By Barney Blakeney
Some 82 Freedom Riders trekking from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. to continue the push for voting rights, justice and equality passed through Charleston Sunday, August 4. The intrepid sojourners stopped at Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston and Emanuel AME Church in Charleston before going on to Jamestown, Virginia where the first African slaves landed in North America 400 years ago in 1619.
The travelers concluded their four-day journey that began August 3 at the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma after a rally at the Supreme Court in Washington. In Washington they participated in a day-long conference at the University of D.C. August 6. The trip was part of the ongoing struggle undertaken by the Save Our Selves Movement for Justice and Democracy. “Every issue is a voting rights issue,” said Faya Toure, one of the coordinators.
The organization is part of a coalition that embraces human rights issues including health, immigration and women’s rights, Toure explained. The trek which took them to various sites in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia was one of several reminiscent of the Freedom Rides of the 1960s when civil rights activists rode interstate buses into the segregated south in 1961 and subsequent years to challenge the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.
The Selma group’s Freedom Ride for Voters Rights had the theme “Lift the Vote 2020”.
John Zippert, publisher of Alabama’s Greene County Democrat, said the group’s third freedom ride since the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 2015, demonstrates that the best way to commemorate the Voting Rights Act signing is to repeat initiatives that led to it.