By: Rachel Benbrook, Guest Blogger
A few weeks ago I went to watch the newly released film Selma. Although I had actively studied the Civil Rights movement all throughout school, the film gave me a new perspective on the sacrifices that were made by so many Americans to bring about equality for all.
After leaving the movie theater, I went home and began to research the historic march that took place in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery on March 7th, 1965. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the march was a protest against the many counties throughout the state that denied African American citizens their constitutional right to vote. Policemen attacked the unarmed protesters and the march ended in a violent conflict that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
One particular woman named Amelia Boynton-Robinson stuck out to me. Amelia was a participant in the march from Selma who was rendered unconscious by police while participating in what had been intended to be a peaceful demonstration. She felt passionately that all Americans should be given the right to vote regardless of their race or gender, and she was beaten, abused and harassed in her attempts to pave the way for a better and freer America.
When recently interviewed by a reporter from the LA Times Magazine in honor of the 50th anniversary of the historic march, Amelia claimed that the treatment she endured only “gave me the determination to go better and go farther and to help the people to become registered and voters.”
Rather than becoming angry or embittered by the current state of affairs for African Americans in Alabama and the rest of the United States, she continued to fight for voting rights, as well becoming the first African American woman to seek a seat in the U.S. Senate for Alabama.
Amelia’s interview left me with a compelling piece of advice: vote. She encouraged young people to exercise the rights that she and so many others bravely fought for. She stated, "I am still determined that these young people will realize that a voteless people is a hopeless people.”
The best way to honor the courageous fight of women like Amelia Boynton-Robinson is to use our right to vote. Despite many people's occasional disillusionment with politics and government, we must use our voice, and the right that we all too often take for granted.
It is hard to imagine a time when African Americans (and before that women), were denied the ballot. Thank goodness that we have moved past these barriers thanks to the bravery of individuals like Amelia, however, we will regress if we choose not to show up to the polls.
There is still much work to be done in America in regards to social justice. We should respect those who came before us, and V-O-T-E. Even if you are not yet 18, you can begin educating yourself on voting, and learning more about your choices at the polls.
Just like Amelia, never give up fighting for the rights of others. Stand up for what you believe in and continue the legacy of human rights in America, because our progression is far from over. Like Amelia, you may encounter adversity along the way, but often tragic events like Bloody Sunday push people to be stronger in their quest for a better world.
The best way to honor those who fought to defend our rights as a society, is to use our rights. I think young people can change the world if we get involved and vote.
Check out rockthevote.com to get informed and to see how you can get involved and educate young people on voting.
Rachel is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and the University of Leeds where she studied Political Communications. She is a passionate advocate of strong friendships, caffeine, social justice, current events, travels and adventures, as well as all things peanut butter. She enjoys watching Parks and Recreation, as well as teaching English to new language learners.
image via rockthevote