“All this city got is history. If this bridge wasn’t here, it would just be another f—-d-up place nobody would visit.” – Arsenio Gardner, Selma resident
It is that time a year again.
Oh wait … it turns out that this year the empty ritual of the annual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma was overshadowed by Ukraine. Every year the politicians from Washington parachute into Selma for a photo op and fly out the same day. Selma continues to crumble into dust.
Apparently, Kamala Harris and Little Pete Buttigieg came down here this year. I didn’t hear about it with all that has been going on in the world. It is not like anything is going to change.
“SELMA, Ala. — With the blistering Alabama sun beaming down on them, the crowd at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was growing restless. The mass of marchers, which stretched a full city block, audibly groaned when it was announced that not only would Vice President Harris speak, but so would the five cabinet members and many of the national civil rights leaders present. As the speeches continued, a cry would occasionally ring out from the crowd, echoing the calls made by marchers 57 years before as they tried to cross the same bridge: “Let us march.” …
After this year’s jubilee, Selma City Council member Lesia James demanded an apology from the vice president and other officials because she felt the city had been “walked over” and “disrespected.”
“Someone asked me well why are you so mad, is it because you wanted to take a picture with the vice president?” James said. “No that’s not why I’m mad. I’m mad because we need help in Selma. When these VIPs come they need to meet with the leaders in Selma and ask what can they do to help Selma be what it can be instead of just coming for one day and taking photos and putting it on Instagram. That’s not what we need, anybody can come to a bridge and take a photo, but what are you depositing in Selma?”
A White House official said that Harris has “worked to uplift overlooked communities throughout her career.”
“In Selma, she focused her remarks on the importance of protecting our democracy,” the official said. “She brought with her a delegation of cabinet members, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia L. Fudge, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Deputy Secretary of Veteran Affairs Donald Remy. Cabinet leaders participated in a meeting before the march with local leaders hosted by Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.). Regional agency representatives also participated. The meeting was focused on regional needs and the Administration’s work to address those needs.”
Selma native Evelyn Manns was among the foot soldiers who put their lives on the line during the protests of the 1960s. She returned for this year’s Jubilee with a broken heart, coming home to a city where progress seems to have halted. But she also came with a mission.
“The struggle has not ended, it continues, and if you think I’m lying just look around Selma,” said Manns, vice president of the New York Christian Times, a Black-owned weekly newspaper. “But I also came back with a message to the young people. I pass the mantle to you, young people, because it’s your responsibility now. You have a responsibility to carry out what we started.”
Selma is a ghost town with a magic bridge.
I’ve spent years watching it slowly revert to the wilderness like Cahaba. Selma has been cursed by John Lewis ever since the Civil Rights Movement. He is probably there now haunting the city.