In one of the most emotionally charged moments of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Saturday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) electrified the crowd with memories of Bloody Sunday in 1965 Selma, Ala. and issued a call-to-arms to fight back against the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the Voting Rights Act of key provisions.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote,” he said to rising cheers of respect. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”
The United States Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, invalidated the provision requiring Dixiecratic southern states to have their voting laws cleared by a federal court or the federal government.
This narrow-minded move clears the way for further disenfranchisement of Black and Brown voters.
“The vote is precious, it is almost sacred,” Lewis thundered. “It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a Democratic society. And we got to use it!”
Rep. Lewis is the only living organizer from the 1963 March on Washington. At the time, he was the 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). His words on Saturday mirrored his words at that historic event:
As it stands now, the voting section of this bill will not help the thousands of black people who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and Georgia, who are qualified to vote, but lack a sixth-grade education. “One man, one vote” is the African cry. It is ours too. It must be ours!
At the 1963 march, Lewis was the youngest speaker to take the podium. In a symbolic passing of the torch, 9-year-old Chicago community activist Asean Johnson became the youngest speaker at Saturday’s march.
One thing is clear, even at 73-years-old, Rep. Lewis has no plans on slowing down in his quest for economic freedom for Black Americans and all marginalized communities in this nation.
Watch Lewis’ full remarks below from the 50th Anniversary commemoration below:
(Photo: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is the only living organizer from the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis is shown left in 1963, and right at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Saturday, August 24th, 2013. NewsOne composite photo)