Selma Freedom Fighters and Jubilee to Commemorate Voting Rights Act bravery

I've spent an amazing weekend in Selma, Alabama at the Jubilee. 48 years ago,kids and young adults joined the adults in Selma to fight for the right to vote. Lead by Martin Luther King, they pledged to be non-violent. They marched, were jailed, and some were beaten. They stuck to the principles of non-violence. Four years ago for my book I interviewed several of these now-grown Freedom Fighters. I came back this weekend to speak at the National Park Service Interpretive Center and to join in the commemorative march across the Pettus Bridge.


My favorite photo of the weekend: with four who marched as kids: Charles Mauldin, Lynda Lowry, Chief Henry Allen, and Joanne Bland. Honored to be with them!



At the National Park Service Interpretive Center.

The next morning I arrived early at the center, just before a huge swarm of law enforcement officers needed to make sure the area was safe for the Vice President. We were locked into our building, as we were right across the street from the bridge. It was fascinating to watch them. My favorite was the dogs and their trainers. They are the cream of the crop. Most dogs can smell three kinds of explosives: these dogs are trained (and constantly retrained) to sniff out fifteen. They checked and rechecked the area, doing a last sniffing job across every speck of the bridge.

Once the area was cleaned, we were allowed out to stand quietly in front of the building. But before the Vice President and Representative John Lewis came roaring over the bridge towards us in a cavalcade of vehicles with flashing blue and red lights to give their talks, we had to go back inside.
The secret service man (yep, he was wearing a trench coat) let us go upstairs to watch. He had to radio for permission first, and I suppose also to let the snipers on the roof across from us know that the faces suddenly appearing in the deserted upstairs were okay.

Wonderful but too short speeches by Attorney General Eric Holder, Ryan Haygood, John Lewis and Joe Biden. They started up the bridge, and the rest of us were soon allowed to go surging after them.

A moment of prayer on the bridge.

Best shot I couldn't take: we were asked at the prayer to remember those who had fought for justice, now passed away. An impeccably dressed, older man took off his hat and held it to his chest, tears sliding down his cheeks. He was all shades of brown: deep brown hat, mahogany face, tweedy brown suit, and behind him the sun was bursting through the clouds. Such a beautiful moment, but it was his, not mine.

Thanks to Theresa Lorraine Hall, ranger at the National Park Service.

My heartfelt thanks to all who marched to make this country live up to our ideals.