Selma commemoration a testimonial to victory of struggle

Watching America’s first black President accompanied by the single living American who did the most for us to be able to have a black President (after all, it was Congressman John Lewis who organized and led the first march almost died from the beating) together in Selma was a testament to the honor and ultimate victory of struggle.

Seeing Congressman John Lewis introduce Barack Obama on the Edmund Pettus bridge was the vindication of what Isaiah said, is this not the fast that I have chosen to loose the bonds or as Jeremiah said Render justice every morning and deliver those who are oppressed from the power of their oppressor.

Even more important they both spoke to the necessity to continue, to not give up, to not grow weary.

Congressman Lewis said: “Push and pull till we redeem the soul of America. Build on the legacy of Selma. Don’t give up. Don’t get lost in a sea of despair. We are one people.”

President Obama asked a question that every person in America needs to hear right now: “What greater form of patriotism is this – that it is in our power to remake this nation according to our highest ideals?”

“America is not finished. Loving this country requires the occasional disruption, to speak up. Our work is never done. Pursuit of justice requires neither complacency nor despair.”

There was one very disappointing omission in his speech. To me, it was the elephant on the podium that was the second goal of the movement led by John Lewis, Dr. King, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Rev. James Orange and others–economic justice.

In President Obama’s litany of struggles for justice won throughout American history and struggles yet to be won and the courage of millions of Americans, he left out the ongoing struggle for economic justice, the chains of Wall St. yet to be loosened and broken, the pain of losing your home, of the treadmill of two poverty level jobs, the injustice of punishing workers who risk all they have for a voice at work and to give their kids a better life.

Yes, the President spoke of workers in the past tense organizing.

But today the struggle of the working class is as important as ever because democracy cannot survive the decimation of worker organizing and vibrant, strong worker organization.

The President was right when he said: “Americans who crossed that bridge gave courage to thousands.  Right now there are laws designed to keep people from voting.

“Honor the bridge by restoring the Voting Rights Act.”

I guess that is why the only recognizable Republican there was George Bush. The hypocrisy of leaders who are trying to dismantle what was won by the sacrifice and blood given 50 years ago was just a bridge too far for even today’s Republican Party.

In our fight to defeat the radical right, save democracy, and win more economic justice I will remember what President Obama said:

“What a glorious task we are given. We know the march is not yet over, the race not yet won. Change depends on what we do.”

Photo: AP


Stewart Acuff
Stewart Acuff

Stewart Acuff is Organizing Director of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees 1199 in Philadelphia.