URI’s Center for Nonviolence to commemorate Civil Rights march
Tour De Paz cyclists to participate in reenactment in Alabama
KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 23, 2005 -- A group of serious cyclists who are equally serious about spreading a message of peace, will leave the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies on Friday, February 25 at 10 a.m. to begin pedaling to Alabama.
Participants with Tour de Paz (tour of peace) will ride their bikes 1,100 miles to take part in the reenactment of the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.
“What better translation of peace than riding our bikes to Montgomery to take part in the freedom march that was started by Dr. King,” says Bladimir Rodriguez, a member of the Tour De Paz. Rodriguez is originally from the Dominican Republic. Other Rhode Island members of Tour De Paz include Alejandro Arteaga, Flavio Salas, Ramiro Vergnaud, and Reynaldo Perez, all originally from Colombia; and Jose Marcano, originally from Venezuela. Members Luis Hincapie and Ilana Knopf will join their colleagues in Philadelphia and Washington, D. C. respectively.
The original march began on March 7, 1965. On that day, the marchers set out to march from Selma to Montgomery some 50 miles away to bring attention to the injustice of a segregated south.
They only made it six blocks. At the Edmund Pettis Bridge, the marchers were met by state and local lawmen wielding clubs and tear gas, who drove them back to Selma.
Three weeks later, under court order and federal protection, Martin Luther King Jr. led a second march that began with 2,500 people in Selma and ended up with a crowd of 25,000 in Montgomery. The march, a victory for the nonviolence that King espoused, helped shape the course of the nation’s history.
Bernard LaFayette, now a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the University of Rhode Island and director of URI’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, participated in the original march. This year, he will cross the Pettis Bridge with other marchers on Sunday, March 6, while participating in a Faith and Politics Tour coordinated by Georgia Congressman John Lewis who was also an early Civil Rights leader. Each year, the tour brings members of the U.S. Congress to Civil Rights sites.
Marie Cobleigh of North Kingstown, LaFayette’s assistant at URI for the past five years, will complete the march in her boss’ name.
Later in the week, LaFayette will lead a dozen Moses Brown seniors on a Civil Rights tour of Alabama, including Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery, and Tuskegee.