RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (AP) - A march starting in Selma and weaving 860 miles through multiple states before culminating in a rally at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., may sound like something that took place during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
But this particular march is something that will be taking place in the next couple of months.
Plans are well underway for the NAACP’s “America’s Journey for Justice.” According to local NAACP member, the Rev. Charles Dale, the march will begin Aug. 1 in Selma and end Sept. 15 with a rally in Washington, D.C.
Dale said the Alabama leg will take about seven days and cover 135 miles before the crossing into Georgia.
Dale, a Russellville resident, is in charge of organizing the Alabama leg of the march. He said he believes this event will be the best way to bring awareness to several issues minorities are continuing to face in 2015.
“This is our way to highlight things like voting rights, the criminal justice system, police brutality, equal opportunities and other things that blacks and other minorities still have to deal with,” Dale said. “You wouldn’t think these things would still be a problem, but they are, and we need continued awareness and for something to be done.”
Dale said the march correlates with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in August 1965 as a way to stop practices that were keeping blacks from voting.
“The kick-off rally we had for the march was a couple weeks ago in Shelby County,” Dale said. “We decided to hold the kick-off there because of some of the recent problems they’ve had with whites encroaching on the blacks’ right to vote.
“But that isn’t the only place it’s happening,” he said. “In different places across the country, things are happening in an attempt to keep blacks away from the polls - changing polling places at the last minute, redistricting and voter ID laws.”
Clara Penchion, a member of the Tri-County Branch of the NAACP, has been helping Dale with some of the organizational work. Penchion, a retired teacher, said she knew the importance of bringing awareness to these issues.
“When I was a teacher, voting rights and the Voting Rights Act were things I taught about,” she said. “I always encouraged my students to vote and to make their voice heard. Even if they thought no one was listening, it was still important to voice their opinions by voting.”
Penchion said with the Voting Rights Act not being a permanent law and having to be renewed after so many years, she felt voting rights was still a pertinent issue to discuss in 2015.
“There is no reason the Voting Rights Act shouldn’t be a permanent law,” she said. “This is something we should all be concerned about, and we should all want to see changed. Every citizen should have the right to vote unhindered.”
Tori Bailey, president of the Tri-County Branch of the NAACP, said continued instances of civil rights violations are the reason the NAACP - and events such as “America’s Journey for Justice” - still are necessary.
“As a person who has been involved with the NAACP for many years, I’ve had many conversations with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds who wonder about the continued need for organizations like the NAACP,” Bailey said. “To those who don’t think there is still a need for the NAACP in 2015, I would say to watch the news, read the news. These events underscore a need for a continued discourse and interaction between various ages, races and genders to enable a better understanding of different points of view.”
But this isn’t just a national problem, she said.
“You wouldn’t believe the number of calls we receive about civil rights violations just here locally,” Bailey said. “One we had recently was about a local restaurant. Racism is still rampant.”
Bailey said this could be seen in the recent racially motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
“That person was conditioned to hate an entire race of people,” she said. “Homegrown hate groups are no different than Middle Eastern hate groups. The NAACP offers an opportunity to shine a light on these issues we still need to address. Until we can completely eradicate instances of civil rights violations, organizations like the NAACP will be necessary to bring about awareness and change.”
Bailey said a march would be a good way to address these issues because it’s reminiscent of the way the previous generation dealt with instances of racial injustice.
“A march gives everyone an opportunity to come together, and it provides a positive outlet for airing the frustrations people have,” she said. “It also gives the younger generation a chance to interact with the older generations. Instead of burning things down, the younger generation can learn to do things in a more peaceful and constructive way that can bring about real change.”
Dale said he still is in the planning stages of the Alabama portion of the march.
“I have formed several committees, and anyone who would like to be on one of those committees or who is interested in the march can contact me,” he said. “We want to have as many people involved as possible. This will be a historical, memorable march that will culminate in a powerful rally in Washington D.C., and we will be glad to have anyone participate that wants to.”
Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/
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