Selma’s Bloody Sunday revisited 50 years later with voting rights imperiled

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President Barack Obama and the First Family join civil rights icons Rep. John Lewis, Amelia Boynton Robinson (in wheelchair), US Attorney General Eric Holder, Former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush, and thousands of marchers in crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on Saturday, March 7, 2015.

By Carmen Glover

On Saturday, March 7, on the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attacks unleashed on marchers supporting the right of African-Americans to vote in the United States, President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American President, delivered a rousing speech at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Ku Klux Klan leader.

President Obama and Rep. John Lewis embrace in Selma, AL.

President Obama and Rep. John Lewis embrace in Selma, AL.

Speaking after Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten at the same bridge 50 years ago when he lead a group of marchers, President Obama stated:  “Our march is not yet finished but we’re getting closer.” President Obama decried injustice in education, law enforcement, and the attacks on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stating “If we want to honor this day, let Congress restore the Voting Rights Act this year!” But he also chided residents for the chronic low voter turnout despite the struggles of civil rights activists “who gave their blood” to win the right to vote. Click here for the full transcript of President Obama’s speech as provided by Time magazine.

A rapt crowd listens as President Obama speaks in Selma, AL.

A rapt crowd listens as President Obama speaks in Selma, AL.

After the speech, the President, joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, their children, former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush, Rep. John Lewis, US Attorney General Eric Holder, 100 members of Congress and thousands of enthusiastic supporters who came to bear witness to the 50-year commemoration of the march for voting rights, marched across the bridge in a poignant reflection of a journey that began decades ago and achieved numerous goals, with many unfinished ideals left to be realized. Meanwhile, in New York City, hundreds of citizens marched across the Brooklyn Bridge from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Borough Hall in solidarity with the Selma 50 marchers

Peaceful marchers were left beaten, bloody and killed on March 7, 1965 as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their quest to gain the right to vote.

Peaceful marchers, including Rep. John Lewis (center being beaten), were left beaten, bloody and killed on March 7, 1965 as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in their quest to gain the right to vote.

The march from Selma, to Montgomery, Alabama took place after three attempts, including Bloody Sunday, which occurred on March 7, 1965 when marchers were beaten with clubs, attacked by dogs and some killed, as they attempted to cross the bridge. After making an appeal for support, Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., was joined by Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, Diane Nash, other civil rights activists and a phalanx of religious leaders from different faiths in making the 50-plus mile trek to the State Capital in Montgomery, Alabama. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act later that year but recent changes have destroyed some of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, leading to an increase in voter suppression incidents aimed at denying or restricting the right of African-Americans to vote.–OnPointPress.net.

“Selma” is a fitting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy and 86th birthday celebrations

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering one of his many inspiring speeches.

On January 19, the third Monday in the month, the life, achievements and civil rights advocacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated on a holiday named for him. The civil rights icon, who spent his life protesting against injustice, would have turned 86 years old if he had not been killed in the prime of his life.

While the world pauses to honor his legacy with a national day of service, marches and other noble efforts, his three surviving children are embroiled in a vicious court battle to determine if his traveling Bible and Noble Peace Prize should be sold or remain in the family’s possession.

Oprah Winfrey appears in "Selma" which she produced; David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ava DuVernay, co- writer and director of the film, which has received four award nominations so far.

Oprah Winfrey appears in “Selma” which she produced; David Oyelowo stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ava DuVernay, co- writer and director of the film, which has received four award nominations so far.

A fitting tribute to Dr. King’s enduring civil rights advocacy is embodied in the film “Selma,” which chronicles the challenges experienced by Dr. King and dedicated members of the civil rights movement in the spring of 1965 when they used nonviolent methods, in the face of brutality and murder to obtain he right to vote. Despite profound beatings, being arrested, atrocious indignities, deaths and the horrors experienced on Bloody Sunday, they marched, organized and protested peacefully, until they secured their important constitutional right to vote with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Selma,” the first feature film about Dr. King, was directed by an African-American female and has been honored by the Golden Globes for its original song “Glory” sung by John Legend and rapper Common. However, the film has also attracted controversy as well as snubs by the Academy Awards, which nominated it for Best Original Song and Best Picture while ignoring the director, Ava DuVernay and actors, particularly the lead actor David Oyelowo, who brought the film to life.

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David Oyelowo, (center) and other cast members of the powerful film “Selma” which described the civil rights movement’s diligent quest to obtain voting rights in 1965.

President Barack Obama’s decision to host the cast at the White House for a screening of the critically acclaimed but Oscar snubbed historical drama “Selma” was a wise one. Also, the decision by Winfrey, DuVernay, Oyelowo and the other cast members of the film to stage a march across the same Edmund Pettus Bridge over which the civil rights leaders marched for 54 miles to Montgomery, Alabama and participate in a discussion in Selma on this historic day will go a long way in reigniting discussion and awareness about Dr. King, his legacy and his searing impact on the civil rights landscape.

No less important is Winfrey’s spectacular two-day weekend extravaganza honoring “The Legends who Paved the Way,” which aired on her network, OWN, on Sunday night and featured King’s daughter, Bernice King, who was a baby when he was killed.

One of Dr. King's most famous quotes is typically used as a battle cry against injustice.

One of Dr. King’s most famous quotes is typically used as a battle cry against injustice.

There are striking parallels to King’s leadership, passion and determination in standing strong in the face of ridicule and the emotions of current protestors who fight against the scourge of police brutality in our inner cities, particularly police officers killing unarmed African-American and Latino men with impunity.

But as Winfrey said: “These protestors today can learn a lot from the discipline shown by the participants of the civil rights movement. You have to know what you are protesting for and focus on that issue in order to achieve it.”

In 2010,, President Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, honors civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Lewis, was beaten on Bloody Sunday and endured harsh treatment during his lengthy involvement in the civil rights movement which he joined as a teenager and at 20, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.

In 2010, President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, honors civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Lewis, was beaten on Bloody Sunday and endured harsh treatment during his lengthy involvement in the civil rights movement which he joined as a teenager and at 20, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.

Despite inequalities in housing, educational attainment, financial, political and social status, collectively African-Americans have made significant progress by utilizing the opportunities that have been gained through the sacrifices made by Dr. King, Rep. John Lewis, Ambassador Andrew Young, The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and countless others during the civil rights movement.

The right to vote exists today due to their foresight, commitment and fortitude. As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and legacy, let us also reflect on the benefits we enjoy today because of the sustained efforts of a group of individuals who refused to take no for an answer. Happy Birthday Dr. King. You showed that Black lives mattered then and activists are doing their best to show that Black lives still matter today-OnPointPress.net.