Foot Soldiers Breakfast always a high point of Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee

Special to the Democrat:
John Zippert, Co-Publisher

IMG_0755There are many exciting and challenging events at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, each year, but the event that I consider best is the ‘Foot Soldiers Breakfast’ held on Saturday morning at R. B. Hudson School on Summerfield Road in Selma.
The Foot Soldiers Breakfast is coordinated by Charles Mauldin, JoAnn Bland and Richard Smilee, who themselves ‘foot-soldiers’ and are veteran participants in the Selma Voting Rights Movement starting in 1965. Their goal is to bring back actual participants in the “Bloody Sunday March” and related marches that were part of the Selma Movement and resulted in the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.The Foot Soldiers Breakfast presents the testimonies of persons who participated in the history-making events in Selma. Many of the past breakfast speakers like Amelia Boyton Robinson, Marie Foster, Attorney J. L. Chestnut and others have passed onto glory.
Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old African-American man who accompanied Viola Luizzo, when she was killed on Highway 80 in Lowndes County by Klu Klux Klansmen at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery March was to be the main speaker at this year’s Foot Soldiers Breakfast.
Due to illness, Leroy Moton, was unable to attend. Deanna Morton, his sister, who now resides in South Carolina attended and gave his story and her own. She said, “the car carrying the Klansmen passed Ms. Luizzo and her brother, on Highway 80, which was two lanes at that time. The car turned around and came back and found the car that Luizzo was driving. The Klansmen fired into the car killing Luizzo. Moton was alive and covered in blood but pretended to be dead until the Klansmen left. When they left, he flagged down a car to get help.”
Deanna Morton said as a 14-year-old girl she marched on Bloody Sunday. She said, “ When we came across the bridge, I never saw so many troopers in all my life; but I was willing to give my life for freedom. We learned how to outrun horses, cattle prods and billy clubs that day. I ran back across the bridge and hid behind some buildings.” She thanked the teachers at R. B. Hudson for supporting the young people.
Moton also said she was present for the ‘Turnaround Tuesday’ march which was led by Dr. King after Bloody Sunday. King agreed to turn around on the bridge because he did not have an official permit to march and he did not want to risk another beating of the marchers. Dr. King and SCLC later secured a permit and Federal protection to march from Selma to Montgomery later that month. Viola Luizzo was murdered on Highway 80, together with her brother – Leroy, in the aftermath of the successful march.
John Moton, another foot soldier said, “Do not make up excuses for not voting. We marched in the rain, in the mud and in the sunshine for you to have the right to vote.”
Richard Smilee said, “When I was on the bridge in 1965, you knew God was there. We were not afraid. We were looking forward to a brighter future. Tell the young people, the millennial to stand up; that your vote counts. Stand up for what you believe even if the current President wants to send us back. We will not go back!”
Willie ‘Mustafa’ Ricks, a SNCC worker who was in Selma for the voting rights campaign said, “ We are still catching hell. The Black man is still on the bot tom. We have been raped and robbed but we still have to keep marching. Bring your children and grandchildren to march. Revolution is the answer not giving people food stamps. Africans must be united!’
Herman Johnson said after SNCC workers came to the school to organize us, we marched from his high school school in Marion Junction to Selma (about ten miles) to participate in the movement.
Calvin Thomas, another foot soldier said he was arrested in Selma and taken to the old National Guard Amory. “There were too many people there so the took us to a camp in Thomaston. They let the prisoners out of the camp to watch us and put us in the camp.”
Horace Huggins, a retired teacher, commented on the January 21, 1965, ‘Teachers March’ in Selma. “This is the forgotten march, when 200 teachers from Selma and Dallas County marched for voting rights. Very few teachers took part in the movement for fear of loosing their jobs, but many teachers walked in this march to support the right to vote.
Joel Ellwanger, a white Lutheran minister from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, reported on the march of 72 concerned white people on March 6, the day before Bloody Sunday, who marched in support of Black people in downtown Selma. Ellwanger has written a book about this march.
There was so much to learn at the Foot Soldier Breakfast about the depth and breath of the Selma voting rights movement. I am planning to go again next year!

‘voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive’ Rev. Barber: “We want full restoration of the Voting Rights Act now!”

By: John Zippert,  Co-Publisher

Amid the celebration and commemoration at this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama, celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965, there was a demand for “Full Restoration of the Voting Rights Act” by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina Repairers of the Breach and Forward Together Movement. Rev. Barber’s demand was echoed by other speakers and was the central issue in many of the workshops and programs of the Jubilee.
In addition to the workshops, there was a parade, golf tournament, dinners, a unity breakfast, street festival, and the march reenactment on Sunday afternoon. Ten thousand or more marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge behind a host of local and national leaders, including: Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH, Charles Steele of SCLC, Rev. Barber, Faya Rose Toure, Senator Hank Sanders, Rev. Mark Thompson of Sirius 127 Radio and many others. The Masons of Alabama turned out in force and in uniform, to participate in the march.
The weekend culminated in Monday’s “Slow-Ride from Selma to Montgomery” with a caravan of 35 vehicles including a Greene County School bus, carrying the members of the Eutaw High Ninth Grade Academy. The caravan was met by local Montgomery leaders for a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.
Prior to the re-enactment march, Attorney Faya Rose Toure pointed out that the Edmund Pettus Bridge was named for an Alabama Klu Klux Klan leader and that the name should be changed to honor Ms. Amelia Boyton Robinson and the Voting Rights Foot-soldiers who won the 1965 VRA.
Rev. William Barber spoke many times, as ketnote for the Sunday morning breakfast, at Brown’s Chapel Church before the march reenactment, on a national radio broadcast from the Dallas County Courthouse on Sunday evening and at the rally at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery at the end of the slow-ride.

Rev. Barber made similar points in each speech. At the breakfast, we invoked the martyrs of the civil and voting rights movement – Dr. King, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Jonathan Daniels, James Reid, Viola Luizzo, and un-named others, whose blood he said was crying out to people today to continue the work of restoring the Voting Rights Act, fighting voter suppression in all its forms, and building a more beloved community involving Blacks, Whites, Latinos and all religious faiths.
He said he had come to Selma, ”not for the nostalgia of history but to listen for the ‘blood’ that was shed and soaked into the concrete of the bridge and the wooden pews of the churches.” Barber said that America was headed by an egotistical narsisistic man, “but this is not the first time that a racist was in the White House. Steve Bannon is not the first white Supremacist to be in high places. Trump is not the first President to hold these views. Many of his predacessors felt the same way.”
“On June 25, 2013”, Barber said, “the U. S. Supreme Court in the Holder vs. Shelby County case, overturned Section 4 and nullified Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Within an hour of the destruction of pre-clearence of voting changes in the Shelby decision, Texas approved a voter ID law and other changes; two months later, North Carolina passed voter suppression laws.
Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other Southern states also passed voter ID and other voter suppression measures. Voter fraud is a lie, voter suppression is alive.”
“Twenty-one states adopted 47 regressive voting changes within a year of the Shelby decision, The 2016 Presidential election was the first in half a century without the protection of the Voting Rights Act.
868 fewer polling places were allowed in Black and Brown communities around the nation. In the 25 Presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, no mention was made of the issue of voter suppression in our communities,” said Rev. Barber.
“Long before Russia interfered in our elections, voter suppression had hacked and distorted the system,” said Barber. He pointed out that in Wisconsin 300,000 voters were disenfranchised due to the voter ID requirements and Trump defeated Hillary by 20,000 votes in that state.
Senator Hank Sanders spoke to the problems of voter suppression, voter ID, Legislative gerrymandering in Alabama, Packing and stacking Black voters in majority Black districts. He also recounted the history of now Attorney General Jeff Sessions role in initiating voter suppression in Alabama with voter fraud trials of civil rights activists.
Rev. Barber said, “ the 11 former Confederate states have 171 electoral votes, you only need 99 more to have the 270 needed to win the electoral college. These states have 26 U. S. senators, the extremists need only 25 more Senators to control the Senate which they are doing now. They have the House of Representatives, statehouses, county courthouses, we have work to do to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.”
As part of the evening radio broadcast and rally at the Dallas County Courthouse, Rev. Barber displayed maps, which showed the concentration of poverty, child poverty, low wages-right-to-work states, states that did not expand Medicaid, overlapped with the states that adopted new voter suppression measures. Most of these maps showed concentration of these problems in the rural South. Rev. Barber also displayed a map of states and areas with a concentration of protestant Evangelical Christians and once again the overlap was clear. He called this a “mis-teaching of faith and a false interpretation of the Bible”.
At the rally in Montgomery, speaker after speaker blasted the voter suppression, racial gerrymandering and limits to voting by the people. Rev. Barber said, ”We must get ready for a 100 days of disruption and civil disobedience in our state houses and in Congress to work for full restoration of the Voting Rights Act. Different state organizations should be preparing to go to Washington, D. C. and non-violently disrupt the process qnd win back our full voting rights.