Selma, Alabama - 50th Anniversary March, Never Forget

 

The United States Supreme Courts ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Right Acts of 1965 was unconstitutional in June 2013. This caused the 75-year old-Civil Rights Activist/ Congressman John Lewis to feel the deeply rooted pain again that he felt 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama on Sunday March 7, 1965 known as “Bloody Sunday” when he was beaten and his skull was fractured. He describes it as a “dagger in my heart and the Voting Rights Act’s heart” by changing the law.

                                       

Hosea Williams and John Lewis leading that historical march on "Bloody Sunday", March 7, 1965 - Courtesy of imgarcade.com

Over 600 strong-minded, peaceful marchers along with Lewis, Hosea Williams and others put their lives and bodies on the line so Blacks could have the right to vote. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. got word from God that Sunday not to march. So on this “Bloody Sunday”, State Troopers and other white men who they hired for this day used tear gas, “billy” clubs, horses, smoke and other devices on those who were trying to stand up and make changes so that Blacks could move forward since they were not allowed to vote.

                            

Young John Lewis taking the brutal-concussion hit for the sake of VOTING RIGHTS - Courtesy of 3chicspolitico.com

That historical day in Selma will forever be etched in the world’s mind when black and white civil rights activists were brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. This historical bridge was named after a Confederate Brigadier General, Senator and the Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon. I can only imagine how many black bodies have laid in those dark, cold waters underneath this bridge.

                    

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama holding bad and good memories of the Civil Rights struggle - Courtesy of mashable.com

This movement changed history forever mainly because the entire world saw on television how blacks were being mistreated with cruelty. America was embarrassed and something had to be done.

 

Martin L. King, Jr. and others pleaded with President Lyndon B. Johnson to pass the law so blacks would no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles in a bar of soap, pay poll taxes or pass a literacy test in attempting to vote.

        

Remembering what happen 50 years ago in Selma, Alabama is one reason you need to always GO VOTE- Courtesy of stetson.lexas-exile.ore

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed and then on August 6, 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed 5 months after the Selma's March saying Blacks and Minorities had the right to vote and nothing was unconstitutional about that until 48 years later when parts of that famous Act was considered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

 

Recently, Representative Lewis has challenged Congress to actually take that walk on the Pettus Bridge on this Sunday, March 8, 2015. He wants them to try to walk in the shoes of those who help changed the course of history and imagine how they felt that day by trying to get the right to vote.

    

"All Roads Leads To Selma" sums up why we vote today - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

Many will be commemorating the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” when the first African American President of the United States, President Barack Obama and several members of the Republican Bush Administration will walk and honor this day. What a day that will be.

 

Prior to the weekends of the 50th Anniversary, other major events have taken place.  In January 2015, Corla Gude introduced me to Felicia Stanley-Johnson, the founder and CEO of the Non-Profit organization, M.A.D.I.O.C. Inc. (Making A Difference In Our Communities).  It is a youth outreach program that specializes in mentoring, tutorial, and life skills training and introducing many youth to their history and much more. Mrs. Johnson strongly believes in keeping the kids busy and staying focused instead of being on the streets, without structure.

Madiocinc website

 

Mrs. Stanley-Johnson and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), A.D. King Foundation, The Legacy Movement Project, College Park Youth Coalition and City of Atlanta helped organized this special premiere of the movie “Selma” in Atlanta, Georgia on January 9, 2015 for the youth, as well as, adults. 

Jordan Rice, "Selma" actress as one of the Birmingham little girls bombed; Mrs Naomi King, wife of A.D. King & Foundation and Sister-In-Law of MLKing Jr; Renee Sudderth, Photojournalist - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

               

 

Brenda Davenport, Founder Legacy Movement; Felicia Stanley-Johnson, CEO of M.A.D.I.O.C.; Dr. Barbara Emerson, daughter of Rev Hosea Williams, Georgia Representative Sharon Beasley-Teague - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

One of the movie’s producers, Oprah Winfrey and director, Ava Du Vernay released the movie to prepare the world for more details about the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the historical march from Selma to Montgomery, a 54-mile journey led by Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.  Since the movie‘s release, it has won an Oscar for the “Best Song” in a movie and numerous other awards. (See review)

"Selma" movie featuring actor, David Oyelowo as Rev. Dr. Martin L.King Jr showing leadership to those "marching" historical days from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

After the movie showing, a panel of the actors from the movie and actual marchers shared their stories and testimonies. It was powerful and unforgettable. I was looking at the young people’s reactions, which was amazing to observe. They were focusing on this important, historical event being told by the actual characters who participated in the marches.

 

Selma Marchers and "Selma" actors speak on panel after the premiere showing of "Selma" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

                                

The ladies discussing and reviewing the movie "Selma' - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

 

St. Paul Church A.M.E.Church, Pryor Street in Atlanta on March 1, 2015 found Mrs. Johnson, Brenda Davenport and others inviting the youth, as well as, many dignitaries from the Selma March and several children of the leaders on that “Bloody Sunday”. They shared their stories by being part of the movement at a young age because they were not scared and they were not going to jail like their parents.

 

Ralph Abernathy III, son of the late Rev. and Civil Rights Activist Ralph Abernathy Sr and Mrs. Juanita Abernathy, a Civil Rights Activist - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

          

Dr. Bernard Lafayette; SCLC Chairman of Board & "Ground Crew" on "Bloody Sunday"; Freedom Rider - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

        

Mary Norwood, Atlanta City Council speaks at St Paul A.M.E. Church - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

Dr. Barbara Emerson, the eldest daughter of Rev. Hosea Williams, founder of "Hosea Feed The Hungry" and I shared several stories. I told her I will never forget the expressions on the homeless faces when they were placing her father in the mausoleum in November 2000 while I watched with sadness too. I told her it looked like they had lost their best friend.

 

Jordan Rice, actress in "Selma"; Dr. Barbara Emerson, President of Emerson Consultants Management Higher Education Diversity - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

                    

Rev. Hosea Willams summing up what the Blacks believed and sung about then and should still sing today - Courtesy of imgarcade.com

The closing program at St. Paul Church was so beautiful with the young generation holding hands with the older generation and singing “We Shall Overcome” and earlier singing "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around". 

Young and Old singing out loud together "We Shall Over Come" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

        

Rev. Darryl Gray, Felicia Stanley-Johnson, Brenda Davenport, Rev. Dr. Gregory V. Eason Sr; Derrick Boazman singing the Negro spiritual song "We Shall Over Come" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

    

Dr. Gregory McPhearson, Grammy Award Winner, Producer, Composer, Conductor, Arranger, Film Producer render a musical selection with Soloist Tamisha Kinsey singing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

We have to know our history so we can pass it on to our children. We must never forget all the sweat and tears our forefathers had to endure to get us where we are today.  People have to understand the Civil Rights Movement included various races, all of who wanted to see a change come to the Minority Blacks.

 

The next day everyone met at the City Hall of Atlanta to watch those special, unique individuals receive awards and still honoring this historical event.

 

Tori Keena, Morgan Turner, Freddie Stanley, Felicia Stanley-Johnson (Founder) and Mabel Thomas of M.A.D.I.O.C Inc at Atlanta City Hall - Courtesy of Tiffany Shephard of M.A.D.I.O.C.

         

Dr. Rev. Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian, Civil Rights Activist/Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient of 2013, who is still standing strong at age 90 even being beaten down during the Civil Rights Movement - Courtesy of Tiffany Shepard of M.A.D.I.O.C.

When the next election is held, please take your mind back to those beatings, killings and jailing of so many courageous men and women. Everyone has to take a stand and make changes. I guarantee the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri will exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections remembering the turmoil they experienced. Voice your opinions at the Polls, not in rioting.   In the words of one of the marchers still present from that “Selma to Montgomery March”, Congressman John Lewis, “Do your best, be strong, faithful and don’t ever give in or give up”!!

Renee Sudderth sitting emotionally in Congressman John Lewis's office in Washington D.C. January 2013 during President Obama's 2nd Term Inaugural Ceremony - Courtesy of Renee Sudderth

                        

Civil Rights Activist/Congressman John Lewis receiving the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" from President Barack Obama in 2010 - Courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images

 

Copyright © 2015.March This story written and photos by Renee Sudderth for Splash Magazines. It is not to be sold or reproduce without written permission of Renee Sudderth

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