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 Kathy Masaoka
Retired Teacher, Silverlake
On March 8, we gathered in Alabama — Asian Americans from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Washington, D.C., Illinois and Idaho. Forty strong, we came from groups with long histories in civil rights, like Nikkei for Civil Rights/Redress (of which I am co-chair), Japanese American Citizens League, Chinese Progressive Association (San Francisco), and the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund (Albuquerque).
We called ourselves Asian Americans Marching for Equality and Justice and were proud to have Todd Endo and Vincent Wu leading our contingent. Attracted by the large, colorful and dramatic banner designed by L.A. artist and march participant David Monkawa, many fellow marchers stopped to take photos and to thank us for being there.
One young Filipina had come to Selma on her own. She joined us, happy to find other Asians at the march. We were happy to have her help lead the chants! We also saw a handful of other Asians marching in their own multi-ethnic groups.
The 100,000 people who took part in the bridge crossing overwhelmed the small city of Selma, population 20,000. After watching the speechmakers on the Jumbotron and waiting several hours in the hot sun for the march to begin, the masses started the march without the elected officials, ministers and other dignitaries who were still in the televised program at Brown Chapel AME Church.
Despite some misgivings, our contingent proceeded over the bridge and sang along with others. We had many conversations during our stay in Selma and Montgomery, where we were able to share our history and experiences as Asian Americans. The spirit was positive and people remarked how smoothly it all went. We went with the flow — something we learned to do a lot during our stay in Selma. We were proud to represent Asian Americans in Selma.