Second Caravan to Washington, D.C. after Anniversary of Selma50 Set For March 23-25

selma50 march2SOS and its partners in Selma are hosting a second Caravan for Voting Rights set to begin on March 23, after the Selma to Montgomery march and rally, from Montgomery, Alabama on March 22.

The caravan will arrive in Washington, D.C. on March 25.

Your participation last year was critical, and we request that you once again join this effort to restore the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, says Faya Rose Toure’, SOS member and coordinator of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which just organized the celebration and commemoration of Bloody Sunday’s 50th Anniversary.

“The movie Selma, President Obama’s visit, and the extraordinary turn-out for Bloody Sunday commemoration has galvanized justice loving people and returned their focus on voting rights and human rights,” she says. “But the victory we thought was won and secured 50 years ago has been rolled back. Indeed, the very lives of our young black brothers and sisters continue to be threatened, and the vote remains a powerful tool in fighting police brutality. So we can’t keep silent or sit down until the voting rights and civil rights of every American are fully protected.”

The caravan schedule is as follows:
March 23
Atlanta: 9:30 am
Columbia: 3 pm

March 24
Raleigh: 9:30 am
Richmond: 3:00 pm
Rally in Virginia Evening

March 25
Senate Bldg: 10 am
House Bldg: After Senate Bldg

caravan2015details

For more information, contact Faya Rose on the Caravan at 334 419-4349 and fayarose@gmail.com.  Logistics coordinator, Jeffery Jones, can be contacted at car1480@aol.com.

But What of Selma, Worldwide Symbol of Voting Rights and Freedom?

Two of SOS’s founding members, Alabama State Sen. Hank Sanders and Attorney/Poet Faya Rose Toure, have written their perspectives in the New York Times on Selma — its storied past, its stagnated present and their future in the city they’ve fought to love:

selmamarchersinmontg1965_npsSELMA, Ala. — The memory is as powerful as if it were yesterday. On March 25, 1965, tens of thousands of us gathered before the Alabama State Capitol, the endpoint of a five-day, 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called out, “How long?” and the crowd responded, “Not long!” The moment was electric. We believed it would not be long before the right to vote was deeply rooted and bearing fruit in America.

In one sense, we were right. The Voting Rights Act, passed just months after the Selma marches, banned the discriminatory voting practices that many southern states had enacted following the Civil War. Over time, the Act enabled millions of African-Americans to register to vote, and for decades following its passage, voting rights continued to slowly expand. But in another sense we are still waiting. Either Dr. King was wrong or “not long” is biblical, measured in generations.

We came to Selma in 1971, newly married and fresh out of Harvard Law School. Our intentions were to stay for five years. We were sure that by then Dr. King’s vision of voting rights would have been realized. Over 40 years later, not only are the fruits scarce, but the roots are shallow and feeble.

Celebrations, commemorations and movies make people feel good, but the reality is that voting rights have been rolled back dramatically in recent years. The Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act, striking down a central provision requiring certain states, including Alabama, to obtain federal clearance before changing voting procedures. Since then, several states have limited access to voting by blacks and others. Today, all Alabama voters must show photo identification. In Alabama and other states, this I.D. must be government-issued. These policies, which disproportionately affect minority, poor and elderly voters who are less likely to possess government-issued I.D.s, are the 21st-century equivalent of the Jim Crow-era poll tax and literacy test.

Dr. King understood that voting would be the last right granted to African-Americans because it was the most powerful. Indeed, if we had better understood our history, we would not have been surprised that “not long” has stretched into a half-century. We did not remember that, though the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote in 1870, Congress in 1894 repealed legislation enacted in 1870 and 1871 that provided robust and necessary enforcements of that right. In a sense, in 1965 we were trying to get back to where we briefly were in America in the 1870s.

But what of Selma, the worldwide symbol of voting rights and freedom?

As Dr. King urged, we marched on the ballot boxes. In 1965 there were 300 registered African-American voters and zero African-American elected officials in Dallas County, where Selma is located; in 2015 there were 19,862 registered African-American voters and 19 African-American elected officials. But we greatly underestimated the power of those who control the voting process.

It took over 35 years to dislodge Joseph T. Smitherman, who was mayor of Selma on March 7, 1965, the day known as Bloody Sunday, when lawmen disrupted the first attempted Selma-to-Montgomery march, brutally attacking peaceful demonstrators. Today most elected officials in Selma are African-American. But in Dallas County — which is about 70 percent black — whites hold six of the seven countywide elected positions. Until 2010, eight African-Americans chaired meaningful committees in the Alabama State Senate. Now we are isolated minorities without a single position of statewide influence.

Some progress has been made in the justice system, though real justice remains far removed. The Selma mayor and police chief are African-American, and Dallas County has an African-American district attorney. But black men are often held in jail for extended periods on multimillion dollar bonds, and police brutality and profiling of the poor remain far too prevalent.

In Dallas County, the number of African-Americans living at poverty level is nearly eight times that of whites. Too many African-Americans in Selma still live in substandard housing. And while the law no longer requires it, nearly all African-American children here still attend schools that are effectively segregated. Our granddaughter graduates from high school in Selma this year, and there was not one white child in any of her classes from first through 12th grade.

Despite our city’s fame as a cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement, African-Americans in Selma who dare to discuss these issues openly and honestly are called racists, haters and worse.

Yes, we marched on the ballot boxes. But for the tens of thousands of African-Americans in Selma, life, as Langston Hughes said, “ain’t been no crystal stair.” Better off is not equal.

We came to Selma over four decades ago; today we are both in our seventies. When we arrived, we agreed that every five years we would decide anew whether to stay or leave. Each time we chose to stay. The choice is coming up again next year. What shall we do? The struggle continues because the challenges remain great.

Hank Sanders has served as a member of the Alabama State Senate since 1983. Faya Rose Toure is an attorney and civil rights activist. 

Bridge Crossing Jubilee Focuses on Restoring Voting Rights for Bloody Sunday’s 50th Anniversary

from Birmingham View Magazine Online

SELMA50-official10“Remember, Recommit, and Restore” is the 50th Anniversary theme of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee that hosts an annual pilgrimage to honor the “Bloody Sunday” March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. The 2015 Jubilee features more than 50 events, 40 of them free, in the City of Selma March 5-9.

Thousands of people across the country and the world will descend on Selma to commemorate Bloody Sunday with the  annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, March 8. They will walk with the remaining foot soldiers of that time from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. A new generation of civil rights activists and groups who have organized in the wake of high-profile cases such as those involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner are expected to join them.

Jubilee planners want to focus attention on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a set of federal protections created as a direct result of Bloody Sunday and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches led by civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as depicted in the movie, “Selma.”

“This year is bittersweet because we love the attention the movie has brought to my city and this annual event,” says Catrena Norris Carter, Executive Director of the Selma to Montgomery 50th Commemoration Foundation, which sponsors the Jubilee. “But the celebration is overshadowed by the reality that our own U.S. Supreme Court recently gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

“We have to remind the people coming here that our future is not secure unless the protections under the Voting Rights Act are fully restored so that all citizens have full and free access to the polls to elect officials to represent their best interests,” she says. “So we want everyone coming to this year’s Jubilee to remember the past sacrifices that brought us thus far, and to personally recommit to securing the voting rights of every citizen. Write and call your Congressional representative, urging them to fully restore the protections under the Voting Rights Act. Hence, the reason behind our theme this year: Remember, Recommit, and Restore.”

A number of congressional leaders are expected to come to Montgomery and Selma at the request of U.S. Congressman John Lewis and his Faith & Politics Institute, which hosts an annual Congressional Pilgrimage to Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma. Faith & Politics has also invited all the living Presidents to attend, including the sitting President, Barack Obama.

Selma-50-logo-(big)President Obama is expected to appear in Selma on Saturday, March 7, the actual anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March that Lewis, then a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, led with Hosea Williams and other members of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Other civil rights organizations recently announced joint efforts to ensure unity in the commemoration of Bloody Sunday on Sunday, March 8.

While they are here, Carter says, the Jubilee organizers and state activists hope to impress upon the congressional leaders the urgency to properly amend the gutted Voting Rights Act, per the Supreme Court’s directives, and put Alabama back under federal oversight.

“While we have overcome in so many ways, the last few years have shown us that we still have a long way to go,” Carter says. “The uprising in Ferguson over the death of Michael Brown and in New York over the death of Eric Garner underscore built up tensions over covert racism that still infects too much of our society. The vote is a powerful tool to help combat problems like miscarriages of justice. The movie Selma shows how, once people got the right to vote, they put Jim Clark with his racist leadership, out of office.

“Younger generations must be re-educated about the story of Selma, that the fight then wasn’t easy nor without sacrifice. But like those leaders then, they have the power to make the change they want to see. Change may not come as fast as they want, but it will come as long as they remember they are part of a grand, long-term Freedom Movement for justice.”

freedom flame awards 2015Jubilee events include the Freedom Flame Awards, which honors civil rights soldiers of the past. This year’s honorees include Harry Belafonte, Amelia Boynton-Robinson, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dick Gregory, Delores Huerta, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., John Jackson, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA).

Several Jubilee events also promote today’s generations of leaders.

The Turn Up Youth Summit on March 7 features an extraordinary group of nationally and internationally-renowned young leaders, paired with veterans of the voting rights movement who share their knowledge and experiences with youth who know little about the Freedom Movement that opened doors of opportunity for their generation. The lessons shared focus on how the struggle for voting rights and the importance of participating in our electoral process can alleviate the problems young America is currently facing.

Youth panelists include: Jonathan Lewis of the Positive Peace Youth Network (a national nonviolence organization), who is the protege’ of historic civil rights leader Dr. Bernard Lafayette, a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Marypat Hector, National Youth Director of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network; Cierra Taylor, Political Director for the Dream Defenders, a Florida-based activist organization that grew out of the Trayvon Martin murder case; Jamira Burley,  Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia Youth Commission; and Jeremy Ponds, Youth Director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Adult panelists include Martin Luther King, III, eldest child of the civil rights icon, and David Turnley– Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist and former personal photographer and advisor to Nelson Mandela during his presidency. Turnley is the author of Mandela! Struggle & Triumph.

The Emerging ChangeMakers Network is hosting its 10th annual Selma Leadership Summit 2015 on March 7 with a discussion, “Are We Moving Forward or Standing Still?” and the annual prayer brunch on March 8 with the theme “The Resurgence, Re-Imagination and Reward of Young Voices.”

On Sunday, March 8, the Jubilee ends after the annual bridge crossing with the “All-Star Salute to Selma” concert featuring some of the top names in gospel and R&B music. Renowned conductor Dr. Henry Panion III will lead his symphony orchestra and 1,000-voice choir to accompany the likes of Kirk Franklin, Ruben Studdard, Lady Tramaine Hawkins, Sounds of Blackness, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Richard Smallwood and more. In addition to the confirmations already received, other artists including The Clark Sisters, Fantasia, Kenny Lattimore, Bobby Brown and Mary J. Blige are trying to work out their schedules to appear.

More names are expected to be added to the list, as many celebrities want to be a part of the special celebration, including Quincy Jones III, Earth Wind & Fire, and Frankie Beverly & Maze. Panion hopes that his friend, Stevie Wonder, might also make a special appearance.

Download the most recent list of Jubilee events HERE.

For complete information about #Selma50 events during the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, visit the website www.Selma50.com.

 

About the Bridge Crossing Jubilee

Selma50-john-lewis-on-bridgeThis annual event in Selma, Alabama, commemorates “Bloody Sunday,” which occurred March 7, 1965, when a group of about 525 African American demonstrators gathered at Browns Chapel to demand the right to vote.

They walked six blocks to Broad Street, then across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by more than 50 state troopers and a few dozen militiamen on horseback. When the demonstrators refused to turn back, they were brutally beaten. At least 17 were hospitalized, and 40 others received treatment for injuries and the effects of tear gas.

The attack, which was broadcast on national television, caught the attention of millions of Americans and became a symbol of the brutal racism of the South. Two weeks later, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and 3,200 civil rights protesters marched the 49 miles from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery, where they held a large rally on the steps of the Capitol Building where the Confederacy was born.

These events prompted Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Every year on the first weekend in March, the Bridge Crossing Jubilee commemorates both the bloody confrontation at the Pettus Bridge and the march from Selma to Montgomery that followed. Events include a parade, a Miss Jubilee Pageant, a mock trial, and a commemorative march to the bridge. Every five years, celebrants continue all the way to Montgomery.

 

About the Weakened Voting Rights Act of 1965

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court made a devastating ruling in a lawsuit filed in Shelby County — part of the Birmingham, AL, metropolitan area — that challenged the pre-clearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Shelby County officials redrew the district lines of a black county commissioner, who lost his seat in a subsequent election. The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said the officials needed federal pre-approval to make changes that diluted the voting power of the black citizens in the district.

In June 2013, the Supreme Court justices in 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder ruled that the pre-clearance provision was outdated after 50 years and unfair to jurisdictions that had to prove any election changes were not discriminatory. Because the majority decided that the provision was unconstitutional, it was therefore legally unenforceable.

Immediately after the decision, several states, particularly North Carolina, instituted some of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. Critics called the laws bold and blatant attempts to suppress voting rights of minorities, students and the elderly who tended to support progressive policies.

To this date, Congress has not adopted any remedies that fully restore the protections that were guaranteed under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.