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NAACP Youth To Experience Selma March 50th Anniversary

NAACP Pensacola Branch

Selma, Alabama will be in the spotlight this weekend for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Selma-to-Montgomery March for voting rights. 

Locally, the NAACP Pensacola Branch has organized a bus trip, with plans to be in Selma on Sunday for the 2015 crossing of the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.

One of the organizers of the trip is Dr. Eurydice Stanley, who took part in the 2014 Selma March commemoration.

“This time we want to share the joy with others. We want to share the experience. We want to share the learning. We want to share the history,” said Stanley, who is co-advisor for the youth council.

While people of any age were welcomed, this year’s Selma trip was put together with the young people in mind.

“The things that happened in Selma are so far from their purview, just no idea that the world could ever be like that, no idea that anyone could ever experience something like that,” she said.

On March 7, 1965, hundreds of people gathered in Selma for the march for voting rights. But, on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” Alabama state troopers violently turned away the marchers.

Their third effort to march from Selma to Montgomery would be successful.

Stanley said her walk across the bridge last year was empowering.

“As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only reason why I went there and it was worth the trip."

Credit Eurydice Stanley

Stanley said she also felt a deep sense of gratitude for what was done and was excited to have the opportunity to share the experience with her two young children, helping them to understand the significance of what others might see as just a regular old bridge.

“I really liked it and I enjoyed all of the people that came out to remember and pay tribute to the Selma March, which was called Bloody Sunday, which is now called Jubilee,” said 12-year-old Grace Stanley, Eurydice Stanley's daughter. Grace is a sixth-grader at Brown Barge Middle School and is president of the NAACP Pensacola Youth Council.

During their 2014 trip to Selma, Grace says she learned a lot and pointed to her meeting with Annie Pearl Avery as one of the highlights.

“Ms. Avery said to my mom and I that we should learn it. We should learn what happened and not only more famous people like Dr. Martin Luther King and Ms. Rosa Parks, but also other people like her, who were foot soldiers,” Grace said.

It’s obvious that the younger Stanley has been soaking it in, and that the journey last year helped.

But, also in the run up to Sunday’s trip for the 50th anniversary, her mom Eurydice Stanley has been educating all members of the youth group to ensure they get maximum benefit from the experience.

"As I talk them about the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it leads right into the other types of things we do with the NAACP youth, which are activities like registering people to vote,” said Stanley, noting things have come full circle. “Actually, now there are some issues that are threatening the validity of the voting rights act of 1965, so it’s absolutely critical.”

Fiftieth anniversary activities get underway on Friday, and on Saturday, there’s a full slate of workshops on the status of Civil and Human rights.

Those taking part in the NAACP sponsored bus trip will leave Pensacola early and take part only in the Sunday events. Of course, the highlight will be the special 2015 Bridge Crossing from Brown Chapel over the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Eurydice Stanley says for the youth, it will be a special memory and important lesson on the nation’s history.

“One of the reasons why we want to ensure that our children understand their history and all children understand history is because it gives one an appreciation for where we are now, for what we have, what we’re doing, and a level of expectation to keep striving, higher, farther, in honor of those who gave so much; many of them their lives.”

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.