“There are places, and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war – Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character – Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral. Selma is such a place.” – President Barack Obama
50 years ago this month freedom fighters both young and old descended on Selma, Alabama as part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement. Three Selma to Montgomery, Alabama marches were organized. During the first march, state troopers and local residents attacked the marchers with clubs and tear gas, the event earned the name “Bloody Sunday” because of the viciousness of the attacks the marchers endured. The second march was brought to an early end by Dr. King. The third march was a success and on March 25, 1965 thousands marched on the Montgomery State Capital in support of voting rights. The Selma to Montgomery marches paved the way to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Many of those marchers paid in blood and some paid the ultimate sacrifice, but because of their sacrifice this country is a better place than it was 50 years ago. The March toward freedom and justice did not stop in Montgomery, as Dr. King said on that day:
“Let us therefore continue our triumphant march to the realization of the American dream. Let us march on segregated housing until every ghetto or social and economic depression dissolves, and Negroes and whites live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.”
“Let us march on poverty until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat. March on poverty until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns in search of jobs that do not exist. Let us march on poverty until wrinkled stomachs in Mississippi are filled, and the idle industries of Appalachia are realized and revitalized, and broken lives in sweltering ghettos are mended and remolded.”
Selma is Ferguson, Missouri where a recent report by the Justice Department highlighted practices the city’s police department used against residence including racial disparities in arrests, bigotry and profit-driven law enforcement — essentially using the black community as a piggy bank to support the city’s budget through fines.
Selma is Cleveland, Ohio where 12 year old Tamir Rice was gunned down in a park by police officers.
Selma is Staten Island where Eric Garner was choked to death by a police officer who was not indicted for his death.
Selma is Sanford, Florida where unarmed teen Trayvon Martin was confronted and killed by an overzealous neighborhood watchman who was found not guilty in his death.
Selma is Dayton, Ohio where 22 year old John Crawford was shot to death by a police officer in Walmart
Selma is Madison, Wisconsin where 19 year old unarmed Tony Robinson was shot dead during a confrontation with a police officer.
Selma isn’t just a march that occurred 50 years ago, a page in a history book or a major Hollywood movie. Selma is now! Let us continue to march on until victory over inequality and injustice is won.