50th Anniversary of Six Hundred in Selma

That’s what it took.

Selma 1965
Selma 1965

Armed with prayer and nonviolence, six hundred women and men walked east toward the state capitol in Montgomery. As they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they would encounter a phalanx of state troopers wielding billy clubs and tear gas. And as the video above shows, they did not turn back.

Sun. March 8, marks the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day a peaceful display of freedom of speech ended with violence by Alabama state troopers. Their offense was a petition for access to voting rights, and they succeeded in their mission to eliminate discriminatory voting practice, and ensure universal suffrage with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Their courage and commitment teaches us that the arc of the moral universe only bends toward justice when courageous people participate in the labor of shaping the future.

So what movements for justice are calling us today? How can we make sure that the electoral process is fair and accessible to everyone?What new methods can we use to expand voting opportunities to all? How can we honor the commitment of these marchers, and that of Martin Luther King Jr., to shape our future?

Six hundred men and women ultimately crossed that bridge, but not without risk. I hope I would have stayed with the multitude to face the tension in 1965. I pray we might be granted an ounce of their courage to uphold voting rights for all in 2015, the Presidential Election in 2016 and beyond.

Jason Smith serves as a Congregational Engagement Specialist with the Alliance of Baptists, working collaboratively with partner congregations and Alliance leadership on development strategy and congregational relations. He previously served as Director of Youth and Ministry Assistant at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, DC, where he was ordained in June 2014. 

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