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With mass meeting, Jubilee is officially underway

The pews were filled with people clapping their hands and singing along with the choir Thursday night at Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church, which hosted the annual mass meeting that signals the official start of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee.

After a few selections from the choir, Pastor Otis Culliver welcomed everyone to the mass meeting and spoke briefly on the “goal of justice – social justice, economic justice, eco justice and gender justice,” which is the reason for the celebration and commemoration.

The choir called the people back to their feet before Faya Rose Toure, founder of the annual event, spoke about those who died during the struggle for equal rights, the first being the slaves who came over in 1619.

“The best way to remember our martyrs is to keep on fighting,” Toure said.

Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn also spoke.

“The struggle is not over,” Nunn said after noting the importance of the civil rights struggle in making him the first black Probate Judge in Dallas County. “We’ve crossed many bridges but we still have many more to cross. We have come a long way, but we have not reached the end of our journey.”

Alabama Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, D-Selma, celebrated the church for being a key part of the movement being recognized over the weekend.

“We cannot forget the sacrifice this church made to ensure there was that first mass meeting,” Sanders-Fortier said.

Sanders-Fortier also talked about the issues currently facing the city, specifically violence and poverty, and called on those in attendance to unite to make a stronger city.

“We must, for the sake of their memories and the sake of the children not yet born, build that beloved community,” Sanders-Fortier said.

Jubilee organizer former Alabama Sen. Hank Sanders also spoke to those gathered for what he said might be the last time at the mass meeting to kick-off the annual festivities, saying that he had done it for many years and it might be time to hand the task over to someone else.

Sanders recalled how Toure had come up with the idea of creating a festival to accompany the annual bridge crossing in commemoration of “Blood Sunday” and the Voting Rights March.

Sanders said the festival continued to grow – at first it was only one day and handful of people; within a few years, it was several days and thousands of people, including United States presidents.

“I saw the Jubilee Bridge Crossing grow to be the biggest civil rights event in the country,” Sanders said. “This is our history. This is our present and this is what we can do.”

Dr. Paul J. Kim, the pastor from Korea who recently took ownership of the former Concordia College campus, also address the full house.

Kim talked about the American missionaries who came to Korea long ago and weathered persecution to see their church grow and thrive.

“I am the product of this mission in Korea,” Kim said. “I have learned so much of Selma’s history and I fell in love with the city. God did not give up on Selma.”

Presenters told the history of Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church, how it has been recognized for its unique architecture and it place in history as the place that started the Voting Rights Movement with the first mass meeting held by local civil rights activists.