President Biden renews commitment to passage of John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act at Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee

L To R: President Joe Biden, Cong. Terri Sewell, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson in wheelchair, rolled by son Cong. Jonathan Jackson, Krysten Clarke and Spiver W. Gordon
Attorney Faya Rose Toure addresses gathering at Commemoration March.
Rev. Jesse Jackson receives special tribute at Unity Breakfast.
Senator Hank Sanders at Martin and Coretta Unity Breakfast Rev. Martin Luther King III sitting at right
Freedom Singers bring inspiration throughout Jubilee.

At Sunday’s rally at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, President Biden renewed his commitment to passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, even if it requires waiving the U. S. Senate’s filibuster rules.

Biden accompanied by foot soldiers, current civil rights leaders and thousands of marchers crossed the bridge in the annual reenactment of the ‘Bloody Sunday’ march – March 7, 1965, when 600 marchers were met and beaten by hundreds of Alabama State Troopers and Sheriffs deputies. Later that month, Dr. Martin Luther King led marchers from Selma to Montgomery, completing the march and paving the way for passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In his statement, President Biden said: “The right to vote, to have your vote counted is the threshold of democracy and liberty,” 
 “This fundamental right remains under assault. Conservative Supreme Court has gutted the Voting Rights Act over the years. Since the 2020 election, a wave of states has passed dozens, dozens of anti-voting laws fueled by the big lie,” he insisted.
 The President continued. “We must redouble our efforts and renew our commitment to protecting the freedom to vote. “We know that we must get the votes in Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act. I’ve made it clear: I will not let a filibuster obstruct the sacred right to vote.”
In his comments President Biden urged passage of the George Floyd Police Reform Act to implement changes in the criminal justice system across the nation. He also urged passage of a ban on assault weapons, like the AR-15, which have hurt people in recent multiple shootings at schools, theaters, and shopping centers.
The President called for building the economy from “the bottom up and the middle out; and for the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.” He said that he was ready to stand by Selma and other places in the state ravaged by recent storms to rebuild better than in the past. He said over $8 million had already been distributed under the FEMA disaster declaration for the January 12th tornados.
Biden was introduced by Charles Mauldin, a foot soldier, who was in the third row of marchers on Bloody Sunday. Mauldin explained that all Black public officials and others registered and voting under the 1965 Voting Rights Act owed a debt to the 600 ordinary people from Selma and surrounding areas who decided that they would take action to make a change.
Mauldin initiated a “Foot Soldiers Breakfast” on Saturday morning of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, ten years ago, to honor those who participated in Bloody Sunday and the Voting Rights Movement in Selma. At this year’s breakfast, the foot soldiers organization announced they had secured a property near the Carver Housing Project for a “Foot Soldiers Memorial Park” to recognize the contributions of the foot soldiers and to inspire the next generations to become active in positive social change for the Selma community.
Faya Rose Toure, Selma attorney, civil rights activist, and co-founder, with her husband, Hank Sanders, of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which was celebrating its 30th anniversary, also spoke on the program at the foot of the bridge with President Biden.
Toure said racism is still active and blatant in the Alabama Black Belt along with immense poverty and an abusive criminal justice system. She pointed out to the President, “Not a single white elected official is present on the stage or in the VIP seating for the event. Also, there are less that ten local white citizens involved in the Bridge Crossing Jubilee program. There is no school in the Alabama Black Belt, an area of majority Black population that teaches Black History!”
Commenting on the recent tornados, Toure said, “Mr. President. Not only must we build back Selma better, but we must also build back Selma fairer, if we are interested in justice and progress for the people of Selma and surrounding communities.
Toure also told the President, “I do not think you are too old to run again. My mother said the Blacker the berry; the older the berry, the sweeter the juice … “
A number of the people on the stage and in the VIP seating for the President’s address, had participated earlier in the annual Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. Among them, Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was in a wheelchair, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and other members of the Black Congressional Caucus, Rev. William Barber of the Poor Peoples Campaign, Dr. Joseph Mitchell, President of Wallace Community College, Barbara Arnwine of the Transformative Justice Coalition, Maya Wiley, CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Cliff Albright, Black Voters Matter, and many others.

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.