By Sen. Hank Sanders
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 a semblance of 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-fashion mass meeting at Selma’s Tabernacle Baptist Church. It was overflowing. I struggled mightily just to get in the church. There was no way to get a seat even with my painful 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 – The President’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 Barack 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 the 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 to 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.
Now on to the Daily Diary.
Saturday, February 28, 2015 – Faya Rose and I had breakfast at a restaurant around 4:30 a.m. to discuss various Bridge Crossing Jubilee challenges and visited the National Voting Rights Museum. I handled many matters, had lunch with Dr. Carol Zippert to discuss 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement (21C) Jubilee concerns, and worked into the night. I communicated with the following: Khadijah Hall of Texas; Jeffrey Jones of Mobile; Representative Thad McClammy; Riley Sikes Blount of the Alabama Cable Association; Taylor Vice of the Charter Communications Company; Adrian Saenz of the White House; Fellica Pettway of Wallace Community College Selma (WCCS); Catrena Carter of Women of Will; Veronica Williams of Selma; Karenna Gore of New York concerning the Faya Rose Toure and Hank Sanders editorial in The New York Times; Dr. James Mitchell of WCCS; Sharon Wheeler of the Alabama Education Association (AEA); Sam Walker of Selma; Jerria Martin of 21C; Judge John England, who is recovering from surgery; Greene County Commissioner Lester Brown; and Rita Lett of WCCS.
Sunday – I walked and did Radio Sunday School with Dr. Margaret Hardy and Radio Education with Perry County Superintendent John Heard. I participated in a Unity March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following: Abina Billups of Selma; Connie Tucker of Atlanta; and Kindaka Sanders of Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Monday – I walked, read Sketches on Faya’s Fire, handled many matters, did a radio program in Atlanta with Heather Gray, met with media representatives concerning the Jubilee and worked into the night. I communicated with the following: John Teague of Montgomery; Ginger Avery Buckner of the Alabama Association for Justice; Shomari Figures of the White House; Montgomery Businessman Frank Jenkins; Selma Banker Liz Rutledge; Lee Sentell of the Alabama Tourism Department; Chassny Lewis of Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s office; Sylvia Haller of Washington, D.C.; Reporter Al Benn; Charles Sander of Bibb County; Greene County School Board Member Leo Branch; Elouise Robinson of Baldwin County; and Lowndes County Commissioner Carnell McAlpine and Administrator Jackie Thomas.
Tuesday – I walked, handled many matters, traveled to Montgomery, attended a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting, participated in a Black Farmers Conference Call and a Senate session, attended a Legislative Black Caucus Meeting, met with representatives of Lear, and did a radio program in Huntsville with David Persons. I communicated with too many to enumerate.
Wednesday – I walked, handled several matters, made it to Montgomery for an 8:00 a.m. meeting, attended a committee meeting for a public hearing on the charter school bill, attended other meetings, returned to Selma for a 12:00 p.m. media session concerning the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, travelled to Greene County, returned to Selma, and worked into the night. I communicated with too many to name.
Thursday – I walked, handled various matters, traveled to Montgomery for a 9:30 a.m. Senate session and other meetings, participated briefly in an SOS conference call, returned to Selma, met with media, attended a reception for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Bloody Sunday, and attended the mass meeting at Tabernacle Church, which kicked off the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. I communicated with numerous persons.
Friday – I hosted Faya’s Fire, attended various Workshops, handled many matters, played the role of one of the attorneys in a Mock Trial broadcast on Sirius XM Channel 127, and served as a panelist on Public Conversation hosted by Mark Thompson, which was also broadcast on Sirius XM 127 The Progress. I handled other duties into the night.
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.