Judson Social Work professor reflects on Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee  | Judson College
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Judson Social Work professor reflects on Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee 

by Angela Dennison, Assistant Professor of Social Work

Judson students at the pre-march rally outside historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church

Judson students at the pre-march rally outside historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church

On Sunday, March 8, the Judson College Social Work department sponsored a trip to Selma for the 50th Anniversary commemoration of Bloody Sunday, a galvanizing event in the Civil Rights Movement. Each year many come from all over the world for Selma’s Annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee.  This year’s festival was particularly poignant as it marked 50 years since brave, non-violent protestors called attention to the urgent need for voting rights for African-Americans to be ensured.  These courageous “foot soldiers” were beaten back on Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but they could not be deterred, and the Selma to Montgomery March that happened weeks later became a hallmark of the struggle for civil rights in the United States.

The Bridge Crossing Jubilee celebrates that great accomplishment as participants walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with goodwill and a charge to never forget the need for justice for all in our society.  This 50th year, the crowd was especially large and festive.  Some 80,000+ were present, according to the Selma Times Journal.  Sixteen Judson women and I were among that great crowd celebrating and marching.

Left to right:  Y’tenna Howard, Angela Dennison, Anna Henderson, and Haley Pham

Left to right: Y’tenna Howard, Angela Dennison, Anna Henderson, and Haley Pham

When asked to reflect upon her experience being there, Y’tenna Howard, a junior social work major and Selma native wrote, “I’m ecstatic that I had the opportunity to participate in the 50th celebration of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a demonstration of what can happen if you protest peacefully. I saw people of all colors and diversity. It was great. When I wanted to stop marching because of all the people in attendance, I quickly thought about the hardship they endured in the 60s and knew then that I had to keep it moving. Crossing the bridge was an awesome feeling, and I’m glad I was a part of it. I definitely felt like I was a part of a cause greater than myself.”

Another junior social work major, Anna Henderson, said, “Being present for the 50th anniversary of the bridge crossing in Selma was definitely a time to remember. As I crossed the bridge I felt very thankful that all these people from different walks of life and around the country would come to this one little town to celebrate something so remarkable.  It was a beautiful thing to witness so many different people come together to remember and celebrate this great event. Once we were walking across the bridge, I was just enjoying the moment. We were definitely part of a social movement Sunday as we gathered in remembrance of the sacrifices made and also the victories won. It was a positive experience to be a part of such a historic event.”

Haley Pham, a senior social work major, said, “As I waited to cross the bridge with countless others, I reflected on the struggle of the generations of people who have come before us, and it amazed me that I had the opportunity to be a part of that history–a history created by hate, love, failures, and triumphs. We all stood together that day to commemorate the lives of people who stood against inequality and hate. When we began crossing the bridge, I was awestruck. I was following in the footsteps of movement makers; I was walking the road they took in the name of freedom.”

The trip to Selma capped a week full of significant remembrance at Judson of the Civil Rights Movement. The play JimmyLee, written and directed by Dr. Billie Jean Young, the College’s Artist in Residence, had completed a three-night run at Judson on Saturday night.  The play tells the story of events in Marion, including the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, that led to the Selma to Montgomery March.  Several of the Judson College cast members went on our Jubilee trip Sunday, and they led us in the Movement songs they had sung as a part of the play. This kept our spirits soaring and our feet marching.  It was truly a once in a lifetime experience for all at this significant 50th anniversary event.

Judson students on the way to the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Judson students on the way to the Edmund Pettus Bridge