GOP Leaders: Get Your A** Down to Selma
5 things about the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches.
WASHINGTON (AP) — In only a few minutes on national television, the beatings of civil rights marchers by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, dragged the inhumanity of Southern segregation into America’s living rooms as never before. This is why I find myself both shocked and angered that none of the GOP elected leadership plans to travel to Selma, Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a civil rights march that forever changed the United States. Five decades later, many recalled that moment when police lobbed tear gas at protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting death last year of black 18-year-old Michael Brown.
On March 7, 1965, marchers were walking from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery, to demand an end to discriminatory practices that robbed blacks of their right to vote. Several Ferguson protesters also plan to go to Selma, hoping to ensure that more Americans will draw parallels between yesterday’s and today’s struggles. “It is clear that the struggle continues,” said human rights attorney Nicole Lee, who was in Ferguson during the unrest after police decided not to charge officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death. Images of the violence during the first march shocked the nation and turned up the pressure to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which helped open voter rolls to millions of Southern blacks.
The celebration is scheduled to include a speech from President Barack Obama, a reenactment of the march and a concert in celebration of its determination and success. As one of the most celebrated marches of the Civil Rights Movement, the half-century anniversary is estimated to bring tens of thousands to the Alabama town to honor the historical day in American history. After a 26-year-old black church deacon, Jimmie Lee Jackson, was fatally shot by a state trooper during an earlier march in Marion, Alabama, Bevel suggested that protesters carry Jackson’s casket from Marion to the steps of the state capitol. John Lewis, then a student activist who was severely beaten in Selma, sees parallels between the 1965 marches and the #BlackLivesMatter movement that sprang up after Brown’s death.
And yet, President Obama and scores of lawmakers from all sides of the political spectrum will wind their way to tiny Selma to reflect, remember, and honor the sacrifices of those who paved the way for me and subsequent generations to live freely regardless of the color of my skin. Now, at 65, Zachary intends on finally making the journey. “I’m going to Selma to give honor and homage to my ancestors, and people of my family who were there and all the great civil rights leaders we don’t always hear about — so many remain nameless, but so many fought so hard to have the right to vote.” Fifty years ago, Reverend James Reeb was murdered after traveling to Selma to take a stand for civil rights. He also sees a major distinction. “The only thing that is so different (is that) today, I don’t think many of the young people have a deep understanding of the ways of nonviolent direct action,” said Lewis, D-Ga. Other Selma veterans say they fear their sacrifices are being wasted by those whose failure to vote leads to lack of representation in government and on police forces. “Racism never went anywhere.
Last year voters in Utah and Texas sent new Representatives Mia Love (R-UT) and Will Hurd (R-TX) to Congress from districts that were not African-American majorities. To heed the judge’s order, King led protesters two days later, on Tuesday, March 9, 1965, to the Pettus bridge, where they kneeled, prayed, sang and left. King’s refusal to take the march across the bridge, where Alabama lawmen were waiting, led critics to call the second march “Turnaround Tuesday.” Johnson ordered federal protection for the marchers, and on March 21, 1965, thousands of marchers made the 50-mile journey to Montgomery.
South Carolina also returned Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) to office from a state whose roots in the Old Confederacy remained strong well into the 20th Century. But if you don’t vote, and don’t take advantage of that right, you’re still living in a pre-Selma age.” African-Americans voted at a higher rate than non-Hispanic whites in 2012 — 66.2 percent versus 64.1 percent — with Obama on the ballot.
As Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus and other elected officials across the country try to make the case that the GOP welcomes people of color with open arms, the decision not to have senior party leadership during the three-day celebration in Selma offends me. Martin Luther King Jr. was not in Selma for the Bloody Sunday march, although he had been there before working on voting rights issues, even doing a stint in jail there. King was obliged to preach at his church in Atlanta on the day people showed up to march to Montgomery, since it was their “Men’s Day” program, former King aide Andrew Young said. The trip was planned in coordination with the Muscogee County Democratic Committee, and has, not surprisingly, sold out. 50 Southern Methodist University students are going to carry on the legacy of 50 Southern Methodist University students that came before them.
SMU theology undergraduates were a part of the legendary march through Montgomery and their 2015 classmates will ride a bus to the historical site in their memory. The non profit is traveling in support of voting rights and in favor of an executive order to Ban The Box, which would mean the elimination of questioning about conviction history on initial job applications.
Butterfield (D-NC), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus offered the following: “The Republicans always talk about trying to change their brand and be more appealing to minority folks and be in touch with the interests of African Americans.
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