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NAACP leads march through Kershaw County
NAACP March 1
Participants in a NAACP-sponsored march from Selma, Ala., to Washington, D.C., walk on U.S. 1 (Jefferson Davis Hwy.) near DeLoach Street in east Camden on Thursday. The march symbolizes the 50th anniversary of the famous Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. Participants, including Jewish rabbis, said they are trying to bring awareness of equal rights for all people, not just African-Americans. - photo by Gary Phillips

Motorists on U.S. 1 in Kershaw County may have been temporarily delayed Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning as a march organized by the NAACP worked its way through the county. The march commemorated the 1965 march from Selma, Ala, to Montgomery, Ala., the state capitol, to protest racial inequality, especially when it came to voting rights. This year’s march started in Selma and will end in Washington, D.C.

Organizers said the march travels 20 to 22 miles a day and most marchers join for just part of the trip, as they have other job and family obligations. The marchers made it to Kershaw County on Wednesday afternoon, walking as far as Woodward Field east of Camden. Thursday, they started again from the airport, marched through Bethune and into Chesterfield County, where they stopped for the evening in McBee.

Jamiah Adams of the NAACP’s national office in Washington, D.C., said she had been with the march from the start in Selma. Its purpose, she said, is to raise awareness of issues and educate the marchers and the public along the way.

“We’re marching under the mantra of ‘Our Lives, Our Votes, Our Jobs and Our Schools Matter’ and we’re talking about criminal justice, we’re talking about voting rights, we’re talking about school equity and we’re talking about sustainable jobs and living wages,” Adams said. “This is a platform the NAACP wants to move into 2016 for the elections, for the candidates to consider when they are running for office to represent the American people. We’re really pushing for equitable access to the pursuit of happiness for all Americans.”

Adams said each day the march includes training sessions for the participants and the residents of the area they happen to be in at the time.

“We have teach-ins that reflect one of those issues we talked about, either voting rights, criminal justice, school equity, education or economic empowerment,” Adams. “We invite the local community to come and join us for dinner and immediately following that is the teach-in from 7 to 9.”

Not all marchers were African-American, as the group was joined by several Jewish leaders who said they also believe in equal rights for all. Rabbi Joyce Penfield of Providence, R.I., joined the march for seven days, beginning in Augusta, Ga., ending her part of the trip in Camden.

“We hope to raise the awareness and the policies for American social justice, especially around African-Americans … the things that have been happening in our law enforcement and so forth,” Penfield said.

Rabbi Batsheva Meiri of Asheville, N.C., said the Kershaw County leg of the march was all she could devote herself to, but felt it was a worthy endeavor.

“Historically, the Jewish people have always been alongside the African-American community in civil rights, so I’m here accompanying the tour on this historic march to answer the call that’s in our Torah: to be people who seek justice,” Meiri said.

Camden/Kershaw County Branch of the NAACP President Sammie Tucker Jr. said it was an honor to have the march come through.

“The purpose of the march was equal access to health care, criminal justice, economic development and education, et cetera. That’s what the march was about from Selma to Washington, D.C. I want to thank the marchers who have been involved from the beginning. I’m very proud of our state highway patrol, our local sheriff’s office and the Camden Police Department for protecting and escorting us through Kershaw County. I want to send a special thanks to our local marchers, Camden City Councilwoman Laurie Parks and Mayor Charles McCoy of Bethune and Kodi Weaver, owner of Bethune Discount Groceries, for feeding the marchers Thursday. I encourage everyone to support the NAACP and our efforts, because we’re working for everyone, not just African-Americans.”