I’m Representative Marcia Fudge from Ohio representing the 11th Congressional District. And I’m honored to be here with you for many reasons. I serve as the CBC’s For-the-People Voting Rights Initiative co-chair with my friend and colleague Representative John Lewis.
Now let’s just take a walk down memory lane. The date was March 7, 1965, and the place was Selma, Alabama. Young people led the way. Their goal was to achieve the uninhibited right to vote. Hundreds of brave men, women, and children marched. Black and white, hand-in-hand. I can hear it now, many of them were probably singing. Singing some of those old freedom songs like "Oh Freedom", "We Shall Not Be Moved", or "We Shall Overcome." Then all at once the marches were attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas. That day will forever be known as Bloody Sunday. A day when hundreds of Americans bled on Selma, Alabama’s Pettus Bridge. Bleeding for the struggle to secure our right to vote. Our right to have equal, unrestricted, and unhampered access to the polls. The marchers were beat and knocked down, but they didn’t stay down. They got up. One week later, they marched again and a few days after that they marched once more. Now, clergy and young people led the massive crowd. This time thousands marched along the voting rights trail from Selma to Montgomery. Because of Bloody Sunday, and the thousands of Americans who were beaten and killed over the years so that I can vote, so that we can all vote, I’m standing here today and I refuse to let their efforts be in vain.
The suppressive tactics being used today are not new. What we called a poll tax is now a new voter photo I.D. law. Instead of the physical threats, unnecessary and confusing laws are being used to restrict turnout and hamper the effect of early and absentee voting. It was the church and young people who led the way in ’65, and we need the pulpit of the church and the energy of young people to lead the way today. This panel is going to talk to you about how we make that happen. This is in fact a call to action so you’re not going to hear any real speeches. We’re going to open this up as I introduce the panel and we’re going to ask them some questions. And then when I finish my few questions, I’m going to let you ask them some questions.