Trip to Selma connected local students to civil rights

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Selma’ stars including Oprah march in Alabama, honoring MLK.

Dorothy Aldridge and Ken Parks of Detroit set up a display honoring Martin Luther King at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit on Saturday, January 17, 2015.(Photo: Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo When she walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., with a group of students from Michigan a year and a half ago, Chrisdiona Williams was just learning about some of the key moments in America’s civil rights struggle. “Selma” is an effective re-creation of the politics behind King’s nonviolent movement, as well as the toll King’s mission took on his marriage and his personal life. Meanwhile, key black members of Congress invoked recent police shootings of young black men as evidence that reforms are needed to ensure equal justice for all. Winfrey, also a producer of Selma, helped lead the march with the film’s director, Ava DuVernay, actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed King in the movie, and the rapper Common. The remembrance comes after several incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by police in recent months, spurring protests and heightening tensions around the country.

The events portrayed in “Selma” should be a standard part of the education of every American high school student, yet 50 years later it is sometimes still contentious to bring civil rights history into classrooms. I was picturing in my head bodies and the police officers on horses beating people who were trying to make a movement,” she said of the attempt to march to the state capitol in Montgomery. “It saddened me how violent it was during the Civil Rights movement.” Today across the nation, including in metro Detroit, thousands will celebrate King’s legacy on what is now recognized as a federal holiday.

The film chronicles the campaign leading up to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and the subsequent passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Law enforcement officers used clubs and tear gas on 7 March 1965 — “Bloody Sunday” — on marchers intent on seeking the right for blacks to register to vote. For Williams, of Detroit, and the other students who took part in the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Freedom Tour in June 2013, it’s putting on a big screen what they saw up close. McLinda Gilchrist, 63, said the movie should help a younger generation understand what life was like in the 1960s during the struggle to end racial discrimination. “They treated us worse than animals,” Gilchrist said. They visited the King Center in Atlanta for training in non-violent activism, marched across the bridge and even met Amelia Boynton, a now-103-year-old civil rights pioneer who was beaten nearly to death on Bloody Sunday.

It remains problematic for many patriotic Americans to acknowledge how deeply the country betrayed its own stated ideals. “Selma” provides an opportunity to look back. You could feel a vibration almost. … It’s surreal to have been in a place where so many indescribable acts happened,” Tilson said, noting that he was spurred to read and learn more after his return to Detroit. Thomas Hinsberg, 87, of Detroit, was one of the many white people who answered King’s call for clergy and others to travel to Alabama after Bloody Sunday. Lisa Stevens brought her two children, ages 6 and 10, so they could walk the bridge that King walked. “I wanted to bring my children here so they can know their history and for them to participate in this walk,” said Stevens, who moved recently from New York to Greensboro, Alabama. “It’s a part of their history and I think that they should know.

He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. She said it was noteworthy that so many people of different religions, races and ages were marching to make sure that all people have the same opportunities. “There was a great deal of animosity,” Reiha noted of the anger visible from many of the white residents as they passed. “They were not happy that we were there.” NU PER ERICJonniePerryman Hamilton, 71, has lived in Detroit almost her entire life, but when she was a child she spent her summers with family in Tyler, Ala., southeast of Selma.

Now a 64-year-old mother and grandmother, she spoke Sunday in New York of a harrowing experience of unarmed marchers going up against rifles, billy clubs and fierce dogs of white officers. She has since written a memoir, “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom.” Other King events planned for Monday’s federal holiday include a wreath-laying in Maryland, a tribute breakfast in Boston and volunteer service activities by churches and community groups in Illinois.

We have never stopped since the time of slavery, said Aldridge, 74, of Detroit, who was working on voter registration in Alabama for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1965. Moore is on the board of directors of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma and has been at the forefront of the fight to return local control to Detroit Public Schools ever since the state imposed an emergency manager to operate the district.

Protesting is one thing, marching is one thing, but you’ve got to get out there and vote,” said Williams, who was in Selma in 2005 to commemorate Bloody Sunday.

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