Leaders from across region visit Selma

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2016

More than 50 leaders from across the region visited Selma on Wednesday as part of the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

Voting rights activists like the Rev. Frederick D. Reese and Lynda Blackmon Lowery shared their experiences with the group.

“I can remember being beaten with billy clubs. I’m blessed to be standing here today saying how great God is and if you trust him, he will see you through the very difficult circumstances of life,” Reese said.

Lowery told how she was jailed nine times in a three-month span due to her involvement in the voting rights movement.

“I went to jail for what I believed in, which was change,” Lowery said.

Community leaders who are in local and state government, economic development, education and healthcare, business and industry, faith-based and non-profit organizations make up members of the academy.

Members are from each of the eight Delta region states: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri.

Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheryl Smedley said she believed the group had a positive experience while in town.

“They captured a glimpse of Selma. There was one lady who had never been to Alabama who has always wanted to come. They believed this to be a great opportunity,” Smedley said.

Trudy Redus is a member of the academy from Arkansas who said she was very excited to visit Selma.

“It has meant more to me to be here on these grounds than anyone could imagine. I know about what Reese and Lowery has done for us and if they hadn’t been who they are, we would not be where we are right now,” Redus said. “Just to be here in this part of the Delta with this type of heritage is huge for me and I hope everyone has a chance at some point to come here and visit.”

Susan Keith, city councilwoman who represents Ward 2 and is a member of the academy, said she was glad the group felt like their time spent in Selma was enlightening.

“I think everyone was real pleased to hear from Mayor Evans, Dr. Reese and Ms. Lowery. I think they were awestruck. There are people here who never thought they would come to Selma who found this experience meaningful,” Keith said.