Moviegoers who saw the recent film Selma may have wondered what it was like to take part in that famous march. Tower Grove Manor resident Sister Antona Ebo doesn’t have to wonder, she just has to remember.
“There were six of us sisters from St. Louis that traveled to Selma,” she recalled about the March 10, 1965, protests. “I was the only black nun, so they put me front and center for the march. My friends had told me to keep a low profile and to keep my mouth shut. But it turned out not to be possible.”
Ebo became a symbol of the protest, one of the Sisters of Selma that became the basis of a 2007 documentary by the same name. Her recollections of that day remain crystal clear, even as she approaches her 91st birthday. “When we walked into that Selma church, Andrew Young (later U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) said, ‘One of the great moral forces of the world has just walked in the door.’ I couldn’t imagine he was talking about me. But I realized God had a role for me to play that day.”
In the years since Selma, Ebo has continued to advocate for greater equality and understanding. In 1968, she helped establish the National Black Sisters’ Conference and later served as its president. After earning the first of her two master’s degrees, she became the first African-American woman religious leader to be in charge of a U.S. Catholic hospital. Six universities have awarded her honorary doctorates, and she still travels the country giving speeches, accepting awards and sharing her story.
“There are moments when you hear everybody talking at the same time but nobody is listening to anybody,” she says. “We need to be silent and listen to each other, to learn what’s really on each other’s minds.”
– Kynan Katzman, public relations/communications coordinator, St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System