Black Voters Matter (BVM), one of the leading national voting rights groups, has revealed its plans to mark the anniversary of the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, with a full week of events in an effort to keep voting rights at the forefront of political discourse as states continue to restrict access to the ballot.
Over the course of seven days beginning Thursday, BVM and six other civil rights groups will each respectively lead separate days of events geared to not only bring attention to the importance of voting rights ahead of the pivotal 2022 midterm elections.
The week’s theme is “Return to the Bridge: Fight for the Vote!” in a nod to the Edmund Pettus Bridge that crosses the Alabama River heading into Montgomery.
BVM, in particular, plans to march part of the 54-mile route on Thursday alongside local residents, voters, HBCU students and supporters complete with a press conference, “teach-ins” seminars and a “Fight for the Vote” rally.
“Dangerous Supreme Court decisions, a wave of state-level voter restrictions, and Senate inaction are turning back the clock on our voting rights and our ability to build power and make gains on the issues impacting our communities,” Cliff Albright, BVM Co-founder and Executive Director, said in a statement. “More than half a century after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we will be in Alabama to continue the work of a generation of freedom fighters. We should not still be fighting this fight – but we will if we have to because we who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.”
LaTosha Brown, BVM’s co-founder who is from Selma, described Alabama as ground zero for the fight for voting rights.
“The dangerous Shelby v. Holder decision, which gutted the Voting Rights Act, began with a complaint from Alabama. The state’s Republican-led legislature introduced 27 bills to restrict voting last year (eight of which passed). This month’s Merrill v. Milligan Supreme Court decision reinstates voting maps that have been widely criticized for diluting Black votes. And the rural community of Lowndes County continues to face an unprecedented wastewater crisis.” Brown said in a statement. “We have more work to do and Alabama remains a central part of our national fight for voting rights – both then and now.”
BVM — which also announced its “One Million for Voting Rights” outreach and empowerment campaign to encourage Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act bills — will be partnering Thursday with The Workers Circle, League of Women Voters, Declaration for American Democracy, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Transformative Justice Coalition, and the People for the American Way.
In addition to BVM, the other national groups organizing the week’s activities are the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Repairers of the Breach, NAN/National Action Network, NAACP, AFSCME/UDW Local 3930, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
This year’s Selma March commemoration will be the second year without the participation of Rep. John Lewis, the late Georgia congressman John Lewis who as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1965 helped lead voter registration drives in the small town of Selma with the intent of combating white resistance toward African Americans gaining rights to vote in elections.
Lewis died in 2020, but BVM made sure to keep his memory alive by announcing its plans for the Selma March anniversary on the voting rights icon’s 82nd birthday of Feb. 21.