Remembering What happened to us on Bloody Sunday …..and What it means fifty years later

It’s Saturday morning March 7th 2015, I’m listening in the background to all the newscasters and politicians give their take on the events that happened one morning 50 years ago today. Since the recent film “Selma” was released the subject  “Bloody Sunday” has been talked and talked about…and in more than one forum I have talked about how I was there. I was there for the Bloody Sunday attempted march but I was not there for the two marches that came later. it’s strange how when you are in the middle of an event that will become history..or in this case almost legend, you don’t really think of it in that way. I was very young, in my mid teens. I had been an admirer of the college students who became the “freedom riders” since 1961..they replaced ,TV cowboys and Superman as my heroes..Names like Diane Nash, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. James Bevel, Jesse Harris there were many more names but the two who would inspire young Tim Hayes the most at that time where C.T. Vivian and and John Lewis and the people who would later become SNCC.  I was in grade school when the Freedom Riders became my heroes in 1961 ..after the Atlanta student movement and the sit ins in the Carolina began. Black student mobilization gained a momentum that was unstoppable. I began to read about SNCC almost every week. And since I lived in the capitol of the old South and it’s largest city Atlanta, Ga. there was plenty to read about. Atlanta is also a city with several historically Black Colleges and Universities Morehouse, Spelman, Morris Brown and more. And it was only a matter of time until the Black Student arm of the civil rights movement would become centered there. I began  to hang around these people as much as I could..and as I grew and got older I heard and observed many things..One thing that impressed me the most as a youngster was how SNNC was not governed from the top down…but in the meetings I was sometime able to attend or at least listen from outside these people who were really not that much older than I was, became committed to a type of participatory Democracy….ruling by consensus as described here from a Wike article…. ” SNCC was unusual among civil rights groups in the way in which decisions were made. Instead of “top down” control, as was the case with most organizations at that time, decisions in SNCC were made by consensus, called participatory democracy. Ms. Ella Baker was extremely influential in establishing that model, as was Rev. James Lawson. Group meetings would be convened in which every participant could speak for as long as they wanted and the meeting would continue until everyone who was left was in agreement with the decision. Because activities were often very dangerous and could lead to prison or death, SNCC wanted all participants to support each activity” ….By the time I was in my mid-teens I was just itching to go on a real march or get in the field and do some real work…In 1965 I was still in High School..and in fact on that Sunday in March 1965..I had to sneak out of my parents house to catch the ride to Selma. Before I got there all I really knew was the James Bevel a SCLC operative who has been organizing in Selma wanted this march to happen …and that most of SCLC did not like the timing..But after the death of  Jimmy Lee Jackson at the hands of a State Trooper during a small peaceful march…Bevel and other people decided that the March was on…John Lewis of  SNCC along with Hosea Williams of SCLC were at the head of the march..I was actually surprised to see that Andrew Young who I did not know at that time but I knew what his position in SCLC was we had all been told that MLK did not approve of this march…Voting rights was theBloody Sunday #1 call for this time for us and the Selma Voting Rights Movement was intended to be a model for other communities in the South  as we pressed for a voting rights act…Well the rest is well known and was portrayed very well in the film “Selma” We marched across that Edmond Pettus Bridge on U.S. Highway 80  ..and then we were stopped,.. they made an announcement that we were to disperse …and I remember the words from a bull horn saying “I have nothing further to say to you” then they walked towards us slowly at first and then faster …then the gas came..the way I remember it was a woman screamed, then I saw the people in front of me falling down, then I was struck in the head and fell down, shortly after that as I tried to get up and help a lady who had fallen something almost crushed my ankle..I looked up and saw that it was horse..the white people who were standing on the sidewalks were clapping their hands and cheering..those of us who had not started running back across the bridge helped other people to their feet …..and we ran …and we ran ..and we ran….most of us who were no locals .met back at the church where we had started out from..there was cursing, and crying, and there were men and women who went home to get guns…I went back inside ..limping as my ankle was injured ..even then I wondered what my parents would say when I got back home….Those were the events of March 7th 1965 as I can best recall them….All this began over the right to vote ..and the hopes of a Voting Rights Law that we could count on to serve us for the ages….As people today seem to be jumping on a bandwagon to be seen observing this day….what I think of mostly ….the brave local people of  Selma who put there lives at risk …on that day and the next….and it really pisses me off that many of the people who are trying to dismantle the hard won Voting Rights Act are today going to observances of Bloody Sunday …like they actually give a damn ..This is just a lesson that the struggle is never really over..we have to maintain a constant vigil ..if we want to maintain our hard won rights