Wonderful as the idea of a 50th anniversary weekend commemorating Bloody Sunday seemed, the risk was that it would only be a look backward. Connections needed to be made with what is going on now, and they were. It was thrilling to be there, to take a long view back and remember the sacrifices of so many, sung and unsung. But Selma is a story of before and after—and now.
On March 7 1965, over 500 civil rights activists led by John Lewis and Hosea Williams embarked on a march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. The rally was part of broad nonviolence campaign to raise awareness and demand action to address ongoing deprivations of rights and liberties suffered by Black Americans. A contingent of Alabama State Troopers blocked the marchers outside Selma at Edmund Pettus Bridge and dispersed the activists with tear gas and clubs, hospitalizing dozens of people. Horrific images of the violence generated outrage across the nation and earned the brutality the label “Bloody Sunday.” Two weeks later, President Johnson addressed the nation, calling the march a “turning point in man’s unending search for freedom” and announced the introduction of a voting rights bill to Congress.
Late Tuesday night, after binge-watching as many episodes of “House of Cards” as time permitted, I hastily grabbed a blanket and as many pieces of warm clothes as I could, and I headed to the Supreme Court. I arrived just before midnight and took my place in line outside the Supreme Court building behind a couple dozen placeholders, a handful of concerned citizens, my coworker, and her boyfriend. We were all gathered there with the hope of getting a seat in the courtroom for the oral arguments of King v. Burwell, the case before the Supreme Court that could ultimately decide whether an estimated 7.5 million people across 34 states will continue to be able to afford health insurance from the tax credits they currently receive through the federal health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.