This past weekend thousands of people from across the Alabama Black Belt and the nation came to Selma to participate in the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee which commemorates the “Bloody Sunday March” in 1965 which led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Several hundred marchers stayed on to continue the march for the full 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery during this week, culminating in a large rally on Friday, March 9 at Noon on the steps of the State Capitol.
The ongoing march has several main themes: Stopping Voter Suppression – especially the Voter Identification Bills, passed by many states to curtail voting; Workers Rights; Immigration Rights – including repealing Alabama’s HB 56, the harshest anti- immigration legislation in the nation; and Support for Public Education.
The five day march is being sponsored by 25 Alabama organizations that are part of the Save-Ourselves-Coalition supported by national organizations including SCLC, NAACP, AFL-CIO, National Action Network, Rainbow Coalition-PUSH, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, National Council of LaRaza and many others.
There were numerous events on the weekend schedule including breakfasts, banquets, workshops, exhibits, awards, and the march reenactment leading up to the beginning of the week-long protest march dealing with current issues and threats to the right to vote.
The Footsoldiers Breakfast on Saturday morning celebrated the unsung everyday heroes and sheroes of the 1965 movement who participated in the ‘Bloody Sunday March’ and related movement activities.
Richard Smiley, one of the participants in the 1965 March, said,
“I put on two pairs of pants and loaded my pockets with candy because I thought we were going to jail. My knees were knocking when we got on the bridge. I saw them beat John Lewis, Hosea Williams and Mrs Amelia Boynton. They beat us all the way back to Browns Chapel Church.”
Willie Ricks, a veteran SNCC worker, who lives in Atlanta, said, “we can’t talk about how we got free – since we are not free yet.” He said, “ students in school are not being taught right because they don’t learn about Africa and alternative economic systems.”
The Footsoldiers Breakfast honored the original members of the SNCC Freedom Singers – Chuck Nebblit, Emory Harris, Rutha Harris, Marshall Jones and Phil Collins who sand some of their songs and told stories of their involvement in the movement. Rutha Harris told of assisting a 91 year old man at a citizenship school in Albany, Georgia, how to write his name so he could sign the rolls to register to vote.
Many great speakers participated in the Sunday morning Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast to set the tone and stress the themes of the upcoming march.
In her greetings, the Alabama 7th District Congresswoman said, “If it were not for the people on Bloody Sunday, I would not be serving in Congress today. We are drinking from wells we did not dig; and eating fruits from trees we did not plant. We are one President, one Supreme Court Justice, one vote away from a great disaster and setback to our struggle.”
Arlene Holt-Baker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO brought greetings from organized labor. She said, “We must continue to work for social justice and collective actions to improve the conditions of society. We must challenge those who block our path to the ballot box and those who push immigrants to the shadows to be exploited by unscrupulous employers.”
Janet Murguia, President of the National Council of LaRaza said, “The histories of Black and Brown people in America have been separate but our futures are inextricably linked. We must come together to make a difference for those terrified by the Alabama immigration law and make a difference for all people.”
Adelaide Sanford, Vice Chancellor Emerita for the New York State Board of Regents spoke eloquently about the need for reform of public education and the provision of adequate resources to educate all of the children.
Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network concluded the breakfast with a rousing charge for the march. “ In 2000, they robbed us in Florida after we voted; now they are trying to stop you before you get to the voting booth. These Voter ID laws and other changes are projected to stop 5 million people from voting. We must march and work to stop this frontal attack on voting.”
Thousands convened in front of Browns Chapel Church on Sunday afternoon and marched through the streets of Selma, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and attended another rally on the east side of the bridge. Police estimated the crowd crossing the bridge at 20,000. After more speeches and greetings a smaller group started the five day treck to Montgomery.
Weather for Eutaw, Ala. Monday Tuesday WednesdayThunderstorm90/73Thunderstorm86/70Chance of a Thunderstorm88/68
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