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Bloody Sunday: Silent march speaks for past

Organized by churches and the NAACP, residents meet to remember a key civil rights moment

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

More than 50 residents braved the cold and rain Sunday to take a stand against racial inequalities and voter discrimination by remembering a key civil rights moment.

On the 48th anniversary of Bloody Sunday – when members of the march on Selma were beaten by Alabama state troopers – residents met Sunday afternoon at Mt. Moriah Primitive Baptist Church in Charlotte to hold a silent march to the federal courthouse, where they prayed and discussed their mission for racial equality.

The event was sponsored by Mecklenburg Ministries, the local NAACP, local church congregations and other groups.

It was also part of a larger movement of marches that happened across the state, including Raleigh, Asheboro and Greenville, during the weekend.

As part of that larger movement, the North Carolina NAACP called on the N.C. General Assembly to enforce universal compliance with the 14th, 15th and 24th amendments as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, stopping racial gerrymandering and redistricting that disenfranchise minorities and making Election Day a state holiday, among other things.

“The march goes on until the battle is truly won,” Khalil Akbar of Masjid Ash-Shaheed mosque said during Charlotte’s rally.

Although the weather may have deterred some from coming to the event, it did not deter others like Charlotte resident Kathleen Carpenter.

“This is near and dear to my heart,” she said.

“If they marched in it back in 1965 when it was rainy and cold weather, too, I can do it, too.”

The march in Selma began on March 7, 1965, and did not successfully conclude until the marchers made it to Montgomery on March 24, 1965.

It was initially stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where now-U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was the local leader of the march, and several other marchers were beaten by Alabama State Troopers.

That day came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

The 1965 march was a rallying point for the civil rights movement and helped build support for the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed a few months later.

But 48 years later, Rodney Sadler, associate professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary, said there are still numerous examples of racial injustice, which he said included recent voter identification laws.

“Justice is not yet available to all God’s children. We want to make sure all of God’s people have the same rights,” he said.

Until the entire country addresses all the systemic issues that cause racial and socio-economic inequalities, Sadler said, he doesn’t intend to stop marching.

Added Jonathan Freirich, associate rabbi at Temple Beth El in Charlotte: “There is no justice for anyone until there is justice for everyone.”

Arriero: 704-804-2637Twitter: @earriero
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