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State rules might slow dance plans

SELMA — Volunteers from the Freedom Foundation, youth they’ve recruited and others may not dance on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as they planned, if the state holds to its rules.

A letter to Mayor George Evans from D.W. Vaughn, chief engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation, sent recently stresses the department’s rule of closing bridges and roads only when necessary to protect the safety and welfare of the people.

The letter said the state will not issue a permit to close the bridge for the dance.

Organizers of the Dance for Freedom had asked the city to close the Edmund Pettus Bridge from noon until 3 p.m., Friday, Aug. 6, so they could commemorate the day the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Selma and the bridge played a part in drawing national attention to the plight of African Americans in the South who were not allowed to register to vote, or who were given impossible “literacy tests,” such as asking, “how many bubbles in a bar of soap,” as part of the voter registration process.

Evans said he does not oppose some sort of recognition in the city for the signing of the bill into law.

“That is the toughest time in our city to close the bridge from 12 to 3,” Evans told the Selma City Council during its meeting Tuesday evening.

Evans said he will set up a conference call among representatives of the Freedom Foundation and those of the local branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Vaughn to discuss the issue.

During the public comment portion of the city council meeting, Samantha Gomez, a student at Concordia College in Selma, said she wants to dance on the bridge. She said she and groups of those interested have gone to other campuses to teach them the Jai Ho they will perform on the bridge, if allowed.

“Jai Ho” is a song composed by A.R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar for the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire.” The proposed dance is something like the choreographed dance sequence at the end credits of the film.

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw of Ward 7 said she has seen the group dance and approves. She saw their movement, “and I understand their message,” she said.

The Dance Project, as it’s called by volunteers from the Freedom Foundation, originated earlier this year. At one point, the city administration approved shutting down the bridge to allow the dance when Evans thought the project was sanctioned by the administration of Samford University.

However, Evans yanked permission when he discovered the project originated in Selma and not at the university.

Volunteers from the Freedom Foundation and others walked across the bridge that day, but have continued to push the city to close down the bridge to allow them to dance.

Here’s the final scene from the movie and the Jai Ho dance: