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“Building Power from the Ground Up” Panel Will Feature National Civil Rights Leaders

SELMA, AL – On March 2 at 12:00 p.m. CST, the New Jersey Institute for Social JusticeLawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under LawBlack Voters MatterNational Bar Association and Southern Poverty Law Center will host “Building Power from the Ground Up: Fighting for Democracy in the States,” a robust discussion on the ongoing threat to voting rights on the federal level and the role of the states in holding our democracy together – even decades after the iconic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

The event will take place during the commemoration of the 59th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches for voting rights and will feature a lineup of prominent civil rights leaders as well as greetings from Cong. Terri Sewell (AL-7).

WHAT: Building Power from the Ground Up: Fighting for Democracy in the States

WHERE: St. James Hotel, Rear Terrace, 1200 Water Avenue, Selma, AL

WHEN: Saturday, March 2, 2024, 12:00 p.m. CST


  • April Albright, Legal Director & Co-Founder, Black Voters Matter
  • Dominique D. Calhoun, President, National Bar Association (opening remarks)
  • Ryan Haygood, President & CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
  • Damon Hewitt, President & Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Margaret Huang, CEO, Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-7) (greetings)
  • Pastor Leodis Strong, Brown Chapel AME Church (welcome)
  • Rev. Mark Thompson, Selma Jubilee Board and Host of Make it Plain (moderator)

A flyer for the event is included below.

“As we gather in Selma this coming weekend to commemorate the courageous marches across the bridge for voting rights that transformed America, we can’t ignore – especially during a critical presidential election year – that the already weakened federal Voting Rights Act remains under constant threat,” said Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. “We can no longer wait for democracy to trickle down from Washington, D.C. We must build it – from the ground up – state by state. There’s no better place to have that conversation than in Selma, a birthplace of modern democracy.”

“Being on hallowed ground in Selma reminds us of the courage and sacrifice of the Foot Soldiers who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, demanding justice and the right to vote,” said Damon Hewitt, President & Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Their legacy teaches us that change does not come from waiting; it comes from action. We will only get the rights we deserve if we fight to claim those rights. And this work is even more important when those rights are under attack. State by state, we are committed to building a democracy that reflects the true diversity and strength of our nation.”

“This weekend in Selma, we honor the generations of freedom fights who marched before us – and who continue to march – to guarantee the foundational right to vote,” said Margaret Huang, President & CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund. “That right is under constant attack in the Deep South and across the nation. Together, we must mobilize and activate voters – community by community – to ensure fair and equal representation for Black and Brown communities across the region. As history shows us, when we transform the South, we transform the nation.”

“We are inspired to be in Selma – with all its historic significance – discussing the need to protect and expand our democracy, which is under ongoing and relentless attack,” said April Albright, Legal Director & Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter. “Voting allows communities to determine their own destiny. And Black Voters Matter not only on election day, but on the 364 days between. With current threats to voting rights across the South and the nation, our work to empower communities to lift their voices at the ballot box and elsewhere is more important than ever.”

“The fight for equality in America has been earned in two places – the ballot box or courtroom,” said Dominique D. Calhoun, President of the National Bar Association. “And throughout the history of this nation, it has been lawyers – especially Black lawyers – who fought tirelessly to protect the freedoms we all now share. Today, more than ever, lawyers remain at the forefront of fighting for the civil liberties of all Americans and African American lawyers continue to be America’s conscience in that fight.”