Thousands attend Bridge Crossing Commemoration and Jubilee in Selma

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert,  Co-Publisher


Pictured above : 21st Century Youth join thousands in Commemorative March over Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma at the 53rd Anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March on Sunday, March 4, 2018. Shown L to R: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Senator Kamala Harris, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Senator Doug Jones brought greetings at the Unity Breakfast; Rev. William Barber of the Poor’s People Campaign with Rev. Liz Theoharris at the Commemorative March in Selma.; Jamia Jackson, Greene County High Senior, brought greetings at the Unity Breakfast on behalf of 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement.


The Bridge Crossing Jubilee lived up to its billing as the largest continuing commemoration of civil rights activities in the nation. More than 20,000 people marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to celebrate the 53rd. anniversary of the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday March’ which crystallized the voting rights movement and led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Faya Rose Toure, major organizer of the Jubilee said, “We did not come just to celebrate but to rededicate ourselves to the struggle for voting rights, civil rights and human rights in 2018 in our nation.

We need to revitalize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which the U. S. Supreme Count ruled unconstitutional. We need to reverse the many steps taken by states to roll back voting rights and institute voter suppression. We need to redirect the national agenda to be more concerned about Black, Brown and poor people.”
Every one of the more than forty events that made up the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, were crowded with people who came to learn from history and to make new history going forward. All of the mass meetings, breakfasts, panels, dinners, the street festival and other activities were well attended.
Rev. William Barber Jr., and his staff with the ‘Poor Peoples Campaign – A National Moral Revival’ participated in a number of events and used the Jubilee to recruit participants in the revival of the Poor People Campaign. The group is planning forty days of massive civil disobedience, around the issues of poverty, beginning on Mother’s Day, May 13 and continuing into June, to refocus the nation’s attention on the problems and issues facing poor people in our country.
At a mass meeting on Saturday evening at First Baptist Church, Rev. Barber pointed out that due to racialized gerrymandering, Republicans controlled 23 states with 46 U. S. Senators and 170 electoral votes.
“They have a good start to win any national election and they put up extremist candidates who win by cheating through gerrymandering and suppressing the vote. There was no discussion by Republicans or Democrats in the 2016 Presidential campaign of voter suppression, the need to restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act or the continuing problems of persistent poverty in urban and rural areas. The Poor Peoples Campaign is designed to bring these issues forward into the national consciousness for discussion and resolution,” said Barber.
At the Martin and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast on Sunday, at Wallace Community College many speakers discussed the importance of reviving and revitalizing the Voting Rights Act to prevent voter suppression.
Senator Kamala Harris of California was the breakfast keynote speaker. She is also considered a possible Democratic candidate for President in 2020. Harris said that the people who marched in Selma in 1965 were “patriots fighting for the ideals of the America we love. They laid the foundation for us to follow. Selma laid a blueprint when they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and paved the way for the bridges we must build to the future.
“We must address adversity and inequalities of our time. We need inspiration from the DACA children, from reports that show continuing problems of home-ownership, employment and poverty in America, and actions of the NRA promoting gun violence among our children. We must fight for justice and against injustice in each generation. Do not despair – roll up our sleeves and go to work,” she said.
Senator Doug Jones in his talk said that the lessons of Selma, show the best of America. “We must continue to work for stronger public education for all of our children, health care for all people, keeping our rural hospitals open and other steps that will unify our people.” Congresswoman Terry Sewell of Alabama made similar comments.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California called for the impeachment of President Trump in her remarks. “ I come to Selma, almost every year for the Jubilee, it keeps me grounded. I will not be intimidated by the person in the White House. It is clear from what he says and what he does that he has a mental illness and is unstable. He mocked a disabled journalist, he called Carly Fiorina ugly, he said to grab women by their private parts. He is unfit to be President by temperament and policy. Get ready for Impeachment No. 45,” she shouted.
Rev. Jesse Jackson said that we cannot allow voter suppression and voter apathy to hold us back. “We must register every high school student, when they turn 18; we must register the 4 million Black voters in the South who are still unregistered; we must get the 2.5 million Black voters in the South, who are registered but did not vote in the last election to wake up and vote.”
More on the Bridge Crossing Jubilee events and program next week.

51st anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday March’ draws thousands to Selma

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“This is not only a celebration and commemoration of the past but a continuation of the movement and a statement of the struggle for racial, social, political and economic justice that still face us,” said Faya Rose Toure on Sunday at the pre-march rally on the steps of Browns Chapel Church in Selma, Alabama.
There were 40 events during the March 3-7 weekend that comprise the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, to commemorate the 51st anniversary of the marches on Bloody Sunday and subsequent marches in 1965 which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.There was a Saturday breakfast to honor footsoldiers of the movement, a parade, a beauty pageant, a Sunday Unity Breakfast, Freedom Flame Banquet, golf tournament, numerous workshops and presentations on history and current struggles. At the Unity Breakfast, Congresswomen Terri Sewell presented a replica of the Footsoldiers Gold Medal, recently awarded by Congress to participants in the 1965 marches, to Hank and Faya Rose Sanders. The Sanders have developed the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and Museum over the past three decades to help people to understand the history of the voting rights struggle in America and continue to work to preserve these basic democratic rights for all people. They said they would place the medal on exhibit in the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma.
Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina was the keynote speaker at the Unity Breakfast. Clyburn said, “If we fail to learn the lessons of history, then they will repeat. We are seeing some similarities now in our Presidential election to the elections in Germany in 1932, when a demagogue was first elected to office and then became a fascist dictator.”
“Things that happened before can happen again. Things do not happen in a linear fashion. They go one way and then swing back another way. The people must be ready to intervene and participate in the process.
“Last year, we were here with a bi-partisan group of 100 Congress people and the President for the Fiftieth Anniversary but the Voting Rights Advancement Act has not had a hearing and not moved one inch since last year. People will show up for the celebration but not the work,” said Clyburn.
He urged the audience especially young people, not to give up. “Most of us have a resume which lists only the things that went right – not the times that things didn’t go as planned.
I ran for Congress, three times and lost. I did not win until the fourth time. Many people said three strikes and you’re out, but those are baseball rules. There are no numerical limits on trying in life,” said Clyburn.
The names of many young Black people killed by police in the past year came up as rallying calls for actions at various times during the weekend. The case of Gregory Gunn who was shot five times, last month, by police in Montgomery was mentioned in the criminal justice workshops. Rev. Kenneth Glascow of The Ordinary People’s Organization (TOPS) introduced the mothers of Christopher Jerome Thomas of Dothan, Alabama and Cameron Massey of Eufala, Alabama. Glascow led a “backwards march” across the bridge, before the larger march, to call attention to the inequities in the justice system and the unresolved pending cases of police violence and misconduct toward Black people.
In a Saturday workshop at the Center for Non-violence, Truth and Reconciliation, the speaker was Bryant Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. He spoke about his life experience of working to represent and exonerate prisoners on death row in Alabama. He equated the current killing of young Black men with the prior era of lynching in the South between Reconstruction and the end of World War II. He said over 400 Black people were lynched around the South. His organization is in the process of placing historical markers at the places where these lynchings occurred.
On Sunday afternoon about 10,000 marchers, including a large contingent of members from Alabama Masonic Lodges and their auxiliaries participated in the reenactment march from Browns Chapel Church through Selma and across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. A post march rally was held in the Memorial Park on the east side of the bridge.