This story is part of a series about the Asian Americans who traveled to Selma, Alabama for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the Selma-to-Montgomery march and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Click here to view the rest of the series.

By Carrie Morita
Educator, Diamond Bar

By the time Selma resident Joanne Bland turned 11 years old in 1965, she had been active in the voting rights struggle. Along with her older sister Lynda Lowery, Joanne took us to George Washington Carver Homes public housing, where they grew up, and showed us Brown Chapel AME Church, the starting point of all three marches.

Great storytellers, the sisters brought to life what it was like in Selma in the ’50s and ’60s. They took us to Dallas County Courthouse to see the voter registration office where African Americans were routinely denied the right to vote. Joanne and Lynda remembered that when they went to protest, they took their own bologna or PBJ sandwiches so they wouldn’t go hungry if they were detained.

Lynda told us she was arrested nine times before she turned 15.  She was also the youngest person to complete the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, having celebrated her 15th birthday on the second day of the four-day march.

I’m convinced that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted because of Joanne and Lynda and thousands of other young people who risked their lives for the right to vote — something we take for granted and often neglect to exercise.

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