Come with me as we share the Bridge Crossing Jubilee on the 52nd Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I cannot share everything because I could not attend all of the more than 40 events. I don’t even have space to share all I participated in over these five days. Come with me as we share the continuing experience of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.
Let’s start on Thursday of last week. I returned from a Senate session in Montgomery. Two television reporters had set up interviews about the Jubilee. I agreed to do the interviews in spite of the potential for negative publicity. I met them at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Rather than respond to the controversy, I tried to address the big picture: the Jubilee would go on; the forty-plus events would go on as planned; and only one event, the Jubilee Festival, would be moved.
There were two events at Tabernacle Baptist Church. I was asked to emcee the memorial service for Gladys Dunston, the chair of the Jubilee Board who passed several months ago. It was a moving memorial. The Old-Fashioned Mass Meeting followed. Tabernacle was the first church to allow a mass meeting in Selma’s struggle for the right to vote when churches were under threat of being firebombed. I introduced the keynote speaker, attorney Fred Gray, who was the lead lawyer in the federal lawsuit asking for the Selma-to-Montgomery March to take place with the State of Alabama providing protection for the marchers. Gray was excellent as he shared stories involving that and other legal battles.
Last Friday, I was at the foot of the bridge for a 6:45 am television interview. I willed myself to be positive. I then went to the Prodigal Child Project Breakfast at Clinton Chapel Church where I made remarks. The event was led by the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow with Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz as the keynote speaker. I faced challenges involving utilities that sprung from the last-minute relocation of the Festival. In between, I went to Wallace Community College Selma for several educational workshops.
I then shared in two of the National Voting Rights Museum Hall of Fame inductions. I then participated in the Jubilee Mock Trial at the Dallas County Courthouse. As always, it was both educational and entertaining. The Public Conversation Forum followed, where Rev. Jesse Jackson, radio host Mark Thompson and others discussed timely issues. The Mock Trial and the Public Conversation Forum air across the country on SiriuxXM radio channel 127. These two events lifted our minds, hearts, emotions and spirits.
On Saturday, I was at the bridge before 6:30 am meeting last-minute challenges. At 8 am, I made a brief presentation at a workshop at the Selma School of Discovery. I then attended the Foot Soldiers’ Breakfast, which is always special for me. I gave an overview for several workshops on education and immigration at the Dallas County Courthouse. I participated in an Alabama New South Coalition lunch meeting.
I spent several hours on legal matters with the City of Selma. Two powerful lawyers, Law Professor Emeritus Martha Morgan and Montgomery attorney Sharon Wheeler, were leading the effort. With their assistance, the matter was resolved. There was no legal basis for what the City was trying to do. The highlight of this day was the Freedom Flame Award Banquet, where I gave greetings. The atmosphere was so lifting; the awardees so deserving; the people so connected.
Sunday was another special day. I was at Wallace Community College Selma before 7 am where I handled various matters before attending the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast. I presented an award to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for its unique role in making the 1965 Voting Rights Act possible. Its President, Dr. Charles Steele, received the award. The most powerful moment by far was the keynote address by the Rev. Dr. William Barber, II of North Carolina.
I spoke briefly at Brown Chapel, attended the Bloody Sunday Pre-March rally, and participated in the Bloody Sunday March across the bridge. I was shocked at how many participated in the march. With all the controversy, I expected much less. I did get by the festival. I attended the Bridge House Awards Dinner and ended the day serving as a panelist on the forum “Voter Fraud is a Lie; Voter Suppression is Alive.”
The final Jubilee event was on Monday. The Slow Ride had more than three dozen vehicles traveling the 50-mile march route from Selma to Montgomery. There was a very spirited rally at the Capitol with Dr. Barber as the main speaker. I looked out from the steps of the Capitol down Dexter Avenue where in 1965 I had stood among a crowd of 30,000 or so and heard Dr. King ask, “How long?” And we shouted in unison, “Not long!” After the rally, I thought I was done with Jubilee for the day, but the media sought me out again. Come. Come with me as we share the continuing Jubilee experience.
EPILOGUE – History is powerful when it lifts us. History is powerful when it holds us down. We have the power of choice in whether history lifts us or holds us down. If we don’t stand on history, history will surely stand on us. The Jubilee helps us stand on history, reaching higher and seeing farther.