Bridging America

Courtesy of Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin

Kelyn Struiksma  |  Contributing Writer

On Saturday March 7, President Barack Obama attended the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Ala., giving a speech declaring how the United States is closer to racial equality, but the march is not over yet.

Hand in hand with his family, Obama was joined by an estimated count of 40,000 American citizens, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was injured during the original protest, in a symbolic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, according to the New York Times.

Selma was not only a turning point in the civil rights movement, but is one of the places where “the nation’s destiny has been decided,” according to the president.

Crossing the steel bridge was among a series of protests in 1965, led by Martin Luther King Jr. and organized by various civil rights groups. This historic event, remembered today as “Bloody Sunday,” included 600 demonstrators, who gathered for a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery and were aggressively stopped by the police.

During his speech, Obama recognized the racial tension that still exists in America, bringing attention to the shooting of Michael Brown last Aug. in Ferguson, Mo. The president refused to accept that such events have reversed the progress that has been made over the past five decades.

“What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic, it’s no longer sanctioned by law and custom; and before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was,” Obama said in the commemorative speech.

The president added “that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the ‘race card’ for their own purposes.”

A group of about 20 people, who remain sensitive to the issue in Ferguson, waved signs during Obama’s speech that read, “Black lives matter,” and “we want change.”

Obama continues to bridge existing racial tension as the nation’s first black president and used this event to call congress to restore the principles of the Voting Rights Act, which was originally signed in 1965 by former President Lyndon B. Johnson. George W. Bush attended the symbolic march alongside Obama and is responsible for the second reauthorization of the act in 2006, which occurred during his second-term as president.

Director Ava DuVernay recently made the historic protest of 1965 into a movie and with two nominations, the film was awarded the “Best Original Song” at the 2015 Academy Awards.

“We honor those who walked so we could run,” Obama concluded. “We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.”

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