By Rep. Darrio Melton
This weekend, my small hometown of Selma got a little more busy than usual. An estimated 80,000 people–including members of Congress and the President and First Family–came to pay tribute to the legacy of Selma.
As we gathered together at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, we talked about the last 50 years in America and the great strides we’ve made as a nation. But we also talked about the next 50 years and the work we have left to do.
The movement didn’t end when the foot soldiers reached Montgomery. It didn’t end when President Johnson declared before the nation, “We shall overcome,” as he signed the Voting Rights Act. The movement didn’t end when we elected the first Black president. The movement didn’t end because the movement still exists today.
We have work to do. We have a legacy to continue and very large footprints to fill.
But together, we can do it. Together, we can work to stop the assaults on progress and move Alabama and the United States forward.
Right now, there are men and women trying to halt our strides towards progress. They may not be state troopers with billy clubs and tear gas, but their obstruction is equally destructive to the work we are called to do.
While Democrats are working to expand voting rights in Alabama, House Bill 104 is standing at the foot of the bridge with a bill to keep voters from registering to vote within one month of an election.
While we’re trying to pass a bill to ensure hard work yields fair pay with a higher minimum wage, the Republican supermajority is standing at the foot of the bridge keeping the bill from coming up for a vote.
While we’re trying to protect quality public education for every Alabama child, HB192 is standing at the foot of the bridge changing public funds into private profits.
While we’re trying to build a better Alabama, House Republicans are standing at the foot of the bridge with the electric chair.
The march isn’t over, and there is still work to be done, but very little of it will be able to move forward in the Legislature, with Democrats holding the fewest seats than in the past 140 years.
But with your help, we can keep marching on.
If there’s one thing we learned from Bloody Sunday and Selma in 1965, it’s that political numbers aren’t necessary to bring about change. All we need are good people ready to stand together and build Alabama into something better than it was yesterday.
Today we have power at the ballot box, and we cannot take that for granted. But we also have power–in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, and in our own lives–to be voices for justice, modern-day foot soldiers for progress, and leaders for change.
So while we look back on 1965 and honor those who marched, it is now our turn to continue the legacy.
We cannot be content standing on the shoulders of giants and honoring the work of the past. We must, together, take up the burden and continue marching forward towards a more perfect union.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.