What happened to a Dream deferred?
Published 12:00 am Monday, September 10, 2007
To the Editor:
The dream of freedom and justice is rooted deeply in the spirit and history of most Americans. Achieving this dream for the African American came one step closer to reality on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, as the whole world watched the beatings and the Nuremberg trials on the evening news.
It would take 35 years, however, before the hard-earned right to vote delivered Selma’s first African American mayor. Yet, the dream of simple justice remains deferred. The overwhelming majority of citizens that litigate in Selma’s municipal court are black.
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Forty-three years after Bloody Sunday and seven years after the election of Mayor Perkins, simple justice is still being denied to many defendants in Selma’s Municipal Court.
In 1965, the chief judge, the prosecutor, and the chief magistrate were all white.
Today, these positions remain exclusively in white hands. Did we lose the fight for diversity?
Do we still embrace the nonsensical notion of black inferiority and white superiority? Is it unconscious racism of a black leadership that places the dream of justice and leadership exclusively in the hands of one race to the exclusion of its own?
In 2000, black youth voted in unprecedented numbers. They voted for a better future. They voted for the promise of simple justice. We failed them and ourselves.
When I spoke out against the blatant denial of basic constitutional rights to citizens before Judge Valerie Chittom’s
court, I was arrested by a white police officer, whose name is
ironically “Jim Crowe.” At my trial, the white judge, appointed by Mayor Perkins, yelled
and declared me guilty before hearing all the evidence. He refused to continue the trial or compel the attendance of Roosevelt Cleveland, my chief witness.
There is light at the end of this tunnel of judicial nightmares. Judge Norton, a former white judge who demonstrated fairness when there were no black judges in Selma, gallantly came forth to fight for simple justice. I thank him. Two white attorneys, including the city prosecutor, basically told the truth amid tremendous pressure.
Finally, I thank the scores of people who came to witness another dream deferred.
Among my supporters was Amelia Boynton, who along with her husband, Samuel Boynton, laid the foundation of the Voting Rights Movement in the early forties. Her remarks after my trial were scary but true: “This is the most challenging and difficult time in our continuous struggle for justice and freedom.”
In the past the enemies of justice were visible and clear. Now we are also struggling against the enemy within. God help us all.
Faya Rose Tour&