Civil rights activist shares her story and calls students to action

By Kim North

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“I loved marching,” said Bland. © 2015 Kim North

“Violence has no place in this world,” said Joanne Bland while discussing the violence she witnessed during Bloody Sunday and the violence happening to people in America today.
Bland gave her speech  at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire in Schofield auditorium as part of the universities Risking Everything: History and Civil Conversation a month long series. Nearly 140 people attended tonight according to the event organizers.

Bland marched the on Bloody Sunday, the first leg of the first successful march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Bland belonged to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By the time she was 11, she had 13 documented arrests, Bland shared during the speech. At one point Bland even gave up on the idea of freedom but yet found a way to keep going and now called the audience to action during her speech.

Bland shared that her sister Linda was there marching with her and was beaten on Bloody Sunday when she was only 14. She was beaten so bad that she needed 26 stiches, according to Bland. The march from Selma to Montgomery is not something that is forgotten by those who participated in the movement for equal voting rights. Fifty years later she still remembers the screams, Bland told the audience.

Bland is now the owner and operator of Journeys for the Soul, a touring agency that specializes in Civil Rights tours with a major focus on Selma Alabama according to Bland’s personal website.

During the question and answer portion of the speech Bland spoke about the “Selma” movie that was released in 2014. Although the movie didn’t portray the facts very well it has drawn lots of tourists to Selma, Bland said. However, tourists are not helping Selma because “After they see the bridge they get back in their cars,” said Bland.

Nearly 50 years later, the Edmund Pettis Bridge is still standing in Selma, Ala. Bland called the audience to be “warriors.” Bland mentioned some people have been trying to rename the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Audience members are not called to change history, according to Bland.

To be warriors, audience members need to make history, and realize that “-isms affect us all,” said Bland. Bland referred to the importance of each audience member in history because they are a piece of the puzzle and said, “I want you to take your piece, it’s the most important piece in the whole puzzle because it completes the picture.”

After the speech  Nicholas Schneider said he found Blands remarks to be powerful.

“Joanne talking about the arrogance that a lot of us well-meaning people have about what’s right for oppressed or marginalized people,” to be very powerful.

 

Bland has chosen to use her story to further change history by calling audience members to action. Since the 1960s America has come far but, “there is a generation out there who is going to change it once and for all,” said Bland.

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