there on that bridge were interviewed. Powerful statements were made:

“Walking arm in arm, on the bridge, they were attacked, they had been crucified.”

“We were told to turn our cheek. It was better to have scarred our skin rather than scar our souls.”

The CSJs said “We are here to witness our love and the violation of rights. We are silent witnesses and proud to be here.”

The CSJs gave the Afro-American students a sense of solidarity. “The CSJs were always there.”

“The leaders made you promise to be non-violent. If you couldn’t promise, you couldn’t march!”

The follow up panel discussion consisted of two former Sisters of Loretto. Terese has retired and is now a hospice volunteer. Chris left the Loretto Community and is now a full time activist. The third panelist was the film director Jayasri Hart.

A few parting questions were addressed to the panel:

“Where were the white women during the march? I feel so ashamed.”

Surprisingly sitting directly in front of me was a lady who identified herself as an OLP Alum. She had been taught by the Dominican Sisters before coming to the Academy. “The Dominicans were very strict. When I came to the Academy, I was a boarder from the Imperial Valley and the CSJs were so HUMAN on a daily basis.”

In closing, I asked the Sisters of Loretto “If the heart of a CSJ is unity and reconciliation, what is the heart of the Loretto and what is the common theme between between the two communities? How did you unite your voices in Selma?”

Terese responded “The common theme was hopefulness and we can do it together. Move and do what your conscience tells you. Make change. Get up and move. Lingering defeat is huge. Support each other and encourage each other. We are the Eternal Dreamers. As long as some of us have the Dream there is Hope. Remember what President Obama said on the 50th Anniversary- – –
“We the people,
We shall overcome,
We are one.”

Note:OLP Faculty attending:Suzie Knapp, who researched the film event, Jeanette Handelsman, Lisa Danaher and Katherine Kamrath.
OLP Alums attending:Emma Singh Jimenez, Class of ’55 and Lelea Singh Santella, Class of ’57. Both Emma and Lelea were featured in Jayasri Hart’s documentary film about Imperial Valley residents!