Monday, January 19, 2015

Selma Today: Still So Much Work Ahead

Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
Downtown Selma is small but a very interesting part of town with so much history. The Selma Times Journal in  is only a few steps away from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where, in 1965, police used tear gas and clubs to beat back hundreds of civil rights protesters trying to march to Montgomery, Alabama.

By Jessica Elsayed
Associate Editor
SELMA, Alabama, U.S.A. – I just returned from spending an incredible and enlightening week in Selma learning about the American Civil Rights Movement.
Our student-led group from Denison University in Ohio volunteered with the Freedom Foundation. It serves the Selma community by providing, among other things, a safe, integrated and empowering space for the youth of Selma.
 Our experience, which I found inspiring, included a lot of history and hard and needed conversations on race relations in the United States.
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Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
The Brown Chapel, a vital meeting place during the American Civil Rights Movement. People met here before marching from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. It was also the city of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that same year.
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
A memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King outside Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama.
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
Downtown Selma, Alabama as it is today.
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
The infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing the Alabama River on Route 80 in Selma. Led in 1965 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on a date now known as Bloody Sunday, about 600 civil rights marchers walking from Selma to Montgomery were met with a brutal attack by police. Two weeks later, after a court ruled the marchers had the right to walk on the highway, about 3,200 people completed the Selma to Montgomery march.

Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
A display at the Lowndes Interpretive Center, part of the U.S. National Park Service, shows the diversity of the marches who traveled from Selma to Montgomery.
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
The Confederate cemetery in the center of Selma includes this monumental tombstone to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan, a white terrorist group active for decades in the U.S. targeting African Americans and civil rights workers, especially in Southern states.
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
On the other side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma is a charming park that includes a tribute to many of the most prominent figures in the American Civil Rights Movement. The photo above shows a marker for Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. In the photo below, a marker pays tribute to Amelia Boynton Robinson and the late Marie Foster.
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
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On this Martin Luther King Day, I hope we all honor King’s message both in spirit and action.
But also, let us remember and honor all those who stood by him, marched behind him and are unmentioned or remain unnamed as they made the movement as we know it possible through mass mobilization.
The movement for civil rights for African Americans in the U.S. did not end with the passing of the Voting Rights Act.
Because there are still mass disparities in resources, opportunities and even the value of life between blacks and whites, the march for real freedom and justice still continues and we should all be on board. 
Jessica Elsayed / youthjournalism.org
The Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham, Alabama, includes a circular trail titled Freedom Walk. It leads through sculptures of dogs and water hoses, which civil rights protesters faced. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, James Bevel and others organized protests in the park in 1963.
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