Montevallo High School students gained fresh insight into the history of their community and nation when notable civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke at an assembly Friday, March 3, as part of his visit to Alabama commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the Selma march known as Bloody Sunday.
As students filed in, notable local dignitaries such as Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost, members of the Montevallo City Council, and representatives from the school board, in addition to principal Brandon Turner had the special honor of sharing the stage with Jackson.
Jackson began his address by initiating a call-and-response and having students repeat an adapted version of Rev. William H. Borders’s “I Am Somebody,” which preaches that despite the many differences which so easily divide the population of the earth, we as humans are all “somebody,” and therefore worthy of respect.
In his speech, Jackson commented on current political discourse, insisting that the nation should “build bridges, not walls.”
Jackson went on to address pressing political issues, discussing with students the different narratives experienced by different races, sexes, and groups of people.
The call-and-response tactic was continued throughout Jackson’s address, as he implored students to repeat sentiments of acceptance and unity.
Jackson also spoke on civic involvement, encouraging all those eligible to vote in November to register, and went so far as to bring them up to the edge of the stage and provide the necessary documents to do so. He spoke greatly on the importance of education, stating over and over again, that everyone “can learn, will learn, must learn.” He utilized personal anecdotes to drive this sentiment home, telling students of his early school memories and the effect they had on his political success.
“It was definitely not what I was expecting, but I think everybody in the school benefitted from the experience of him speaking here,”senior Kadie McDowell said.
Jackson shared his memories of the infamous Bloody Sunday, recollected the time he spent with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Jackson concluded his oration with a brief question-and-answer session with the students.
During the question-and-answer session, senior Alexander Love breached a controversial subject, asking the Reverend his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. Jackson answered this with a recollection of the tragedies of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and the Ferguson riots.
“No person has the right to murder another without consequence,” Jackson said.
Throughout the entirety of his presentation, Jackson maintained an air of positive thinking and unity. Despite covering a multitude of subjects, Jackson’s message was clear: love for one another is the way to succeed.