Sunday, March 8, 2015

What Could Selma Have Meant for My Mother?

I have read the news stories that retell the events 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama. I watched the advertisement for the movie, but haven't managed to see it yet. I have listened to news stories and eye witness accounts of the Bloody Sunday. Through all these, my mind has been on my mother.

In 1965, my mother had never been to America. I don't think that it ever even occurred to her that one day she would visit her daughter in this country. My mother lived in a predominantly white country. She did not have any black friends. She did not participate in demonstrations or march for civil rights.

But she followed Martin Luther King Jr's life.

She read books about him. She listened to the news when they talked about him. She admired him. She admired his faith, his tenacity for justice and his ability to inspire millions. My mother didn't give speeches. She was not a leader.

But she was a lover of God and people.

She worked in a Gypsy orphanage. She cared and loved the children that others would have rather seen forsaken. She played and laughed with the children. She rocked them to sleep when they were sick. She loved them.

You see, in Finland there was very little diversity 50 years ago. Still, Finland had its minority: the Gypsies. My mother did not march (I don't even think there were any marches), but she loved everyone of those Gypsy children that she had the privilege to care for. Years later, Gypsies were not uncommon at our house. Our neighbors might have looked twice, but my mother (and my father also) welcomed all of them with open arms to our home.

Loving the Gypsy children--and adults--was my mother's Selma. Her job was not done in a few minutes or hours just like the job of those marchers 50 years ago did not end that day. We continue to fight for rights for everyone no matter where we live.

I am honoring those brave men and women who marched on March 7, 1965. I am honoring them because that is what my mother taught me!


  1. Such a poignant connection, and beautiful memory of your mother. Also a great lesson that leadership occurs in "big" ways, like MLK, and "small" ways, like your family's--and both can make a positive impact on the world.

  2. This is a beautiful remembrance of history and tribute to your mother. You are so right - "We continue to fight for rights for everyone no matter where we live."

  3. A moving tribute. You learned love for all people through the example of your parents. Where you live now and the teaching you do now are so different than what they knew then, yet you are well-prepared to live here and to teach your ELLs from different backgrounds , not only teaching them language and academics, but caring deeply for them.

  4. Wow, your mom sounds like a beautiful woman. What a fabulous way to place your mom's life experiences in another context. I love this slice!

  5. Your mom definitely taught by example. In her own way she was as much a leader as anyone. What a lovely and loving tribute to your mom.

  6. Your mother was a wise woman, Jaana. My grandmother managed to get our little town integrated long before the Civil Rights Laws came about, & I'm proud of her for showing me "your" words, to fight for everyone's rights. Lovely to hear about your mother.

  7. Your mother sounds like a beautiful, compassionate woman. Even though I have never met you, I think from your words that I have read for over year now, you might have just a little bit of your mother in you! Lovely post today.

  8. Your mother sounds like an incredible woman, Jaana.

    I'm not sure if you've seen this photo yet, but it gives me the goosebumps each time I come across it on social media:

    And, on a related note, you might be interested in Bill Plante's return to Selma. I saw some of it previewed on the news on Friday and it looks like incredible coverage. Apparently he has lots of his old papers and interviews online at

    1. Thank you Stacey! I will check the links as well.

  9. Beautiful post, Jaana - I loved the way you connected Selma with your mother's work.

  10. What a beautiful way to honor your mother.


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