Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 7, 2004
Rows of men and women stood on the apex of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
They looked down and saw hatred waiting for them on the other side with clubs, horses and shiny badges. They went forward.
That’s why Selma takes this weekend to remember, according to those who were there and those who have come to Jubilee. Because every day men and women faced fear, hatred, racism and even death, and still they went forward.
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Today marks the 39th anniversary of the infamous Bloody Sunday march. For the past decade, those who suffered through the struggle for voting rights have taken this weekend to honor the past and educate the leaders of tomorrow.
“It’s good to be here because sometimes we have to be reminded,” State Sen. Hank Sanders said Thursday. “History is so powerful here.”
It’s that power that draws people back year after year along with the curious newcomers.
“This is really an emotional weekend,” 18-year-old Texan Jaccari Campbell said of his first trip to Selma. “You never forget where you came from.”
That message is a large part of Jubilee weekend: never forget. Because of that, the weekend is part celebration and part dedication, according to author and artist Lorenzo Pace.
“(I) come down every year to support the whole idea of coming together to remember what we have been through in the country to get some kind of sense of honorability for everybody,” Pace said. “The two days are a celebration and a dedication to continue the struggle that African-Americans have gone through and continue to go through.”
For younger generations, it’s hard to understand the events that led to police officers beating and torturing innocent citizens of Selma.
The pictures hanging in museums and the pages printed in the history books help, but the words of the people who lived through those dark days are far more valuable.
One of the leaders of the movement, the Rev. F.D. Reese, spoke to a crowd at First Tabernacle Baptist Thursday.
He spoke about the horrible day and the days after. He spoke about getting back from the bridge, with the beaten and bleeding marchers.
“It took 20 minutes for the ambulances to come,” said Reese, who was also beaten. “I attempted to comfort as many as I could. I saw question marks in their eyes.”
With the help of ministers and clergymen, blacks and whites, Selmians and people from around the country, the marchers regrouped. Two later they marched, several thousand strong, all the way to Montgomery.
“After going through all the indignity and sacrifice, it all seemed worth it,” Reese said on Thursday.
It’s men and women like Reese and his friends, the people who stood up to oppression no matter the cost, whom Jubilee celebrates.
“I think it’s important for everybody to remember March 7,” Atlanta artist Muhammad Yungai said. “My parents brought me up to be aware of what happened so for me, it’s just great to see a nice crowd of black people enjoying themselves and being able to vote this November.”
The chairman of the event, Dr. C.T. Vivian, embodied the feelings of Saturday. Surrounded by friends, the leader in the voting and Civil Rights movements who worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had a giant smile as he shook hands and clapped passers-by on the back.
“This is just tremendous to me,” he said. “I see people out here coming from all over the country and exchanging memories and they’re bringing their children back here.
They’re gaining a new understanding.”