The Voices of Selma

March 8, 2015

Selma 31 miles...almost there!

 I got up before the chickens this morning to make my pilgrimage to Selma and pay homage to all of the brave souls who stood their ground and marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge fifty years ago this month.  Edmund Pettus, a confederate general, was also the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. I am sure this had to have made the crossing of the bridge even more significant to literally trample tyranny and oppression by marching across the bridge in 1965.  On March 7, 1965- Bloody Sunday, unarmed men and women were beaten with billy clubs. Following the events of that day, several others were killed.

The crowds were so massive today, that you could barely get near the bridge if you hadn't already purchased a ticket to see President Obama.  Although I didn't get anywhere near where the President was speaking, I met the most incredible people who had traveled from all over the country just to be a part of the experience and the celebration this weekend.  

When I arrived in Selma this morning at 8:30 a.m., the first family that I met who reached out to me were from Minneapolis Minnesota, the Masons.

Moises and Emman Mason playing on the Selma Railroad Tracks

At first glance,  you would assume that these boys are near their home, in familiar territory, playing in a place where they have played hundreds of times.  Looking at this photo, you would assume that they had grown up right there on Broad Street in Selma.

One of the only white families lined up on the side of the street to see the parade early this morning, their mother, Annie Mason, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Riverfalls, Wisconsin, teaches classes on race and racism. She and her husband, Jeff, thought that it was necessary to expose their children, at such a young age,to experience the 50th Anniversary of the Selma Bridge Crossing. Annie said that she wanted them to understand the history of Selma, so that they could take in the gravity of the way things were versus how far things have come in Alabama and across the nation.

Annie Mason with her son Moises.

"Living in Wisconsin, many of my students had never met a black person before they came to college." - Annie Mason

When Emman, age 8 (and a half), was asked why he was in Selma today, he replied "TO MARCH.  And, to dance with the President.  And, because there were these guys who charged the marchers a long time ago, and they used chemicals to stop the guys on the bridge."

The Mason Family-Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The next cool guy that I met came all the way from Dallas, Texas with a  LOUD MOTORCYCLE with an incredibly thumping sound system.
Kenny Holmes of Dallas, Texas with his bike.

"My mother, Pearl Holmes was born and raised in Selma.  She was one of the marchers on the bridge and was about 16 or 17 years old.  This year is the 50th Anniversary of the bridge crossing and it is my 50th birthday, so I thought it was the right thing to do to come back home and celebrate.  I picked up my brother in Baton Rouge on the way. Yeah, I think she'd be proud."

Kenny Holmes wasn't the only biker in the parade...

There is nothing like well planned parades- and they  are even better when they are celebrating victory over oppression, have great bands, and beauty queens.

2015 Miss Jubilee
Miss Black U.S. Ambassador and Miss Black Teen Ambassador
You can read more about these beautiful ladies at Miss Black U.S. Ambassador

Parade participants that grabbed my heart strings.


The next beautiful and accomplished lady that I met along my Selma journey was Dr. Lillie Thomas of Bessemer, Alabama.

Her father was reared in Selma and she always loved going to her Grandmother's house there to eat Sunday dinner.  Isn't she gorgeous?  Beauty and brains- she's the real deal.

"As the president of the Alabama Baptist State Women's Auxiliary, I wanted to come down and support Selma University.  It is our aim to build a boys' dormitory; they desperately need a new one.  I want to see a big eye awakening and see growth come to Selma University so that we can see more children go to college.  Education is the answer."

The next group of travelers that I met were from Chicago, Illinois.  They were with the Chicago Assembly Workers Local 551

Curt Thomas of Chicago, Illinois

Thankful for being able to keep their jobs, the Chicago Assembly Workers from Local 551 in Chicago, Illinois,  wanted to come down and show their respect to the President while celebrating the bridge crossing  jubilee.  Ironically, they ended up standing right in front of the caravan of black SUV's bringing in the dignitaries.  

Great art speaks to my soul.  I just got lost in this one particular painting by Kelvin Baldwin.

Kelvin, with his painting entitled "The Struggle" hangs in the Memphis Civil Rights Museum.  It depicts the struggles in Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis.  Giclees are available on Kelvin's website.

Kelvin Baldwin grew up in Camden, Alabama, just down the road from Selma, in the still very segregated Wilcox County. 

 "Every weekend, when I was a child, we crossed the bridge in Selma to go shopping and do business in town, but I didn't know the history of the bridge until I was older."

Mr, Baldwin is a self- taught artist  He wanted some art for his home after he graduated college and got his first place. After going to a gallery and realizing that he couldn't afford gallery prices, he went to Michael's craft store, bought a canvas, and started painting. Although Kelvin had sketched in high school, he had never painted.  Starting off with solid colors, he developed his own technique and uses color to show  the  emotion in his subjects.

Kelvin's father was a church deacon, so he spent a lot of time in church as a child.  His other work depicts church scenes in the rural South.  A graduate of Alabama A & M. Kelvin teaches Agriculture classes in Memphis.

You can view his other work on and you may email him at Kelvin Baldwin.

Selma 50 Jubilee Rally Billboard

Selma 50  "I was there"

I have a lot more to share from my journey to Selma.  More tomorrow.  
Love y'all,

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