We are grateful for those who helped with Jubilee

Published 8:15 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016

By Faya Toure Sanders

Sanders is a Civil Rights activist. 

Gratitude is powerful. It is a weapon against disappointment, hopelessness, defeat and even death that is rarely used. Yes, the flip side of grief is gratitude. Yet, it is a power that every person has been bequeathed to change attitudes, lives and communities.

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I am filled with gratitude for the success of Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2016. In spite of all the obstacles and financial challenges, Jubilee demonstrated that people working together in unity and gratitude is the celebration’s spirit and essence. A well-known Biblical scripture states when “two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I among them.” When we gather for Jubilee, we gather to remember, to recommit and to work for justice until it rolls down like water.

Bridge Crossing Jubilee was founded not just as a commemoration of “Bloody Sunday” but as a continuation of a movement that must be ongoing if voting rights are to be restored and secured. In his book, “There’s A River,” Vincent Harding dares us not to forget the blood so freely shed in the year of our historical Jubilee in 1965. To some, Jubilee is just a fun time. Step shows, parades and the music festival are highlights. Thousands of people, however, come to Selma the first full weekend in March in search of much more. They find it in the workshops on immigration, education, Kingian Nonviolence, mass incarceration or hearing foot soldiers relive the brutality of the marches and the resiliency of the people. The walk in unity across a bridge named after the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in defiance of unmitigated and unpunished historical violence. This year, they heard the stories of a mother from Troy whose son was “mistakenly” killed by a white police officer. Yet, they share hope and vision of a New South when they hear Bryan Stevenson speak to a full house at the Selma Center for Nonviolence about individual and state-sanctioned violence. We are grateful to Ainka Jackson, Executive Director of the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation, who worked very hard to prepare for the events held there.

The theater festival was a new addition to the Jubilee, for this time, students were able to “walk the red carpet” and experience Broadway, Selma style. Four plays, including “Selma, the Musical” and “For These, We Honor” by an Atlanta company, were entertaining and informative. But the play by Francis Marion High School students, “A River Flowing,” won the Academy Award for best performance. I nearly cried with gratitude for the children of Perry County and their superintendent who never took his eyes off of his amazing students. We also had gratitude for Sister Yomi, the producer and the Selma High staff, who opened their doors, Pat Posey and all the schools that participated from across the Black Belt.

Dr. Robert White, the Freedom Singers and the Rev. F.D. Reese set the stage for a grand Jubilee at the mass meeting at Tabernacle Baptist Church under the leadership of the Rev. Otis Culliver. For three days, our children and young adults were trained in nonviolence by Silky Slim, Ted Quant and Dr. Bernard Lafayette. We are so grateful.

The parade was long and beautiful on a gorgeous sunny day. We are grateful to Ola Morrow, the brothers of Omega Psi Phi and all the participants, especially the bands from across the Black Belt. We are grateful for Charles Mauldin and Mae Richmond and the scores of foot soldiers who gathered at old Hudson High (now Meddle) School to relive the past and plan for the future. We are so grateful.

We are grateful for Carolyn Gaines-Varner, Dr. Margaret Hardy, Cheyenne Webb-Christburg, Karen Jackson and Sharon Jackson, who stepped up to the plate and made the Freedom Flame Awards dinner really shine. We are grateful for 21st Century youth groups, students from Florida A&M and the honorees the evening’s honorees who included Alexis Hermon, Sophia Bracy-Harris and Mark Miles. We are grateful for Dr. James Mitchell and staff, Hank Sanders, Rita Lett and the AKA team who spent hours planning and implementing the Unity Breakfast. We are grateful for our special breakfast honoree, Congressman Jim Clyburn, who warned us what happened in the past can happen again.

We are grateful for brother Sam Walker and his team of young men who wake up early to work late to make the festival the best ever. We are grateful for Kathleen Veit who captures the Jubilee, past and present, in the Jubilee newspaper. We are grateful for Andre Williams and Isabella Gonzalez, graphic wizards, and William Scott, who managed the press. We are grateful for our sponsors and those who took ads in the Jubilee paper. We are grateful for our President Gladys Dunston and the Jubilee Board. We are grateful for Latia Parker, Latoya Martin and Veronica Williams and the volunteers who stay up long hours with little or no pay. We are grateful for Brenda Miles and her transportation team who gave safe travel to our guests and honorees, and Joyce Whitely who managed the housing arrangements. We are grateful for pastor Strong, the Rev. Bowen, the Rev. Crum and the Rev. Fortier and other ministers who shared their time and their churches. We are grateful to Z105.3 and the deejays that spread the message of Jubilee far and wide. We are grateful for support from Chestnut, Sanders & Sanders Law Firm. We are also grateful for The Greene County Democrat, The Montgomery Advertiser and The Selma Times-Journal for their media attention to Jubilee.

Last, but not least, we are grateful for the citizens of Selma and surrounding counties who came early and stayed late. We are grateful that there was not a single incidence of violence or carelessness. A day after Jubilee, two people were murdered, reminding us that we still have much work to do and we don’t have time to waste. We share this sense of urgency. Join us now. Jubilee has become the largest annual civil rights event in American history. We are so grateful.