Orange speaks at Jubilee mass meeting

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

“It’s about time,” said Mayor James Perkins Jr. on the arrival of civil rights pioneer Rev. James Orange, who delivered the keynote speech at the Bridge Crossing Jubilee’s mass meeting program Thursday night at Tabernacle Baptist Church.

“(Orange) is always doing something. He’s always in the background getting things done. It’s about time.”

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Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) President Rev. Charles Steele introduced Orange, who sat in Tabernacle’s grand pastor’s chair. Steele said Orange is a man who is recognized around the world and has always answered the calls of his fellow man.

“James Orange is a man who has not gotten his due in terms of civil rights,” Steele said, with roaring applause following his statement.

Orange, an SCLC field representative and community and field coordinator of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (AFL-CIO) Southern Region, was instrumental in mobilizing youth throughout the civil rights movement in Birmingham and Selma in the 1960s.

A Birmingham native, Orange said he will never forget when civil rights leader Rev. James Bevel sent him to Selma in December 1964. Orange and eight of his peers were asked to go to the home of Amelia Boynton Robinson and deliver the message that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would arrive in Selma on Jan. 2, 1965. That fateful trip led to Orange’s active participation in the voting rights movement and the Selma to Montgomery March.

Forty-two years later, Orange said he is bothered to learn 80 percent of inmates jailed in Dallas County are black – the same percentage noted in 1965.

“Something’s wrong with that,” Orange said. “Still we have Jim Crow on our law enforcement. Jim Crow is still around.”

“Black boys go to jail; white boys go to school. That’s a problem and it’s not a white problem. This problem can’t be put on the white folks. It’s our problem.”

Orange called for the black community and the religious community to adopt components of the movement to incite change.

“We should ask ourselves, “Do we want to get well?'” Orange said.

“It’s time to build a new land. Ain’t nobody got no business being homeless. Ain’t nobody got no business being hungry in the richest country in the world.”

For his unwavering dedication to the movement, Mayor Perkins awarded Orange with a key to the city. Orange also recognized Steele, Ebenezer Baptist Church Pastor Rev. F.D. Reese, and Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, saying it is “a privilege and an honor” to be among them.