Selma woman recognized by Southern Poverty Law Center

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 27, 2004

The Southern Poverty Law Center is recognizing one of Selma’s most vocal activists for people with disabilities by memorializing her name along with many others at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery.

Carolyn Bates, founder of the Selma Disabilities Advocacy Program, was chosen by the SPLC to have her name engraved on the Wall of Tolerance, a focal point in the Memorial Center modeled after the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A project of the SPLC’s National Campaign for Tolerance, the Memorial Center is scheduled to open next year. The National Campaign for Tolerance is co-chaired by Rosa Parks and Morris Dees.

The certificate, signed by both Parks and Dees, simply states that Bates has been chosen to have her name listed on the wall.

The Selma resident said she never worked with the SPLC before and had no contact with the organization.

Bates said once she realized the significance of being chosen for the Wall of Tolerance, she broke down and cried for the first time in a long while.

Receiving this honor, Bates says, makes her feel the work she has done to fight for disability rights for adults and children has not been in vain.

Since founding the Selma Disabilities Advocacy Program in 1999, Bates and her staff work to provide after-school enrichment, job skills training, peer support group, and mentoring to children with disabilities.

She also works with adults who have disabilities and tries to open the line of communication between parents, teachers, and children. Bates said she feels overwhelmed and touched at being chosen for the Wall of Tolerance, and has every plant to be there when the Center opens next year.