Rally showcases civil rights

Published 10:55am Tuesday, June 18, 2013

We witnessed a piece of Shelby County history in the making on June 14 as controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan traveled to the Shelby County Courthouse in Columbiana to speak out in support of Sections 4b and 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Farrakhan, who spoke for about 20-25 minutes, was the centerpiece of an hour-long peaceful rally, part of a pilgrimage that traveled from Birmingham to Montgomery with stops in Columbiana and Selma. The rally brought dozens of supporters to Columbiana, and brought many curious onlookers out of Main Street businesses.

The U.S. Supreme Court will likely rule on Shelby County v. Holder, in which Shelby County is challenging Sections 4b and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, by the end of the month. The two sections require Shelby County and cities in 16 other states with histories of racial discrimination to obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice before making any changes to voting procedure or electoral maps.

The Supreme Court ruling is bound to be a controversial one, but local supporters on both sides of the issue should be proud that those who oppose the county’s position were able to have a peaceful rally on the Shelby County Courthouse steps without feeling they were in danger or oppressed.

Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, who spoke at the event, first made sure to give thanks to Shelby County officials, saying they made it possible for the rally to come together.

After the rally, Shelby County Commissioner Corley Ellis said he was “impressed” with the event.

“This is a huge topic,” he said. “Both sides need to be heard and deserve to be heard.”

Ellis is correct. Even with the advancements we’ve made throughout the decades, racial relations is still an area of controversy in this country and perhaps always will be.

One way or another, Shelby County will go down in history for bringing this case to the Supreme Court. We look forward to seeing the ruling and what it will mean to Shelby County.

The We Say is the opinion of the Shelby County Reporter editorial board.

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