Dr. Charles Steele Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. – Photo courtesy of the SCLC

Special to The Dallas Examiner


ATLANTA – When iconic civil rights leaders from around the globe gather in Selma next week for The Bridge Crossing Jubilee, the largest annual gathering of civil, one line of business to be addressed by organizers is protecting the integrity of the event, according to Dr. Charles Steele Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The SCLC was co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the original organizers of the historic March 7, 1965 event.

“Bloody Sunday is sacred, because it educates the world about the racist system in America that treated Blacks less than human and prevented Black Americans from voting,” said Steele, human and voting rights activists. “The spotlight was on the Alabama state troopers who brutally attacked marchers as they proceeded to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge for a 54-mile march to the state capitol in Montgomery. It was an ugly scene, and it occurred in Selma on that Sunday. We embrace the growth and the enthusiasm that comes with growth, but the integrity of the event cannot be altered. This will be addressed when we convene.”

Leaders such as Dr. King’s eldest son, Martin L. King III, Civil Rights Icon Rev. Jesse Jackson; U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock; Congresswomen Maxine Waters; Nikema Williams; Terri Sewell; U.S. Assistant Attorney for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke; and NAACP President Derrick Johnson are confirmed to participate in festivities. President Joe Biden has been invited, and organizers hope he will become the fourth sitting president to attend the bridge crossing event.

The Jubilee will begin March 2 and conclude March 6. The highlight of the festivities will be the reenactment across the bridge March 5.

“Some people of influence want to alter the event and commemorate the bridge crossing on Saturday and in another location, but we do not support any changes,” Steele said. “Bloody Sunday occurred on Sunday and in Selma. Bloody Sunday is sacred and there will be no changes.”

Attempts to alter the Sunday event comes at a time when the Civil Rights Movement is at a crossroads. While civil rights leaders see some victories, Kamala Harris, becoming the first Black/Indian American vice president, Ketanji Brown Jackson, becoming the first Black woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Raphael Warnock, the first Black U.S. Senator from Georgia and a record number of Black Americans being elected to Congress, they face some legal actions that threaten to derail voting rights, affirmative action and other civil rights gains.

They also recognize that many of the original leaders, who participated in Bloody Sunday are now deceased or they have reached an age where their ability to participate in the event is limited. Meanwhile, the significance and growth of the event has led to new allies and leaders from a modern and more diverse civil rights movement who seek to weld their influence.

Steele said the biracial, multi religious movement embraces all, but the integrity of the event must stand into perpetuity.

“We cannot change what we started 58 years ago, because we see daily that the struggle for voting rights, human rights and racial equality continues in 2023,” Steele said. “We must protect the integrity of this moment, just like we protect the sacredness of all atrocities around the world. Bloody Sunday should always be a vivid reminder of America’s dark past but inspire people of all backgrounds and religions to march in harmony striving for a brighter future where all of us will be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.”

Mollie Finch Belt is the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of The Dallas Examiner. She attended elementary school in Tuskegee, Ala.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Dallas, Texas. In 1961, she graduated from...

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