Several hundred people marched across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma, Alabama, where police beatings of protesters shocked the nation and set the stage for the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
"I am a freedom fighter," said 82-year-old Lorraine Brown, who back in 1965 was a "freedom rider" demonstrating for civil rights in the South.
"I was sitting at counters, bitten by dogs and thrown in jail," Brown said. "I was punched in the face by a police officer in Greensboro [North Carolina]," she said, showing a scar under her nose and over her mouth -- "a reminder that the struggle is not over."
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge against cold winds was "no sacrifice compared to our ancestors who committed their lives to the civil rights movement," said Diallo Shabazz, 38, of Harlem. "They were beaten in Selma to give us the right to vote," said Shabazz, a member of Brooklyn's NAACP chapter.
Marchers were led by a band of drummers to Brooklyn's Borough Hall. There, they watched on television as President Barack Obama spoke at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where marchers half a century ago faced a wall of police who attacked them with clubs and tear gas. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was one of the organizers of Saturday's march.
The event was a teaching moment and an opportunity to bring the Academy Award-nominated film "Selma" to life for Pamela DiCola's 11-year-old son, who saw the film and whose class studied the civil rights movement.
"I mentioned the march to him and he said he wanted to come," DiCola said. "I feel it's important for the kids to have a historical perspective on what is happening and be exposed to a positive march."
Jack DiCola, a fifth-grader at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Manhattan, said he learned that the civil rights marchers of the 1960s "were people that didn't give up because they knew God was on their side and that justice would prevail."
Inside Borough Hall, several hundred stood up when Obama was introduced as the first African-American president of the United States. They cheered and stomped when Obama implored Americans not to dismiss progress made since 1965.
"Proud . . . is how I feel," said Dinetta Gilmore, 56, of Brooklyn. "Here I am today in the face of Ferguson, listening to the first black president of the United States in Brooklyn, whose borough president is a black man and I say we have come a very, very long way."