U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris delivered the following remarks at the Martin and Coretta King Unity Breakfast in Selma, Alabama, as a part of the 25th Annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee on March 4. They have been lightly edited for clarity. This is the 53rdAnniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, and this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From all of that history, past and present, what is clear to me is that Selma laid a blueprint. The Selma marchers showed us that while they crossed that bridge, they also built a bridge. They showed the power of coalitions when they brought together the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] and SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], White marchers and Black marchers, rabbis next to ministers and people from across the country. They marched that bridge and they built bridges.
Selma, it is true we are indeed living yet again in difficult times. And, indeed, sometimes we are weary. But to any of us who feels daunted, or discouraged, or dispirited, I say if you need inspiration? Look to Selma.
When we are pulled back and feel dispirited by an unjust Department of Justice as they escalate the War on Drugs and reinvigorate mandatory minimums and incarcerate instead of rehabilitate, look to Selma for your inspiration. When it feels impossible to make progress for young immigrants who are being targeted and threatened with deportation from the only country they have known and called home, look to Selma for your inspiration.
When we are weary as we read that Black unemployment, homeownership, and incarceration rates are the same or worse today than they were the days of Dr. King, I say look to Selma for our inspiration. And when we are faced with a powerful lobby that encourages immoral inaction which prevents all of our children from being safe from gun violence in a classroom and on the street, from suburbs to the cities, I say look to Selma for our inspiration.
For Selma, you taught us – they taught us our power and they taught us how to use that power. And yes, the challenges right now are tough. And yes, the road can seem long. But I say let us remember those famous words which I will paraphrase of Coretta Scott King, who reminded us that the fight for justice, the fight for Civil Rights must be fought and won with each generation.
Those marchers laid the foundation for the leaders of today. And we must carry on their work. They laid the foundation so that Hank Sanders could represent Selma for 35 years in the State Senate. And so Rose Sanders could become the first Black woman to be an Alabama judge.
To carry on their work, to carry on that work. And they laid the foundation so that John Lewis and Terri Sewell and Barbara Lee can serve in the United States Congress. To carry on the work.
Those marchers laid the foundation so that Barack Obama would be elected President of the United States and then re-elected President of the United States. To carry on the work. And they laid the foundation so that I could become only the second Black woman elected to the United States Senate, and serve alongside Cory Booker and Tim Scott. They laid that foundation. And they laid the foundation so that this community, and I will say with a particular point of pride, and so that the Black women of this community could replace Jeff Sessions with the lawyer who brought to justice the Birmingham bombers, Doug Jones