Home folks take the national stage

Published 6:38 pm Wednesday, August 20, 2008

National presidential conventions present good times for local people to take the national stage in a positive way.

Next week, the Democratic National Convention begins in Denver. C-SPAN will carry live coverage and other news networks will break in from time to time.

At some point during the week, the nation will hear from some of folks who have ties to the Black Belt, including Dallas and Wilcox counties.

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On Thursday, Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., will speak and the quilters of Gees Bend will sing and showcase the famous Vote Quilt that symbolizes the diverse voter population coming together to elect a national leader.

Born in Troy, Lewis was one of the most influential leaders of the youth-driven Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which helped organize sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville and register voters in Alabama and Mississippi.

Lewis became chairman of SNCC in 1963 after Chuck McDew stepped down. Lewis held that post until 1966.

In 1963, Lewis helped plan and participated in the March on Washington, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next week. He was a keynote speaker.

And in 1965, Lewis help lead more than 500 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge here in Selma on Bloody Sunday.

Everyone in the Black Belt region knows of the folk artists, the Gees Bend Quilters. Art lovers have visited exhibits all over the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the High Museum of Hart in Atlanta, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and regionally in Auburn, Memphis, Tenn., Norfolk, Va. and Mobile.

To top it off some of the 300 members of the delegation from Alabama hail from here in Dallas County and Selma.

We’ll watch during this historic moment, as U.S. Democrats prepare to nominate an African-American as its standard bearer and as people we know take the national spotlight for a moment.