Educate, organize and mobilize — On Saturday and Sunday past, (March 7 & 8) tens of thousands gathered in Selma, Alabama to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” the turning point in the 1965 Civil Rights demonstrations that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. President Barack Obama, America’s first Black President, was the keynote speaker and passionately spoke to his strongly held belief that if there had been no Selma demonstrations, there would have been no President Barack Obama. He praised the 1965 demonstrators and called them “warriors of justice.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is considered to be the crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement. The commemoration leaders and official speakers went through great pains to impress upon the public that this gathering in Selma was a commemoration and not a celebration. They all stress the fact that the crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement was gutted by the United States Supreme Court decision that arose out of a lawsuit filed by another Alabama jurisdiction, Shelby County. When we refer to gutting the Voting Rights Act we mean that one of the most important parts of the Act was declared unconstitutional.
When you think of voting rights it is important to link Selma and Shelby, Ala. Selma was the strongest legal response to voter suppression since the Civil War and the Era of the First Reconstruction. Selma came after a hundred years of Jim Crow (legal segregation). The Shelby Decision was rendered approximately fifty-years after Bloody Sunday. There are at least two questions that beg for consideration. The first: why did it take a hundred years after slavery to effectively guarantee Blacks the right to vote? The second: whether it will take another hundred years to restore voting rights to where they were before the Court gutted the Voting Rights Act?
The duration of our fight to restore our voting rights is dependent upon many factors. History tells us that from 1619, when the first Blacks were brought to Americans shores, up to 1965, nearly 350 years, the right of Black people to vote was vigorously suppressed and an issue of national polarization. The 350 years cover two distinct Eras. The Era of Slavery from 1619 to 1865 and the Era of the First Reconstruction 1865 – 1954.
The present quest for a non-racial, equal opportunity America is the subject of this Era, the Third Reconstruction. Over this past week-end, news commentators in Selma touched on the Second Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement and the Third Reconstruction, America after the Shelby Decision. Looking back to the Second Reconstruction, you’ll be able to learn from that Era and use the lessons to better address our present Era.
Although voting rights were a critical issue of the Civil Rights Movement, they were by no means the only issues that Black people were pursuing during the movement. The pursuit of the Second Reconstruction issues was helped greatly because the various issues were pursued under the banner of ending segregation. This enabled various individuals and organizations of common purpose to engage under a banner that covered and mutually benefited various causes.
Today we have numerous empowerment activities that are being led by many different individuals and organizations. Many of the activities have a commonality of purpose in that they seek and promote a non-racial, equal opportunity America that is characterized by political, economic and social justice. Because of the need and benefit of mutual support by like-minded activist, I think it is advantageous to pursue these activities under the banner of the Third Reconstruction.
As I look at the landscape, I’m encouraged by the bi-racial coalitions and the fact that many in our younger generation have mobilized and come together to continue pursuing the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement. The Moral Monday Movement, the Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street, are great examples of present day activism. Please join the growing numbers of people that are committing themselves to fight for political, economic and social empowerment and please ask your affiliated churches and organizations to join in the efforts.
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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News and www.thethirdreconstruction.com with a primary focus on political, social and economic justice. To support our efforts, to unite our politics and economics, please “Like” and follow us at www.facebook.com/ThirdReconstruction. Please “Share” our articles and post your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our websites www.GreaterDiversity.com and www.thethirdreconstruction.com. Comments can also be sent to [email protected] Finally, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to like and follow our pages. •