Wilcox County Freedom Fighters set to March in Selma Sunday March 8th

Thanks to friends and freedom fighters Robert Powell and Alversal and Albert Lawson for bringing and carrying the Wilcox County Freedom banner to the Selma Jubilee next Sunday, the Wilcox Movement will be represented at the 50th Jubilee. Learn more about the Wilcox County Voting Rights Fight at http://www.thisbrightlightofours.com.

Betty Anderson and Robert Powell with Banner 2010

Betty Anderson and Robert Powell with Banner 2010

Crowd at bridge

Phillip Young and Robert Powell carry the banner in 2010. Center L-R: Jessie Crawford, Maria Gitin and Joy Crawford-Washington.

Wilcox represents at the Bridge Re-enactment 2014

Wilcox represents at the Bridge Re-enactment 2014

All civil rights workers, family, descendants, friends and allies are welcome to join our group. Meet at on MLK Street directly across from the steps of Brown Chapel no later than 1:30 PM. If you come in on the bypass and then up Broad to any of the cut through streets, you can usually park on Lawrence by the elementary school, then cut through the Carver housing development and find the sign. They will keep it up on the long poles so everyone can find it. Every year so far we have gotten interviews, photos and news coverage. Plus had a great good time walking together. I won’t be there in person this time, but will be with you in spirit. Please send photos from your cell phones! Thank you!

This Bright Light Alabama Book Tour March 6-13, 2014

Representatives of families featured in the book are welcomed and recognized at all events.

Thursday March 6th 6:00-8:00 PM

A Celebration of Civil Rights with Author Maria Gitin

Lena Powell Convention Center 211 Claiborne Street, Camden, Alabama 

Maria Gitin, a veteran of the Summer of 1965 voting rights movement in Wilcox County, will present a memorial slideshow, read and speak about her new book “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight”, University of Alabama Press. Rev Dr Lewis V Baldwin King Scholar, Author and Camden native, will offer the invocation. Food and beverages will be hosted by the Wilcox Section of the NCNW. Book sales will be conducted by Black Belt Treasures.   Free and open to all.


Saturday March 8, 5-7 PM

This Bright Light of Ours, Author Maria Gitin to Appear at Selma Jubilee Author’s Corner – St James Hotel, Water Avenue, Selma, AL

University of Alabama Press is pleased to announce that Maria Gitin, author of the new civil rights memoir and history, “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight” will be featured in the Selma Jubilee “Authors’ Corner” Saturday March 8, 5-7 PM. This annual event features civil rights authors. The book will be available for purchase and Maria Gitin will be available for signing.

Sunday March 9  -Selma Jubilee March Special Notice –

Meet at 1 PM outside Brown Chapel, to walk with Wilcox County Freedom Fighters 2:00-3:00 PM

The annual bridge re-enactment ceremony, commemorating Bloody Sunday, will take place this year on Sunday March 9th. In addition to celebrity guests including Lou Gossett Jr, there will be a large contingent of activists and former civil rights workers from Wilcox County, AL. This will be the largest gathering of Wilcox County marchers since the original event March 7, 1965 during which hundreds of nonviolent voting rights demonstrators were tear gassed, beaten and trampled by officers on horseback. Many Wilcox County residents and former activists attend the Re-enactment march annually. This year, many are attending in commemoration of the publication of “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight”, which contains the stories of more than thirty individuals and families who were active in the 1960’s voting rights movement. The group will meet at 1 PM across from Brown Chapel, under the “Wilcox County Freedom Fighters” banner. Many of the grassroots activists and the author will be available for interviews and photographs.

Monday March 10th 6-7 PM Rosa Parks Museum Auditorium, Montgomery AL

Maria Gitin, civil rights veteran and author of “This Bright Light of Ours”, Universite of Alabama Press will be joined Lewis V Baldwin, Camden native and Martin Luther King Scholar and author in a presentation, discussion and book signing. The two will discuss King’s influence on their lives as teenagers, and how that influence affected their life choices. The audience will then be invited to ask questions related to the topic: Where do we go from here? Both authors will read and discuss their own recent works. Open to the public.


Tuesday March 11th 6-7 PM  “The Rankins Files” Radio Interview

Deborah Rankins will interview author and civil rights veteran Maria Gitin and Joy Crawford-Washington, whose grandparents kept a safe house for civil rights workers in Pine Apple, Alabama. The Crawford family is featured in Ms. Gitin’s new book about the Wilcox County Voting Rights Movement,  “This Bright Light of Ours” from University of Alabama Press.The Rankins Files, is a live broadcast on DIXIE 94.5 FM/WHOD heard in southwest Alabama, on the internet www.bamadixie.com and smart phone through the TUNEIN app. 


Thursday March 13th 5:30-7:30 PM History Museum of Mobile, Mobile, AL

Author and civil rights veteran Maria Gitin will present an historic slide show, read and discuss her new book “This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight,” University of Alabama Press. A reception and book signing will follow. All are welcome.

This Bright Light of Ours Prepares to Launch: Save These Dates!

To stay current with Maria Gitin & friends events and appearances, and to leave comments about the book, please visit www.thisbrightlightofours.com

Upcoming Events and Appearances 

Maria with Charles Bonner, Karina Cervantez and Javier de la Paz

Maria with Charles Bonner, Karina Cervantez and Javier de la Paz

Saturday February 15th – Oakland, CA, Holy Names University Social Justice Forum, Voting Rights panel with civil right attorney Charles A Bonner and Watsonville Mayor Karina Cervantez. Register for this great conference: The Dream Lives On: A Call to Action http://www.hnu.edu/SocialJustice

Thursday February 20th Aptos, CA– 6-7:30 PM West Coast Book Launch, Reading, & Signing at Temple Beth El, 3055 Porter Gulch Rd,  Free and open to the public with hosted reception.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr at Temple Beth El

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr at Temple Beth El

Thursday March 6th  Camden, AL —  6-7:30 PM  Alabama Book Book Launch Celebration at the Lena Powell Convention Center 211 Claiborne Street in. Camden native son, Rev Dr LV Baldwin will come to give the invocation. Brief program with reading, historic slides and recognition of the 30+ families and individuals who contributed stories to the book. Free and open to the public with hosted reception, book sales and signing.

Freedom Fighters: The Next Generation

Freedom Fighters: The Next Generation

Sunday March 9th Selma, AL– Participate in the Selma Jubilee bridge re-enactment ceremony. Meet under the Wilcox County Freedom Fighters banner outside Brown Chapel.  Families may make T-shirts or posters with family and civil rights hero photo on them. Please spread the word to everyone who lived or worked in the Wilcox Movement. 

Thursday, March 13th Mobile AL – 6:30 PM Museum of History, Book talk, signing and reception. 251-208-7246 or http://www.thisbrightlightofours.com

Sunday March 7th Selma Jubilee Historic Bridge Crossing

This time we cross over the bridge singing & unafraid

Sunday March 7, 2010

We woke up early with ‘our minds set on freedom’ as the song goes. The big march. Our job: get the Wilcox County Freedom Fighters Banner and ourselves to a conspicuous spot in front of Brown Chapel so our new and old friends from Wilcox could march together with the BAMA Kids http://www.bamakids.org and NCNW Wilcox County Section http://www.ncnw.org . For me, the height of our reunion at the pre-march rally was not Jesse Jackson, although Samuel got a great shot of him with his grandson on his shoulders, or John Lewis who I respect immensely, but walking with civil rights veterans and their descendents from Wilcox County. Freedom Fighters Sheryl Threadgill, Alma Moton King, Carolyn Smith Taylor, daughter of Rev Frank Smith of Lower Peachtree who lost his teaching position for supporting The Movement but lived to sue and succeed the Wilcox County Board of Education trustee who fired him, three generations of Crawfords from Pine Apple and so many other brave foot soldiers from this small county best known to date for the Gees Bend quilters. Luke Block, my 1965 co-worker and boyfriend and his wife Willow from Arkansas were with us, too. I hope that my forthcoming book, This Little Light of Mine, This Bright Light of Ours, a personal memoir and oral histories of the Wilcox County Voting Rights Freedom Fight 1965 will expand understanding of these extraordinary ordinary people who made up the body of The Movement.

Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Artur Davis, Terrence Howard and other celebrities at the head of the march

My Celebrities: Three Generations of Crawfords and Civil Rights Veteran Luke Block with wife Willow

The crowd gathered outside Brown Chapel in preparation for the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Joy Crawford far right and Jessie Crawford far left became my special family. Their grandparents and in-laws housed Luke (Bob) Block and other civil rights field workers in Pine Apple AL at great personal risk. Always generous, always kind, their heirs carry on their tradition of generosity, determination and courage.

Bob Crawford Jr and grandson

Bob could not walk the walk, but he wouldn’t miss the Selma Jubilee for the world. His parents gave their all to The Movement and he carried on by teaching the truth about Black History to his high school students.

Reunion of Wilcox County field workers Robert Powell & Maria Gitin

Groups convened all along MLK Avenue outside Brown Chapel in anticipation. BAMA Kids began singing “Ain’t Nobody Gonna’ Turn Us Round” which spread through the crowd, clapping and singing.  Betty Anderson, vivacious entrepreneur, daughter of Joe Anderson one of the first and few Camden business owners, tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look up at the smiling familiar face of Robert Powell, the 16 year old who took me out canvassing the red clay roads off Whiskey Run and out toward Coy 45 years ago. “Joyce!” Amazingly, he recognized me. His smile and mine bridged the years as we caught up on his family, mutual friends in the Wilcox Movement, who had died, who suffered so badly they couldn’t be with us today – and here we are: alive, healthy and standing together in a sea of 8-10,000 others who still believe deep in our hearts, that we Shall Overcome.

Betty Anderson and Robert Powell prepare the Wilcox County banner.

Philip Young, activist and director/promoter of Bessie W. Munden Playground, where we integrated the “negro” pool in ’65 took one side of the Wilcox County Freedom Fighters banner I had made in Salinas by Rosa Hernandez (mydesigns831@gmail.com) and Robert Powell took the other. Lofted high on 6 foot poles, our banner appeared high over the crowd and is featured in most of the national news media of today’s event. I was excited to be with my friends and to be here, alive, escorted by police instead of fleeing them in terror that I only had feelings, not thoughts. I felt the blood, sweat and tears of all our lost heroes and sheroes, the excitement of the elders like myself who survived, the  appreciation of the younger generation and the festival feeling that had the little ones dancing as they marched.

Samuel Torres Jr, my beloved companion, spouse and advocate was on the lookout for opportunities to get media attention for Wilcox County, as leaders there are currently developing several plans to end the county’s status as one of the poorest in the nation. Our banner drew reporter Sebastian Kitchen towards our group and Samuel quickly informed him of the reunion of Robert Powell and Maria, about my book and also that Charles Bonner, SNCC Activist, attorney, author and Selma native was with our group. Monday AM long before we woke the calls and messages that my reunion with Robert was the lead on a front page article in The Montgomery Advertiser poured in.



Jesse Jackson with grandson marching in Selma

I sent out a silent prayer, a message to the few out of the dozens of Wilcox Civil Rights Veterans that I interviewed over the past few years who told me they couldn’t face returning, either to Camden for our Monday Mass Meeting or to Selma for this annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee. Imagine bathing in a sea of humanity where the words: commitment, courage and faith aren’t platitudes or attitudes but living reality that can heal the wounded spirit. Yes there are street vendors, fake donation collectors, politicians and speakers that any national event attracts. People critiqued the young folks for just wanting to party and party they do, but we did, too.  The power of walking together, feeling the freedom to walk safely where we once ran in fear, that powerful current was running through my body, our bodies today. I encourage every veteran of The Movement, including ones like myself who arrived because of and therefore after Bloody Sunday, because of the call to nonviolent arms from Dr. King – Try to take this journey to the Jubilee march just once before you die.

I kept near our banner and that of the NCNW held by Mary Alice Angion Robinson and our dear friend, community leader and Camden City Councilwoman, Alma Moton King. From an interview for my book I knew that Mary Alice had been tear gassed and chased off of the bridge into a deep briar filled ravine on the original Bloody Sunday march. When I put my hand on her back, I could feel her racing heart as she returned, this time in triumph, to show me the spot where she feared her life might end. As we walked back across the bridge together she said she was so grateful that she came, a march she has known about for decades but couldn’t bring herself to face until this year. Supporting brave women and men who lived the struggle every day of their lives 45 years ago, and again today in safety, has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Wilcox and Dallas County NCNW Out in Force

Mary Alice Angion Robinson and Alma Moton King hold up their ends on the march and in the community

Mary Alice Angion Robinson shows me where she was attacked on March 7, 1965

For Ms. Robinson and many others this was their first time returning to the scene of tear gas, beating and terror that forced them over the edge of the bridge down steep briar filled cliffs where they tried to scramble to safety before fleeing back to Brown Chapel to pray and treat the injured.

Crossing over the Bridge in Peace March 1, 2010

Rev John Davis filed the first petition with the federal government in 1944, going all the way to the White House to see Harry Truman in his pursuit of his voting rights.

Philip Young, Mary Alice Robinson, Betty Anderson (looking down), Rev John Davis, Alma Moton King and Robert Powell (looking back) at the end of the march with their minds and hearts still set on economic, educational and social equality for their community. It is my great joy and privilege to share these friends and their stories in my book: This Little Light of Mine, This Bright Light of Ours.

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