SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - Thursday marked the beginning of a weekend full of events in Selma.
This year is the 55th annual jubilee. This annual event in Selma commemorates “Bloody Sunday,” which occurred March 7, 1965, when a group of about 525 African-American demonstrators gathered at Browns Chapel to demand the right to vote. They walked six blocks to Broad Street, then across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by more than 50 state troopers and a few dozen posse-men on horseback.
Every year on the first weekend in March, the Bridge Crossing Jubilee commemorates both the bloody confrontation at the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the march from Selma to Montgomery that followed.
"There's somewhere between 40 and 50 events and most of them are free," says organizer Hank Sanders.
Those events recognize historic moments in Selma’s past, all for the right to vote. The events kicked off with a mass meeting in the same place where the first mass meeting was held to push for voting rights back in 1963.
"People have fought for it over these years. People have died for it," Sanders said.
He says that tens of thousands of people come to the jubilee every year.
Now in 2020, jubilee attendees say, the songs, prayers, programs, and events serve as a reminder.
Lillian Nahar traveled from California to be a part of the jubilee.
“When you understand first and foremost, the power of the history of that bridge that stands behind us, it helps us to remember what exactly the voting right is and it’s incredibly significant now in 2020. We have a voice and our voices matter,” Nahar said.
Organizers and attendees say that with this year’s jubilee happening just days before Alabama’s primary elections, they hope this encourages more people to get out and vote.
Events will continue through Sunday, when there will be a Bridge Crossing Reenactment & Backward March.