Selma to Montgomery ‘Votercade’ held May 8th as part of National John Lewis Voters Advancement Day activities

Votercade crosses Edmund Petus Bridge in Selma, (Photo by Sue Dorfman)

Over one hundred vehicles, including the Black Lives Matter bus participated in Saturday’s Selma-to-Montgomery ‘Votercade’ in support of passage of HR1/S1 The We the People Act and HR4 the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Alabama Votercade was one of over 100 activities across America sponsored by a national coalition of voting rights and anti-voter suppression organizations headed by the Transformative Justice Coalition. All of the day’s activities were focused on raising awareness of the need to pass national legislation to restore the pre-clearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, stripped from the legislation by the 2013 Shelby vs Holder, Supreme Court decision and to counteract the many voter suppression actions of state legislatures, curtailing early voting, limiting dropboxes, increasing voter ID restrictions and other punitive measures primarily focused on discouraging and limiting the votes of Black, Brown, young and poor people. A rally was held in front of Brown’s Chapel AME Church in Selma, historic site of the start of the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday March’ before the start of the votercade. Fay Rose Toure, Selma attorney and civil rights leader spoke about the significance of meeting at the church and in the George Washington Carver Homes, a public housing community that surrounds the church, which also housed many of the civil rights workers who took part in the original marches. Toure also announced upcoming SOS events and said we must keep our elected officials accountable to serve the people. Johnny Ford, former Mayor of Tuskegee and head of the World Council of Black Mayors said, “We’ve got to keep on marching for voting and to restore voting rights. We need to do it to honor John Lewis but also for future generations.” Former State Senator Hank Sanders said, “What we are doing today is filled with symbolism but symbols do not change things only hard work and persistence will change things and help us to pass HR1 and HR4. After we pass these bills, we will have to work even harder, longer and smarter than our opposition because as we change things they react and change their tactics and approach to challenge us. We will never win this fight against white supremacy without struggling .” Commissioner Sheila Tyson of Jefferson County said that she was organizing a statewide effort to stop local registrars from purging voter lists and wanted to fight to make the right to vote permanent. Latasha Brown, Co-Founder and Director of Black Voters Matter said that she had come to Alabama to help support local efforts to fight voter suppression. She asked the crowd to close their eyes and “Envision what would America be like without racism? Then work on creating what we envision.” Brown said the steps being taken by the legislatures in Georgia, Texas, Arizona and other places to suppress the vote is a ”reflection that we are winning, we are voting more than they expected us to vote. We have to keep voting no matter what obstacles that are put in our way.” Brown said, “We must develop a clear collective vision and work to bring it about. I know women who went door-to-door during the pandemic because they were committed to liberating everyone. Some of those people actually died of COVID fighting for people to vote and we can’t forget that or allow our opponents to diminish that.” After the rally, the cars lined up and drove the route over the Edmund Pettus Bridge headed to Montgomery. The votercade ended at a street festival in Montgomery. Persons interested in joining the struggle to advance voting rights may contact the websites of the organizations reference in this article.

50th anniversary commemoration of Greene County Freedom Day honors footsoldiers of the civil rights movement

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

On the weekend of July 27 and 28, the Alabama Civil Rights Movement Museum sponsored a series of events to commemorate ‘Greene County Freedom Day’ on July 29, 1969.
This is the date of a special election ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court in which four Black county commissioners and two Black school board members were elected countywide in Greene County.
With this election, Greene County became the first county in America where Black people took political control of a county government since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Over the years, many other counties in the Black Belt of Alabama and other southern states also elected Black officials and some took control of their local governments. As Rev. Wendell Paris, guest speaker at the Sunday mass meeting said,
“What the people of Greene County did fifty years ago was what democracy is all about – openly and fairly voting – to choose your own political leaders.”
Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Movement Museum said, ”We want this celebration to honor the footsoldiers, the ordinary grassroots people of Greene County who summoned the courage and did the organizing work, precinct by precinct,to elect their own folks to political offices that made decisions for the entire county.”
On Saturday, the Museum unveiled two monuments to young people who boycotted the schools in 1965 and started the movement and for two African-American sisters – Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter – who allowed their home to be used as a resting and meeting place for civil rights workers.
At the Saturday banquet and the Sunday mass meeting the work of footsoldiers was highlighted and many received certificates of appreciation for fifty years of work and involvement in the civil rights struggle.
At the banquet on Saturday at the Eutaw Activity Center, Veronica Morton Jones, Circuit Clerk, gave the welcome and said, “ I brought my children to the program at the monument unveiling this morning and we learned so much history of our home county that we did not know about.”
Bill Edwards, who worked with Dr. John Cashin and the National Democratic Party of Alabama at the time of the 1969 Special Election, pointed out, “Judge Herndon deliberately left the names of the NDPA Black candidates off the November 1968 General Election ballot. Dr. Cashin had to carry Greene County officials to court for this injustice against democracy. The case went to the Supreme Court on appeal and the highest court in the land ordered a new special election on July 29, 1969. This is what we are here to celebrate tonight.”
Circuit Judge John H. England, who served as legal counsel for the new commission gave greetings and told of his experiences in working with Greene County. “ I learned from Greene County and pursued a career as a Tuscaloosa City Councilman, Circuit Judge, Alabama Supreme Court Justice and a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama,” said England.
Lanz Alexander an SCLC Board member from Los Angeles, and Johnnie Knott, former Circuit Clerk of the county, also brought greetings. Judge Dexter Wimbush of Griffin, Georgia gave a keynote stressing the themes of jobs, justice and Jesus.
Renetta Gail Brown, daughter of Dr. Robert Brown, the first Black School Superintendent of Greene County spoke about her experiences integrating the schools. “Greene County deserves to have a movie made about our contributions to the civil rights movement, just like Selma, we should have a movie,” she said.
Sunday’s Mass Meeting was held at the William McKinley Branch Courthouse, name in honor of our first Black Probate Judge. Current Probate Judge, Rolanda Wedgeworth, gave the welcome.
Sarah Duncan, a footsoldier made remarks saying, “ It has been a long hard journey to freedom; don’t stop now; keep on going, we made Greene County a better place for all people.” Jaqueline B. Allen, Rev. John Kennard and Commissioner Lester “Bop” Brown also gave greetings.
Former State Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, said, ”I commend Brother Spiver Gordon for working to preserve the history of Greene County. If we do not study and recognize our history, we will not know where we were, where we are or where we are going. If we don’t stand on our history, our history will stand on us.”
Chief Warhorse Gillum of Slidell, Louisiana brought greetings on behalf of the Black Indians. She said, “You need to look around you to see the contributions of the Black Indians in the mounds at Moundville and the name of Tuscaloosa, the Black Warrior chieftain.”
Dr. Carol P. Zippert introduced Wendell H. Paris the guest speaker. As part of her introduction she said, “The Greene County Board of Education has passed a policy that Black history and Greene County history be incorporated across the curriculum in every subject. But, we are having problems getting our teachers to understand and incorporate this history into their lesson plans. We must teach our history in our homes, churches and communities.”
Rev. Wendell H. Paris, Director of Member’s Care for the New Hope Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi gave the message. He highlighted three points, first, that the providential hand of God was involved in changing Greene County, second, that God helped people to see and participate in his political will, and third Greene County was one of the pockets of power, than Dr. King pointed out and God worked his will in changing. Greene County helped set an example for many other counties in the Black Belt.”
Persons interested in supporting the continuing work of the Alabama Civil Rights Movement Museum, may contact: Spiver W. Gordon, P. O. Box 385, Eutaw, Alabama 35462, phone 205-372-3446; or email: spriverwgordon@hotmail.com.