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Why this is important
Physical, emotional, economic, racial and political violence have historically impacted the development of Selma, the Alabama Black Belt, and the South. Centuries of unaddressed racial violence still define attitudes and customs that, if genuinely addressed, could unleash the potential of the area in ways that could impact the Nation. Selma has emerged as a symbol of human conquest over violence. Yet it remains one of the most violent cities of its size in the country. According to the U.S. Census and the FBI Uniform Crime Report in 2012, Selma had the third highest number of murders per capita in the state, and the fourth highest number of property crimes, making it the fourth highest area for crimes overall. In 2015, Selma was named the Most Dangerous Place to Live in Alabama.
Selma remains engulfed with racial and class divisions that hinder the city’s progress. Selma, like most of the South, has never confronted years of racial violence and prejudice that keeps the city from a healing path forward. The overwhelming majority of white students attend segregated private schools. The country club remains all white. After the first black Mayor was elected in 2000, most white citizens left the city, many helping to incorporate an adjacent town named Valley Grande.
Poverty grips the city and economic justice is far from secure. The unemployment rate is almost twice the national average. With more than 36 percent of residents and 60 percent of children living at or below the poverty line, the county was the poorest in the state of Alabama in 2014, and one of the poorest in the country. Violence threatens the safety, health, and economic potential of the area and beyond. Physical, emotional, economic, racial and political violence must be overcome and addressed to allow Selma and the Nation to grow.
In the 1960s many tried to persuade Bernard Lafayette from coming to Selma, declaring Selma hopeless because Whites were too mean and Blacks were too scared for anything to change. However, despite warnings and the likelihood of danger, Lafayette came to work in Selma in 1962 determined to help make lasting changes. Although many still consider the situation in Selma hopeless, Dr. Lafayette is still determined. Dr. Lafayette recognizes that there is still work to be done—still business to finish. For this purpose Dr. Lafayette, Master Teacher and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Selma CNTR, who was instrumental in creating "Selma 1.0" returns to help create "Selma 2.0." The Selma CNTR is committed to continuing the movement and finishing the unfinished business.