Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1448: A Taste of Jubilee!

  A taste of Jubilee. A taste of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and much much more. This Bridge Crossing Jubilee was a once in a lifetime experience. Decades from now, people will say, “I was there for the 50th.” There were more than 50 events so I cannot begin to touch on all or even most. I could take one or two events and perhaps do them some justice, but I choose to share a taste of various Jubilee events. Next week I hope to write about the meaning of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Taste # 1 – The opening Jubilee event on Thursday, March 5th was an old-fashioned mass meeting at Selma’s Tabernacle Baptist Church. the crowd was overflowing.  I struggled mightily just to get in the church. There was no way to get a seat even with my bad back. The opening memorial service was deeply touching. The speakers, Rev. Dr. William Barber, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Rev. Bernice King, were masterful. It was a powerful opening for this massive once in a lifetime event.

Taste #2 – The Children’s Sojourn on Friday was spirit warming. Several thousand children participated in events and marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. They will never forget the spirit, the sharing, and the learning. Years from now, they will say, “I was there.”

Taste #3 – The many workshops on Friday, including one on Women and the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Adelaide Sanford, Diane Nash, Dr. Thelma Adair and Faya Rose Toure, were profound in knowledge and understanding. I hear that each workshop was truly profound in its own right and overflowing with participants.

Taste #4 – The Jubilee Mock Trial on Friday night was both educational and entertaining. The central issue was whether the United States Government owed African Americans for the denial of the right to vote from 1876 to the present and if so, how much. The mock trial was carried live all over North, Central and South America on Sirius XM Satellite Radio by Rev. Mark Thompson, host of Make it Plain.

Taste #5 – President Obama's visit on Saturday presented great opportunities and great challenges. Nearly every one of the workshops and other events scheduled had to adjust as best they could. A number had to be cancelled. However, President Obama was powerful in his speaking. It was great to have him and the First Family visit Selma. Along with the Mayor of Selma and others, I had three minutes to speak. I tried to tell the people that voting rights are under greater attack than at any time since 1965; that we must fight for universal voting rights; that we must fight to fully restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act; that we cannot just accept what they will give but must mobilize as we did in the sixties to take what we need. The total visitors for events on Saturday were estimated at more than 80,000.

Taste #6 – After the President spoke, he and First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Sasha and Malia walked across the bridge to tour the National Voting Rights Museum.  Faya Rose Toure, Wallace Community College Selma President Dr. James Mitchell, Felicia Pettway, Sam Walker and I met with them. The President was given an original drawing of the First Family facing the Edmund Pettus Bridge with key ancestors hovering above.        

Taste #7 – The Fruit of the Labor Luncheon was moved from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. to adjust for the President’s visit. However, because the President ran late, it did not start until 4:30 or so. I felt for the participants and the audience. The Fruit of the Labor Luncheon honored a few of the many who served well in elective or appointed position. Their service was possible because of those who labored and sacrificed in the fields of voting rights.

Taste #8 – The Freedom Flame Awards Banquet was luminous. It was facilitated by renowned actor Danny Glover and national radio personality Mark Thompson. The Freedom Flame Awards held up a light on those who struggled and sacrificed for the right to vote. They provided a flame to light the way to the future. Among the many awardees were Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash and Bob Moses.

Taste #9 – The Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast on Sunday got off to a late start. It was a powerful experience nonetheless. Many great dignitaries spoke truly well, but the daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Luci Baines Johnson, who accepted the National Unity Award posthumously on his behalf, was uniquely powerful.

Taste #10 – The Bloody Sunday March was truly massive. Unbelievably, there were even more people on Sunday than on Saturday when the President was here. There were way too many people for the traditional Bloody Sunday March. Therefore we had multiple marches moving in waves. There were so many people that they blocked the Bridge for hours. They finally got it open so people could march slowly across. At all the various events on Sunday, the crowd in attendance was estimated at more than 100,000.

Taste #11– After the Bloody Sunday March, BET Television Network did a live concert with numerous stars. Various leaders had a few minutes to speak. In our four minutes, Faya Rose and I spoke of the need to continue to fight on all fronts for voting rights. Catrena Carter was central in putting this event together.

EPILOGUE – A taste is a little bit of a much larger portion. However, multiple tastes of multiple dishes is something else altogether. I hope this taste of Jubilee provides you more than a flavor of this Bridge Crossing Jubilee on this Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and more.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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