"God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!" — The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
“What other people – besides Blacks – are asked to feel grateful for remaining in the same place economically, educationally and politically for 50 years?”
The Obama Administration and its Black mis-leadership class orchestrated elaborate kabuki theatre in the city of Selma, Alabama, this weekend. Fifty years ago on the Edmund Pettus Bridge the state of Alabama unleashed a reign of military terror against 500 unarmed African-Americans who were marching to demand the right to vote. Everyday men, women, farmers, teachers, domestic workers and preachers took destiny in their hands and marched across a bridge named after Edmund Winston Pettus—a former Confederate brigadier general and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. That stunning display of courage by common people was reduced to theatrics by the present day well-educated, well-heeled, politically connected Black mis-leadership class that owes its very existence to martyrs, such as 26 year-old Jimmy Lee Jackson, an unarmed Black veteran murdered by Selma police with impunity during an earlier attempt to cross the bridge.
Today’s political cowards—who have done nothing and risked nothing as the continual murders of blacks by police proliferate nationwide—dared to walk in the same space as heroes, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who risked, and gave, everything. They should have been ashamed to breathe the same air.
Unlike Jimmy Lee and others who marched across the bridge, present day politicians have the authority to press charges against police who occupy, harass, humiliate, suffocate, denigrate and murder black youth. The challenge of police brutality requires true leadership, not imitation. True courage. True moral character. Instead, Black Misleadership's roosters strutted their egos across Edmund Pettus Bridge and crowed about their accomplishments. Never mind the 60% majority of blacks in 2015 Selma whose conditions haven't changed in the last 50 years—and whose continued plight never made it into the soaring rhetoric or into the live streaming of the pomp and bombast.
Instead, Obama asked the Black community to be circumspect and reflective about the last 50 years. After all, he was now president, an indication of progress and improved conditions for Black people. And Congress, after all, has scores of black Congress members. Really?
“Selma is fossilized in poverty.”
Somehow the President, while basking in the glow of HIS moment on Pettus Bridge failed to recount the shooting just one day earlier of Tony Terrell Robinson, Jr., an unarmed 19 year old from Madison, Wisconsin, and a graduate of Sun Prairie High School. Robinson’s “inconvenient” murder, one day before Obama’s so-called equivalent of Dr. King's “I Have A Dream” speech did not fit well with the choreography of the moment. Robinson’s death, like so many others, was ignored. What other people —besides Blacks—are asked to feel grateful for remaining in the same place economically, educationally and politically for 50 years? The president likes to reminds us that conditions could be worse. Yet Selma, like so many cities across America, provided nearly 100% of the black vote to President Obama and never experienced the benefits of their sacrifice or the rewards for voting him into office.
Andrew Young, a lieutenant of Martin Luther King, Jr. who was among those marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 4, 1965, and leveraged his civil rights credentials into a lucrative financial empire, painted a dim picture:
"The people who received less benefit from the movement are the ones who did the most…That's always bothered me. ...The farmers who let us stay in their homes, who bonded us out of jail, are old guys now. They still own land but they can't make a living on the land."
While Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder look forward to untold wealth in their retirement from government service, Selma, like so many cities across the country, is fossilized in poverty. Selma is one of the poorest cities in a poor state. The typical Selma resident earns about $21,000 per year, and over 40 percent of its citizens live below the poverty line. Over 67% of its children live in poverty and go to bed hungry at night. Unemployment for African-Americans remains in double digits in Selma, as it is nationwide for Blacks, while the national unemployment rate for whites is between 4.7 and 5%.
“Selma sowed, but it did not reap.”
So why no protests? Why didn’t black folks come back to the bridge, one last time and drown out the political spectacle as Obama and the Black mis-leadership class proclaimed their success where blood flowed and flesh was ripped from bones?
Deborah Montgomery came to Selma from Minnesota as a 19-year-old college student to join the march from Selma to Montgomery and was among the hundreds attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She returned to Selma hoping to see the change that the President so eloquently described:
"Let me tell you something: Nothing's changed," Montgomery said. "I mean, the buildings are still the same. I mean, they're older and everything, but it's just so much like it was then. It's not like the city has redeveloped. It's still Selma." Selma’s first African-American mayor, James Perkins Jr., mirrored Montgomery’s sentiment. “Selma sowed, but it did not reap," says Perkins. "So many of the benefits that went to other places in the South and around the world since the Voting Act of 1965 did not come to Selma.”
The average Selma education level is lower than the Alabama state average—one of the lowest educational levels in the US. In other words, the Black youth of Selma exist to supply Black bodies for the “for profit” prison industrial complex.
~ Marsha Coleman-Adebayo serves as Director of Governmental Transparency and Accountability at the Green Shadow Cabinet