Civil Rights Historian addresses March for Our Lives group

Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The March for Our Lives activists received a history lesson from Civil Rights historian Joanne Bland on Wednesday.

The Selma native shared her experiences with the 30 students from the March for Our Lives: Road to Change Florida Tour. They also walked across the Edmund Pettus bridge. Earlier Wednesday, the group stopped at the Alabama State House in Montgomery.

Bland participated in the historic Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, which eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The march was led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

“Marching was fun because I didn’t have to go to school,” Bland said. “I never participated in non-violence. We needed a voice to make change.”

Bland, one of the co-founders of the National Voting Rights Museum, issued a challenge to the group consisting of mainly college students.

“We’ve gotten you this far, the rest is up to you,” Bland said. “You can’t stop. If you stop, we’re doomed. Correct the mistakes we made and make it better.”

The March for Our Lives: The Road to Change tour started June 15 in Chicago, participating in a Peace March led by St. Sabina Academy students. Their purpose is to get young people educated, registered, motivated to vote, and resisting gun violence.

Bland also addressed the numerous shootings across the nation, especially in Dallas County.

“When my grandchild thinks it’s normal, that’s a problem,” Bland said. “Sometimes I feel I should go back on the battlefield again and scream until I’m heard. We need to go back to being human again.”

Maxwell Frost, a senior political science major at the University of Central Florida, saw the trip as a learning experience.

“Seeing the Edmund Pettus Bridge is emotional because of what it stands for,” Frost said. “It’s a symbolism of what happened here.”

Senator Hank Sanders made an appearance, but did not speak. He declined an interview request.