Reflections of Selma: A Commemoration Like Few Others

Recently I returned from my first road assignment for FOX News Radio covering the 50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama.   For the many who showed up for the festivities, the focal point was the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge — where 600 African-American marchers peacefully crossed into Selma only to be met with violence.

bridge

What was impressive to me in my time there is — during what was clearly an important observance for black Americans,  there were a surprisingly large number of white Americans who also showed up to mark this “anniversary”   I put the word in quotes because I think of anniversaries as events we want to remember for the joy of it.  While remembering what happened at Selma is important, it is more accurately an event we should remember for the lessons it teaches us about tolerance and free speech.

President Obama spoke eloquently at the commemoration event on Saturday.  He was introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) who was one of the 500 in 1965.   The president said that it’s not often that you follow the remarks of one of your heroes..but on this day he did.  His reverence was evident and very heartfelt.

I got the chance to chat one-on-one with a man by the name of Joe Nathan Jones.  He was also one of the 600 in 1965.  When I met him, he was shaking hands and posing for pictures in front of a 50-year-old photo of himself caring for a woman who was one of the 17 people hospitalized after the violent exchange,

jones

He said he felt gratified that people remember the event..and that so many people made the pilgrimage to Selma to honor what they had done,   Jones the only thing they felt they were doing at the time was the right thing.  He says — even though he lives in Florida now — he wanted to come back to celebrate the change they brought…up to and including paving the way for the first African-American president in American history.

The culmination came Sunday (3/8) when an estimated 80,000 jammed into the quaint downtown area of Selma to cross over the Pettus Bridge,

march

It was a sight to behold.

What I took from this event is a greater appreciation of the people who paved the way for me and my generation.  The sacrifice they made back then was for the greater good of humanity,  Yet..even today, instances like the deadly police-involved deaths in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY leave us thinking there is still a chasm of misunderstanding between the races to be bridged.

Maybe one day we’ll all be on the same page..relegating “Bloody Sunday” to the history books forevermore.

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