Thursday, March 19, 2015

Selma and the promise of youth

      Drawn by an acknowledged “need” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the multitude in Selma, Ala. amply reflected the promise of youth.
      When Tamara Williams first heard that plans were being developed to call attention to the beatings of 600 civil rights demonstrators at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7th, 1965, the 13-year-old Soulsville Charter School student quickly concluded she knew that she needed to be in Selma.
      “I expected to go on this trip. I wanted to see for myself and didn’t want nobody to tell me,” said Williams, who made her way to the Dallas County town with a busload from Memphis.
Temeshia Washington, a resident of Columbus, Ga.,
photographed her experience in Selma, Ala.
      “I love history,” the self-proclaimed history buff said. “ I love talking about history. And I love writing about it.”
      College students Damou Traore and Ashanti Carr, both juniors at The LeMoyne Owen College, sauntered amid the massive crowd, observing the frenzy. Each was impacted by the events in Selma in personal ways.
      Traore’s view of Selma’s 1965 voting rights campaign was juxtaposed against the military domination of Guinea Conakry in West Africa, where he was born.
      “The images in Selma leave you with a bitter taste,” said Traore, 21, whose father forbade him to attend a political rally that ended with people getting shot by the military.
      “I was 14, and that’s when I got interested in politics,” he said.
      Born in San Diego, Calif., Carr, 22, had seen replays of the hard-to-watch TV images of the atrocity unleashed in Selma. She’d also watched Alex Haley’s “Roots” and preserved those searing memories as well.
      “My mom wanted us to be proud of our roots,” said Carr. “And she wanted us to know where we came from.”
      Both Traore and Carr assessed the commemorative anniversary as a learning experience that they could recall at a moment’s notice.
      “To watch people’s reactions, people who were there, it feels wonderful,” said Carr, an English major planning to enlist in the Navy. “It’s the same feeling you get when you visit the National Civil Rights Museum.”
      “It was my first time attending a civil rights movement,” said Traore, studying political science at LeMoyne. “It’s been one of the best (feelings) seeing people come together to celebrate – not just one person’s rights, but the rights of people as a whole.”
      Traore is looking forward to the future when he can work with the American government and “contribute as much as possible as a politician.”
      Determined to “keep up with everything” in the way of life-changing events, Carr is still holding on to the newspaper coverage of President Obama’s inauguration.
      Alice Knight, a great-grandmother, made the trip to Selma from Pensacola, Fla., with her son and grandchildren, including eight-year-old LaBron Baldwin.
      “We have made some progress,” said Knight, “but we still have a long ways to go.”
      Grandson LaBron said he was happy just to be in Selma to witness history unfold. He knew what the demonstrators were trying to accomplish in 1965 and tried to sum it up.
      “People should have the right to do what they want,” he said.
      With her 6-month-old baby cradled in a baby sling, Temeshia Washington and her husband, Chris, made their way through the dense crowd with their other five young children to witness the historic event. With her Nikon, she preserved some special moments.
      The 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday is part of the ongoing struggle, said Washington, a resident of Columbus, Ga.
      “It’s history.”

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