Black History: The Later Klans

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson


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From Wikipedia:

The name “Ku Klux Klan” began to be used by several independent groups. Beginning in the 1950s, individual Klan groups began to resist the Civil Rights Movement by bombing houses in transitional neighborhoods and the houses of activists, as well as by physical violence, intimidation and assassination. In Birmingham, Alabama, during the tenure of Bull Connor, Klan groups were closely allied with police and operated with impunity. There were so many bombings of homes by Klan groups that the city’s nickname was “Bombingham”. In states such as Alabama and Mississippi, Klan members had alliances with governors’ administrations.

Many murders went unreported and unprosecuted. Continuing disfranchisement of blacks meant that most could not serve on juries, which were all white. According to a report from the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, the homes of forty black Southern families were bombed during 1951 and 1952. Some were social activists whose work exposed them to danger, but most were either people who refused to bow to racist convention or were innocent bystanders, unsuspecting victims of random terrorism.”

Among the more notorious murders by Klan members:

  • The 1951 Christmas Eve bombing of the home of NAACP activists Harry and Harriette Moore in Mims, Florida, resulting in both their deaths.
  • The 1957 murder of Willie Edwards, Jr. Klansmen forced Edwards to jump to his death from a bridge into the Alabama River.
  • The 1963 assassination of NAACP organizer Medgar Evers in Mississippi. In 1994, former Ku Klux Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was convicted.
  • The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four black girls. The perpetrators were Klan members Robert Chambliss, convicted in 1977, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted in 2001 and 2002. The fourth suspect, Herman Cash, died before he was indicted.
  • The 1964 murders of three civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Mississippi. In June 2005, Klan member Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter.
  • The 1964 murder of two black teenagers, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore in Mississippi. In August 2007, based on the confession of Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards, James Ford Seale, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman, was convicted. Seale was sentenced to serve three life sentences. Seale was a former Mississippi policeman and sheriff’s deputy.

The 1965 Alabama murder of Viola Liuzzo. She was a Southern-raised Detroit mother of five in the state to attend a civil rights march. At the time of her murder Liuzzo was transporting Civil Rights Marchers.

The 1966 firebombing death of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer Sr., 58, in Mississippi. In 1998 former Ku Klux Klan wizard Sam Bowers was convicted of his murder and sentenced to life. Two other Klan members were indicted with Bowers, but one died before trial, and the other’s indictment was dismissed.

There was also resistance to Klan violence. In a 1958 North Carolina incident, the Klan burned crosses at the homes of two Lumbee Native Americans who had associated with white people and threatened to return with more men. When they held a nighttime rally nearby, they found themselves surrounded by hundreds of armed Lumbees. Gunfire was exchanged, and the Klan was routed at what became known as the Battle of Hayes Pond.

When Freedom Riders arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, the police commissioner Bull Connor gave Klan members fifteen minutes to attack the riders before sending in the police. When local and state authorities failed to protect them, the federal government established more effective intervention. While the FBI had paid informants in the Klan, for instance in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1960s, their relations with local law enforcement and the Klan were often ambiguous. The head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover, appeared more concerned about Communist links to civil rights activists than about controlling Klan excesses. In 1964, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program began attempts to infiltrate and disrupt civil rights groups.

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Clinton Speaks of Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Not of War

© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Dearest Hillary . . .

Your speech at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama  moved me.  The words, as written are glorious.  I cried as I listened to the sentiments; “It matters.”  Yet, I am conflicted.  The issues you mentioned are important.  I trust you care for your countrymen and women.  Those of color are no less significant to you than their white counterparts are.  I believe you too work to defend the rights of the impoverished.  Still, I struggle.  I have done so for days.  I meant to share my thoughts with you alone, for Hillary, you were the object of my renewed realization.  However, finally, I recognized that I am not equating your contrary views to a personal biased bigotry.  I am speaking to all Americans that think combat cures all or any ills.  Thus, I publish this treatise, a letter to you, or perchance to all of us.  I offer possibilities, probabilities that we all might wish to contemplate.

If we are to improve conditions for every American, then we must acknowledge the war that you, and others endorse, an escalation of troops in Afghanistan, will likely not be possible.  Perchance we might ponder the purpose of war and the results reaped from all this fighting.  That discussion will wait for another writing.

We cannot claim to believe in equality when we understand the means for manning the military.  When war is thought to be an option, even our mission, we must consider whom we send into combat and why they are willing to go.  Admittedly, I believe war is never an alternative.  However, I accept that as long as others think combat is necessary, we must assess what we have created in order to fight our battles.  Who are the persons we send to war and why they are willing to go into combat.

I surmise, as long as we, as a society, maintain the structure we have, sending more soldiers into hostile campaigns promotes the discrimination we claim to disdain.  Please breathe deeply; I am not meaning to give rise to a defensive stance.  I only wish to express what seems contradictory to me.  Our beliefs are often altruistic; our actions are far less so.

Since early childhood I have wondered, why do we not send Heads-of-State to fight their own battles.  Possibly, these men [and women] are thought too frail.  Thus, I ask; why not send the offspring of government officials into combat, assuming the brood of such strident leaders boast as their parents do, “We must win in order to stay safe.”  I await that answer.

Until then, I inquire.  Hillary please help me understand.  Knowing that you [many] wish to increase the troop force in Afghanistan, please tell me, where might these soldiers come from?  Why would these strong souls be willing to go into battle recognizing that they are placing their lives and limbs in jeopardy?  Do these soldiers not understand that they matter? 

Perhaps, for them, patriotism is the guiding principle.  Might their nationalism be more central than their personal sacrifice?  I think at times such a construct may be valid; however, from my observations and discussions, particularly with Veterans, authentic altruism rarely involves putting ones life in danger.  Internal conflicts are characteristically more crucial.  Thus, I query.  What motivates the young to place themselves in precarious situations?

As I assess recruitment practices and why the youth enlist, I realize the reason your sermon spoke to me.  If we apply the principles that you and other warmongers state they devoutly believe, then we will have no working Army, Navy, or Marines.  Ignoring the problems of the poor, the Black, and the Hispanic populations allows us to grow an infantry.  Denying people their Civil Rights and Voting Rights supplies us with a an Armed Force. 

Our service men and women are typically underprivileged, impoverished, and disenfranchised.  Some are isolated, or in horrible life situations.  They are white and persons of color.  Skin color alone, can afford whites more rights.  However, money maximizes all possibilities.

Many of today’s recruits are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income.  Nearly two-thirds of Army recruits in 2004 came from counties in which median household income is below the U.S. median.

Such patterns are pronounced in such counties as Martinsville, Va., that supply the greatest number of enlistees in proportion to their youth populations.  All of the Army’s top 20 counties for recruiting had lower-than-national median incomes, 12 had higher poverty rates, and 16 were non-metropolitan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group that analyzed 2004 recruiting data by Zip code.

“A lot of the high recruitment rates are in areas where there is not as much economic opportunity for young people,” said Anita Dancs, research director for the NPP, based in Northampton, Mass.

As you noted Hillary, those typically denied their rights are “the poor and people of color.”  Yet, you and I believe to our core, these people matter.  Still, current practices negate their significance.

Granted, during peacetime the military makeup more closely mirrors the population.  After an attack on our nation, when patriotic gestures are popular, the elite think to serve with the fighting troops.  However, these times are few and fleeting.

Hillary, as you so powerfully proclaimed, there is reason to question what is true for the Blacks, poor, and persons of color.  ‘It does matter’ or perchance not, depending on our priorities. 

I think we, as a nation, must consider as long as Heads-of-State send the young and poor to fight their battles, they will continue to preserve a population that is both physically burly and profoundly in need of financial assistance.  If the youth are academically deprived, all the better.  With little education, and hardly any funds, adolescents have fewer options.  The underprivileged are ripe for military careers.  In the Armed Forces, a teenager or college age adult can secure a reasonably prosperous professional position.

Senator Clinton, as you stated, we, as a country must address the reasons Afro-Americans are deprived of their rights.  We all know that people of color, are purposely prohibited from participating in elections.  Discrimination today differs; nevertheless, it still exists. 

Accurate and complete information is not shared with those that need it most.  What is given is often sent belatedly.  When pamphlets are delivered in a timely manner the facts are frequently and intentionally in error. 

Hillary, I concur.  Individuals are still turned away from the polls in America.  That is not “right.”  Afro-Americans and persons of color are more often the victims of what might be classified as a crime.  Disinformation also effects poor whites.  Although, disproportionately, Afro-Americans are affected.

The US civil rights commission was yesterday investigating allegations by the BBC’s Newsnight that thousands of mainly black voters in Florida were disenfranchised in the November election because of wholesale errors by a private data services company.

Information supplied by the company, Database Technologies (DBT), led to tens of thousands of Floridians being removed from the electoral roll on the grounds that they had felonies on their records.

However, a Guardian investigation in December confirmed by Newsnight found that the list was riddled with mistakes that led to thousands of voters – a disproportionate number of them black – being wrongly disenfranchised.

The scale of the errors, and their skewed effect on black, overwhelmingly Democratic voters, cost Al Gore thousands of votes in Florida in an election that George Bush won by just 537 votes.  Moreover the Florida state government, where Mr Bush’s brother Jeb is governor, did nothing to correct the errors, and may have encouraged them.

This causes me to ask what I believe remains a burning question; why must we repeatedly reinstate the Voter’s Rights Act?  Is there a reason that this law is periodically scheduled to sunset?  I query.  Why is this Bill so easily threatened?  Might voters be guaranteed their rights, always? 

Please tell me Hillary, or anyone; what ever happened to the idea that “all men are created equal?”  As a nation, we seem to be impressed with the words, and distressed with the possibility.  Senator Clinton, your own sermon calls this to mind again.  I appreciate your awareness and beg for your assistance.

Senator Clinton, please realize and tell others to place this in the forefronts of their minds, people of color are not only misinformed and under-represented during election season.  Daily they feel stuck.  Perchance, they are. 

Many live in the inner city, ghettos, and slums.  Schools in these neighborhoods are lacking.  Housing is poor.  Transportation is terrible.  Jobs close to home are nonexistent.  The availability and quality of careers in these locales is depressing.  Homicide is prevalent.  These communities are in chaos.  Too often, the streets are killing fields.  Reaching out and telling them you [we] understand is not enough.  They matter! 

The Blacks, Hispanics, people of various colors, and the poor are significant not because they fight our battles or because they can cast a ballot for a Presidential candidate such as you.  They are vital because they are people, equal to us all.  I think we must show them that we care each day, not only on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday or in an election year.

Our fellow countrymen and women must recognize that the right to vote is only one issue affecting the disenfranchised.  Poverty and loss of hope create an intolerable circumstance.  When joining the military merely means exchanging one battlefield for another, something is terribly wrong. 

Senator Clinton, I do not want those with less influence and means to feel as though they must serve the military master in order to survive.  I have no desire to see people perish needlessly at home, in Iraq, or in Afghanistan.  I do not think you do either.

You must know that Blacks [Hispanics, and others among the disadvantaged] feel forced to enlist in the Armed Forces.  The military will train them and pay them.  That matters! 

Only recently, as the death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan increase are the poor questioning the quality of life in the military service.  With the prospect of death looming large, they too are declining to join.  Perchance life matters more than a paycheck or schooling with strings attached.

I think we must be honest and ask ourselves, how long will we maintain the fallacy ‘military men and women are committed to a cause.’  Does any one really believe that war works to the benefit of those thrown into battle.  Will we ever avow, most soldiers subscribe in order to survive.

Hillary, the military that you and others so actively claim to support, cannot be the only viable means of income for our poor and alienated.  Yet, for many it is.  These persons cannot achieve as their Caucasian counterparts can.  Those with little, if any savings, need funds for a future education.  They are searching for something of value, something to hold on to.  The dominance of discrimination effects many decisions.

An Armed Forces filled with those of lesser means and far less opportunities causes me great distress.  I do not believe we in America have a volunteer Army, Navy, or Marine Corps.  We have brigades comprised of the neglected.  I trust that this concerns you Missus Clinton.

These men and women realize few rights; yet, they fight for yours, his, hers, and mine.  I often wonder; do the wealthy or well-off European descendents create an underclass to serve in their silly wars. 

When assessing that more and more of the underclass are unwilling to go to battle, I realize I am grateful that at least they have that choice.  Apparently, after witnessing what is in Afghanistan and Iraq, those that once sought solace in the military accept serving this country may not serve them well.

Hillary, as you stand before this mostly Black audience and claim to care, I wonder.  Do any of us demonstrate the concern we deeply feel?  Knowing what you [we] know, why would you [we] wish to escalate the troop level in Afghanistan or Iraq?  Please, help us to help ourselves; do not continue to exploit the unfortunate.  Let them live and vote.  Do not force the disadvantaged to meet their maker.  People of color need not pay for the sins of their white overseers.  People with few opportunities need not be cut down in their prime.  They matter!!!  These beings are more than future, fighting, or fallen soldiers.

Realize those service personnel who do not die are likely to be severely injured.  The chances are high that all will experience some physical, mental, or emotional impairment.  Please let us all be principled in our support of our troops.

Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and the disadvantaged matter not because they are potential or past soldiers.  They matter as all people do.  Veterans and civilians alike, matter.  Freedom and justice must prevail for all Americans. 

I offer this supposition; would there be war if everyone was granted the respect they give their nation. 

Fortunately for candidates such as you Senator Clinton, we will not know the answer to my question any time soon.  Change is exceedingly slow.  Those that are deprived of their Civil and Voting Rights will still be available to fight the war so many, too many candidates endorse.  Even those that do vote will not have the power they might.  In a culture where ‘follow the leader’ is thought fun or fruitful, few cast a ballot conscientiously.  Most follow the crowd.  How sad and how true.

Senator Clinton, next time you speak of equal rights, civil rights, and voting rights, please ponder what these would truly mean to citizens of this county.  If we honor civil rights for all, equally, the “military industrial complex” could not exist as it does.  Please enlighten others.  People, the poor, and those with plenty matter equally!

Rights, Wrongs, Civil Discourse References . . .

  • Civil and Constitutional Rights.  New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • Clinton: Afghanistan Needs More Troops. The Associated Press.  Washington Post.  Tuesday, September 26, 2006; 10:17 PM
  • pdf Clinton: Afghanistan Needs More Troops.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post.  Tuesday, September 26, 2006; 10:17 PM
  • Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn To Military, Recruits’ Job Worries Outweigh War Fears, By Ann Scott Tyson.  Washington Post.?Friday, November 4, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn To Military, Recruits’ Job Worries Outweigh War Fears, By Ann Scott Tyson.  Washington Post.?Friday, November 4, 2005; Page A01
  • Inquiry into new claims of poll abuses in Florida, By Julian Borger and Gregory Palast.
  • Block the Vote – By Paul Krugman.  October 15, 2004
  • America’s Military Population, By David R. Segal and Mady Wechsler Segal.  Population Reference Bureau. December 2004
  • Voter’s Rights Act?  United States Department of Justice.  Civil Rights Division?.  Voting Section
  • Voting Rights Act.  Renew.  Restore.  American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation
  • Civil rights.  LII / Legal Information Institute.
  • Voting Rights  LII / Legal Information Institute.
  • Army Recruitment Goals Endangered as Percent of African American Enlistees Declines, By David R. Segal and Mady Wechsler Segal.  Population Reference Bureau  November 2005
  • Service in Iraq: Just How Risky? By Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell.  Washington Post. Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A21
  • pdf Service in Iraq: Just How Risky? By Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell.  Washington Post. Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A21
  • Steady Drop in Black Army Recruits, Data Said to Reflect Views on Iraq War.  By Josh White.  Washington Post.?Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf Steady Drop in Black Army Recruits, Data Said to Reflect Views on Iraq War.  By Josh White.  Washington Post.?Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A01
  • Bayh, Clinton Call for More Troops in Afghanistan. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. January 17, 2007
  • Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
  • Something Happened. Senator Barack Obama Speaks in Selma, Alabama

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Obama commemorates 1965 civil rights march in Selma, AL

    Something happened, some things continue to occur.  We must look at our history and learn from it.  We may never repay the debt we have to our brethren or ourselves.  However, we can begin.  Senator Barack Obama makes a commencement address.  Obama inaugurates awareness.  He asks us to join him.

    Yesterday, I shared my impression of the historical sermons delivered by two Senators, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton in Bloody Sunday. Senators Obama and Clinton Say “We Shall Over Come.”  In this missive, I share some the titillating Obama text and offer a glimpse into his delivery.

    Yet, something happened back here in Selma, Alabama. Something happened in Birmingham that sent out what Bobby Kennedy called, “Ripples of hope all around the world.” Something happened when a bunch of women decided they were going to walk instead of ride the bus after a long day of doing somebody else’s laundry, looking after somebody else’s children. When men who had PhD’s decided that’s enough and we’re going to stand up for our dignity.

    That sent a shout across oceans so that my grandfather began to imagine something different for his son. His son, who grew up herding goats in a small village in Africa could suddenly set his sights a little higher and believe that maybe a black man in this world had a chance.

    What happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedy’s decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.

    This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.

    I’m here because somebody marched. I’m here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we’ve got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn’t cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done. You’ll see it. You’ll be at the mountain top and you can see what I’ve promised. What I’ve promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You will see that I’ve fulfilled that promise but you won’t go there.

    We’re going to leave it to the Joshua generation to make sure it happens. There are still battles that need to be fought; some rivers that need to be crossed. Like Moses, the task was passed on to those who might not have been as deserving, might not have been as courageous, find themselves in front of the risks that their parents and grandparents and great grandparents had taken. That doesn’t mean that they don’t still have a burden to shoulder, that they don’t have some responsibilities. The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90% of the way there. We still got that 10% in order to cross over to the other side. So the question, I guess, that I have today is what’s called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy; to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?

    Now, I don’t think we could ever fully repay that debt. I think that we’re always going to be looking back; but, there are at least a few suggestions that I would have in terms of how we might fulfill that enormous legacy. The first is to recognize our history. John Lewis talked about why we’re here today. But I worry sometimes — we’ve got black history month, we come down and march every year, once a year, we occasionally celebrate the various events of the civil rights movement, we celebrate Dr. Kings birthday but it strikes me that understanding our history and knowing what it means is an everyday activity.

    We thank you Grandfather Obama for giving birth to a man and a mission.

  • Obama commemorates 1965 civil rights march in Selma, AL  YouTube
  • Selma Voting Rights March Commemoration Obama For America.
  • Bloody Sunday. Senators Obama and Clinton Say “We Shall Over Come.”  By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.
  • Bloody Sunday. Senators Obama and Clinton Say “We Shall Over Come.”

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    LBJ — We Shall Overcome

    “The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups . . .
    and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.”

    ~ Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Federal Judge [1918-1999]

    Typically, I do not watch television.  I use the appliances for background noise.  Rarely do I feel moved to enter the room where the “tube” is located.  Twice today, I found myself staring at the tube.  Senator Barack Obama grabbed my attention as he reflected on Black history, the march in Selma, Alabama, and Bloody Sunday, the civil rights act that led to the Voters Right Acts.  Moments later, Hillary Clinton brought me to tears as she spoke of the same subjects.

    This afternoon, I was working around the house.  In the distance, I heard Barack Obama speak.  As good an orator as Senator Obama is, I was busy.  I was certain whatever he might be saying, I could catch it later, perhaps on the Internet.  I would find it while working at the computer.  Minutes passed and I was moved.  Obama’s words were filtering through my consciousness.  I quickly entered the television room, regretting that I missed so much of the oration  I stood in front of the small screen, pressed the button to record what was left of his sermon.  I was mesmerized as Senator Barack Obama recounted the history of Bloody Sunday and then stated what we accomplished was not enough.

    [I]t reminds us that we still got a lot of work to do, and that the basic enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, the injustice that still exists within our criminal justice system, the disparity in terms of how people are treated in this country continues. It has gotten better. And we should never deny that it’s gotten better. But we shouldn’t forget that better is not good enough. That until we have absolute equality in this country in terms of people being treated on the basis of their color or their gender, that that is something that we’ve got to continue to work on and the Joshua generation has a significant task in making that happen.

    I am not yet settled on a candidate for the 2008 election.  I know not whom I will support; yet, I am certain it will not be Hillary Clinton.  I have written many a missive explaining why.  Thus, when Cable News Network announced they would cover Senator Clinton’s speech commemorating the same occasion, I exited the room and returned to my chores.  I heard Hillary and surprisingly, I cried.  The tears flowed uncontrollably as she repeated, “It matters!”  Every issue she mentioned matters to me; she stated that they matter to her.  I raced through the house and again stood in rapture.  Senator Clinton struck a chord within.  I was moved to listen to every word.

    Dr. King told us — Dr. King told us our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Well, I’m here to tell you poverty and growing inequality matters. Health care matters. the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans matter. Our soldiers matter. Our standing in the world matters. Our future matters, and it is up to us to take it back, put it in to our hands, start marching toward a better tomorrow!

    Now, I must write.  I want to share the Senators’ words with you dear reader.  I hope you will review each transcript.  Please ponder the words.  I invite you to separate yourself from cynicism.  Search your soul and consider the current State of the Union.  Contemplate the day and the doings.  It is Sunday, March 4, 2007.

    Today, we celebrate an important date in Civil Rights history.  Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are honoring this day by speaking at predominantly Black Churches in the city of Selma, Alabama.  The Presidential candidates, barely three blocks apart, reflected on the meaning of Bloody Sunday. 

    Forty-two years ago today, on March 7, 1965, Black Americans took to the streets.  They were fighting for their right to vote.

    The Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights ended three weeks–and three events–that represented the political and emotional peak of the modern civil rights movement. On “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, some 600 civil rights marchers headed east out of Selma on U.S. Route 80.  They got only as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge six blocks away, where state, and local lawmen attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas and drove them back into Selma.

    Marchers retreated.  Though severely wounded in this unprecedented police led skirmish, these citizens were undeterred.  Centuries had passed, and Black Americans had worked hard to support their communities; yet, in 1965 they were still legally unable to vote for candidates to represent them.  Discrimination and segregation were rampant in America.  Bloody Sunday was the beginning of the end, or so some believe.  I struggle to accept this when in 2006, Congress by law, was forced to revisit and ratify the Voters Right Act or allow the Bill to sunset.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that much as changed.  Still, there is much to be done.  In 1965, Black citizens were not deterred.  They spoke out; they walked, even after this initial defeat.

    Two days later on March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a “symbolic” march to the bridge. Then civil rights leaders sought court protection for a third, full-scale march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery.  Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., weighed the right of mobility against the right to march and ruled in favor of the demonstrators. “The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…,” said Judge Johnson, “and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.”

    On Sunday, March 21, about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965–the best possible redress of grievances.

    Finally, Black persons in America received some recognition.  They were given the right to vote without restriction.  Even President Lyndon Baines Johnson embraced the possibility that “We Shall Overcome,” someday.

    Today, many hope that we as a country overcome our biases.  Senator Barack Obama, a Black man, and Senator Hillary Clinton, a woman remind us of what was, how far we have come, and perchance how far we can go.  On Sunday, March 4, 2007, the two speak of how for centuries, in the States, these dark skinned men and women had tilled the fields, raised white children, and cooked for a light-skinned master.  Later they were able to secure jobs in factories.  They scrubbed floors, cleaned lily-white houses, and dished out food for families not there own.  Black Americans were doormen, maids, secretaries, and clerks.  Afro-American people were everywhere in the United States working; the Negro population served the entire country.  Yet, they were not given the right to vote.

    Newcomers to this nation were privileged in comparison.  Immigrants had advantages not afforded to the Black man or woman whose families had been in America for hundreds of years.  Being Black in America meant struggling to succeed.  Blacks were barely and rarely able to open businesses.  Banks did not wish to invest in Black industries or shops.  Children could not go to a school of their choosing.  Blacks were required to eat, drink, and sleep in separate quarters for much of the twentieth century.  Some hospitals refused to treat dark-skinned persons.  Medical Doctor, Charles Drew was an unfortunate victim of such as practice.  In 1950, Doctor Drew, was traveling to the Andrew Memorial Clinic in Tuskegee, Alabama.  The esteemed physician was scheduled to deliver an annual lecture.  While driving, he dozed off.  His vehicle veered off the road and turned over.  Doctor Drew was very badly injured.

    Newspaper accounts said that the hospital nearest the accident refused to admit the doctor.  Race was the reason.  Precious time and ample blood was lost. By the time Charles Drew arrived at a hospital that would treat Afro-Americans, he had lost so much blood that no one could save his life

    Charles Drew researched blood plasma and transfusions in New York City. It was during his work at Columbia University where he made his discoveries relating to the preservation of blood. By separating the liquid red blood cells from the near solid plasma and freezing the two separately, he found that blood could be preserved and reconstituted at a later date.

    Charles Drew’s system for the storing of blood plasma (blood bank) revolutionized the medical profession. Dr. Drew also established the American Red Cross blood bank, of which he was the first director, and he organized the world’s first blood bank drive, nicknamed “Blood for Britain”.

    Yes, Black people were prominent in American history; yet, still in the early 1960s they did not have the right to vote.  Today they do.

    In 2007, in 2008 Black voters can vote.  Hillary and Barack hope they will.  Each is asking the Afro-American community for their endorsement.  I offer the text of each speech.  Please review the treatises and share your thoughts. 

    Might you muse on the topic of Black History.  Do these recounting and reflections remind you of your own experience?  Have you witnessed discrimination first hand?  Perhaps you were there in Selma, in 1965, or did you take part in the Civil Rights Movement elsewhere.  What are your thoughts on this day and what it reaps?

    Did the words of Senators Obama or Clinton help you to decide who you might vote for in 2008?  I present the speeches in the order I heard them. First I share the words of Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton.  May you enjoy.

    Selma Voting Rights March Commemoration
    Selma, Alabama
    March 04, 2007

    Here today, I must begin because at the Unity breakfast this morning I was saving for last and the list was so long I left him out after that introduction. So I’m going to start by saying how much I appreciate the friendship and the support and the outstanding work that he does each and every day, not just in Capitol Hill but also back here in the district. Please give a warm round of applause for your Congressman Artur Davis.

    It is a great honor to be here. Reverend Jackson, thank you so much. To the family of Brown A.M.E, to the good Bishop Kirkland, thank you for your wonderful message and your leadership.

    I want to acknowledge one of the great heroes of American history and American life, somebody who captures the essence of decency and courage, somebody who I have admired all my life and were it not for him, I’m not sure I’d be here today, Congressman John Lewis.

    I’m thankful to him. To all the distinguished guests and clergy, I’m not sure I’m going to thank Reverend Lowery because he stole the show. I was mentioning earlier, I know we’ve got C.T. Vivian in the audience, and when you have to speak in front of somebody who Martin Luther King said was the greatest preacher he ever heard, then you’ve got some problems.

    And I’m a little nervous about following so many great preachers. But I’m hoping that the spirit moves me and to all my colleagues who have given me such a warm welcome, thank you very much for allowing me to speak to you here today.

    You know, several weeks ago, after I had announced that I was running for the Presidency of the United States, I stood in front of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois; where Abraham Lincoln delivered his speech declaring, drawing in scripture, that a house divided against itself could not stand.

    And I stood and I announced that I was running for the presidency. And there were a lot of commentators, as they are prone to do, who questioned the audacity of a young man like myself, haven’t been in Washington too long.

    And I acknowledge that there is a certain presumptuousness about this.

    But I got a letter from a friend of some of yours named Reverend Otis Moss Jr. in Cleveland, and his son, Otis Moss III is the Pastor at my church and I must send greetings from Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. but I got a letter giving me encouragement and saying how proud he was that I had announced and encouraging me to stay true to my ideals and my values and not to be fearful.

    And he said, if there’s some folks out there who are questioning whether or not you should run, just tell them to look at the story of Joshua because you’re part of the Joshua generation.

    So I just want to talk a little about Moses and Aaron and Joshua, because we are in the presence today of a lot of Moseses. We’re in the presence today of giants whose shoulders we stand on, people who battled, not just on behalf of African Americans but on behalf of all of America; that battled for America’s soul, that shed blood , that endured taunts and formant and in some cases gave — torment and in some cases gave the full measure of their devotion.

    Like Moses, they challenged Pharaoh, the princes, powers who said that some are atop and others are at the bottom, and that’s how it’s always going to be.

    There were people like Anna Cooper and Marie Foster and Jimmy Lee Jackson and Maurice Olette, C.T. Vivian, Reverend Lowery, John Lewis, who said we can imagine something different and we know there is something out there for us, too.

    Thank God, He’s made us in His image and we reject the notion that we will for the rest of our lives be confined to a station of inferiority, that we can’t aspire to the highest of heights, that our talents can’t be expressed to their fullest. And so because of what they endured, because of what they marched; they led a people out of bondage.

    They took them across the sea that folks thought could not be parted. They wandered through a desert but always knowing that God was with them and that, if they maintained that trust in God, that they would be all right. And it’s because they marched that the next generation hasn’t been bloodied so much.

    It’s because they marched that we elected councilmen, congressmen. It is because they marched that we have Artur Davis and Keith Ellison. It is because they marched that I got the kind of education I got, a law degree, a seat in the Illinois senate and ultimately in the United States senate.

    It is because they marched that I stand before you here today. I was mentioning at the Unity Breakfast this morning, my — at the Unity Breakfast this morning that my debt is even greater than that because not only is my career the result of the work of the men and women who we honor here today. My very existence might not have been possible had it not been for some of the folks here today. I mentioned at the Unity Breakfast that a lot of people been asking, well, you know, your father was from Africa, your mother, she’s a white woman from Kansas. I’m not sure that you have the same experience.

    And I tried to explain, you don’t understand. You see, my Grandfather was a cook to the British in Kenya. Grew up in a small village and all his life, that’s all he was — a cook and a house boy. And that’s what they called him, even when he was 60 years old. They called him a house boy. They wouldn’t call him by his last name.

    Sound familiar?

    He had to carry a passbook around because Africans in their own land, in their own country, at that time, because it was a British colony, could not move about freely. They could only go where they were told to go. They could only work where they were told to work.

    Yet something happened back here in Selma, Alabama. Something happened in Birmingham that sent out what Bobby Kennedy called, “Ripples of hope all around the world.” Something happened when a bunch of women decided they were going to walk instead of ride the bus after a long day of doing somebody else’s laundry, looking after somebody else’s children. When men who had PhD’s decided that’s enough and we’re going to stand up for our dignity.

    That sent a shout across oceans so that my grandfather began to imagine something different for his son. His son, who grew up herding goats in a small village in Africa could suddenly set his sights a little higher and believe that maybe a black man in this world had a chance.

    What happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites.” So the Kennedy’s decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.

    This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.

    I’m here because somebody marched. I’m here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we’ve got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn’t cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done. You’ll see it. You’ll be at the mountain top and you can see what I’ve promised. What I’ve promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You will see that I’ve fulfilled that promise but you won’t go there.

    We’re going to leave it to the Joshua generation to make sure it happens. There are still battles that need to be fought; some rivers that need to be crossed. Like Moses, the task was passed on to those who might not have been as deserving, might not have been as courageous, find themselves in front of the risks that their parents and grandparents and great grandparents had taken. That doesn’t mean that they don’t still have a burden to shoulder, that they don’t have some responsibilities. The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90% of the way there. We still got that 10% in order to cross over to the other side. So the question, I guess, that I have today is what’s called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy; to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?

    Now, I don’t think we could ever fully repay that debt. I think that we’re always going to be looking back; but, there are at least a few suggestions that I would have in terms of how we might fulfill that enormous legacy. The first is to recognize our history. John Lewis talked about why we’re here today. But I worry sometimes — we’ve got black history month, we come down and march every year, once a year, we occasionally celebrate the various events of the civil rights movement, we celebrate Dr. Kings birthday but it strikes me that understanding our history and knowing what it means is an everyday activity.

    Now, I don’t think we could ever fully repay that debt. I think that we’re always going to be looking back, but there are at least a few suggestions that I would have in terms of how we might fulfill that enormous legacy. The first is to recognize our history. John Lewis talked about why we’re here today. But I worry sometimes — we’ve got black history month, we come down and march every year, once a year. We occasionally celebrate the various events of the Civil Rights Movement, we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, but it strikes me that understanding our history and knowing what it means, is an everyday activity.

    Moses told the Joshua generation; don’t forget where you came from. I worry sometimes, that the Joshua generation in its success forgets where it came from. Thinks it doesn’t have to make as many sacrifices. Thinks that the very height of ambition is to make as much money as you can, to drive the biggest car and have the biggest house and wear a Rolex watch and get your own private jet, get some of that Oprah money. And I think that’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but if you know your history, then you know that there is a certain poverty of ambition involved in simply striving just for money. Materialism alone will not fulfill the possibilities of your existence. You have to fill that with something else. You have to fill it with the golden rule. You’ve got to fill it with thinking about others. And if we know our history, then we will understand that that is the highest mark of service.

    Second thing that the Joshua generation needs to understand is that the principles of equality that were set fort and were battled for have to be fought each and every day. It is not a one-time thing. I was remarking at the unity breakfast on the fact that the single most significant concern that this justice department under this administration has had with respect to discrimination has to do with affirmative action. That they have basically spent all their time worrying about colleges and universities around the country that are given a little break to young African Americans and Hispanics to make sure that they can go to college, too.

    I had a school in southern Illinois that set up a program for PhD’s in math and science for African Americans. And the reason they had set it up is because we only had less than 1% of the PhD’s in science and math go to African Americans. At a time when we are competing in a global economy, when we’re not competing just against folks in North Carolina or Florida or California, we’re competing against folks in China and India and we need math and science majors, this university thought this might be a nice thing to do. And the justice department wrote them a letter saying we are going to threaten to sue you for reverse discrimination unless you cease this program.

    And it reminds us that we still got a lot of work to do, and that the basic enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, the injustice that still exists within our criminal justice system, the disparity in terms of how people are treated in this country continues. It has gotten better. And we should never deny that it’s gotten better. But we shouldn’t forget that better is not good enough. That until we have absolute equality in this country in terms of people being treated on the basis of their color or their gender, that that is something that we’ve got to continue to work on and the Joshua generation has a significant task in making that happen.

    Third thing — we’ve got to recognize that we fought for civil rights, but we’ve still got a lot of economic rights that have to be dealt with. We’ve got 46 million people uninsured in this country despite spending more money on health care than any nation on earth. It makes no sense. As a consequence, we’ve got what’s known as a health care disparity in this nation because many of the uninsured are African American or Latino. Life expectancy is lower. Almost every disease is higher within minority communities. The health care gap.

    Blacks are less likely in their schools to have adequate funding. We have less-qualified teachers in those schools. We have fewer textbooks in those schools. We got in some schools rats outnumbering computers. That’s called the achievement gap. You’ve got a health care gap and you’ve got an achievement gap. You’ve got Katrina still undone. I went down to New Orleans three weeks ago. It still looks bombed out. Still not rebuilt. When 9/11 happened, the federal government had a special program of grants to help rebuild. They waived any requirement that Manhattan would have to pay 10% of the cost of rebuilding. When Hurricane Andrew happened in Florida, 10% requirement, they waived it because they understood that some disasters are so devastating that we can’t expect a community to rebuild. New Orleans — the largest national catastrophe in our history, the federal government says where’s your 10%?

    There is an empathy gap. There is a gap in terms of sympathizing for the folks in New Orleans. It’s not a gap that the American people felt because we saw how they responded. But somehow our government didn’t respond with that same sense of compassion, with that same sense of kindness. And here is the worst part, the tragedy in New Orleans happened well before the hurricane struck because many of those communities, there were so many young men in prison, so many kids dropping out, so little hope.

    A hope gap. A hope gap that still pervades too many communities all across the country and right here in Alabama. So the question is, then, what are we, the Joshua generation, doing to close those gaps? Are we doing every single thing that we can do in Congress in order to make sure that early education is adequately funded and making sure that we are raising the minimum wage so people can have dignity and respect?

    Are we ensuring that, if somebody loses a job, that they’re getting retrained? And that, if they’ve lost their health care and pension, somebody is there to help them get back on their feet? Are we making sure we’re giving a second chance to those who have strayed and gone to prison but want to start a new life? Government alone can’t solve all those problems, but government can help. It’s the responsibility of the Joshua generation to make sure that we have a government that is as responsive as the need that exists all across America. That brings me to one other point, about the Joshua generation, and that is this — that it’s not enough just to ask what the government can do for us– it’s important for us to ask what we can do for ourselves.

    One of the signature aspects of the civil rights movement was the degree of discipline and fortitude that was instilled in all the people who participated. Imagine young people, 16, 17, 20, 21, backs straight, eyes clear, suit and tie, sitting down at a lunch counter knowing somebody is going to spill milk on you but you have the discipline to understand that you are not going to retaliate because in showing the world how disciplined we were as a people, we were able to win over the conscience of the nation. I can’t say for certain that we have instilled that same sense of moral clarity and purpose in this generation. Bishop, sometimes I feel like we’ve lost it a little bit.

    I’m fighting to make sure that our schools are adequately funded all across the country. With the inequities of relying on property taxes and people who are born in wealthy districts getting better schools than folks born in poor districts and that’s now how it’s supposed to be. That’s not the American way. but I’ll tell you what — even as I fight on behalf of more education funding, more equity, I have to also say that , if parents don’t turn off the television set when the child comes home from school and make sure they sit down and do their homework and go talk to the teachers and find out how they’re doing, and if we don’t start instilling a sense in our young children that there is nothing to be ashamed about in educational achievement, I don’t know who taught them that reading and writing and conjugating your verbs was something white.

    We’ve got to get over that mentality. That is part of what the Moses generation teaches us, not saying to ourselves we can’t do something, but telling ourselves that we can achieve. We can do that. We got power in our hands. Folks are complaining about the quality of our government, I understand there’s something to be complaining about. I’m in Washington. I see what’s going on. I see those powers and principalities have snuck back in there, that they’re writing the energy bills and the drug laws.

    We understand that, but I’ll tell you what. I also know that, if cousin Pookie would vote, get off the couch and register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics. That’s what the Moses generation teaches us. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Go do some politics. Change this country! That’s what we need. We have too many children in poverty in this country and everybody should be ashamed, but don’t tell me it doesn’t have a little to do with the fact that we got too many daddies not acting like daddies. Don’t think that fatherhood ends at conception. I know something about that because my father wasn’t around when I was young and I struggled.

    Those of you who read my book know. I went through some difficult times. I know what it means when you don’t have a strong male figure in the house, which is why the hardest thing about me being in politics sometimes is not being home as much as I’d like and I’m just blessed that I’ve got such a wonderful wife at home to hold things together. Don’t tell me that we can’t do better by our children, that we can’t take more responsibility for making sure we’re instilling in them the values and the ideals that the Moses generation taught us about sacrifice and dignity and honesty and hard work and discipline and self-sacrifice. That comes from us. We’ve got to transmit that to the next generation and I guess the point that I’m making is that the civil rights movement wasn’t just a fight against the oppressor; it was also a fight against the oppressor in each of us.

    Sometimes it’s easy to just point at somebody else and say it’s their fault, but oppression has a way of creeping into it. Reverend, it has a way of stunting yourself. You start telling yourself, Bishop, I can’t do something. I can’t read. I can’t go to college. I can’t start a business. I can’t run for Congress. I can’t run for the presidency. People start telling you– you can’t do something, after a while, you start believing it and part of what the civil rights movement was about was recognizing that we have to transform ourselves in order to transform the world. Mahatma Gandhi, great hero of Dr. King and the person who helped create the nonviolent movement around the world; he once said that you can’t change the world if you haven’t changed.

    If you want to change the world, the change has to happen with you first and that is something that the greatest and most honorable of generations has taught us, but the final thing that I think the Moses generation teaches us is to remind ourselves that we do what we do because God is with us. You know, when Moses was first called to lead people out of the Promised Land, he said I don’t think I can do it, Lord. I don’t speak like Reverend Lowery. I don’t feel brave and courageous and the Lord said I will be with you. Throw down that rod. Pick it back up. I’ll show you what to do. The same thing happened with the Joshua generation.

    Joshua said, you know, I’m scared. I’m not sure that I am up to the challenge, the Lord said to him, every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon, I have given you. Be strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go. Be strong and have courage. It’s a prayer for a journey. A prayer that kept a woman in her seat when the bus driver told her to get up, a prayer that led nine children through the doors of the little rock school, a prayer that carried our brothers and sisters over a bridge right here in Selma, Alabama. Be strong and have courage.

    When you see row and row of state trooper facing you, the horses and the tear gas, how else can you walk? Towards them, unarmed, unafraid. When they come start beating your friends and neighbors, how else can you simply kneel down, bow your head and ask the Lord for salvation? When you see heads gashed open and eyes burning and children lying hurt on the side of the road, when you are John Lewis and you’ve been beaten within an inch of your life on Sunday, how do you wake up Monday and keep on marching?

    Be strong and have courage, for I am with you wherever you go. We’ve come a long way in this journey, but we still have a long way to travel. We traveled because God was with us. It’s not how far we’ve come. That bridge outside was crossed by blacks and whites, northerners and southerners, teenagers and children, the beloved community of God’s children, they wanted to take those steps together, but it was left to the Joshua’s to finish the journey Moses had begun and today we’re called to be the Joshua’s of our time, to be the generation that finds our way across this river.

    There will be days when the water seems wide and the journey too far, but in those moments, we must remember that throughout our history, there has been a running thread of ideals that have guided our travels and pushed us forward, even when they’re just beyond our reach, liberty in the face of tyranny, opportunity where there was none and hope over the most crushing despair. Those ideals and values beckon us still and when we have our doubts and our fears, just like Joshua did, when the road looks too long and it seems like we may lose our way, remember what these people did on that bridge.

    Keep in your heart the prayer of that journey, the prayer that God gave to Joshua. Be strong and have courage in the face of injustice. Be strong and have courage in the face of prejudice and hatred, in the face of joblessness and helplessness and hopelessness. Be strong and have courage, brothers and sisters, those who are gathered here today, in the face of our doubts and fears, in the face of skepticism, in the face of cynicism, in the face of a mighty river.

    Be strong and have courage and let us cross over that Promised Land together. Thank you so much everybody.

    God bless you.

    Senator Barack Obama concludes and Senator Hillary Clinton begins.

    CIVIL RIGHTS: On the 42nd Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma
    Rush transcript
    March 4, 2007

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. And I want to begin by giving praise to the Almighty for the blessings he has bestowed upon us as a congregation, as a people, and as a nation. and I thank you so much, Reverend Armstrong, for welcoming me to this historic church.
    And I thank the First Baptist Church family for opening your hearts and your home to me and to so many visitors today. I have to confess that I did seek dispensation from Reverend Armstrong to come because you know, I’m a Methodist. And I’m in one of those mixed marriages. And my husband, who sends greetings to all of you today, felt it necessary to call the Reverend to make sure that was all right. And thank you, reverend, for being so broad-minded and understanding.

    It is also a great honor to be here with so many distinguished members of the clergy, elected officials, leaders of the civil rights movement, today, tomorrow, and yesterday. President Steele, I could have listened all afternoon. That pulse that you found so faint you have brought back to life. And all of us owe you and SCLC a great deal of gratitude.

    I think everybody in the sanctuary has been introduced. But I want to just say a word of recognition to some of my colleagues in government who have traveled a long way to be here with us today. Congressman Rahm Emanuel from Illinois and his son Zach. Congressman Anthony Weiner from New York. Congresswoman Gwendolyn Moore from Wisconsin. Congressman Linda Sanchez from California. And the chair of all the mayors in the country, Mayor Palmer from Trenton, New Jersey. I thank them for coming to join with us.

    And I have to say, Chairman Chestnut, thank you for the history lesson and for the welcome. I thank all of the board of deacons, the board of trustees and the deaconesses and I appreciate that we are gathered here for another commemoration that is important for us once again to re-enact so we never forget.

    I also want to ask for our prayers on behalf of all those who lost their lives in the terrible tornadoes that swept through this state and others and particularly for those young people, those eight students of Enterprise High School who lost their lives, for their families, and on behalf of all those who may still be missing.

    I come here this morning as a sister in worship, a grateful friend and beneficiary of what happened in Selma 42 years ago. I come to share the memories of a troubled past and a hope for a better tomorrow.
    One that is worthy of the sacrifices that were made here. Today marks that 42nd anniversary. but it also marks, as we have heard, the 50th anniversary of SCLC and the 50th anniversary of the integration of Central High by the Little Rock Nine.

    And I have friends with me today from Arkansas who have been with my husband and me for all those years. We know, as President Steele reminded us, that America’s march to freedom, equality and opportunity has been marked by milestones — milestones like the creation of SCLC and the integration of Central High and that fateful Sunday with that march across the Pettis Bridge. But those are just milestones. They do not mark the end of the journey. In fact, it is not over yet. and I believe that for many people today who are mistaken that Bloody Sunday is a subject for the history books, it is our responsibility to make it clear to them it is just as relevant today as it was 42 years ago.

    Yes, that long march to freedom that began here has carried us a mighty long way. But we all know we have to finish the march. That is the call to our generation, to our young people. As a young girl, I had the great privilege of hearing Dr. King speak in Chicago. The year was 1963. My youth minister from our church took a few of us down on a cold January night to hear someone that we had read about, we had watched on television, we had seen with our own eyes from a distance, this phenomenon known as Dr. King.

    He titled the sermon he gave that night “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” some of you may have heard it because he delivered it more than once. He described how the literary character Rip Van Winkle had slept through the American Revolution. And he called on us, he challenged us that evening to stay awake during the great Revolution that the Civil Rights Pioneers were waging on behalf of a more perfect union.

    It was sweeping our country, and we would sleep through it at our risk and detriment. Now, I know we’ve been at this a long time. And after all the hard work, getting rid of the literacy tests and the poll taxes, fighting for the right to vote, bringing more people into the economic mainstream, a body does get tired.

    But we’ve got to stay awake. we’ve got to stay awake, because we have a march to finish. a march toward one America, that should be all America was meant to be. That too many people before us have given of themselves time and again, to make real. How can we rest while poverty and inequality continue to rise? How can we sleep, while 46 million of our fellow Americans do not have health insurance? How can we be satisfied, when the current economy brings too few jobs and too few wage increases and too much debt? How can we shrug our shoulders and say this is not about me, when too many of our children are ill-prepared in school for college and unable to afford it, if they wish to attend?

    How can we say everything is fine when we have an energy policy whose prices are too high, who make us dependent on foreign governments that do not wish us well, and when we face the real threat of climate change, which is tinkering with God’s creation?

    How do we refuse to march when we have our young men and women in uniform in harm’s way, and whether they come back, their government does not take care of them the way they deserve?

    And how do we say that everything is fine, Bloody Sunday is for the history books, when over 96,000 of our citizens, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, are still living in trailers and mobile homes, which is a national disgrace to everything we stand for in America?

    You know, Dr. King told us — Dr. King told us our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Well, I’m here to tell you poverty and growing inequality matters. Health care matters. the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans matter. Our soldiers matter. Our standing in the world matters. Our future matters, and it is up to us to take it back, put it in to our hands, start marching toward a better tomorrow!

    Now, 42 years ago, from this church and from brown, brave men and women first tried to march. Two days later, Dr. King tried again. Getting as far as the bridge. Then on the third day, armed with judge Frank Johnson’s order, more than 3,000 people crossed the Pettis Bridge. And by the time they got to Montgomery, they were 25,000 strong.

    Now, my friends, we must never forget the blows they took. Let’s never forget the dogs and the horses and the hoses that were turned on them, driving them back, treating them not as human beings.
    But also don’t forget about the dignity with which they bore it all. They understood the right to vote matters. Now, five months later the voting rights act was enacted by Congress and signed by President Johnson, but we all know it was written on the march from Selma to Montgomery.

    It was written by men and women with tired feet and swollen ankles. And it was first signed with their blood, sweat, and tears. We cherish the few, including my good friend, Congressman John Lewis, who still remain with us today, to cross the bridge again. But let us not forget those who have passed on — Dr. King and Coretta, Viola, Ralph Abernathy, Josea Williams and all the others. We remember, too, Jimmy Lee Jackson, whose killing near here was one of the events that ignited the march. and we were the support of this great church and of Reverend Fred, who helped to lead people into justice for all.

    So many prayed and stood up for the right to vote. Dr. King said quality for African-Americans would also free white Americans of the staining legacy of slavery. And so it has. In 2000, my husband said here that those who walked across the bridge made it possible for the south to grow and prosper and for two sons of the south, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, to be elected president of the United States.

    The Voting Rights Act gave more Americans from every corner of our nation the chance to live out their dreams. And it is the gift that keeps on giving. Today it is giving Senator Obama the chance to run for president of the United States. And by its logic and spirit, it is giving the same chance to Governor Bill Richardson, an Hispanic, and yes, it is giving me that chance, too.

    You know, this may be interesting for the legislators who are here, but before Selma and the Voting Rights Act put quality front and center, it was illegal under Alabama law for women to serve on juries. I know where my chance came from, and I am grateful to all of you, who gave it to me.

    But in the last two presidential elections we have seen the right to vote tampered with, and outright denied to too many of our citizens, especially the poor and people of color. Not just in Florida, Ohio, and Maryland, but in state after state. The very idea that in the 21st century, African-Americans would wait in line for 10 hours while whites in an affluent precinct next to theirs waited in line for 10 minutes, or that African-Americans would receive fliers telling them the wrong time and day to exercise their constitutional right to vote. That’s wrong. It is simply unconscionable that today young Americans are putting their lives at risk to protect democracy half a world away when here at home their precious right to vote is under siege.

    My friends, we have a march to finish. I will be reintroducing the Count Every Vote Act, to ensure that every voter is given the opportunity to vote, that every vote is counted, and each voter is given the chance to verify his or her vote before it is cast and made permanent.

    We have to stay awake. We have a march to finish. On this floor today, let us say with one voice the words of James Cleveland’s great freedom hymn, “I don’t feel no ways tired/I come too far from where I started from/Nobody told me that the road would be easy/I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me.”

    And we know — we know — we know, if we finish this march, what awaits us? St. Paul told us, in the letter to the Galatians, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due seasons we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” The brave men and women of Bloody Sunday did not lose heart. We can do no less. We have a march to finish. Let us join together and complete that march for freedom, justice, opportunity, and everything America should be. Thank you and God bless you.

    I wish you all a good night, and a great year.  My hope is that freedom and justice will be ours equally no matter what our race, religion, or creed.

    References for your review.  We Shall Overcome Someday!

  • Obama and Clinton Mark Civil Rights Struggle in Selma, By Jeff Zeleny and Patrick Healy.  The New York Times.  March 4, 2007
  • pdf Obama and Clinton Mark Civil Rights Struggle, By Jeff Zeleny and Patrick Healy.  The New York Times.  March 4, 2007
  • Selma-to-Montgomery March.  Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Voters Right Act
  • We Shall Overcome.  Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson “We Shall Overcome.”  The History Place – Great Speeches Collection.
  • Frank M. Johnson, Jr. (1918- ), Federal Judge.  Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Civil Rights Timeline.  Information Please® Database
  • CIVIL RIGHTS: On the 42nd Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma,  Hillary Clinton for President Exploratory Committee
  • Selma Voting Rights March Commemoration.  Obama For America.
  • The Surreal Reality of Death. America, Iraq, Afghanistan.

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert


    Please think twice about life as you watch the Baseball Player Talks About Deadly Atlanta Bus Crash

    A large bus careening down the highway during the early morning hours was full of passengers.  Most of the occupants were young, strong, burly, men.  They had seen so little of life; their years on this Earth were few.  These solid souls were off to experience a novel adventure.  The Division III Beavers, a student baseball team attending Bluffton University, were traveling to Florida’s Gulf Coast for a season-opening double-header game.  The youthful, pious, players were excited and expectant.  They were about to experience a week in the sun.  Fellow Mennonite men, women, students, and alum would watch from near and far as these boys participated in a week of games.  Then it happened.  There was an accident.  Four fellows lost their lives when the bus toppled off a bridge.  The driver and his wife also perished.  People throughout the nation ponder; why.  Why do the young die?

    There is much reflection. The media is everywhere documenting the reactions to sudden death and destruction.  American citizens,  all contemplate how fragile life can be.  Some say the incident was surreal.

    News of the tragedy shocked the students on campus, many of whom were supposed to take midterms Friday before going on spring break. Jordon Bruner stood in front of the campus cafeteria, his jaw clenched tightly in an effort to not cry.

    For the last two years, the senior has worked with the school’s sports department and helped update its website. He said he’d gotten to know most of the athletes at Bluffton, particularly the members of the baseball team.

    “I didn’t believe it when my roommate woke me up this morning and told me we had to turn on the TV because there’d been an accident,” Bruner, 21, said. “I had just seen them get on the bus Thursday night. We waved goodbye. It wasn’t supposed to be goodbye forever.”

    No, it was not supposed to be like this.  Young men and women are expected to live on forever, or at least we hope they will reach a ripe old age, perhaps marry, have children, or share their lives and wisdom in whatever way feels best to them.  We, as humans, imagine that our progeny will be the next generation.  They will have time to give and be great.  People never think the young will pass before they have had an opportunity to grow.  However, it happens.  We struggle to understand why.

    “Some people have asked why God would let something like this happen,” Rodabaugh said. “How do you answer that, other than turn to your faith?”

    Faith, trust, and a personal commitment to G-d can calm the soul.  If we believe there is a reason for everything, and that every event has a purpose, then perhaps we will feel peaceful.  we might seek solace in the Lord.  However, memories linger.  Reveries haunt us.

    When you are among those that has their life shaken, you know . . .

    “This is something that’s not going to leave the guys who were on that bus this morning,” said A.J. Ramthun, 18, a freshman second-baseman who suffered a broken collarbone, facial cuts and bruises. “This is going to be with us forever. We’ve been living together, practicing together. We’ve been a family for the past five months. Something like this morning really makes you think twice about life.”

    As a nation, we are witnessing death more so than we typically do.  On March 2, 2007, many more young persons passed from this Earth.  Eight students attending Enterprise High School in Alabama took their last breath without warning.  They knew the tornado was coming; however, they did not think they would be hurt.  The adolescents could not conceive of dying.  Yet, they did, in fact pass away.

    Ben Powell thought of the last time he saw Katie Strunk.

    “We were sitting in history,” the 10th-grader said. “She was smiling. She always smiled.”

    Ben had a crush on Katie, who was among eight students who died at their school Thursday when a tornado slammed into the main building, ripping off concrete roofs and flattening cinder-block walls.

    Few contemplated injury.  When we are young, we often believe we are immortal, indestructible, and enduring.  The youth of America certainly have reason to think that no harm will come to them as they sit in their cozy homes, classrooms, cafeterias, and shopping centers.  The elders do not consider the possibility either.  Life is good in the USA.  Tragedy rarely befalls us.  Yet, currently it does.  This country is being slammed by storms.  Lives are lost.  Devastation surrounds us.  Perspectives are changing.  Perhaps, it is time.  We need to contemplate bereavement and battle.

    While we are not in a war zone, we are experiencing, on a far smaller scale what families in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Israel might.  Some Americans are realizing the pain that we permit in other nations.

    A student recounts . . .

    “Everyone was screaming, and there was blood everywhere,” said sophomore Hailey Moore, 16, whose ribs were broken when a book hit her side. “I could feel the dirt and glass in my hair, and I just thought, ‘Oh gosh. Is this really happening? Am I going to die?’ ” . . .

    “It doesn’t even look like our school,” said Karana Brown, 18. “It’s unbelievable to think we got out of that building.” . . .

    “Everything feels unreal,” she said. “Everyone is in a phase where we don’t know what’s going on.”

    The children in war ravaged countries know what is occurring.  It is daily and routine.  Bombs drop, people fall to their death.  Soldiers and or the people defending their land and their family’s precious lives slam bodies up against buildings.  Troops storm into homes without warning.  Bullets blaze above the heads of innocent civilians, children.  That is life; it is predictable and random.  Violence and volatility are everywhere.  A youngster might wonder, ‘When will I die?’  Could it be today or tomorrow.  Anything is possible.  Even if I survive on Friday, there is Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday, and Tuesday.  Everyday brings a new death.  A toddler in the Middle East understands, ‘I may not have a mother, a father, a sibling, or a friend on Wednesday.’  When fields are void of flowers and killing consumes the day, a child knows casualties and fatalities are a way of life.

    Even combatants know not whether they will live or die; will they make it through the night.  If these young warriors do awake, will their beautiful bodies be intact.  Skin is delicate and organs so fragile.  For the teens and young adults fighting on battlefields or in regions where war is a daily reality fear is forever.  The fallen are many.  Families worry too.  Cries of ‘My baby, my brother, my sister, my friend,’ echo throughout the land.

    Might we make this different.  Perchance, Americans can come to a collective consciousness.  Nature alone, particularly with the assistance of man, does enough destruction.  Let the arbitrary and intentional killings end.

    References for your review . . .

  • 6 die in crash of bus carrying college team, Small Ohio town mourns four players and prays for the other passengers. By P.J. Huffstutter and Kevin Sack. Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • pdf 6 die in crash of bus carrying college team, Small Ohio town mourns four players and prays for the other passengers. By P.J. Huffstutter and Kevin Sack. Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • Alabama high school takes in tornado’s devastation Enterprise grieves for 8 students, and marvels that the midday tornado didn’t kill more.  By Jenny Jarvie.  Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • pdf Alabama high school takes in tornado’s devastation Enterprise grieves for 8 students, and marvels that the midday tornado didn’t kill more.  By Jenny Jarvie.  Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2007
  • Children die in Baghdad car bomb, BBC News. July 13, 2005
  • Military confronts growing ranks of bereaved spouses, children, By David Crary.  The Associated Press.  Houston Chronicle.  March 3, 2007
  • President Bush. Katrina Aftermath; Tornado in Alabama

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert


    Please view the scene in Huge Storm Slams Midwest

    Pardon the commercial prologue.  Please observe Tornado Tears Up New Orleans  March 1, 2007

    Today ravaging tempests are wreaking havoc in the Southeast.  Tornadoes Kill at Least 14 in 2 States.  Eighteen months after another deadly storm, Hurricane Katrina, President Bush travels to New Orleans reassuring the public that he all is well.  The Midwest is reeling; devastating snowstorms hit the heartland.  The ground is giving way in California.  A San Francisco landslide displaced sleepy residents. A wide swath of the North Beach hillside came thundering down on buildings below.  Unusual tornadoes are swirling in the skies above Southern Florida.  Hail and freezing rains are falling in many regions.  America is not alone.  Severe weather is everywhere!

    Humans waited too long to heed the gentle warnings of Mother Nature.  She has been speaking to us for years.  Now she is screaming; “Help me!  Help yourselves!”  Our sweet Mother is no longer politely asking us to care for her.  She is demanding we do so.  This gracious, gentle, and loving spirit hoped we would treat her with reverence.  We did not.  She gave and we took.  Mother Nature can bequeath no more.  She is depleted and desperate.

    We have a lesson to learn, as does the Bush Administration.  When we do not attend to the needs of nature, or do so belatedly and half-heartedly we pay the price.  People worldwide are realizing the cost of defiance.  Citizens had ignored the harm they did to this planet for decades.  Only late in the last century were people beginning to clean their globe. The Bush Administration took office in 2001 and reversed the trend.  The President, the Vice, and their Energy Commission denied that humans had a substantial effect on the environment.  They declared global warming a myth.  Industry was once again allowed to reap it’s bounty more recklessly.  Now we sow and see what was always evident.  Nature can only take so much abuse before it reacts.  Witness the winter storms everywhere on Earth.

    Weeks ago our President relented, perhaps, humans are responsible for climate change. His proclamation was feeble.  George W. Bush states there is a problem.  Pretends to have a plan and then, does nothing.  The President turns his projects over to private industry, passes his work onto government agencies, and then declares he is done.  He has done all he can, and life is good.  Perchance life is good for Mister Bush; however, common citizens are struggling to survive.

    Facts continue to elude this “environmental” President and “compassionate conservative.”  We witness this again today,  March 1, 2007. Weather continues to rape the land; red tape rankles the residents.  Nothing has changed. Yet, our President says, it has.

    “Times are changing for the better.  People’s lives are improving.  And there is hope.”
    ~ George W. Bush [March 1, 2007]

    There is so much pretense and more posturing.  Today President George W. Bush is traveling to New Orleans.  He is looking over the wasteland, explaining how he contributed to the cleanup.  He sent Billions of dollars.  He decrees the people need to do their part; they need to bring the area back to life.

    In an interview on National Public Radio, when asked why he neglected to mention Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast region, President Bush stated . . .

    Well, I gave a speech that I thought was necessary to give. On the other hand, I had been talking a lot about Katrina and about the fact that I worked with the Congress to get about $110 billion sent down to both Mississippi and Louisiana to help them on their reconstruction efforts. Obviously, there is more work to be done. But to take the housing issue, for example, we have sent money down to the Louisiana folks, Louisiana Recovery Authority, to fund their plan. And the money is there and the money is available. And now it’s up to the folks down there to get this plan implemented so people can start rebuilding their houses.

    If there’s bureaucratic slowdowns in Washington, we’ve got a man named Don Powell who is working to address them. But no, our response to the Katrina recovery has been very robust.

    Robust; perhaps for a few.  The President only observes what he wishes to, hopeful circumstances.

    Bush Tours Katrina-Ravaged Areas
    President Reassures Victims And Taxpayers Of Commitment To Rebuild
    Long Beach, Mississippi, March, 1, 2007

    AP) President Bush on Thursday returned to the battered Gulf Coast, declaring “there is hope” for the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged region where his administration was widely accused of botching the initial recovery efforts.

    Mr. Bush toured five homes in a neighborhood still recovering from the devastating hurricane 18 months earlier and is scheduled to meet with Mississippi officials before continuing on to New Orleans, a city whose population dropped by about 50 percent in the wake of Katrina and which is reeling from a surge in crime and a lack of social services.  Large numbers of New Orleans residents are so frustrated they are thinking of leaving for good.

    “I want the taxpayers of the United States to see firsthand what their money has done to help revitalize a series of communities that were literally wiped out,” Bush said.

    The taxpayers do see what the President again purposely avoids.  Mister Bush is not traveling to areas still untouched eighteen long and miserable months later.  George W. continues to ignore what he chooses not to know.  He paints a Presidential picture; it pretty.  Yet . . .

    The Katrina Index, a monthly report by the Brookings Institution research group, says many indicators suggest the recovery effort is moving slowly.  The report for February [2007] says demand for essential services continues to overwhelm supply, with overfilled emergency rooms and waiting lists of students for public schools.

    The report said 56 percent of public schools remain closed in New Orleans.  It called on decision-makers at all levels to remove excessive bureaucracy that hinders repairs to housing and infrastructure.

    Democratic leaders of the U.S. Congress are pushing for legislation to help get federal aid money to residents faster.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority leader Steny Hoyer said in a statement that Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster compounded by a man-made disaster.

    Mister Bush, if there is hope to be found it will not flourish as long as your Administration disregards reality.  Anticipation and eagerness are not gifts from a government that tells the citizens all is well when they know it is not.  I beg and plead.  Please venture out.  Travel to the areas still in ruin.  Then listen to us.  Let us know that you feel our pain.  We cannot continue to pretend all is well.  The weather outside tells us it is not.  As you visit homes rebuilt, more are being buried under the weight of snow, winds, and water.

    The stormy weather and the strident Mister Bush . . .

  • Tornadoes Kill at Least 14 in 2 States, By Brenda Goodman. The New York Times.  March 1, 2007
  • pdf Tornadoes Kill at Least 14 in 2 States, By Brenda Goodman. The New York Times.  March 1, 2007
  • San Francisco landslide displaces residents.  Associated Press.  MSNBC News.  February 27, 2007
  • Snow, ice create chaos for the holiday, By Andrea Stone.  USA Today.  February 18, 2007
  • Hail damage delays next US shuttle launch.  ABC News Online.
  • Tornadoes kill at least 19 in Florida.  Cable News Network.  February 3, 2007
  • Ice storm prompts emergency in Oklahoma. Cable News Network.  January 12,2007
  • England in grip of severe weather.  BBC News.  February 8, 2007
  • Bush Vows to Speed Up Aid for Gulf Coast, By Robert Pear and David Stout.  The New York Times.  March 1, 2007
  • pdf Bush Vows to Speed Up Aid for Gulf Coast, By Robert Pear and David Stout.  The New York Times.  March 1, 2007
  • Agency Affirms Human Influence on Climate, By Andrew C. Revkin.  The New York Times.  January 10, 2007
  • pdf Agency Affirms Human Influence on Climate, By Andrew C. Revkin.  The New York Times.  January 10, 2007
  • Bush attacks environment ‘scare stories’,  By Antony Barnett. The Guardian  April 4, 2004
  • Hurricane Preparedness.  The White house.  March 1, 2007
  • President Bush Meets with Gulf Coast Grant Recipients  The White house.  March 1, 2007
  • President Bush Visits Hurricane-Battered US Gulf Coast By Voice Of America News. 01 March 2007
  • The Katrina Index,  Brookings Institute.