Ready to move your body for a change? Honor the legacy of John Lewis and Rev. CT Vivian with #My54—now-Aug. 28

March on Selma - inspiration for #My54
John Lewis is on the far left of this famous picture. Photo in the public domain

So many people risked everything during the marches in Selma leading up to the 54-mile-long Selma-Montgomery March on March 7, 1965. While these marchers, including the late John Lewis and the late Rev. C.T. Vivian, were focused on voting rights, participants in #My54 can choose the cause that’s nearest to their heart. Keep reading to find out how you can participate in and around Birmingham.

What is #My54?

#My54 is a chance to move and make a difference
People are signing up from around the world. Graphic via My54.org

This is a civic action, conceived of by two friends, Mark Spatt and DeMark Liggins, that encourages people to commit to moving 54 miles (the distance from Selma to Montgomery) over a 30-day period. 

There are two key parts to the action: 

  1. Move 54 miles over 30 days: walk, run, bike, work out, paddleboard, do sun salutations—whatever strikes your fancy. 
  2. Commit to engage in change. If you don’t yet know what issues are most important to you, you can use the first week to get clear. 

According to the organizers, 

“We are Atlanta-based, but this is a national initiative. John Lewis and C.T. Vivian had an impact across the country, not just here, and so we wanted to share this with people throughout the US. As a personal walk, it can take place where people live, whether that is Atlanta, Birmingham, LA, NYC, or even Brazil! The idea is that we can be socially virtual and individually physical, and connect together to honor the legacies of these great leaders through civic action.”

Why does it last for 30 days between July 30-August 28?

The March on Washington took place August 28, 1963
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his I Have a Dream Speech at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. 08/28/1963. ARC Identifier 542069 / Local Identifier 306-SSM-4D(107)16

July 30 marks both the birthday of the late Rev. C.T. Vivian, and the date that John Lewis was laid to rest. August 28 marks the 57th anniversary of the famous 1963 March on Washington. Also, this year, the NAACP and other groups will be holding a virtual March on Washington  August 27-28 that anyone can participate in. 

“When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Many people on the call came from a diverse array of faith-based organizations across the Greater Birmingham area. Some religious leaders were already finding ways to get their congregations involved, so feel free to share this effort with your own. Even though it’s already started, you can still get involved.

Who came up with the idea of #My54?

#My54 came out of Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition
John Lewis was one of the founders of the Black-Jewish Coalition of Atlanta. Graphic via Facebook

#My54 came out of the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition, founded in 1982 by John Lewis and others throughout the Atlanta area to ensure the re-signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1983. 

The Coalition holds annual events that bring people together for advocacy, young professionals weekend retreats and more. 

#My54 co-founders DeMark Liggins and Mark Spratt met at a Unity Seder held by the group and have been fast friends ever since. A conversation after the passing of Rev. C.T. Vivian led to the development of this new program. 

Though it was born in Atlanta, #My54 has quickly gained a following across the globe. 

How to get involved

Register for the event now.

Once you register, you’ll receive daily prompts to guide your reflections about the issue that is most important to you. No matter the issue, there is sure to be a community organization right here in Birmingham working on it that you can join forces with in some way. 

Also, we’ve written about so many of these types of organizations here on Bham Now, if you’re looking for inspiration. We currently have 131 local nonprofits in our searchable database.

When I asked the organizers if the effort was open to everyone, they said absolutely:

“We want people to see that in this divisive world we live in, there are a whole lot more things that pull us together. We want to build a coalition of individuals and organizations. Participants can then find organizations that will help them leverage their time, talent and treasure.”

Learn more about #My54: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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