Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seemingly eclipsed all other news. If you have also been singularly focused on the conflict, I don’t blame you. It is, after all, an international conflict turned existential crisis, especially given Russia’s possession of nuclear weapons.
But it’s not the only existential crisis confronting the United States — and Americans can’t afford to think it is.
That’s why this year’s Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee — the annual, dayslong event honoring Black people’s bloody pursuit of voting rights — deserves far more attention than it received. Every year, people gather in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate "Bloody Sunday," the day civil rights marchers were attacked by police as they marched to Montgomery in the name of voting rights.
This year’s jubilee occurred amid the most fervent, widespread attack on voting rights since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Speakers included Vice President Kamala Harris, Democratic Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and several other activists and lawmakers.
Harris started her speech by acknowledging the fighters defending Ukraine, before drawing a connection between their struggle and the struggle for voting rights.
“Their bravery is a reminder that freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted,” she said. “By any of us.”
Sewell called on attendees to "reflect on the past but realize that we must rededicate ourselves to the future." She said: "'Bloody Sunday' was indeed a turning point in the fabric of American history, yet we know that progress is elusive. Old battles have become new again."
That theme — of a continuing pursuit of justice and equality — reared itself in virtually every speech. Buttigieg spoke of the historic inequities built into American infrastructure: the roads and bridges historically designed to bisect or circumvent Black neighborhoods. Cardona spoke of continued school segregation, the importance of Black and brown educators and the need to solve inequities in school funding.
The education secretary ended his speech by name-checking the late Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, Democratic Georgia representative and "Bloody Sunday" hero who was frequently referenced during the weekend’s events.
“There’s still work left to be done,” Cardona said, quoting Lewis. “Get out there and push and pull until we redeem the soul of the nation.”
As the jubilee demonstrated, that work continues — whether or not the world is watching.
Check out more pictures from the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge below: