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Enthusiastic Gathering Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Voting Rights Act 
Joanne Bland and Mayor Madeline Rogero
Joanne Bland and Mayor Madeline Rogero

Big, enthusiastic turnout for Thursday night’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act!

The crowd at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center heard powerful, emotional stories from civil-rights champion Joanne Bland, the youngest marcher on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma in 1965. Bland as a child initially was drawn to be a freedom fighter because segregation had banned her from getting an ice cream at her hometown drugstore counter; she’d walked by the window but couldn’t go in and get a treat. Then, at “Bloody Sunday,” the 11-year-old witnessed the beating of dozens of people, and she vowed to see the struggle through to attaining full voting rights.

Check out some of the local media coverage from last night’s celebration:

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local-news/big-ideas-from-small-things-for-child-in-selma-marches_76867873

http://www.wbir.com/story/news/2015/08/06/bloody-sundays-youngest-marcher-talks-voting-rights--knoxville/31269027/

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been widely used since the Civil War to limit African-Americans’ right to vote. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Voting Rights Act has been called “the single most effective piece of civil-rights legislation ever passed by Congress.”

Bland is the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma. She is owner and operator of Journeys For The Soul, a touring agency that specializes in educational touring of civil-rights sites with a major focus on Selma.

Bland told the gathering Thursday that the struggle continues: “It annoys me when people say that their vote doesn’t count,” she said.

Mayor Madeline Rogero added that determined people united in an effort can always affect a positive change. And the best way to honor the sacrifices of the past is to remain vigilant today.

For more information about the City of Knoxville’s commemoration of the Voting Rights Act, see http://www.knoxvilletn.gov/votingrightsact.

Big crowd at the Beck Center for Thursday's celebration of the Voting Rights Act's signing.






















Big crowd at the Beck Center for Thursday's celebration of the Voting Rights Act's signing.

Exuberant performance by Divine Urban Expressions.






















Exuberant performance by Divine Urban Expressions.

Joanne Bland, youngest marcher at "Bloody Sunday," recalls the horror of the police beatings in Selma.



























Joanne Bland, youngest marcher at "Bloody Sunday," recalls the horror of the police beatings in Selma.

Joanne Bland greets former Beck Center Director and civil-rights leader Avon Rollins.








































Joanne Bland greets former Beck Center Director and civil-rights leader Avon Rollins.

Joanne Bland shares stories with the Rev. Harold Middlebrook.






















Joanne Bland shares stories with the Rev. Harold Middlebrook, a fellow civil-rights pioneer.

Thursday's celebration at the Beck Center closed with a singing of "We Shall Overcome."






















Thursday's celebration at the Beck Center closed with a singing of "We Shall Overcome."

Celebrants at the Beck Center included community leader Margaret Gaiter and Councilman Finbarr Saunders.






















Celebrants at the Beck Center included community leader Margaret Gaiter and Councilman Finbarr Saunders.

From left: Avon Rollins, Joanne Bland, City Councilman George Wallace, Rev. Harold Middlebrook, Mayor Madeline Rogero, City Councilman Dan Brown and City Councilman Finbarr Saunders.






















From left: Avon Rollins, Joanne Bland, City Councilman George Wallace, Rev. Harold Middlebrook, Mayor Madeline Rogero, City Councilman Dan Brown and City Councilman Finbarr Saunders.

Posted by evreeland On 07 August, 2015 at 5:39 PM