03/05/2005

Congressional Delegation Honors Civil Rights Martyrs

A congressional delegation visited the Civil Rights Memorial today and paid homage to the sacrifices of the Civil Rights Movement's martyrs. In a solemn ceremony, they placed a floral wreath on the Memorial's table, prayed, held hands and sang the Movement anthem, "We Shall Overcome."

Greeting them were Center president Richard Cohen and Center co-founder Morris Dees.

"Remembering is not enough," said Cohen. "To truly honor the martyrs' memory, we must rededicate ourselves to the cause of human rights, both here and abroad."

Designed by noted designer and architect Maya Lin, the Civil Rights Memorial is a monument to the Movement and to those who died in that struggle. It was built by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1989.

For the seventh consecutive year, U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) — himself a hero of the Movement — is leading the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama. With more than 40 members of Congress participating this year, the delegation is the largest since senators and representatives began making the trek to Alabama in 1997.

In addition to important civil rights sites in Montgomery, the group is also traveling to Birmingham and Selma, where the 40th anniversary of the voting rights march is being celebrated this weekend.

The annual excursion is sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Faith & Politics Institute. It encourages civility and respect as spiritual values essential to democracy, and it strives to strengthen political leadership to help heal the wounds that divide the nation and the world.

Serving as this year's honorary Pilgrimage bi-partisan co-chairs are Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.), House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

"It's important for people to come to the Civil Rights Memorial and learn this history," said Lewis. "We want them to be inspired and go back to Washington with a renewed spirit. Maybe, just maybe, members of Congress can do more than pass legislation. Maybe they can work for racial reconciliation."