Now this morning, I knew the words to our good morning song … “This Little Light of Mine.” Still didn’t sing, but don’t know how many more days I am going to get away with this.
We left Little Rock at 7 a.m. and headed to Selma, Alabama, for the 45th Annual Commemoration of the 1965 Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The Jubilee Bloody Sunday Celebration commemorates the 600 men and women who 45 years ago tried to march from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery, for the right to vote. As these unarmed civil rights marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were gassed and beaten with billy clubs by state and local police, some on horseback, who had been ordered to break up the demonstration by Governor George Wallace.
Captured by ABC television cameras and broadcast nationwide, the marchers – 17 of whom were hospitalized – gave a wakeup call to the nation to the importance of voting rights and the entire civil rights movement. Within 10 days, President Johnson would send a bill to Congress, the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, that would outlaw the discriminatory Jim Crow-era practices.
I have been to Alabama once before, about 15 years ago. Alabama seems to me a place frozen in time. It is overcast, and it doesn’t help my uneasiness that I see mile after mile of abandoned homes and shacks. The only thing that seems new is the catfish farms that occasionally dot the landscape.
We stand outside the historic Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal hoping to catch a glance of the civil rights leaders who are inside attending Sunday service … Jesse Jackson, U.S. Congressman John Lewis and the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian. Even with actor Terrence Howard and the Honorable Winnie Mandela in town, the “Pants on the Ground” guy (photo left) gets way too much attention.
I’m a spectator today. As I cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and look into the faces of thousands of people who march and sing, I begin to understand why it is so important for the people of Selma to honor those who did so much for them. And I also begin to see why we still have so much to do.