Inspired by Selma: Finish the Work

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Dear New Jersey Institute for Social Justice friend,

My heart is full of gratitude.

Our team and trustees just returned inspired and energized by our annual pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama to commemorate “Bloody Sunday.”

I had the honor of joining President Biden and civil rights leaders in the 58th anniversary re-enactment of the iconic Bloody Sunday march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

After reaching the top of the bridge, our friend Rev. Mark Thompson led us in a powerful prayer like the late Congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis, did 58 years earlier when he led the original march with 600 Foot Soldiers.

Rev. Thompson urged President Biden and each of us on the bridge to honor the Foot Soldiers’ sacrifice by summoning the courage to finish their work.

“Say the Word: REPARATIONS,” he prayed.

Reparations is the unfinished work of the Bloody Sunday March.

The day before the march, Rev. Thompson moderated a powerful conversation about the need for reparations in Selma and beyond.

I had the honor of being part of that panel, which our team hosted with our partners from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. I was joined by a line-up of stellar speakers, including Cliff Albright, Black Voters Matter Co-Founder; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; Damon Hewitt, Lawyers’ Committee President; Attorney Nkechi Taifa; and Pastor Leodis Strong of the historic Brown Chapel AME Church, where the Bloody Sunday March started.

What happened in Selma 58 years ago in Selma transformed democracy in America.

But Selma did not transform Selma.

By design, Selma continues to experience deep economic oppression and struggle, which has been exacerbated by the recent devastating tornado.

As Cliff Albright urged, it is time for us to get at root causes of what has held back Selma – and Black communities around America.

You can watch our conversation here.

Join us as we double down on the fight for reparations in New Jersey by taking action here.

The sacrifice of those before us requires nothing less.

Thank you, as always, for continuing the march toward freedom with us.

Ryan P. Haygood

President & CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice