SELMA: 50 Years Later

This blog originally appeared on The National Black Justice Coalition’s blog.

We Honor Our Past & Embrace Our Present Movements for Justice
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At podium: Harry Belfonte, Folk Trio Peter, Paul and Mary
To the left of the podium: Bayard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolph, John Lewis, Coretta Scott King
Location: Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery, AL (March 25,1965)
Photo Credit: Ray Ariatti | Photo Courtesy: Walter Naegle

On March 7, 2015, President Obama lead the nation and world in commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The horrific events of “Bloody Sunday” and the courageous movement work of countless individuals risking and giving their lives propelled the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. This legislative victory in the Civil Rights Movement was a vital part of progress that increased the participation of Black voters in American elections and the number of Black elected officials on all levels of government.

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Bayard Rustin and James Baldwin participate in Selma to Montgomery March Activities in 1965
Photo Credit: © Stephen Somerstein
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) remembers the dark, yet triumphant events of 1965 in America, and recognizes that this rich Black history is essential to guiding the modern movement for justice in America and abroad. As the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, NBJC envisions a world where all people are fully-empowered to participate safely, openly and honestly in family, faith and community, regardless of race, class, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The Civil Rights Movement called all people of good will to action to pursue justice on behalf of Black Americans and grant full enfranchisement for all people in the American democracy.

“I was only 15 years old when Bayard Rustin organized the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC. It was only two years later when I witnessed the television pictures of the marchers from Selma to Montgomery putting their lives on the line to advance voting rights,” says Mandy Carter, NBJC co-founder and Bayard Rustin 2013 Commemoration Project  National Coordinator. “A critical part of our current justice movement must be to ensure that the contributions of Black LGBT and same-gender loving (SGL) people like Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, Marsha P. Johnson, Aaron Henry, and countless others in the fight for Black liberation in this nation are preserved and uplifted as Black American History.”

At NBJC, we celebrate and work to bring voice to the millions of individuals that live at the intersection of race, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation in our nation. The continued challenges, innovative movement building, and vast hope that exists in Black America today, particularly in Black LGBTQ/SGL communities, is the narrative NBJC will always provide space for and bring voice to on the national level. When the voices of the most marginalized in our communities are heard and defended, our nation will draw closer to the “more perfect union” the U.S. Constitution guarantees. This requires persistent action by Congress and across all levels of government to enact laws and policies like the  Voting Rights Amendment Act that expand equality. The future of our nation depends on our collective ability to make this vital imperative a reality in 2015 and beyond.

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“I know you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?’ Somebody’s asking, ‘When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?’ I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because ‘truth crushed to earth will rise again.’ How long? Not long, because ‘no lie can live forever.'”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
March 25, 1965
Alabama State Capitol (Montgomery, AL)

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.