Joanne Bland, who marched beside Martin Luther King Jr. at a time when the Civil Rights Movement still burned hot in the south, will speak about her lifelong struggle for racial equality Monday at Winona State University.
“I want people to feel empowerment,” said Bland, who will present “Hollywood’s Myths and Realities of the Civil Rights Movement” at 7 p.m. in Kryzsko Commons’ East Hall. “I want them to feel the same power to affect change that we did in the 1960s. They can do it now in 2017.”
Bland was 11 years old in 1965, when people in her hometown of Selma, Alabama, gathered in support of their right to vote and in defiance of those who sought to segregate black from white.
On March 7, what came to be known as Bloody Sunday, as many as 600 peaceful protesters began a turbulent march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, 50 miles to the east.
You have free articles remaining.
Joanne Bland is believed to have been the youngest among them.
“My grandmother was the leading force in getting us involved,” she said. “She kept saying how this wasn’t right and that wasn’t right, how one day things would change.“I grew up sitting at the feet of history-makers.”Several times she met King, who would go out of his way to talk with children, and would always given them peppermints before he left, she said.Far from a young bystander in the age of Jim Crow, Bland herself was arrested a documented 13 times by the time she was 11.Bland said the United States’ progress toward racial equal can be attributed to the dedication of those early protesters. A week after the marchers left Selma, President Lyndon Johnson presented a bill to Congress that would pass that summer as the Voting Rights Act.“We’ve come a long, long way in the United States,” she said.But that prideful reflection is balanced, Bland said, against the understanding that complete equality has not been achieved.
She cites the recent presidential election — the replacing of the country’s first African-American president with a man who once questioned that president’s citizenship — as evidence there is even more marching to do.
“Movements are like jigsaw puzzles,” she said. “Everybody has their piece. Mine is teaching the lessons of the past, so our children can see where we’ve been as a nation, and so they can learn from what we did right and what we did wrong.“As an African-American, this is nothing new,” she said. “Racism has always been there. What bothers me is the blatant racism, people with the nerve to treat me or talk to me however they want.”“They’re trying to turn back the clock. But I’m not going back.”