Remembering Our Legacy

By Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) / 3.3.2011

This blog post commemorates the 46th anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. The march was regarded as “Bloody Sunday” because over 600 marchers were faced against Alabama State Troopers armed with tear gas and bully clubs. The resulting actions consisted of violence, bloodshed, and tears. As we remember “Bloody Sunday” let us give thanks for the progress that has been made and continue to fight for equality and justice for all.

This weekend will mark the 46th Anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, when hundreds of trailblazers – men and women gathered in Selma, Alabama to demand the right to vote. Held on Sunday, March 7, 1965, the march is widely regarded as “Bloody Sunday” because over 600 marchers were met at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by Alabama State Troopers with tear gas and bully clubs.  As a result, violence broke out and blood and tears were shed by many.  Some, including my dear colleague, Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), sustained injuries and mental scars—all while trying to secure the right to vote for African Americans.  Two additional marches occurred afterward, and the last march successfully completed the 54 mile journey from Selma to Montgomery which lead to the August 6, 1965 signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Each year, a delegation of community, business, religious and political leaders from all over America gather in Selma, Alabama to re-enact and commemorate “Bloody Sunday”.   This year, we anticipate that over 30,000 attendees will gather to salute and pay tribute to the many nameless civil rights activists who paved the way for people like me to be able to achieve the unimaginable.

It is because of the sacrifices of the giants on whose shoulders many of us stand that African Americans across this nation should feel empowered and inspired to give back by serving their communities. Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to serve in Congress, always said that, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this Earth.” The commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery march is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices of generations before us. The marchers and protesters of 1965 made great sacrifices to bridge barriers and overcome obstacles. Let us continue to build strong communities of committed citizens so our Union by the people and for the people shall not parish from this Earth.

Dr. King once wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”  We must heed his words and work together to bridge barriers, strengthen our communities, and create solutions to social problems.  We must refuse to accept that our communities can be held hostage simply because we are shackled by the fear of our differences.  We are stronger than that.  Today and moving forward, let us recommit our efforts to serve each other and our communities.  Many Americans are facing unprecedented hardships, and as a result, we need the spirit of giving now more than ever.

In difficult times, volunteerism and service connect our communities to our country’s most precious resource—the strength and determination of the American people. We must enlist community and business leaders to go into our schools and deliver a message of commitment, responsibility, and hope.  We must expand our efforts to involve positive role models in the lives of our youth.  We must work to create jobs through innovation, education, and training. When our communities unify, our families are strengthened, economic opportunities are created and our children are better prepared for the future.  The progress and prosperity of this Nation hinges on our active involvement and ability to work together to solve our Nation’s problems.

As we remember “Bloody Sunday”, let us honor the memory of the freedom fighters who were brutally beaten because they believed that every American, regardless of race, had the right to cast a vote, live free and reach for our dreams.  And let us give thanks for the progress that has been made and continue to fight for equality and justice for all.

Rep. Terri Sewell serves as the Representative for Alabama’s 7th District.

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