Sunday March 7th was the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast held in the Wallace Community College parking lot and a Slow-ride of over 200 cars across the bridge were the only in-person activities of the four-day Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The Unity Breakfast, which was held in a socially distanced way with people in their cars viewing the speakers on two large television screens, featured a host of speakers including President Joe Biden, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Mayor James Perkins, Martin Luther King III, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Charles Steele, SCLC President, Jonathan Jackson representing his father Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and many others. Several persons received awards including Congressman James Clyburn, Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia and LaTosha Brown and Attorney Cliff Albright, co-founders of Black Voters Matter also made presentations. In his video comments, President Biden announced his plans to sign an Executive Order later in the day, making it easier to register and vote and mobilizing all Federal agencies to support voter registration and participation. Biden who had attended the Unity Breakfast in 2014, when he was Vice-President, said, “We must be vigilant or people will take our basic rights away. The Republicans have been chipping away at voting rights for many years. Now 256 measures have been introduced in 43 state legislatures to cut back and suppress the right to vote and make it difficult for people to vote.” Biden and other speakers promoted support for and passage of HR-1 “For the People Act” which will strengthen voting rights, make voter registration automatic and contains ethics provisions to reduce the influence of money in campaigns; and HR-4 “the John Lewis Voting Rights Act” which would restore Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, stripped out by the U. S. Supreme Court in Shelby vs. Holder, and again allow for Justice Department pre-clearance of state and local voting regulations. Congresswoman Terri Sewell said she was proud to stand on the shoulders of the many foot-soldiers that made the Civil Rights Movement and Voting Rights Movement a success. She said that she had just voted to approve the American Rescue Plan which will provide financial and healthcare benefits to the American people and mitigate the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. “ I regret that this is our first celebration of Bloody Sunday without my friend and mentor, Congressman John Lewis, who passed in 2020. We must redouble our efforts to pass HR1 and HR 4 to honor his memory,” said Sewell. Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it was important to support HR-1, HR-4 and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for criminal justice reforms. She suggested calling your Senators at 202-224-3121 (the U. S. Capitol switchboard) and urge them to vote for these important reforms. Cliff Albright in his remarks said, “The movement is not over. As we did in 1965, we must continue to do today.” He urged the crowd to “Push their U. S. Senators to end the filibuster, an undemocratic relic of slavery. We will not be able to pass HR-1, HR-4 and other critical legislation, as long as the 60 vote requirements of the filibuster remain in place.” LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said. “ I am a child of Selma. This community trained me and taught me to believe in the power of people and when people rise up they can make meaningful change.” Rev. Bernard Lafayette spoke to honor the contributions of civil rights leaders who had died in the past year: Dr. Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian, Congressman John Lewis, Attorney Bruce Boynton and Vernon Jordan. At the conclusion of the Unity Breakfast, about 200 cars, with their flashers on participated in a slow-ride across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the spot where marchers were beaten on Bloody Sunday in 1965. A group of family members led by Rev. Lafayette said prayers and then placed wreaths at the Voting Rights Memorial Park on the eastern side of the bridge.
By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
The Rev. C.T. Vivian, the legendary civil rights activist who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. Rev. Vivian was 95.
Vivian reportedly suffered a stroke earlier this year, but his family said he died of natural causes.
“He has always been one of the people who had the most insight, wisdom, integrity, and dedication,” said former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a contemporary of Vivian who also worked alongside King.
“The Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian was one of my strongest mentors in the Civil Rights Movement,” National Newspaper Publishers Association President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., stated.
“Rev. Vivian, like Martin Luther King, Jr, and Joseph Lowery was a visionary theologian, genius, and a leading force in the tactical and strategic planning of effective nonviolent civil disobedience demonstrations. C.T. has passed the eternal baton to a new generation of civil rights agitators and organizers. ”
In a statement emailed to BlackPressUSA, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks expressed their condolences. “The Atlanta Hawks organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Civil Rights Movement leader, minister, and author, Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. The City of Atlanta and the entire world has lost a distinguished icon whose leadership pushed the United States to greater justice and racial equality for African Americans,” team officials wrote in the email.
“To inspire the next generation, Vivian founded the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute in Atlanta, with the intent to create a model of leadership culture in the city that would be dedicated to the development and sustainability of our communities.”
They continued: “Vivian also started Basic Diversity, one of the nation’s first diversity consulting firms, now led by his son, Al, who has been a great partner to our organization. We are grateful for Dr. Vivian’s many years of devotion to Atlanta and thankful that we had the opportunity to honor and share his legacy with our fans. The entire Hawks organization extends its most sincere condolences to the grieving family.”
Rev. Vivan was active in sit-in protests in Peoria, Illinois, in the 1940s, and met King during the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott — a demonstration spurred by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white rider. The 13-month mass protest drew international attention.
Rev. Vivian went on to become an active early member of the group that eventually became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to his biography. Like King, Vivian was committed to the belief that nonviolent protests could carry the day.
“Some thoughts on the Reverend C.T. Vivian, a pioneer who pulled America closer to our founding ideals and a friend I will miss greatly,” Former President Barack Obama wrote in a statement. “We’ve lost a founder of modern America, a pioneer who shrunk the gap between reality and our constitutional ideals of equality and freedom.”
Rev. Vivian was born in Boonville, Missouri, on July 30, 1924. He and his late wife, Octavia Geans Vivian, had six children.
With the help of his church, he enrolled in American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville in 1955. That same year he and other ministers founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Council, an affiliate of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, according to the National Visionary Leadership Project. The group helped organize the city’s first sit-ins and civil rights march.
By 1965 Rev. Vivian had become the director of national affiliates for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference when he led a group of people to register to vote in Selma, Alabama.
CNN memorialized Rev. Vivian, noting that, as the county Sheriff Jim Clark blocked the group, Vivian said in a fiery tone, “We will register to vote because as citizens of the United States we have the right to do it.”
Clark responded by beating Vivian until blood dripped off his chin in front of rolling cameras. The images helped galvanize more comprehensive support for change.
Vivian also created a college readiness program to help “take care of the kids that were kicked out of school simply because they protested racism.”
“I admired him from and before I became a senator and got to know him as a source of wisdom, advice, and strength on my first presidential campaign,” Obama stated.
“I’m only here to thank C.T. Vivian and all the heroes of the Civil Rights generation. Because of them, the idea of just, fair, inclusive, and generous America came closer into focus. The trails they blazed gave today’s generation of activists and marchers a road map to tag in and finish the journey.”