Anniversary March Commemorates Selma, Stresses the Importance of Voting

By Justin Criado

Beaver County Times

March 9, 2015 – BEAVER FALLS — Upwards of 100 people marched from New Brighton to Beaver Falls on Sunday afternoon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," which took place March 7, 1965, in Selma, Ala., as civil rights activists marched to the state capital of Montgomery for voting rights.

"Things like this sparks into the people to get out there and vote, and that we have a chance to get out there and make a difference," said Abe Askew, of Aliquippa.

Askew believed that Sunday’s march and similar acts of empowerment can have positive impacts on people and communities alike, saying he will spread the word regarding the importance of voting.

"(I’ll tell) all the people that I know from Aliquippa and it’ll go from here to there," Askew said. "It goes into a stream and a stream into a river."

The march began at New Brighton’s Townsend Park, across from the borough building at Third Avenue and Sixth Street, and crossed the bridge over the Beaver River to Beaver Falls, before concluding at Beaver Falls Memorial Park at Sixth Avenue and 11th Street, where several guest speakers addressed the crowd, including event organizer Olivia Ryan.

Ryan, a graduate of Beaver Falls High School and Kent State University, decided to organize the event after a panel discussion on law, race and the community last weekend at Geneva College. (Continued)

"I remember when we used to inspire to education instead of belittling it because somebody fought for our right to be educated and fought for our right to be educated properly and with the right tools," Ryan said to the crowd. "So no matter what it is, remember what happened for you to get there and don’t take it for granted please."

Beaver Falls Police Chief Charles Jones and Bernard E. Tench Jr., pastor of Second Baptist Church in Beaver Falls, who were panelists during last week’s event at Geneva, were on hand Sunday and also spoke.

Jones worked with Ryan to plan the march and commended her for advocating action when it comes to young people and voting.

"As Olivia was talking and our discussion with her, through my experience and I’m sure a lot of your experiences, sometimes I wonder if our young people really get it. Do they really get the sacrifices and things that so many people made?" Jones said. "This young lady gets it. It was an honor and a privilege to march with you on this occasion."

Tench also stressed the importance of remembering those who marched in Selma — those who were beaten, battered and even killed while carrying the civil rights baton that eventually led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"It’s surreal to imagine what those people went through and how they went through that," Tench said. "… We need not to forget. To all of you that have come, that’s a testimony to Beaver County, testimony to our community, a testimony that we still believe in what’s right."

After the closing remarks at the park, participants were welcomed into the common area of Beaver Falls High School, where footage from Selma was shown. They were also given the opportunity to register to vote.

"It was explaining that freedom is not a legacy — it is something we have to maintain with our own hands as each generation goes," Ryan said. "You have to maintain it. "

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