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Yvette C.
Democrat NY 9

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  • Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March

    by Representative Yvette D. Clarke

    Posted on 2015-02-02

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    CLARKE of New York asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.) Ms. CLARKE of New York. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlelady from Ohio (Mrs. Beatty) for extending this time to me, and I want to also thank the gentlelady from Illinois (Ms. Kelly) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Payne).

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus for hosting this evening's Special Order and this extension this evening.

    Today I proudly rise to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic events of the nonviolent protests that took place in Selma, Alabama, and to recognize their importance in igniting and fueling the civil rights movement that brought an end to the practice of Jim Crow racial segregation by law in America and voting rights legislation that guaranteed every American citizen the right to vote.

    It is a privilege to represent the Ninth District of New York in offering tribute to the historic people of conscience that walked the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, known as Bloody Sunday. The march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 included more than 600 women and men who walked from the historic Brown Chapel AME Church to the State capital of Alabama.

    They marched for the right to vote, the freedom and human dignity that had been denied to them. They marched to end the evil practice of segregation and the violent terrorism to which they were subjected on an everyday basis, to remove from our society [[Page H693]] the poison of racism and racial discrimination.

    However, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge this peaceful protest was met with tear gas, police batons, police dogs, and hatred and violence. Images of this tragedy were broadcast across America, opening the eyes of millions of citizens to the brutality and injustices that African American communities, especially in the South, had experienced every day.

    Five months after Bloody Sunday, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. I was 9 months at that time. Sadly, the right to vote remains under threat in the United States.

    Just imagine, five decades later, the disparate treatment and discrimination, the trampling of the civil rights and civil liberties of vulnerable communities of color, black and Hispanic, Latino Americans, continues to be a blood-soaked stain on the Star-Spangled Banner in the minds of many Americans.

    In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional, effectively undermining our ability to protect the right to vote and ensure unfettered access to the ballot.

    We, the members of the CBC, will not stand silent and allow the partisanship in this House to reverse these gains made through the bloodshed and the lives martyred to erase from the law books those rights for which many fought and died.

    Mr. Speaker, while we have made great progress since 1965, it is all relative. As long as systemic racism remains in the hearts and minds of some Americans, there is still much work to be done so that the blood, sweat, and tears shed for the freedom and justice in 1965 and every day since will not have been in vain.

    The courage it took for our colleague Representative John Lewis and the countless and nameless Americans to face an angry State-sponsored mob so that we can all enjoy the freedoms of our country must never be forgotten. We must remain vigilant and continuously fight for equal rights for all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or social background. Until then, Mr. Speaker, the struggle continues.

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