The 49th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee commemorating Bloody Sunday and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches in 1965 kicks off a yearlong voter registration campaign to restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law as a direct result of the civil rights actions in Selma and surrounding counties nearly 50 years ago.
A regional association of 40 organizations and activists across the South who are fighting for voting rights formed the Saving OurSelves (S.O.S.) Movement for Justice and Democracy. Its members organized the Marching to the 50th: 50 Cities/ 50 Cars/ 50 Voters At A Time campaign that begins on Monday, March 10 with “The Caravan for Democracy: From the State Capitols to the Nation’s Capitol” following culminating activities on Sunday, March 9 after the annual pilgrimage across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
S.O.S. organizers and activists say there is nothing to commemorate if the unequivocal right to vote, without voter suppression tactics, is not fully restored, in honor of those who were jailed, beaten, gassed and killed to win voting rights for all citizens.
The Marching to the 50th’s two-fold campaign includes: 1.) bringing attention to increased voter suppression that resulted from the Supreme Court’s 2013 dismantling of the Voting Rights Act; and 2.) organizing participation in a massive voter registration effort that will result in at least one million new voters nationwide by March 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches.
The Caravan for Democracy will stop for rallies at state capitols in Montgomery AL, Atlanta GA, Columbia SC. Raleigh NC and Richmond VA. Participants can join the caravan from these cities along the way, as well as those who travel from other cities and states, to converge in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 12, at the U.S. Supreme Court and then march to the U.S. Capitol. The march will culminate in a rally that protests the Supreme Court’s adverse decision on voting rights and urges Congress to fully restore the Voting Rights Act.
The D.C. rally marks the beginning of Marching to the 50th’s yearlong voter registration and education drive. Organizations and individuals committed to social justice in every city and state are asked to participate by registering at least 50 voters each in order to reach the one-million-new-voters goal by March 2015.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a guest speaker at the annual Unity Breakfast in Selma last year, recently reaffirmed his dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision. While commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King at a January event, Biden pledged his allegiance to continue to fight for the underserved. Citing the Selma Movement, he said, “I never thought we’d be fighting the fight for voting rights again.”
The Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision came from a lawsuit filed in Shelby County, Alabama — a suburb of the Birmingham metropolitan area — that challenged the pre-clearance provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Shelby County officials redrew the district lines of a black county commissioner, who subsequently lost in an election.
While the local NAACP chapter said the officials needed federal pre-clearance to make changes that diluted black citizens’ voting power, the high court in Shelby County v. Holder said the pre-clearance formula was outdated after 50 years and unfair to jurisdictions having to prove any election change was not discriminatory. The justices ruled 5-4 that the pre-clearance provision was unconstitutional. Immediately after the decision, several states, particularly North Carolina, instituted some of the strictest voter ID and registration laws in the country. Critics called the laws bold and blatant attempts to suppress the voting rights of minorities, students, women, and the elderly who tended to support progressive policies.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking last year during the 50th year commemoration of the 1963 Birmingham Movement and the Sixteenth Street Church bombing that killed four girls, vowed to use the power of his office in the renewed voting rights struggle. He said he would seek authority to block new election laws that illegally discriminate against the voting rights of blacks and other minorities.
“Millions called for – and helped to secure – the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which empowered the Justice Department to fight unjust attempts to abridge voting rights and restrict access to the franchise. This is a fight we will continue,” he said during his Birmingham speech.
When the S.O.S. caravan stops for a rally in Raleigh, NC, Rev. William Barber II is expected to speak. Rev. Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, has led thousands of people in protest on Mondays at his state’s capitol. The multiracial, multi-issue “Moral Monday Movement” has rallied against North Carolina’s draconian voter ID law and other extreme reforms of ultra-conservative policies that are undermining public education and blocking the expansion of Medicaid, among other issues. Hundreds have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience.
Rev. Barber will lead a workshop about the Moral Monday Movement during the 49th Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma.
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S.O.S. is asking organizations and groups in cities and states across the country to adopt the “Marching to the 50th: 50 Cities/ 50 Cars /50 Voters At A Time” campaign as part of their local drives to educate and register new voters by 2014. The task of registering more than one million new voters seems daunting, but the work is easy when many shoulders carry the load.
Any organization, company, group or institution can form a team (or teams) in their city. Teams should have at least 5 members but can be as large as needed. Each team should successfully register at least 50 new voters. (50 teams in 50 cities/states registering 50 voters, who also help register at least 10 friends = 1,250,000 NEW VOTERS!)
Join the Caravan
SOS asks each team to send at least one car representing voters from your city/state to join the motorcade. Marching to the 50th’s partner groups are organizing rallies at each stop: Montgomery, AL; Atlanta, GA; Columbia, SC; Raleigh NC; and Richmond, VA. Some of these states have passed some of the worst voter suppression laws since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Teams can join the caravan at these stops or meet the caravan in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 12, for the national rally.
Organize Voter Registration Drives in Your City
S.O.S. urges each team to check with your local Board of Registrars to learn the local laws for voter registration and securing proper IDs where necessary. Each team can register as many voters as they can to reach our goal of ONE MILLION NEW VOTERS by or before 2015.
Win A Prize
To promote “friendly competition,” teams that successfully register the most new voters will be awarded Freedom Medals of Honor during the 50th Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, March 2015.
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