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.

NABJ14 concludes successful convention in Boston, Minneapolis is next

The  Jumbotron ,at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, indicated a public welcome to NABJ members. The NABJ's Boston Chapter arranged a welcome reception and tour of the stadium on 7/31/2014.

The JumboTron ,at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, indicated a public welcome to NABJ members. The NABJ’s Boston Chapter arranged a welcome reception and tour of the stadium on 7/31/2014.

By Carmen Glover

Thousands of journalists, media professionals and students gathered in Boston from July 30 to August 3 for a successful hosting of the 39th annual National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair.

Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press was named Journalist of the Year at NABJ14.

Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press was named Journalist of the Year at NABJ14.

Attendees to the event were welcomed officially on Wednesday, July 30 in an engaging reception that featured television veteran Carole Simpson, who is senior leader in residence at Emerson College, WBZ-TV’s Paul Burton and an exciting dance troupe from Roxbury, Massachusetts. Journalists were then escorted to Regal 13 in downtown Boston, for an exclusive screening of the James Brown film “Get On Up,” which riveted the audience with lead actor Chadwick Boseman’s compelling transformation as he depicted the Godfather of Soul.

Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post was named Emerging Journalist of the Year at NABJ14.

Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post was named Emerging Journalist of the Year at NABJ14.

At 6:30 a.m. each morning, Zumba workouts were available and on some days there were professional development breakfasts and lunch and learn sessions. On Thursday, July 31, Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Martin Walsh, television veteran Sarah Shaw and ESPN host of Numbers Never Like Michael Smith, spoke at the opening ceremony.

Ambassador Andrew Young discussed "Repairing The Breach To My Brother's Keeper." at NABJ14.

Ambassador Andrew Young discussed “Repairing The Breach To My Brother’s Keeper” at NABJ14.

Among the notable panels included “Race in America,” during which Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree discussed salient issues concerning race, in a conversation moderated by noted journalist Ed Gordon. Ogletree also joined Ambassador Andrew Young, chairman of his self-named foundation, Dr. Bobby Austin, president of Neighborhood Association Inc. and editor of “Repairing the Breach,” Jim Shelton, deputy press secretary of education, My Brother’s Keeper task force and Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida on Friday, August 1 on the panel “Repairing the Breach to My Brother’s Keeper: Reconnecting African-American Mena and Boys to American Society.”

Editors Jill Geisler and Anthony Cook participated at NABJ14.

Media Executive Jill Geisler and Anthony Cook, Community News Director of Alabama Media Group, participated at NABJ14.

Panelists explored issues such as the outlook for print journalism in “The Future of Print,” to the entrepreneurial role of African-American Journalists in the burgeoning online media industry in the session, “Hanging Your Own Shingle: Making the Leap into Entrepreneurship.” Financial health and planning were discussed in “Cultivating Personal Wealth: Are You Financially Fit?” which provided excellent insight by experts such as The Money Coach Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, Shirley-Ann Robertson of Prudential and Deborah Owens, who appears regularly on Roland Martin’s TV One show “News One Now.” The Anne Casey Foundation provided a poignant look at the plight of children from different ethnic groups that elicited passionate feedback from the attendees.

Financial Expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox discussed financial health at NABJ14.

Financial Expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox discussed financial health at NABJ14.

A career fair operated daily from 9:00 a.m. and each night there were receptions and parties to offer a broad mix of activities. ESPN’s mentoring breakfast was well-attended, as was the Sports Task Force’s Scholarship Jam at the House of Blues on Friday night. The Film Festivals showcased movies such as “Get On Up,” “Finding Samuel Lowe,” “Black and White,” “Dear White People” and “Contradiction.”  Actors Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer seemed relaxed as they talked with journalists after the first screening of their heartwarming film “Black and White.”

NABJ President Bob Butler offered steep discount for NABJ15 if members register by August 30.

NABJ President Bob Butler offered steep discount for NABJ15 if members register by August 31.

The awards gala, NABHJ’s signature event of the convention, did not disappoint, with journalists being honored for their outstanding work and special awards given out. Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post was named “Emerging Journalist of the Year” and Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press was named “Journalist of the Year.”  NABJ14 wrapped up on Sunday, August 3, with a stirring Gospel Brunch. During the awards gala on Saturday night, NABJ’s president Bob Butler offered a bargain to those who register early for NABJ15, when the organization will celebrate its’ fortieth anniversary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“If you register by August 31 the cost is $200 and $150 for students,” he stated, as appreciation was shown with thunderous applause–OnPointPress.net.

50 years later, the plague of substandard lifestyle prevails

 

Dr Martin Luther King Jr whose "I Have a Dream" speech and March on Washington were honored by President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr whose “I Have a Dream” speech and March on Washington were honored by President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary.

By Carmen Glover

As the sea of faces gazed across the Washington Mall on Saturday, August 24 and Wednesday, August 28 in the two marches held to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington, many eyes were transfixed on the myriad of speakers. Those at the podium eloquently described the urgent issues that need to be addressed in this era:more quality jobs, better educational options, equitable pay, quality housing, affordable health care, elimination of stop and frisk, gun violence, voter suppression and Stand Your Ground laws.

President Barack Obama speaks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in celebration of Dr King's "I  Have a Dream" speech.

President Barack Obama speaks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in celebration of Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We need jobs,” said the Revered Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network, in conjunction with Martin Luther King III, organized Saturday’s march.  “Yes we will raise the minimum wage because you cannot survive on $7.25,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the crowd.

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses the crowd.

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Myrlie Evers-Williams.

Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Myrlie Evers-Williams.

Nine-year-old Asean Johnson, who hails from President Barack Obama’s home state of Chicago, was the youngest speaker on Saturday. Johnson said he was marching for “better schools, peace and no racism in the world.” Fifty years prior, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, at 23, was the youngest speaker and today is the only person alive who spoke at the March of 1963.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis makes a point.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis makes a point.

 

Georgia Rep. John Lewis waves to the crowd.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis waves to the crowd while standing next to the historic bell, a remnant from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr King with a younger John Lewis in 1963.

Dr King with a younger John Lewis in 1963.

“I am not going to stand down and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us,” Lewis stated passionately as he invoked the painful memories that litter the nation’s history of the struggles blacks experienced in their battle to vote. Attorney General Eric Holder elicited the most applause when he said: “The struggle most go on. The quest must, and will, go on until every eligible African- American exercises his or her right to vote.” Adding her voice to the theme of voting rights, Myrlie Evers-Williams was resolute: “We must be sure that nothing is taken away from us,” she said.

Christine King Farris, Dr King's sister, addresses the crowd.

Christine King Farris, Dr King’s sister, addresses the crowd.

Yet despite the various social, economic and judicial issues that continue to plague African-Americans, there have been some significant areas of progress. Many people went to the polls in 2008 and again in 2012 to elect and re-elect President Obama, while still being uncertain that their votes would matter. Obama steadfastly rises above a Congress that has repeatedly articulated being invested wholeheartedly in diminishing his achievements.

Reverend Al Sharpton shares a moment with Martin Luther King III.

Reverend Al Sharpton shares a moment with Martin Luther King III.

Congress has held the country’s jobs bill and economic agenda hostage, prompting the African-American community and supporters of fairness to become even more energized to ensure Obama’s success. Many who marched on Washington, whether 50 years ago or this week, could never before envision a president who is half black and half white. Many at the marches could not envision the inroads that  African-Americans have made by graduating from high school in larger numbers, earning college degrees, embracing political careers and impacting society in the many areas that they have.

Anthony Billups, his sister Mylene Marlin ans his mother Darlene Marlin hold their signs at the march.

Anthony Billups, his sister Mylene Marlin and his mother, Darlene Marlin, hold their signs at the march.

But, like Attorney Holder stated, “the struggle must go on.” In the same way that the younger generation went out in droves to elect the president, so too have they re-energized the civil rights movement. The youth have marched and led protests, such as the actions being taken by the Dream Defenders in Florida as they agitate to end Stand Your Ground laws. Students from all over the county converged on Washington to make their voices heard. Howard University students, in particular, were front and center.

Anthony Billups, a graduate of Northeastern and Arizona State Universities, with undergraduate and master’s degrees in Math, marched on Saturday with his family, who reside in New York’s Staten Island community. “I attended both inaugurations of the current president and I wanted to be a part of this historic march as well,” he said.  Billups’ 12-year-old sister, Mylene Marlin, was excited to participate in the march and proudly displayed her sign which read “I am empowered,” while their mother looked on.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both addressed the crowd.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton both addressed the crowd.

So when President Obama addressed the crowd on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, people of all colors and backgrounds listened intently. President Obama reflected on the March of 1963 by describing the “courage” that it took and the need for continued “vigilance” to keep the fight going.

“Change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington,” Obama said, adding: “In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.” In the same way that young people marched in 1963, President Obama called on the youth today to become active in the effort to ensure that “all people get a fair shot.” Making the connection between disenchanted youth and the damaging impact on society, President Obama said “the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth.” He called on the “imagination and hunger of purpose of the young,” as critical ingredients for a revitalized call to action. “We now have a choice: we can continue down the same path of we can have the courage to change,” he said.

Myrllie Evers-Williams speaks to the gathering.

Myrllie Evers-Williams speaks to the gathering.

President Obama celebrated the achievements that have been made in the country since the first March on Washington but he emphasized the areas that still need fixing. “Black unemployment remains twice as high as whites,” he said, and he cited economic equality as “our great unfinished business” from 1963, which makes “upward mobility harder.” A plethora of speakers united to make the commemoration memorable and when Dr King’s family rang the bell at 3:00 PM in honor of his memory, the act was symbolic because the bell came from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where in 1963, shortly after the March on Washington, four black girls were killed in a bombing initiated by a white supremacist. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter added an important context to the day, especially since on the day of the 1963 March; the president chose to avoid the event.

Media icon Oprah WInfrey shares her thoughts.

Media icon Oprah Winfrey shares her thoughts.

Among the notables in attendance to hear President Obama’s speech and add their thoughts were: Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Jamie Foxx, Caroline Kennedy, Ambassador Andrew Young, Christine King Farris who is Dr King’s 85-year-old sister, Dr King’s surviving children and grandchild and many of the speakers from Saturday’s march.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave to the crowd as they leave the event.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave to the crowd as they leave the event.

The legacy of Dr King’s lifelong activism and the brilliance of his oratorical skills will live on but like President Obama stated, change takes courage. It remains to be seen how many will heed that call and demonstrate the courage that is needed to address the substandard lifestyle that prevails in many minority communities today.  –OnPointPress.net