By Rep. Darrio Melton
Last week, the movie “Selma” opened in theaters across the country, sharing an important part of America’s history born right here in Alabama.
While it’s been 50 years since the Selma-to-Montgomery March that eventually gave way to the Voting Rights Act, we’re still fighting many of the same battles in 2015.
Governor Bentley and several Alabama lawmakers attended the premier, and I hope the message of the film didn’t fall on deaf ears.
Because Selma is about more than Bloody Sunday and a march to Montgomery. Selma is bigger and stronger–Selma is the power of people coming together and demanding a better future for this nation.
When then-Senator Barack Obama was running for President in 2008, he made a bold statement: “Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.”
From Governor Wallace literally standing in the schoolhouse door to the National Guard standing on the Edmund Pettus bridge, we have had plenty of obstacles stand in the way of progress.
We’re still facing many of those obstacles today: Governor Bentley is standing in the hospital door denying Medicaid to hard working Alabamians, legislatures are passing voting laws that disenfranchise poor and minority voters, women still don’t earn equal pay for equal work, and the list goes on.
But we’ll never change these issues by sitting idly on the sidelines. We have to take change into our own hands. We have to take the lessons we learned from Selma to repair our communities and rebuild our nation:
We have to be organized and focused on our goals. We have to be willing to accept marginal progress instead of an all-or-nothing mentality, and we have to have a team of people who are all clearly focused on these same goals.
We have to be willing to work and sacrifice to achieve these goals. The Civil Rights Movement never died because people were willing to sacrifice everything to see the dream fulfilled. People were beaten and killed, homes were bombed and families were destroyed, but the movement pushed forward because it was bigger than the sum of its parts.
Lastly, Selma taught us to pray and keep God at the center of our work. This faith in equality and justice for Gods people guided their hands 50 years ago, and it should guide our hands today.
Fifty years past the culmination of the events in Selma, we still have so much we can learn and put to work to fight 21st century battles. With organized people, hard work and faith in God, we can accomplish anything together.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.