By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
On March 7, 1965 one of the most violent days of the Civil Rights Movement occurred as peaceful marchers were brutally attacked and beaten by state troopers and men as they tried to cross along the Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma, AL to the state capital of Montgomery. That day, which resulted in the deaths of 14 people and injuries of many others, would be known as Bloody Sunday. Almost 54 years to the date, politicians, Democratic presidential candidates and activists alike gathered in Alabama to commemorate the tragic day in American history by marching across the bridge and some of those there to honor the moment hailed from the nation’s capital.
Alongside District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, a cavalry of D.C. residents took to Selma and learned valuable lessons while there- even hoping to spread their newfound knowledge in the District.
Sheika Reid, newly elected National Committeewoman of the District of Columbia Young Democrats (DCYDs) was one of the young leaders selected to serve as a representative for the nation’s capital for the Selma trip.
The millennial leader was particularly moved after learning more about the indiscriminate ruthlessness of lynching of Black bodies in the United States.
“Our national narrative of lynching in the South is vastly understated. It was not a few small, insulated, incidents. It was vast, it happened regularly. It happened often for no reason at all besides for sport,” she told the AFRO. “It happened to pregnant mothers who dared to go to the police because her husband had just been lynched. It happened to teachers, school workers, men, wives and children, and thousands gathered to watch. This was a sport, like baseball, football or hockey. Americans watched and celebrated these lynchings like this was their Saturday night sport,” the DCYD national committeewoman explained.As a newly minted leader in the District’s Democratic Party, Reid said she hopes to take the lessons she learned from Selma to her work with DCYD.
“I will use my platform to make sure that we are raising the issue of reparations and discussing tangible ways that they can be implemented,” she said. “Several other groups in this country have received billions of dollars of reparations, yet Black people have never managed to be productive in our argument.”
Spencer GoPaul, who among many roles in the District is on the Commission on African American Affairs, explained his profound experience after taking a trip to Selma in commemoration of Bloody Sunday.
“It was an overwhelming trip at times because the amount of death of innocent Black people, but I am so thankful to have this experience and to have walked through the sites where our heroes fought,” Gopaul told the AFRO.
After walking in the footsteps of past activists, Gopaul compared and contrasted the plight of American racism and White privilege that still plagues the United States today.
“It reminded us of the role of the liberal White observer who turned a blind-eye to lynching and voter suppression and also turn a blind eye today to discriminatory housing practices and the criminalization of Black youth,” he said.
Reid encourages all Black people to travel to Selma to fully immerse in the history, feel one with the ancestors and understood the continued work that needs to happen.
“Every African person should make this pilgrimage, and it should be subsidized,” Reid told the AFRO. “Like a pilgrimage to Mecca for Islamic people. African people should Pilgrimage to the sacred lands of Alabama.”