Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 03/08/15

Guests: Cornell William Brooks, Judith Browne Dianis, Christina Greer,Janai Nelson, Dale Ho, Tori Wolfe-Sisson, Shante Wolfe-Sisson, Jeh Johnson,C.T. Vivian, Forrest Harris, Susannah Heschel, Jacqui Lewis, Julian Castro,Nancy Sewell

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day we want the world to know that we are presenting our feet and our bodies as living witnesses and testimonies to the truth as we see it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re watching today to dramatize to the nation and to the world that hundreds of thousands of Negro citizens are denied the right to vote. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the greatest moments that has ever occurred in the history of our nation. (END VIDEO CLIP) MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. My colleague and friend, Dorian Warren, is anchoring the MHP show table back in New York City. But here at Alabama this weekend, we`re marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma campaign, a civil rights strategy which ultimately led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Yesterday thousands gathered to witness another signal moment in American history, watching Congressman John Lewis, who`s very personal courage and sacrifice 50 years ago made possible the election of the he introduced, President Barack Obama. Both men spoke at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the passion, meaning and eloquence of their words moved many in the crowd to tears. It`s a reminder that history is not past, the struggle continues. In just a few hours, thousands are expected to march across that same bridge once again, taking up the on-going effort to ensure that American democracy is as real in practice as it is in principle. This morning, we`ll reflect on the president`s speech and look ahead to the reason for today`s march. I`ll be joined by some of those charged with extending the legacy of Selma, including the NAACP`s Cornell Brooks and the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro. Dorian, these are indeed ongoing struggles. DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC HOST: Indeed, Melissa, and as you mentioned, people from around the country are in Selma today to make the same journey activists took in 1965 when they were attacked, tear gassed and beaten by police and state troopers on Bloody Sunday. But today`s march is not just a tribute to those brave foot soldiers but also a call to action, a call to remember what they were marching for, voting rights, equality and full participation in American democracy. President Obama issued that call when he spoke in the shadow of history yesterday at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He paid tribute to the men and women who put their lives in the line and paved the way for the nation`s first black president while acknowledging that the struggle continues. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We just need to open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to know that this nation`s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over. We know the race is not yet won. We know that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged all of us by the content of our character requires admitting as much, facing up to the truth. (END VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: The president also spoke of the legacy of Bloody Sunday and how it forged the way for President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the cornerstones of the civil rights era. A cornerstone on shaky ground today, thanks to a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the formula used to determine which parts of the country need preclearance to change their voting procedures. Since then, several states have rushed to impose Voter I.D. Laws and other restrictions. The court instructed Congress to write a new formula, but so far neither the House nor Senate has held a vote on the VRA. President Obama urged the members of Congress who journeyed to Selma to take action when they return to Washington. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who are willing to die for the right to protect it. If we want to honor this day, let that 100 go back to Washington and gather 400 more and together pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year. That`s how we honor those on this bridge. (END VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: After the speech, the first family walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge joined by some of those President Obama honored in his remarks, but the president did much more than look back in his address, he also spoke to the next generation of activists following in their footsteps. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT OBAMA: And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most averse and educated generation in our history who the nation is waiting to follow because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person, because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word "we," we, the people. We shall overcome. Yes, we can. That word is owned by no one, it belongs to everyone. (END VIDEO CLIP) WARREN: Melissa, I am so eager to hear your reaction to this speech. HARRIS-PERRY: As am I eager to harry your reactions, Dorian. I`m here with Cornell William Brooks, who is president and CEO of the NAACP. He and I were just saying that this felt like a moment when the president who we remembered from a previous time re-emerged. He spoke back to critics this week and it felt like he really gestured towards the moment we were in, not just the history from where we come. CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT/CEO, NAACP: Absolutely. The president gave a speech that was not only soaringly eloquent, but seemingly honest. He spoke truth to power. He made the case for the voting rights act paid tribute to the heroines and heroes of yesteryear while issuing a generational call to young practitioners of democracy in Ferguson and Statin Island, all across the country, it was a powerful speech. HARRIS-PERRY: It truly was. One of my favorite parts, Dorian and Cornell, was the moment when he clearly was speaking back to that criticism that had come from former Mayor Rudy Giuliani about him maybe not loving America, and he talks about the value of critique. I thought it would be nice to listen to that again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT OBAMA: What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this? What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: Cornell, it feels to me like that value right there, the value of criticism as evidence of patriotism is one of the great gifts that African-American activism brings to the American story. It is in fact part of the NAACP story. BROOKS: Absolutely, because patriotism is a reflection of a love for country and a love such that you`re willing to not only criticize the nation but call the nation to its highest ideals, to be the country it was called to be, founded to be. Those patriots who are not willing to be self-critical demonstrate a lesser love of country. And the president demonstrated a profound love of country that reflects the values of people who shed their blood, sweat and tears on that bridge. He spoke to the country and he spoke to those critics who are willing to criticize him for being self-critical and self-reflective as they ignore injustice in our midst all the while calling themselves patriots. But they are in fact arm chair patriots, not the kind that we saw on that bridge. HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, Dorian, I want to go back to you on this in part because it did feel to me like my president just planted a big old shade tree over everybody who wanted to make the claim that wanted to offer a critique. He also seemed to have planted to a shade tree over those who claim that he never addresses race or racism because it felt to me like he very clearly got to that part in the said and he said, people have been asking me about race and here`s what I think. WARREN: He went right there, Melissa. I thought this speech was a speech that was from the president, but also from the organizer in him. He went right to the Ferguson report the Department of Justice released this past week. Basically made the argument that, on the one hand, racism is not over, we still have deep pockets of racial inequality and disparity. On the other hand things have changed and he has this line where he says ask anyone who was here and lived through Selma 50 years ago and ask them if they have changed and I think the answer is yes. He was trying to fight cynicism that exists today but it was also an organizer`s call to action. It was an organizer`s call to action. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and it`s an important point, Cornell, to say, look, I can acknowledge that this moment is not that moment and in fact it`s important to acknowledge it otherwise I disrespect those who loved through a more brutal time. I can do that without saying now everything is OK. BROOKS: That`s right. We don`t have to -- we don`t have to engage in nostalgia. We can be realistic about the president and the fact that the president paid both homage to the bravery of those patriots of yesteryear while at the same time saying we face challenges now, it dishonors Amelia Boynton at 100 years of age to say that we don`t have the challenges of this day. It dishonors her service or the service of Congressman John Lewis. So I believe the president was honest, but he was speaking not only to our foremothers and our forebearers, but also these young practitioners of democracy who on the streets all across the country standing with the NAACP, standing with other organizations, but really standing atop the American constitution and speaking to the conscience of the country. HARRIS-PERRY: And you`ve been standing with a lot of those young people. I`ve been very heartened talking about many organizers and activists from a previous era, many of whom are still doing work. I asked them about black lives matter and they said, you know what, I like what those young people are doing. They may not be to where we were, but I feel like they are where we were when we first started initiating, like the young people who sat down at the Woolworth counter. Is that what you think, this generation has the capacity to move us forward in some ways? BROOKS: Absolutely. The fact of the matter is these young people have mobile devices and cell phones and transform a moment in Ferguson into a national and global conversation on police brutality. But we have to take it a step further. With the Voting Rights Act imperilled, the NAACP is calling on a generation to engage on America`s journey for justice. From Selma, Alabama, to Washington, D.C. across Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and into the District of Columbia, 850 miles of direct actions and demonstrations. We`re saying, look, our forebearers did it then, you can do it now. But we`ve got to stand together in a multi-generational effort. HARRIS-PERRY: I love that he in that moment was multi-generational. Stay right there, everybody. The movement may not be -- the revolution may not be televised, but apparently it might be tweeted and this is a movement that has spanned generations and it remains undeterred. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WARREN: In recounting the success of the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned against complacency saying time itself can become the enemy of progress. He wrote, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle. The tireless exertions and passionate concerned of dedicated individuals. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action." And so even now, 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the struggle continues, for voting rights, for equality, for progress. Joining me now from Selma, Alabama, MSNBC reporter, Trymaine Lee -- Trymaine. TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: Good morning. Yesterday, when President Barack Obama stood at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge he said there was nothing more American than the protest march that took place 50 years ago. To commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Selma to Montgomery marches and Bloody Sunday, let`s look at how the seeds of that protest are manifesting today. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LEE (voice-over): Long before the protests in Ferguson, Missouri -- before young people by the thousands filled city streets marching under banners demanding that black lives matter, youth in the Deep South were fighting for voting rights, facing the violence and death. SHEYANN WEBB-CHRISTBURG, YOUNGEST "BLOODY SUNDAY" PROTESTER: I had made up my own mind that I wasn`t going to let nobody turn me around. LEE: Of the countless foot soldiers and unsung heroes from the 1965 voting rights campaign, some weren`t old enough to vote, let alone leave the house without permission. Sheyann Webb-Christburg was one of them. Known as Selma`s smallest freedom fighter, she was just 8 years old when she and hundreds of marchers were attacked by state troopers on Selma`s Edmund Pettus Bridge. CHRISTBURG: I saw hundreds of policemen with tear gas masks, state troopers on horses. I saw dogs, policemen with Billy clubs. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lord looked and saw me and said I want you to go and take the lead. LEE: Frederick Reese was a schoolteacher and co-founder of the Dallas County Voters League, organizing some of the first marches for voting rights in Selma. In his early 30s, Reese marched alongside some of the dynamic leaders, including Martin Luther King and John Lewis, who was 25. REVEREND F.D. REESE, ORGANIZE EARLY SELMA PROTESTS: When I think of that young man as that person who had come through many dangers, came through opportunities that had been denied many people. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By the time I was 15, I had been in jail nine times. LEE: Linda Blackman Lowry turned 15 on the journey from Selma to Montgomery, the youngest person to complete the entire march. LINDA BLACKMON-LOWERY, 15-YEAR-OLD SELAM TO MONTGOMERY PROTESTER: I parents couldn`t do it. They would lose their jobs so it was left up to me and the other children. LEE: Now a whole new generation has picked up where the foot soldiers of Selma left off, using the spirit of past struggles to fuel a new movement for equal justice. Alecha Irby, Brandy Hatton, Jack (inaudible) and Kylie Jones are part of the Freedom Foundation whose mission is to inspire and cultivate local youth. ALECHA IRBY, SELMA FREEDOM FOUNDATION: We`re really dealing with racial profiling. We`re also dealing with the removal of Section 5 in the voting rights act. LEE: Earlier this year, they laid down on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to protest the killing of an elderly black man by Selma police. BRANDI HATTON, SELMA FREEDOM FOUNDATION: We are really concerned about equality and the fact that there are still injustices that are occurring in our time now. LEE: Despite the passage of time, this new group of activists say their struggles are similar to those of their predecessors. Even the Pettus Bridge perhaps the most iconic symbol of the violent struggle for equal rights remains controversial. KYLIE JONES, SELMA FREEDOM FOUNDATION: The name on the bridge is still named after a KKK grand dragon. There`s still a memorial in our cemetery that memorializes and commemorates a man that killed 200 African-Americans during the civil war. If that stuff is still here and that means someone in this town still thinks that`s OK and that`s a problem. LEE: While the bones of history are buried throughout this town, the spear of so many who struggled, the ones so many heartfelt victories and suffered bloody losses lives in this new generation of freedom fighters and like their predecessors, this group is undeterred. JONES: The ones who came before us definitely laid some groundwork, but it`s not done yet. And so if we stop talking about it, we`re thinking that it`s over, but it`s not. (END VIDEOTAPE) LEE: That was just a glimpse at how the mantle is being passed to the next generation and folks are excited about taking that torch and passing it on. Back to you, Dorian. WARREN: MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee in Selma, Alabama, thank you. Joining us now for more on the continuing struggle is Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project live from Washington, D.C. Judy, good morning. JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, CO-DIRECTOR, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Hi. Good morning, Dorian. WARREN: Where do you see the gains of the civil rights movement most at risk today? DIANIS: Well, I mean, we`ve got a lot. One is, of course, the issue of voting rights. The Supreme Court in the Shelby County case really did take a dagger to the heart of the Voting Rights Act, so we are pushing for a new restoration of voting rights and we`re hoping that people won`t be hypocrites about going down to Selma and commemorating and not realizing that it is still hanging on by a thread. I think the other piece, of course, is that at the end of the day when we look at all of the activity and the movement and mobilization across the country, we haven`t finished the business of civil rights and racial justice in this country. That scathing report about the Ferguson Police Department just is pulling off one layer of the onion of how African-Americans continue to meet injustices every day in America and that it is systemic. So we have a lot of work to continue to get at structural racism and of course, there`s a movement that is building that is taking on these next issues. WARREN: So, Judy, you mentioned we haven`t finished the work of racial justice. Talk to us about some of the things that need to be done to guarantee full and fair access to the ballot in particular. DIANIS: Sure. Well, first, of course, there`s the restoration of the Voting Rights Act. We have to get something passed in Congress that makes sure that states like Alabama, for example, continue to be covered so that the Department of Justice has to preapprove changes. So we`ve got this Voting Rights Act piece. We also believe we need a constitutional amendment for the right to vote so that courts and politicians will stop manipulating and messing with our right to vote. You know, and then I think at every level throughout the country we have to have watchdogs for democracy. We have to have a strong voting rights movement where people understand that we have to protect our right to vote as much as we protect our free speech and freedom of religion. That this becomes -- it is sacred. What we saw yesterday was people marching across that bridge. What we`ve seen in the historical videotapes is that the right to vote is sacred and that we have to protect it at every turn. WARREN: So let me bring into this discussion Christina Greer, assistant professor of Political Science at Fordham University. Christina, I want to ask you, what are the other things? What`s the other body of work we need to do to advance racial justice in this country? CHRISTINA GREER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, I think going on with President Obama`s speech, we really need to make sure we get youth involved from a very young age, right. And part of that has to do with homes and communities, but part of that is the systemic problem where we need to make sure that educators understand this history and this legacy and that educators and people outside one`s family also recognize the daily injustices and indignities that so many African-Americans suffer every day. We know that there`s work being done, especially in the south. You`ve got project south, the Southern Peoples Movement across all 14 states. They`re putting together a multi-generation strategy to combat all these ills. But really helping people recognize, especially for African-Americans, that even though we have been fighting this very long road, right, as we collect other allies, right, because we know that immigrants are under attack, the LGBT community is under attack. Black people are under attack, Latinos are under attack, Asian-American communities are under attack, women`s reproductive rights are under attack. So if we can actually think about our allies then we can really start productive moving forward. WARREN: Christina, stay with me. I want to thank Judith Browne Dianis in Washington, D.C. Up next, we go back to Melissa in Selma. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right now in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened. It`s future subject to political rancor. How can that be? (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama here in Selma yesterday afternoon where he urged Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Here with me now are Dale Ho, director of the ACLU`s Voting Rights Project and Janine Nelson, who is the associate director counsel of the NAACP`s Legal Defense Fund. It`s so good to have you both with us today. Talk to me about what you heard from the president yesterday. Did he effectively make a case for why we need a strengthened Voting Rights Act? JANAI NELSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR-COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE: Absolutely. I think he situated this historical moment in the present day context. He said this is a movement that has spanned generations and yet still today we know there are rules and laws that are specifically intended to keep people from the polls. That`s unacceptable 50 years after Bloody Sunday, after people shed their blood, protested and laid their lives on the line to give us the democracy that we enjoy now. HARRIS-PERRY: Dale, help me to know what precisely needs to be in the new Section 4 that will pass muster with what the Supreme Court said, but will be sufficiently effective to do the work of preclearance. DALE HO, DIRECTOR, ACLU`S VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT: What the Supreme Court said was that the Section 4 provision can`t be based on events that happened decades in the past. So we need a provision that`s based on current record of discrimination in the states that are currently passing laws, making it harder for people to vote. So what`s been proposed in the Voting Rights Act amendment I think does exactly that, it`s an updated provision that`s based on recent events and rolls into the future. HARRIS-PERRY: How does that provision -- how is it different -- we heard from Reverend Barber yesterday that that has real holes in it. HO: Actually the Voting Rights Act amendment is what`s been proposed by Congressman Sensabaugh. HARRIS-PERRY: So Reverend Barber yesterday suggested to us that the holes existed because of the length of time and the kinds of communities and particularly the voter I.D. would not be part of it. NELSON: Yes, so one of the concerns among the civil rights advocates who want to ensure that there are greater protection is that some of the coverage jurisdictions, some of the states like Alabama that gave birth to the Voting Rights Act was not covered under the amendment, according to the practice -- the roll-in coverage formula that is articulated in the voting rights amendment act, but we need a hearing on the act. We need to know and test out these theories to see if they actually will have the impact that we hope they will. There`s also the issue of the carve-out of photo identification. That`s something we need to think more carefully about. That is obviously a law that is plaguing our communities. We are litigating a case in Texas where students are not able to use state issued I.D.s from that schools, but you can use a gun permit I.D. and there is a real disconnect there. So we do need to think more carefully about the photo I.D. provision, but there are other ways in which we can strengthen the act and hopefully bring it to the floor, and have a robust debate about it. We at least deserve that. HARRIS-PERRY: You know, as you`re talking, we can hear in the background there`s a jumbotron. We`re at the church where there will be a service later and I can hear the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King`s voice behind you even as you`re speaking. It`s just a reminder of how present this moment is in what we are talking about in terms of trying to preserve access to the ballot right now. HO: What`s so amazing about 50 years ago is that as a country we finally, I think, reached the consensus that everyone ought to be able to vote. Nine years ago this act was reauthorized 98-0 in the Senate, 330-33 in the House of Representatives. What`s changed in the last nine years that has suddenly made these out of date? HARRIS-PERRY: What has changed? I wonder. Thank you to Dale Ho and to Janai Nelson. Thank you guys for being here today. Still to come this morning, my interview with Congressman John Lewis and how the struggle for civil rights really does continue especially right here in Alabama. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: In February, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied Alabama`s request to extend a stay on the federal decision to strike down the state`s same-sex marriage ban. This action cleared the way for same-sex couples to marry in Alabama beginning on February 9th although 52 of Alabama`s 67 counties simply refused to process the necessary paperwork for marriage licenses, one Montgomery couple was the first to the altar. The 21-year-old Shonte Sisson and her partner, Tori, became the first same- sex couple to wed in Montgomery, Alabama, after camping outside the court house the night before. Their official marriage comes a year the commitment ceremony in 2014. While they can now enjoy the legal protection of marriage, not all Alabama couples are able to enjoy this basic civil right. On Tuesday, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses, stating that Alabama`s same-sex marriage ban still stands. And now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to begin hearing oral arguments about whether states are allowed to ban same-sex marriage on April 28th. This would allow the court to finally resolve this civil rights question, possibly by the end of June, wedding season. In the meantime, Shontae and Tori celebrating their marriage and their life together, and the Alabama newlyweds join me now. I am so happy to have the two of you with me today. You all had already undergone a commitment ceremony. TORI WOLFE-SISSON, FIRST SAME-SEX COUPLE TO MARRY IN MONTGOMERY, AL.: Yes. HARRIS-PERRY: Why was marriage important? SISSON: Because there`s no way for me to contact the hospital if something happens to her. There`s just a litany of duties and responsibilities of married couples that we just were not afforded with the commitment ceremony. HARRIS-PERRY: For me, when I first saw your pictures and the story about you, I think it was Buzzfeed maybe where I saw that, I ended up posting you guys to my Instagram on that day because I love the idea that in this moment in Alabama, where four little black girls were murdered in a church. Where the children, often African-American young women and girls marched across the bridge just a few blocks from here, that of course on the next part of the civil rights journey it would be us, who else would it be? But I guess I`m wondering about standing in that position of woman, of queer, of black, and of southern. How do you navigate those identities? SHANTE WOLFE-SISSON, FIRST SAME-SEX COUPLE TO MARRY IN MONTGOMERY, AL.: You can only navigate it wholeheartedly. Doing this work is very necessary to be intentional about being intersectional and the LGBT community. So being in this position we have the opportunity to represent the faces that are not at the table when we talk about rights for the gay community. HARRIS-PERRY: So it`s interesting because you framed that around the question of sort of bringing race into the question of LGBT activism. I guess I`m also wondering especially now empire has all of this language about sort of homophobia within the black community and also navigating these identities within civil rights struggles. TORI WOLFE-SISSON: Right. In some spaces we`re the only black and brown faces when we go, and it`s really important to notice that there are queer black women who are in the south. It`s important to notice that there are trans people who are not being noticed because of their complexion. So that`s one of the reasons that we`re here. HARRIS-PERRY: So that`s the big political stuff. Tell me a little bit about how the two of you met and how you fell in love. SHANTE WOLFE-SISSON: It`s your turn. Well, actually we met on the floor of our apartment. I came down to Tuskegee to visit my sister. My sister and her went to undergrad together. She was late to her own event and I didn`t think I would see her again. So I asked her a million and one questions about her being a vegetarian, about her waking up at 5:00 a.m. to meditate. She was really interesting. You don`t hear that a lot of our queer sisters of color. So that`s how we met. I didn`t think I was going to see her again, so about a month later I came back down to Tuskegee to homecoming and we happened to be at the same place at the same time and the rest is history. HARRIS-PERRY: And actually history. But let me ask, now that you know that the courts are once again pushing back, do you feel at all vulnerable, does that love story that has culminated in marriage feel vulnerable, that your own marriage might be invalidated? TORI WOLFE-SISSON: Absolutely. It`s entirely unfair that we were able to be legally married and there are so many people who weren`t, as of the other day, so it`s bittersweet. There`s no way for us to really be celebrating when there`s so many people who don`t have this opportunity. And also with a decision like the one that they made last week, that means that we don`t have any of those protection so it doesn`t even matter. SHANTE WOLFE-SISSON: It`s just like what`s a marriage license if I can`t go to the hospital -- HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you all have a beautiful love story, you are fantastic. We enjoy following you and will continue to do so and will follow the legacy of this law. Thank you to Shante and Tori Wolfe-Sisson. Still to come, my interview with Congressman John Lewis. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, and I`m here in Selma, Alabama. Sometimes when you stand in the middle of a commemoration of a civil rights moment, then amazing things happen. For me at this moment, I have this incredible guest I had not expected. Our new Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson joins us. Thank you so much for being here with us. SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I`m just a bystander in the street today. HARRIS-PERRY: So why are -- JOHNSON: Thank you for interviewing me. HARRIS-PERRY: Why are you in Selma? What is your Selma connection? JOHNSON: I wanted to be here for the anniversary, for this very special event. Fifty years from the first march, but my ancestors are from Selma, the Goodwins. My mother`s family were all from Selma. And in fact a person who I believe to be my great, great grandfather`s name is on the cornerstone of this church right here, R.M. Goodwins, original secretary of the structure. HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so for me as African-Americans in the U.S. context in the south in particular, knowing that our legacies exist here, that our histories exist here and there is so much ugliness associated with it but also so much resistance and so much culture and so much family and goodness, how do we connect those two things? We heard the president yesterday say to critique America is to be a true patriot. How do we connect those, to be honest about our full American story while we`re in the context of truly protecting our nation in an international context? JOHNSON: Big question. HARRIS-PERRY: You stopped by. JOHNSON: I know, I did, big question. So much happened here, so much is significant about Alabama to African-Americans in general. So many, many of us have our roots here in the south, in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina and elsewhere. Almost all of us can trace our heritage to places like this. At the same time, this is history. And so it was total coincidence seven years ago, eight years ago when my sister and I and my wife and my kids and my parents were taking an RV trip through the south. We wanted to find our Goodwin ancestors. And so we looked around town, we went to the colored cemetery, couldn`t find anything. Then we stopped here to look at the monuments to the civil rights era and there we found a Goodwin right here on the cornerstone. It was remarkable. And so this -- I connect with this town in a number of different ways that you`ve kind of just spelled out. It`s a family connection, it`s history, and it reflects a determination to continue toward a more perfect union. So I`m happy to be here for all of the above reasons. HARRIS-PERRY: I have a policy question I want to ask you. Does robust immigration reform make our nation safer or more dangerous? JOHNSON: Safer. Let me tell you why. Robust immigration reform means strengthening border security, but immigration reform in the president`s view and in my view also means dealing with the approximately 11 million undocumented who are in this country who are not going anywhere, who are not going to be -- most of them have been here more than ten years and have become integrated members of society. So what the president believes and what I believe is that those who are here, who have been here, who have kids who are citizens, lawful permanent residents who have committed no serious crimes, we ought to encourage those people to come out of the shadows so we know who they are from a law enforcement perspective. So that law enforcement, local law enforcement in the communities in which they live know who they are, so that these people can be encouraged to report crime and be participants in our society and not live in the shadows. So from a public safety homeland security perspective, it`s good to encourage these people to come out of the shadows, and that`s what we`re trying to do. HARRIS-PERRY: Secretary, I am just so flattered and pleased that you stopped by to chat with us and with our audience this morning. Thank you. Thank you for being here. JOHNSON: Have a good day. HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. Up next, much more live from Selma, 50 years after the Selma campaign that led to the voting rights act. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: When the Selma to Montgomery marches took place in 1965, movement leaders had already spent years strategizing and working in southern cities. Many of the leaders who attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday were in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 orchestrating a sit-in campaign to desegregate lunch counters and strategizing the freedom rides that would begin a year later. The city of Nashville is home to not only a history of activism and courage that defines our nation, but also to an institution that shaped many of those leaders, the American Baptist College. Its noteworthy alums include the late Reverend James Bevel and the living, of course, Congressman John Lewis. Along with our next two guests, the Reverend C.T. Vivian, an extraordinary leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a Nashville freedom writer and Dr. Forrest E. Harris, the president of American Baptist College. Thank you both for being here. Mr. Vivian, it is such a pleasure to stand here with you. Yesterday you had the opportunity to hear the president reflect on 50 years. What did you make of his address? REVEREND DR. C.T. VIVIAN, CHAIRMAN, SOUTHERN ORGANIZING COMMITTEE EDUCATION FUND: I think it was just right. He has never been better, but he is always excellent. Whether he`s in the United States or whether he`s in Europe, right. He always has so much sense and he is not politicking, like most politicians do, right. He`s above that. HARRIS-PERRY: When he spoke yesterday for me, part of what I heard was a particular structure that sounds to me very much like the structure of a black sermon. Sometimes the president uses that structure, sometimes he doesn`t, but I heard him use it the way he laid out the points. That`s part of why I wanted to have you all here today is that idea that institutions are part of it. We talk about the big personalities that John Lewis`s we talk about the moments in history. But the institutions matter. What do we not know about ABT that we need to know? REVEREND DR. FORREST HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN BAPTIST COLLEGE: American Baptist College was that place where John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, James Bevil all came in the embryonic stages of development, but with a hunger and passion for justice. Our school, American Baptist College, was right there to help match that passion with education. It caught fire and when Martin Luther King Jr., the sit-in movements at Nashville all came together, they were ready to speak into that moment of history because that school was there, and it`s still there as a school who trains social justice leaders. It`s important that we come to understand that historical black colleges have been those kinds of colleges that incubated and took our young people and nurtured them into leadership. American Baptist Church has the singular characteristic in this nation that`s cultivating people like C.T. Vivian, John Lewis and James Bevel. I`m proud to be president of that institution. HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me one second because I want to listen to the president doing a bit of an invocation, a biblical reference point, something he also did in Selma when he spoke in 2007. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT OBAMA: When it feels the road`s too hard, when the torch we`ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travels and draw strength from their example and hold firmly to the words of the Prophet Isaiah, those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: When you can hear the crowd responding to that because we know that verse. And I thought he tapped into what it was and what it is that faith does in a social movement. VIVIAN: I think you`ve got to also see that this man went to church every Sunday, all right, for some 20 years. Church wasn`t just a political front for him, all right. It was in fact the stuff of life. And this is why our -- you notice all of our leaders across the years with the exception of one really, really made church his number one -- their number one concern. Not only that, that`s who they had to talk to, right, and which they then learned to preach to as well because the bible has been the basic understanding of who we are and what we know and what we want to obey. HARRIS-PERRY: That faith gives us courage and those HBCUs, which are vulnerable and under attack give us the institutions to make that faith into movement. Thank you to the Reverend Dr. C.T. Vivian and to the Reverend Dr.Forrest Harris. Still to come, we have so much more to get to this morning as we continue our special edition of MHP, live from Selma, Alabama. We`re going to take you inside the home where Dr. King stayed during his time in Selma and we`ll introduce you to the woman who was just a young girl when her family hosted Uncle Martin. Plus we have the Secretary of Housing And Urban Development, Julian Castro, and my interview with Congressman John Lewis. It`s all coming up in our next hour. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) WARREN: Welcome back. I`m Dorian Warren in New York. Melissa is in Selma, Alabama, this morning outside the Brown Chapel AME Church, the staging ground for today`s events. Later today thousands of demonstrators will march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in what will be a commemoration of the history-making march, what became known as Bloody Sunday 50 years ago. So too will today`s march be a modern call to action to ensure that the right to vote remains an unobstructed right for all Americans, that Congress takes action to rework the voting rights act of 1965 after the Supreme Court struck down the essential section four of that act just less than two years ago. We have a lot to get to this hour and we are going to start by going to Melissa in Selma. Melissa, I understand you had a moment to speak with Congressman John Lewis as he left Brown Memorial AME Church yesterday? HARRIS-PERRY: Dorian, I did. And like some of the amazing moments we`ve been having already this morning, it was extraordinary to stand with Congressman Lewis and to bear witness to the very personal moments of reflection he had as he marked this sober 50-year-old memory of Bloody Sunday. In 1965 John Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees SNCC. He was on the front lines leading the protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And Lewis endured some of the most brutal attacks by the Alabama state troopers. The archival footage of the brutality he endured is iconic. But John Lewis is no frozen icon stock in a sepia tone photo. Lewis remains a vibrant, passionate, and effective advocate for equality and yesterday I had a chance to speak with Congressman Lewis. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: People tried to keep us from voting, keep us from registering, so we felt it must be important, it must be powerful. And I think we all concluded that to vote is precious. Almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent instrument or tool we have in our democratic society. And we wanted to use it. We wanted to be able to have some sense, some control over our own destiny. HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes when we talk about courage, we talk about courage as though there is no fear. As you, as the other protesters, as you marched in that orderly, nonviolent fashion across that bridge and faced those police officers, were you afraid? LEWIS: I was not afraid. Growing up, I saw the signs, I didn`t like the signs. I was inspired by Rosa Parks. I lost all sense of fear. On that day and days earlier, I was prepared to die for what I believed in. Someone, someplace, at some time had to stand up and say we`re not afraid. You may jail us, you may beat us, you may kill us, but we`re not going to give up and we`re not going to turn around. HARRIS-PERRY: My last question, do you feel personal affront at what has happened to the voting rights act at this point? Do your colleagues owe it to you personally to pass a new section four formula? LEWIS: Well, I tell you, when the Supreme Court made the decision to gut the heart, to stab the voting rights act in the heart, I felt like crying. But I couldn`t cry. I made up my mind to do whatever I could to try to get my colleagues to come together to fix the decision of the United States Supreme Court, and we will fix it. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: The brutality endured by the brave foot soldiers on Bloody Sunday is not the end of the story. American lawmakers did not simply see the violence and begin drafting a voting rights act. Far more strategy was necessary to culminate in the final triumphant days of a long march when Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands into Montgomery. Part of that strategy occurred when following the violence on the bridge, Dr. King issued a national call that read in part that people of Selma will struggle on for the soul of the nation, but it is fitting that all Americans help to bear the burden. I call, therefore, on clergy of all faiths, representatives of every part of the country to join me in Selma for a ministers` march to Montgomery. And come they did. Pastors, priests, nuns and rabbis, black and white, from all over the country. But the march they had come for did not continue to Montgomery. The group crossed the bridge, knelt in prayer and then turned around to head back to Selma. In a moment now known as turn-around Tuesday. But even though they turned around on that bridge, those willing allies from across the country were critically important to the larger strategy of the movement. Together this multi-racial, interfaith group standing together in the Jim Crow south dramatized that voting rights are an issue for every American. Some, like Unitarian Minister James Reed, who was attacked and killed by a racist mob the night after the march, even gave their lives to the effort. A diverse group of religious leaders participated in the final march from Selma into Montgomery, and the man second from the right in an iconic image with Dr. King there is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a close confidant of King`s. He would later write about the march. "For many of us, the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling, and yet our legs uttered songs, even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying." And I am pleased to be joined by the Rabbi Heschel`s daughter this morning, Susannah Heschel. Also with us is the Reverend Dr. Jacquie Lewis Sr., minister of the Middle Collegiate Church, collegiate church in New York. Susannah, to stand here with you, I feel your father`s presence with us. SUSANNAH HESCHEL, FATHER MARCHED WITH DR. KING: Thank you. HARRIS-PERRY: Whenever I say Rabbi Abraham Heschel to people who know the movement they immediately think that is the story that we have to continue to tell. That it was a movement of all faiths and people. HESCHEL: Yes, it was. My father felt very deeply moved by the chance to be here. He felt that the march had an experience of holiness for him. As you said, he felt his legs were praying. That was extraordinary. But I think also Selma did something for the Jewish people. It affirmed the prophetic Judaism. So we came here to Selma now to celebrate and to say thank you to the civil rights movement because you saved our souls as Jews, you gave us back our Judaism in many ways. The Heschel Judaism. HARRIS-PERRY: That notion of a prophetic religious practice, I heard the President echo what is a long tradition within African-American largely Christian Protestant tradition as well but it is not exclusively there. And we heard it yesterday, in fact calling often on Old Testament text, on the Hebrew texts that are shared in these faiths. Tell me what faith can do right now that would be not divisive but instead uniting in building social movement. REV. JACQUI LEWIS, SENIOR MINISTER, MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH: One of the things we can do, Melissa, is to tell the story. This story continues, the call to interreligious, interfaith relationship in the movement is happening right now. My friend Stash Cutler pulled together a coalition of Jews and Christians and Muslims and Unitarian Universalists in which you are one to gather together in Washington, D.C. We went to the Linkhorn (ph) Congress building and we did a die-in right in the middle of that room. As we lay on the cold floor in that cafeteria with our bodies intertwined, and our hearts felting with same clause, our legs had in fact prayed. Our legs had sung songs. And we`re saying ain`t going to let nobody turn us around. We need to just continue to believe that this movement is interreligious, intergenerational and it is happening right now. HARRIS-PERRY: And yet there is a real challenge to that. Just this week we had the Congressional Black Caucus lead a walkout to choose not to be present when the prime minister of Israel spoke before the Congress. Which is a political moment, a political and a partisan, but I thought, oh, is this a fraying of this long relationship between Jewish and black communities. Is this an indication that it needs to be actively rebuilt? LEWIS: I think it`s -- I think it`s an indication of work to do, but I don`t think it`s the end of the story. I think there are many pockets and places where it`s not just Jews and blacks working together but it`s Jews and blacks and whites and Latinos and Asians and Muslims. A young woman named Yasmina, an activist in the Ferguson movement in D.C., is pushing and shoving for white relationship among folks and working on justice. So it`s just a piece of the story but more or less the Universalists it is still bending towards justice -- Melissa. HARRIS-PERRY: What would your father say on this day? HESCHEL: Prime Minister Netanyahu was wrong to say that he represents all Jews, he doesn`t. My father would say of course we need alliances. As he said, God is either the creator of all human beings or of no one. We can`t accomplish anything by ourselves. We are together in this, and President Obama echoed that yesterday when he said the important word is "we." LEWIS: Every person of faith. Right? Every person of faith. HARRIS-PERRY: My favorite moment in the speech was him saying, but the most important word in the American story is we. We, the people. Yes, we can. Right? That in fact it is about what we collectively do. LEWIS: The leadership is dispersed. It`s young people everywhere, it`s adults everywhere. It`s not just clergy, it certainly not just prime ministers and our national leaders. It`s every human being. HESCHEL: And did you see everybody got up and cheered when he started quoting the prophets, when he started quoting -- President Obama everybody and preaching President Obama because faith is so important. Because we want to be inspired. It`s not just about politics and strategy. We need inspiration and that`s the great of the civil rights movement. And that`s his gift to us. HARRIS-PERRY: He spoke of the Joshua generation when he was here previously and quoted Isaiah. There`s something about this places that does that to him. Thank you to Susannah Heschel and to the Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis. Up next, when we talk civil rights, we`re going to have to talk about housing. And the secretary of housing and urban development, new dad of a new baby, Julian Castro, joins me live. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: In June, 2014, the Atlantic magazine published a provocative cover declaring the case for reparations. Now, this case was eloquently argued by Panahasi quotes and rested on evidence drawn from the nation`s long history of residential housing discrimination. Because while the American landscape is no longer marred with whites-only signs and black electoral influence is evidence from the White House to local city councils, housing segregation remains largely unchanged and housing affects every area of life, from schools to jobs, even to the quality of the air we breathe. The battle for fair housing occupied much of Martin Luther King Jr.`s final years, and shortly after King was assassinated in 1968, Congress passed and President Johnson signed the fair housing act, legally barring discrimination in housing. The agency charged with enforcing that law is HUD, Housing and Urban Development. And I`m pleased to be here with the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro. So nice to have you this morning. JULIAN CASTRO, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT SECRETARY: So good to be here. HARRIS-PERRY: Very good to have you. So, I know that you were here in Selma on Friday and actually took a walk around some of the public housing projects we`re standing near now. CASTRO: I did. I actually had a chance to visit three public housing communities, including the George Washington carver homes that are right here. These homes are about 63 years old and so I had a chance to listen to some of the residents and hear from their perspective what they need and to see the conditions and the housing. Today we have about $26 billion in backlog public housing needs in terms of infrastructure investment, and so there`s a real need in our nation to recommit ourselves to ensuring that there are affordable housing opportunities, whether it`s public housing or in the private market, in big cities and in small cities in the United States. HARRIS-PERRY: You know, if I was not so cold, I would maybe turn a cartwheel to hear a secretary of HUD invoke public housing and housing for low income people. I think there was a moment when it became such a kind of flash point, as though housing for poor people was inherently crime ridden and bad rather than a place to help families living in poverty and tough circumstances. CASTRO: Oh, it`s amazing when -- and we`ve started to do some of this research. When you think about all of the folks who are now great success stories in the United States that have come out of public housing, the CEO of Xerox and a whole host of entertainers, business people, people who are in public office, public housing has served really as a hand up out of poverty. And I think that it`s incumbent upon this generation to make the same kind of commitment and also to be creative with how we fund that. For instance, one of the things that we`re proud of now is something that we call rental assistance demonstration that involves private financing to help finance improvements to public housing and that`s making about 185,000 units of housing repair available across the United States. So, you know, it`s relying on what we have, the resources that we have here, but then also trying to be creative to stretch those resources. HARRIS-PERRY: When you talk about creativity, I think about the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did take up housing segregation in particular in Chicago, in northern cities. It was part of how he moved a southern civil rights movement into a kind of broader national movement. And yet it has remained so sticky. It has proved more difficult even than -- as difficult and as much blood as was shed in the context of getting the vote and bringing down those colored and white signs, man, housing has been tough. What kinds of creative new tools start to expand the opportunities for equal housing? CASTRO: One of the big missions at HUD, because we have a fair housing office that is very robust, is to ensure that there`s a level playing field. For instance, we know today that African-Americans and Hispanics are shown 10 percent fewer rental properties when they go out there into the market, and so we have testers that go out. We work with nonprofits that try and uncover discrimination where it exists and then ensure that there are consequences for that. But beyond that, one of the things that that article that you mentioned talked about was the history of the FHA. And the FHA in its history used to play a role of in some ways furthering that kind of segregation. Today we`re trying to do the reverse and open up opportunity. So for African-American home buyers, for instance, 47 percent of the mortgages go through FHA insured loans. HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Something is happening here. CASTRO: Yes. I feel like I`m on the red carpet. HARRIS-PERRY: You and I were talking and there is something -- CASTRO: The academy award or something. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I wanted to acknowledge and it`s Reverend Al Sharpton, is my colleague, has this crowd revved up, which I love. That is fantastic. All right. I wanted to ask you your Selma story. CASTRO: Yes. HARRIS-PERRY: So, hold on in a second. But what I meant to do is listen for a moment to the President talking about how Selma inspired many communities and then ask you about how that might resonate with your own experiences. Let`s listen for a moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It`s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande. The same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust status quo. The same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the moon. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: So now we are in the middle of also a concert. It is getting exciting here. But I wanted to ask how this moment is part of a longer struggle that is certainly about black folks but not exclusively about black folks. CASTRO: That`s right. First, I told the President after the speech very briefly that I thought that was the best speech he had ever given as president, very inspiring. And one of the points that he made was the sacrifices that were made here in Selma, the work of the activists here really opened doors for everyone in the United States, for a more just nation. So, my parents were involved in the old Chicano movement in the late 1960s and early 70s, the Mexican-Americans civil rights movement. And they were inspired by folks here in Selma and the civil rights movement more broadly. It just had a ripple effect of folks trying to ensure that America could lead up to its best ideals and words in the founding documents. And that continues today and the President said it very beautifully yesterday. HARRIS-PERRY: Might we see you on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate next fall? CASTRO: I`m trying to do a great job at HUD. I doubt it. HARRIS-PERRY: That wasn`t a no. Okay. Thank you to HUD Secretary Julian Castro. And up next, they may be the most dynamic mother-daughter team in all of Selma. Let`s take a listen as we go out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: You`re listening to the service getting under way here in Selma, Alabama. This is, of course, the continuing celebration marking and of course renewal of a movement here in Selma. And on January 9th, the academy award-winning film "Selma" opened here in Selma, Alabama. And it might not seem like a big deal for a film to open on its national premier night, but at the moment, Selma, Alabama, had no working movie theater. Getting the movie opened required some serious political and economic effort. And that effort was spearheaded by the city`s Congressional Representative Terry Sewell. The first African-American woman to ever serve an Alabama Congressional delegation. This week, Roll Call reported that Congresswoman Sewell was acting on a very clear directive from the woman Sewell calls the real congresswoman from Selma. Representative Terri Sewell`s mother Nancy Sewell, who reportedly told her daughter, quote, "My congresswoman is not worth her salt if she cannot get Selma on the day it opens nationwide to play in Selma, Alabama." Nancy Sewell was the first African-American woman elected to city council in 1993. She served for 11 years and continues to have significant influence. I am pleased to say that both Congresswoman Sewell and Nancy Sewell are here with me today. Thank you both for being here. NANCY SEWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN ON SELMA CITY COUNCIL: Thank you so much, Melissa. REP. TERRI SEWELL (D), ALABAMA: Thank you, kindly, for coming. HARRIS-PERRY: And this is your home church. TERRI SEWELL: Yes, it is. Brown chapel, historic Brown Chapel AME Church. HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to begin by asking you about yesterday. Congresswoman, while you were there sitting with the president, the President made reference to the voting rights act and you stood and applauded. Why? TERRI SEWELL: Because it`s so important that we remember the real legacy that we can leave behind for these wonderful foot soldiers who have the courage to march is not only do we need to commemorate them, but we also need to remember the voting rights act was the ultimate thing that they were marching for. And it`s under our salt, renewed our salt by photo I.D. laws that are in lots of states. But I think the most important thing that I was hoping with all those members of Congress and all those presidents is that we`ll come back with a renewed sense of purpose as members of Congress remembering why it was the voting rights act was so important. And it was republicans and democrats. I have to remind my republican colleagues that it was Senator Dirksen, who really, a republican, who really helped make that a reality, because, you know, the other member -- the democratic members wanted it, so it was really interesting. HARRIS-PERRY: A major theme of the President`s yesterday was this issue of intergenerational struggle. And I wonder how that is manifest in your household, in the relationship between you and your daughter? SEWELL: You have to know from whence you come with a projection for the future. And so many of our younger people do not realize on whose shoulders they are standing and why those soldiers were standing. And you have to help them connect the dots. And you do that forever by teaching them their history, the real history of the struggle. And so having said that, it is so important that the older generation works side by side with the younger generation. HARRIS-PERRY: But I love what you said there. I think in part because we can get into a place where we just say oh, those young people don`t know, they don`t know any better. NANCY SEWELL: But it`s your -- it`s our responsibility, the Moses generation, is to teach them and lead -- teach and show them the way. Set an example, that is true. HARRIS-PERRY: In this moment as we look back and then as we are trying to address these questions right now, at the core of the Selma moment is not only the political, but the economic. TERRI SEWELL: Absolutely. HARRIS-PERRY: The issue of economic development and poverty in this community. Does the political matter if the economic isn`t there? What are the connection between them? TERRI SEWELL: You know, I think that`s really the next wave. We have had our two mayors that have been African-American here in Selma, and I`m now the member of Congress from Selma. I have to pinch myself sometimes because it`s this community that nurtured me and made me who I am. And I know that we lack economic prosperity in our district, and my challenge every day is to help provide those resources and opportunities so that another generation of Selma youth can reach their full potential. HARRIS-PERRY: I love that when you say you`re the congresswoman, you still say it as though you`re a little bit surprised. TERRI SEWELL: I am. HARRIS-PERRY: That that is true. And to see the two of you together in this moment is a reminder that that happens because of community, because of family, and then to talk to both of you while this music is playing is also a reminder of the ways in which faith plays into that entire possibility. Thank you so much, the Sewells, for being here with us. Thank you to Congresswoman Terri Sewell and to Nancy Sewell. Up next, we`re going to take you inside the house that became a safe haven in Selma for Dr. King. Also still to come, the woman who took a stand by refusing to give up her seat, and she did it before Rosa Parks. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Selma 50 years ago, he stayed in the home of his long-time friends, Dr. Sullivan and Richie Jean Jackson. Now, the house speak in the headquarters of the STLC`s (ph) Selma campaign with leaders convening in the kitchen and dining room to strategize. King wrote sermons in the turquoise bedroom with the gold duvet and King regularly used their rotary phone to speak with President Johnson. It was on their living room television that King watched the President announce the voting rights act. The Jackson house has been preserved and turned into a museum, run by daughter, Juwana, who was just five-years-old when her uncle Martin came to stay at her family`s home. And Miss Jawana Jackson joins me now. Thank you for being here. JAWANA JACKSON, FAMILY HOME WAS HEADQUARTERS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS: Thank you for having me. HARRIS-PERRY: What is your memory of the man we know as Martin Luther King Jr. but who you as a little girl knew as Uncle Martin? JACKSON: Uncle Martin to me was a man that took time with a 5-year-old little girl to make sure that I always knew how special I was and how important it was to feel the moment and also how important it was to understand what was going on in my hometown. This town was a movement, it was a social movement for change that would benefit me and so many other Americans. HARRIS-PERRY: So King having been a family friend and staying there ends up being the thing that sort of focuses attention here. But what I want to dig in with a little bit with you is that what King did was to arrive where there was already a movement being built, into a home where there was already organization growing. Does the preservation of the home as a museum help to do that, to keep King in the story but also to refocus it on the broader community? JACKSON: You know, the Jackson home has been in my family since 1912. It has a huge history of supporting a community that supported a nation. The ability now for me to open up this home gives the public a unique opportunity to see a special place that not only sheltered a movement, but it was a place that cultivated a community spirit, where all people are welcome and that is the American dream. HARRIS-PERRY: So often we think of homeownership and the context of the American dream as a very private one. I will get my home for me and for my children. But what you just described is not only a home for your home and for your family and children, but that it would be a space for community. Have we lost that part of the story of homeownership and of the American dream? JACKSON: You know, home is where the heart is. The Jackson home, every piece of that House has a special memory. It was -- it was the place that nurtured Martin Luther King Jr., that nurtured the dream. If I did not allow and take this time to open that home to this nation for future generations to see where we`ve come from and where we`ve got to go, that is the quest I now have of the Jackson home. HARRIS-PERRY: I want to also bring in friend and colleague, Dorian Warren, who is back in New York. And bring you all in on this conversation. WARREN: Melissa, thanks. And I want to bring back in Fordham Professor Christina Greer. And Christina, I want to ask you, as we look ahead to the thousands who will march today across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, talk to us about the importance of historical continuity. This is, of course, an annual march, but it`s the 50th anniversary and it obviously is getting a lot of attention. Why continue to do this march every year? GREER: Well, I think it`s because for many black people across this country, every Sunday is Bloody Sunday. And it is very important that we recognize the 50th anniversary. However, on a day-to-day basis, so many black communities are experiencing brutality, indignity, racism, injustice, on a wide scale, not just with voting rights, but just in their daily interactions. And so, yes, it`s wonderful that so many people have come to Selma, from across the globe, I`m sure, but as, you know, for politicians to really hammer home how important the voting rights act is, but we need to keep marching and make sure that this isn`t just a once-a-year thing. I mean, we know that, you know, I believe Reverend Glasgow in Alabama from the ordinary people society, has been doing a lot of this work on a daily basis, right? This isn`t just a celebrity cause for him or for many of the people who were down there. So I think we have to recognize that`s the key piece, to really understand our history, not just as black people, right? This isn`t black people`s history, this is America`s history. This is American history. These heroes are America`s history. These villains are America`s villains. Those are the original domestic terrorists, right? So those are the people we need to recognize. Those are the movements that we have to go beyond so that we can actually have real healing, substantive healing. Right? We know that racism still exists, but racism has racists, conscious and subconscious, right? Active and passive. So, if we`re going to actually move forward as a nation`s collective history, we have to recognize it, have some sort of self-reflection as the President talked about, that real patriotism is self-reflection so then we can actually move forward in this "we" society that the framers actually laid out. WARREN: Self-reflection, self-criticism and a call to action to move us forward towards a full democracy. Christina, thank you. And there in Selma, thanks to Jawana Jackson. More with Melissa live from Selma coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday afternoon Joy Reid and I were walking together in Selma, Alabama, when we met a local family. The sisters and brother were all teenagers during the Selma campaign of 1965 and all were foot soldiers of the movement. They defied protective teachers and parents and chose to take part in demonstrations, risking arrest and violence. I asked one sister why she risked so much to participate in the movement and she told me that living under Jim Crow was a daily assault on the self. When she realized that she could be a part of changing it, she could not sit on the sidelines. That same spirit motivated another teenager, a decade before Selma in 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to move for a white person on a Montgomery city bus. She was hauled off the bus and arrested. Colvin has been studying -- had been studying Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth in school that month and inspired by their courage, she chose to take a stand by refusing to give up her seat. She became part of the basis for the Supreme Court decision that overturned bus segregation across the entire state of Alabama. Claudette Colvin joins me now. I am so pleased to have you with us. Thank you for having me. HARRIS-PERRY: What does Selma mean for you? Your work was in Montgomery, but what does Selma mean for you? CLAUDETTE COLVIN, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: Oh, Selma means that we can come here and reflect on all the progress that we have made in civil rights and the laws that we have changed. HARRIS-PERRY: You were 15 years old when you made a decision not to give up your seat. What inspired you to do that? COLVIN: All the injustices that was perpetrated on the black community at that time. HARRIS-PERRY: Is there something specific about the experience of being young people, being teenagers, that makes you willing to risk so much? COLVIN: I was willing to risk a lot because so many things was unfair. One of my classmates was on death row supposedly being a serial rapist, his name was Jerry Mirece and he was later executed in 1958. HARRIS-PERRY: That sense of injustice holds me one moment. I want to bring in my colleague in New York, Dorian Warren, and ask you, Dorian, if you also want to weigh in or Christina Greer there on this question of how young people have been particularly relevant for social movement. WARREN: And Melissa, that was one of my questions actually to Miss Colvin is just the role -- I know she must have been fearful that day as she gave up her seat at 15. What can she teach our young people today who are fighting in the Black Lives Matter Movement and other movements around this country. What inspired her to overcome that fear to take such action, courageous action of civil disobedience? HARRIS-PERRY: What inspired you to take that action? COLVIN: Oh, I just felt that it was wrong and my parents and my instructors and the elder people before talked about all the injustices and how we had been mistreated ever since we`d come from Africa. HARRIS-PERRY: Have you ever wondered why your name hasn`t been more connected with the civil rights movement in the way that, for example, Rosa Parks has been? COLVIN: I understood it. I understood that they had to select someone who would be representative of all classes and adult, I understood that. But what I really was disappointed with, that even after the 25th year when they had an anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott, they did not mention Browder versus Gayle. And initially it was five women but one woman backed out, her name was Jeanette Reese, but it was four women. That was Ria Browder, Mrs. Susan McDonnell, Mary Louise Smithware (ph) but she was a teenager also and myself that desegregated -- the case went to the Supreme Court. HARRIS-PERRY: Let me take this moment to say thank you and to thank you for your role in the movement. COLVIN: Thank you. HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Thank you. And thank you to Claudette Colvin for joining me here. We will have more live from Selma when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday President Obama spoke at the Edmond Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The first day of the march in 1965 became known as Bloody Sunday after state troopers clashed with 600 peaceful protesters on the bridge. One of my guest today, Lynda Blackmon Lowery was one of those 600 protesters attacked by police that day. She was only 14 years old. She turned 15 on the second day of the march and became the youngest person to complete the march all the way to Montgomery. Yesterday Lowery once again found herself on the Edmond Pettus Bridge, but this time she was seated on stage with President Obama as he delivered these remarks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure Billy Clubs, the chastening rod, tear gas and the trampling hoof, men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their north star and keep marching towards justice. (END VIDEO CLIP) HARRIS-PERRY: And Lowery has continued to march toward justice as a protester. She was jailed nine times before her 15th birthday. She went on to become a case manager at a mental health center. And most recently, Lowery documented her experiences in Selma in a new memoir for children, "Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom." My story of the Selma voting rights march. Lynda Blackmon Lowery joins me now. I`m so happy to meet you in person. LYNDA BLACKMON LOWERY, AUTHOR, "TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM": Thank you. HARRIS-PERRY: You sat with the President of the United States yesterday. LOWERY: Not quite. I sat in the VIP section, and I did meet him, take pictures with him and the First Lady, and the First Lady and I were talking so about my scars and my being on the bridge at 14 and being beaten. She had to tell him, honey, look at this! Because I was showing her my scar on the back of my head where I had the 28 stitches. HARRIS-PERRY: I`m wondering, given that she is the mother of teenage girls not far from the age that you were when you took those courageous acts and were brutalized in that way -- I mean, my daughter is 13. And to hear you say that makes me both angry and sad but also so grateful for your courage. What did the First Lady say to you in response? LOWERY: She was very concerned, and she was looking as I was telling the story like with her mouth open. And she was holding my hands and she was saying, I`m so sorry, I`m so sorry, you know. And if she wasn`t sincere, she got an academy because she sure act like it. But I did believe she was sincere. And I did feel that she felt that way. As the President said when he was in the tent with the foot soldiers, that he had -- he wanted his daughters to know that history. And that`s why they were with him yesterday. HARRIS-PERRY: I will say, to echo what the First Lady said, that I`m sorry that happened. I`m grateful that you chose to be in such a place of courage, and also in this moment when we turn people into icons, to stand here with you as a person. I mean, yes, a hero, but as a person, thank you for your sacrifices. Thank you for the work of all of you. And thank you for writing about it so our children can learn it and know it. LOWERY: Well, in this day and age, children need to know that in the world today, they see everything just topsy turvy and so hurtful and fearful. And they need to know that they can make a change. HARRIS-PERRY: They can. LOWERY: And that change comes with fear. HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And yet, you walk through that fear. Thank you to Lynda Blackmon Lowery. What an incredible day it has already been here in Selma, Alabama. Just moments ago, Attorney General Eric Holder and Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch arrived here at the church. And there`s going to be much more to come from Selma today on MSNBC. Dorian, thank you back in New York. WARREN: And thank you, Melissa. Powerful interviews. Thanks also to Christina Greer here in New York and also thanks to you at home for watching. That`s our show for today. Be sure to watch MSNBC`s extended coverage of the annual march starting at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. Melissa will be back here in New York next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. And you can catch my show "Nerding Out" on Shift by MSNBC, Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Now it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Betty Nguyen is filling in for Alex. Betty. BETTY NGUYEN, MSNBC HOST: Hello, Dorian. Thank you very much. We do have a live reports from Selma, including one from Melissa. We`ll talk with MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee as well and hear from those who are taking part in this historic weekend. Also, new protests and questions after an unarmed black teenager is shot and killed by police in Wisconsin. We`ll hear from a state representative who was near the scene and heard the gunshots. Plus, not ready for the real world? The test that revealed that millennial skills have a big gap in them. We`ll show you one of the questions they were asked. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END