Bridge Crossing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

A large crowd crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge Sunday afternoon during the 41st annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, commemorating Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, D-Georgia, SCLC President and CEO Charles Steele and Martin Luther King III were among those leading the march across the bridge.

Selma Police Chief Jimmy Martin said the festival weekend went smoothly, with no major problems.

Prior to the bridge crossing re-enactment, Sharpton delivered a sermon at Tabernacle Baptist Church Sunday morning. Martin Luther King III made an appearance as well.

“Preach it, brother!” a parishioner shouted as Sharpton approached the pulpit.

Sharpton, who ran for the 2004 democratic presidential nomination, was introduced by Tabernacle associate minister Kobi Little.

“The Rev. Al Sharpton is one of our nation’s greatest leaders,” Little said. “He walks with kings, but he has not lost the common touch.”

“He is our leader today and he’ll be our leader tomorrow.”

Sharpton thanked State Sen. Hank Sanders and attorney Faya Rose Toure for their work in preserving Selma’s history. He said despite great obstacles and character assassinations by the media, they “refused to let our history drift into some distant memory.”

“The nation owes Rose and Hank Sanders a lot of gratitude,” Sharpton said. “We owe Rose and we owe Hank for never letting us forget.”

Sharpton touched upon several subjects during his sermon. He said it’s essential people value their leaders while they are on this earth. He spoke of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta – two people that “never got the love they deserved until they were gone.”

“We love things that are distant and resent things that are close up until we lose them,” Sharpton remarked. “We’re underpaying our own and overpaying everybody else.”

Sharpton also commented on the mentality of the black community, a culture that glorifies being down, calling women out of their names and referring to each other as “the n-word.”

Black youth earn street credibility if they go to jail and they’re called “too soft” when they decide to seek an education, Sharpton said.

Sharpton urged the community to let go of a value system that places jewelry over children and sex over love and re-connect to the “spirit of God” because “that’s where our strength will come from.”

“Reconnect to the dream (Martin Luther King Jr.) had,” Sharpton said. “Reconnect to the spirit of the bridge crossing. We must re-connect with that spirit.”

Parishioners and visitors rose to their feet as Sharpton took a seat among church leaders. Hands were clapping, feet were stomping and voices shouted, “Amen!”

They had reconnected to the spirit.

“I always enjoy being with Rev. Sharpton because of the commitment he’s demonstrated for uplifting our people,” King said.

Following the church service, a pre-march rally took place in front of Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church. Attendees included Alabama Lieutenant Governor Lucy Baxley, State Agricultural Commissioner Ron Sparks, civil rights activist the Rev. James Bevel, and Alabama Circuit Judge John England.

And then it was marching time.

The marchers began their journey on Martin Luther King Street, turning onto

Alabama Avenue and Broad Street before approaching the Edmund Pettus Bridge. They sang freedom songs every step of the way.

The four-day celebration of the right to vote concluded at Memorial Park, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson gave a startling statistic.

“There are 225,000 blacks in Alabama still not registered to vote,” he said.

“That’s a shame!” an audience member shouted.

Jackson urged citizens to exercise their right the right to vote – a right they didn’t have

only 41 years ago.

Before marchers departed, the Perry County Commission announced they have dedicated a 19-mile stretch of road to Coretta Scott King. The select highway,

re-named Coretta Scott King Memorial Highway will be re-surfaced and widened, costing $2.3 million.