Tornado Shakes Historic AL Civil Rights Community

Zakiya Sankara-Jabar’s cell phone rang incessantly. Deadly storm system that caused tornadoes In the southern United States, relatives’ homes and churches were destroyed in parts of Alabama known as the Black Belt.

Text messages and phone calls from loved ones, many of them hysterical, brought her a devastating update on Thursday’s storm. The storm tore through her native Dallas County, including streets steeped in Selma’s history.

The city’s families, synonymous with the civil rights movement, remained structurally sound despite their homes being damaged. For the people of Beloit, the nearby unincorporated town where Sankara-Jabar spent his first twenty years of life, the damage was almost immeasurable.

“I have a family that has lost everything,” she said Friday. It seems that.”

The Sankara-Jabar family has called this part of Alabama home for generations. Named for its rich, dark soil, the Black Belt is a region fraught with economic and social challenges. Many of the civil rights movement’s most important struggles were fought in this area. In “Bloody Sunday”, state troopers and deputy Klansmen violently attacked blacks who were non-violently marching for voting rights across Edmund’s Pettus Bridge in Selma nearly 58 years ago.

Nearly every year since the march, Selma and Dallas counties have seen hundreds to thousands of marching infantry, tourists and politicians ceremonially cross the Pettus Bridge to commemorate the sacrifice of those who bled for democracy. Home, has welcomed activists. But long after the annual celebrations are over, the Black Belt, like many U.S. communities, remains a working-class neighborhood struggling to cope with gun violence and drug addiction. but with far fewer resources.

Dallas County, which includes Selma, is home to approximately 37,600 people, of whom approximately 71% are black and 27% are white. The county’s median household income is $35,000, and nearly one in three residents lives in poverty.

“To lose everything for someone who is already working class and already economically poor is devastating.” Sankara-Jabar, a racial justice activist who now lives just outside Washington, DC, said: says so.

Thursday’s storm severely damaged Selma, uprooting brick buildings, uprooting oak trees, overturning cars and leaving power lines hanging down wide streets in the downtown area. cut open. Officials in Selma said no deaths were reported, but several people were seriously injured.

US Congressman Terry Sewell from Selma said it was heartbreaking to see what the tornado did to her beloved hometown.

“When I crossed that Edmund Pettus Bridge and saw nothing and the lights were out and I was driving down Broad Street and saw street after street being destroyed, frankly, I It’s heartbreaking and heartbreaking for me,” Sewell said Friday.

At the same time, she said, Selma is resilient.

“In the end, we survived and thrived on civil rights and voting rights,” she said.

The city is famous for its historical sites. Pettus Bridge commemorating the Selma to Montgomery march. Brown Chapel AME Church. During the Selma Movement, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference worked with local activists. The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, founded in 1991 and opened near the bridge.

Felecia Petteway, a board member of the Museum of Voting Rights, said, “It’s communities of color who have suffered the most in this particular storm, so please keep Selma still in mind.” We are really worried about what will happen next.”

Pettway is also the Director of Development for Legal Services Alabama, an organization that provides free civil legal advocacy to low-income residents. The organization’s Selma office was damaged in a tornado.

A few blocks from the Brown Chapel AME Church, the starting point of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, homeowners climbed into blown windows and hauled salvageable belongings out of homes with blown roofs. I was.

Rachel Bonner, 77, was at home when the tornado hit. The roof and sides of the house were torn off.

Like many in the city over the age of 60, her life is intertwined with the region’s history. She graduated from a historic school for black students that operated as a public school until the 1970s.

“During the campaign, I marched in Selma and Wilcox County,” Bonner said.

Pearly Miller, who was at work during the storm, came home to check on her sisters. Her house was destroyed, but I am grateful that her family is safe.

“God has done us well. We’ve been blessed. That’s how we see it,” she said. “My whole family is safe. Our neighbors are safe and that’s all.”

It’s no exaggeration to consider Selma’s downtown district to be a sacred’s a late place Amelia Boynton RobinsonSelma voting rights strategist and civil rights women’s leader.This is where the late Georgia Congresswoman and the voting rights icon sit John Lewis On March 7, 1965, while crossing the Petos Bridge, he was beaten by state police and nearly died.

somewhere too first black president When first black vice president He paid tribute to the civil rights movement and took his rise to high office from dream to reality.

Downtown turns into a giant street festival this March as tens of thousands are expected to gather for the annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Music blares and vendors appear selling food, t-shirts and other memorabilia.

But when the country’s politicians leave and the news media cameras disappear, what remains is Selma’s high crime levels, potholes in the roads, abandoned homes and vacant homes. The city, notorious for voting rights struggles, still needs to address its issues. decline in voter turnout.

Adia Winfrey, executive director of Transform Alabama, a nonprofit that promotes civic and voter engagement, said the needs of not just Selma, but the entire Black Belt of Alabama are diverse, ranging from water and sewerage, educational infrastructure, I mentioned that it includes childcare. Parent support and activities for young people.

“There are great people doing great work, but their abilities are limited,” said Winfrey, who is also the board secretary of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

“How can we leverage the excitement of the jubilee and interest in Selma’s history to bring resources to Selma?” Tornado Shakes Historic AL Civil Rights Community

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