Thousands march nearly 900 miles in Journey for Justice

A coalition of organizations, led by the NAACP, embarked recently on an 860-mile, 40-day, 40-night march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C. This initiative recalls the original Civil Rights Movement.

America’s Journey for Justice began Aug. 1 with a prayer at the historic Boynton House — a modest home in Selma that witnessed much of the fight for integration — including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 march across the notorious Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Fifty years later, activists caravaned some 860 miles through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and concluded Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C. 

“Why march?” NAACP president Cornell William Brooks asked. “We march because our lives matter, our votes matter, our jobs matter, our schools matter.”

The organizers of America’s Journey for Justice stress four issues: the vitality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, criminal-justice reform, job growth and higher wages, and better public education.

“This march (was) not merely about putting boots on the ground,” Brooks told Urban News Service. “It (was) about putting laws on the books . . . This has been a history-laden year, with the anniversaries of the Voting Rights Act, ‘Bloody Sunday’ and so forth. But it’s a good opportunity to make history, too.”

Jamiah Adams of the NAACP said the organizers expected thousands of people to join the marchers at every stop, with a “core group” of more than 100 making the trek from Selma to D.C.

“It’s OK that we’re angry and fed up,” Brooks told UNS. “It’s OK that we respond with emotion. But this (was) more than an emotional trip. This (was) a reform movement. And we believe putting the emotion with education makes a difference.

“We’ve seen more civil rights challenges in the last year than in decades,” Brooks added. “That’s why we believe we have to inundate the halls of Congress. Across the country, people have been asking, ‘Why is this happening?’ The problem is that the people asking the questions are not in the room with the people who can do something to change it. We intend to change that.”

As the marchers headed north, satellite events across America echoed their voices. These activities shared the social media hashtag #JusticeSummer.

The march picked up supporters along the way and concluded with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, site of Dr. King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

Today’s Journey For Justice is rooted in the history of the struggle for racial equality. The film "Selma" brought into focus the brutality of 1965’s “Bloody Sunday.” Civil rights marchers who attempted to cross the Alabama River into Montgomery over the Edmund Pettus Bridge were pummeled by racist local cops.

In June, the Alabama Senate voted to rename the bridge from Edmund Pettus, a Con-federate general, to the Journey to Freedom Bridge. Alabama’s House of Representatives has yet to address this measure.

Before setting off, the marchers gathered at the Boynton home in Selma. Brooks called it “the literal birthplace of the Civil Rights Act.”

The home of Sam and Amelia Boynton — a nondescript, yellow bungalow — was the civil-rights movement’s unlikely epicenter. Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference strategized the Selma-to-Montgomery marches at the Boyntons' home, and some of the ’65 Voting Rights Act was signed there.

Fifty years after that momentous occasion, the Boyntons’ abode has become dilapidated. Aside from a plaque that sits outside the house, nothing signifies the importance of the events and people associated with this abandoned structure.

The Gateway Educational Foundation acquired the home and plans to transform it into a museum. Amelia Boynton, who celebrated her 104th birthday on Aug. 17, but died nine days later, didn't live to see her old home rebuilt.

“It's somewhat ironic that you come to Selma to commemorate the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, but not protect the place where it was given birth,” Brooks said. “That certainly is a point of importance and interest to all of us who care about history.”

- Urban News Service