The three Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965 were part of the Voting Rights Movement underway in Selma, Alabama. The first march took place on March 7, 1965, organized locally by Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others. State troopers and county possemen attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas after they passed over the county line, and the event became known as Bloody Sunday. On March 8, 2015 thousands of people paraded across a Selma, Alabama bridge to commemorate the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march, not waiting for dignitaries who had planned to lead them in marking the 50th anniversary of a turning point in the U.S. civil rights movement. A number of members of FOR were present for the commemoration.
We met on our way into the Tabernacle Baptist Church; Annette, a black woman from a few towns over, and I greeted each other a block away. I asked to join her on route to the church; she invited me to sit with her in a central pew.
By the end of the 50th Anniversary kick-off Mass Meeting and Memorial Service in Selma, AL we both knew we’d remember this evening for years to come. We were showered with eloquent words from a half-dozen civil rights movement leaders, including Dr. Bernice King, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Rev. William Barber II. Tears of sorrow and joy were shed as we unabashedly stood – hands together – many times during the three-hours-plus service.
The memorial service lifted up Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo who all lost their lives in the events surrounding the Selma march. Their relatives were there in the sanctuary with us. 17 of James Reeb’s family; on their first family visit to Selma.
We heard about the recent weakening of Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, the continuing police killings of unarmed blacks, and the recounting of the others whose blood was spilled on the long path to justice for African Americans.
Then on Sunday, Bloody Sunday, with nearly 100,000 people marching and milling about, a face I couldn’t see shouted my name out across the crowd. It was Annette; I’d perched on a wall with a camera and got a photo of her – she made sure I had her email. We will indeed remember this event, one another, and live out our commitment for equal rights for years to come”.