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Giorgio: A Bridge to Somewhere

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

 

Paul Giorgio

This past Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, which took place during the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights in 1965. It was on that day, that a group of nonviolent Civil Rights protesters were beaten by Alabama State Troopers and Sheriff Deputies on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Only one other bridge played such a seminal role in the shaping of America and that was The Bridge at Concord, Massachusetts on the first day of the American Revolution.

It is a bit of historic irony, that the bridge which was named after Confederate Civil War General Edmund Pettus, who later was elected with Klan support to the U.S. Senate from Alabama should have taken such a prominent place in the history of the Civil Rights movement.

The news clips of that day served to first shock America, and then galvanize public opinion in favor of Civil Rights. Thousands upon thousands of white & Black Americans flocked to Selma, Alabama to finish the march that was so abruptly and brutally ended on Bloody Sunday.

Marchers from Worcester.

Among those many marchers were several people from Worcester, two of who I count among my friends. One is Carol Thompson a social worker and the other is Erwin “Dusty: Miller an Attorney at Bowditch & Dewey.

They showed courage beyond their years, 50 years ago.  They did not know when they left Worcester, what the future would hold. Would they be beaten like so many others, or shot and killed like so many before them?  I admire their personal courage and their commitment, as we all should.

The result of that march was the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enforced voting rights for African Americans. Every President from Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush extended the law. That is until today.

Republicans blocking voting rights.

The Republicans in Congress are blocking the reenactment of the extension of that law.  What is even worse is that Republicans in State Houses across America are trying to roll back those rights. They are trying to force a voter identification law to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. They are engaged in an organized attempt at voter suppression across America affecting people of color. They have denied access to the voting booth across the south.

The party of Abraham Lincoln has become the party of disenfranchisement. The Republicans in Congress champion voting rights in third world nations but have difficulty championing it in their own districts.

President Obama in a speech at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge sounded a call for an extension to the Voting Rights Act.  He was introduced by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, the leader of the Selma to Montgomery March and joined by President George W. Bush.

A speech for the ages. 

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley referred to the speech as Obama’s “I have a Dream Speech." Of course a reference to the speech given by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. He further called it “A speech for the ages.”

The speech was beautiful in its prose and magnificent in its meaning. The President called upon all American’s to join the fight for voting rights that began 50 years ago in Selma and was sanctified by the blood and bone on Bloody Sunday.

It is time to extend the law. It is time that Republicans stop blocking the voting rights of minority Americans. It is time for inclusion.  It is time to move America forward once again into a leadership role for freedom.

 

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