The Fiftieth Anniversary in Selma: A Once In a Lifetime Experience

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By Hank Sanders –

It’s a once in a lifetime experience! I know you have heard that statement before, but this really is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s once in a lifetime because it happens only once. It’s once in a lifetime because it’s so big. It’s once in a lifetime because it’s so unique. It’s once in a lifetime because it is so powerful.

Hank_Sanders1a

Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders

Let me tell you in detail why this truly is a once in a lifetime experience.

We are celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the culminating events of the modern day voting rights movement. We only celebrate the Fiftieth once. The Fiftieth is the Golden Celebration. It’s the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. It’s the National Voting Rights Celebration. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because it is such a massive celebration with some 50 events. They range from an old fashioned Mass Meeting to a Mock Trial to the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast to the Freedom Flame Awards to the Bloody Sunday March to the Jubilee Parade to the Festival to various Workshops to the full Selma to Montgomery March to other events too numerous to name. It’s such a massive celebration.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because we expect the President of the United States to participate along with past Presidents. Only once before has a sitting President participated in the Bridge Crossing Jubilee and that was President Bill Clinton in 2000 during the 35th Celebration. The 35th was a great experience but this will be greater. The Fiftieth is so much bigger than the 35th.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because people not only come from this country but from Africa, Europe, South America, Asia, etc. All races and classes come. Leaders of every stripe come. So many come from far and near to experience this Fiftieth moment.

Because the Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience we must raise a once in a lifetime sum of $750,000 to cover all these events and their continuing efforts. It is a once in a lifetime experience because it requires so many, many volunteers contributing in their own way.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience with its heart in Selma, but it is so big it has spilled over to Montgomery and Birmingham and other places. Many Black Belt counties have or are already having their own events leading up to the Fiftieth Celebration. It’s so big it touches not only individuals, groups and organizations but local, state and national governments during the preceding year. A whole nation is celebrating. It’s that big. It’s that unique. It’s that encompassing.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because this celebration did not just start. It started 40 some years ago with Faya Rose and me and a few others commemorating Bloody Sunday every year in the early seventies and commemorating the full Selma to Montgomery March every five years. It was just one event and then two events and grew over the years. Now, it will be more than fifty events.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because so many want a piece of it. And it is big enough for everyone to have a piece. I get calls from all over the country. To paraphrase President Lincoln, It is of the people, by the people and for the people. No one will be left out.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because some not only want to have a piece, but desire to seize the whole thing. We know something is really big when those who have not nourished its growth want to seize and control it. But that’s all a part of this once in a lifetime experience.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because a motion picture has been filmed to commemorate the events and released as the 50th Celebration draws near. The movie has been nominated for numerous awards including best picture. It is the subject of much discussion.

The Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because the celebration tends to overshadows the original events. However, we must keep the real purpose of the celebration front and center. We must keep the history true. We must not forget the many and varied struggles for voting rights throughout the South. We must not forget the brutal killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Perry County, Alabama and the other killings. We must not forget the brutal beatings on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that caused human blood to run in the Alabama River. (That’s why it’s called Bloody Sunday). We must not forget the disappointment of Turnaround Tuesday and the wait for a federal court to rule that the march was permissible. We must not forget the Selma to Montgomery March and passage of the Voting Right Act which provided the right to vote for all. These were one-time events that impacted this country more than any others during the last two centuries except the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II.

Yes, the Fiftieth is a once in a lifetime experience because no other events in the last 50 years have transformed this nation and inspired so many across the world. This is once in a lifetime.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes something is so different we say it’s a once in a lifetime event. In truth, every event is a once in a lifetime event because it happens only once. However, we really mean that the event is so unique and rare that it is not likely to happen again during our lifetime. And this Fifty Year Celebration is once in a lifetime for nearly all people.

© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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