By Yvonne Platts
(Franconia Mennonite Conference/Mennonite Church USA)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of three significant events in the Civil Rights movement in the United States: The Voting Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting laws and practices; the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, part of the movement of rights for African-Americans; and “Bloody Sunday,” when marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the Alabama River and were attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas when they refused to turn back. Every year, marchers gather to commemorate the event and honor those civil rights demonstrators. Here, Yvonne Platts reflects on participating in this year’s march.
As a Servant who has been called a many of times to many of places, and most recently to take part in the civil rights legacy known as “Bloody Sunday,” I am always in awe at seeing God’s handiwork on display. The day of the march was a warm and sunny day, and our 10 buses from 10 different cities arrived well before noon for the rally and march that would start at 1 p.m. Right away, my spirit got swept up with joy as preparations were being completed. Vendors had their tables full of cultural and historical displays, charcoal was burning in the massive grills, and music was pumping through the air.
Yet I knew this was more than just a good time; 50 years later we can clearly see a continuing pattern of systemic injustice within our police departments, government laws and policies affecting voting rights of the poor, elderly and people of color. Going back to work Monday was not as usual: this experience has had a profound impact that has changed me forever.
I can longer be comfortable with the status quo, nor wait on the sidelines for someone else to step up. Now is the time! Change must come! The time is now! Reclaiming the best from our leaders in Selma who walked and were beaten and bloodied to secure voting rights will help us to organize, move forward and bring justice back to our urban communities.
I am on a personal campaign to register all the 18-year-old youth I come across in my community. To work alongside others to bring political awareness through identifying candidates who will truly work with us to create a beloved community and are worthy of our vote. To use my gifts and talents to lift spirits, encourage souls, and inspire minds to stand against injustice anywhere and everywhere.
Oh God our Father, continue to fill us with thy power to speak out and stand against injustices we see and face within our communities and areas of influence. Let us not miss out on opportunities to share your grace, show your love, and be a blessing to others. May we bold servants for your kingdom, fearlessly speaking the truth in love.
Yvonne Platts is minister of youth and community life at Nueva Vida Norristown (Pa.) New Life.
Marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Yvonne Platts)