Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Mar 14 2015, Page 84

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - March 14, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D9 a dangerous time D9 cover SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 2015 2 M URDOCH, now retired, has lived in Winnipeg on and off since the late 1960s. Ken Kuhn is a retired Lutheran pastor who moved to Winnipeg in 1990, to take a position with his church’s national headquarters. Both men belong to the Chaplains Curling Club, an interdenominational circuit that meets at the Heather Curling Club on Mondays — a day of the week Murdoch jokingly refers to as a “ traditional clergy holiday.” In January, a week or so after the motion picture Selma opened in theatres, Murdoch, Kuhn and a few of their fellow curlers were discussing the film over a bite, after their respective matches. The movie, which was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song at last month’s Academy Awards ceremony, tells the story of a series of civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr. that took place in Alabama in 1965 and sparked the passing of the Voting Rights Act, later that year. The act was landmark legislation that prohibited voting based on racial discrimination. On March 7, 1965 — a day history books refer to as “ Bloody Sunday” — King appealed to clergymen from across North America to make their way to Selma to lend support to the cause. King’s plea, which was transmitted live on American television, came a few hours after 600 peaceful protesters were attacked, beaten and tear- gassed by Alabama state troopers at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which spans the Alabama River in Selma, as they were leaving the Dallas County city for Montgomery, approximately 90 kilometres away. A person at the table knew Murdoch had been among the handful of Canadians who heeded King’s call, all those years ago, and asked him if what took place on- screen was accurate. Before Murdoch could answer, Kuhn interjected, saying, “ You were there? I was there, too.” ‘ I T came as quite a surprise when Ken revealed that he had also been involved in the marches,” Kuhn said a couple of weeks later, over coffee at a popular lunch nook in River Heights. “ I think he is the first Canadian I’ve ever met who participated.” “ I had heard that somebody else from Winnipeg had been there but until it came up at curling, I had no idea Ken was that other person,” Murdoch added with a chuckle. Murdoch and Kuhn, a native of Vancouver, were both living in Chicago in 1965. Murdoch, 27 at the time, was on a ninemonth placement at an urban training centre situated in a predominantly black area of the city. Kuhn, then 25, was in his final year of studies at the Lutheran School of Theology. It’s not surprising their paths didn’t cross in Alabama. Murdoch boarded a southbound train on March 8, the morning after King’s appeal. He arrived in time to walk alongside King on a day that has come to be known as “ Turnaround Tuesday” and following that, he worked closely with key strategists such as Andrew Young, helping to co- ordinate the final, five- day march that commenced March 21, 1965. Kuhn didn’t get to Montgomery until March 24. He was among the thousands of people, including celebrities Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jr., who participated in the final, 10- kilometre leg of the five- day journey. ( Before the rally reached City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic- run organization on the outskirts of Montgomery, there were strict, government- enforced rules regarding how many people could be involved in the march.) “ It was quite exciting to discover that Ken had also been involved,” Kuhn continued. “ Our conversation began to fill in details about the march that we had not known about. While we had been acquaintances in the ( curling) league before, this common experience has certainly fostered a deeper bond, as our involvement in the Selma- to- Montgomery march for voters’ rights was quite significant for each of us, as an expression of our faith in action.” Last Saturday, U. S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and tens of thousands of others assembled in Selma for a ceremonial march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50- year anniversary of Bloody Sunday. “ Selma is now,” Obama said, in a speech leading up to his appearance in Alabama. “ Selma is about the courage of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they believe they can change the country, that they can shape our nation’s destiny.” As Canadians, Murdoch and Kuhn weren’t necessarily trying to change the country they were guests in when they travelled to Alabama a half- century ago. But it is true they were two ordinary people who, because of their beliefs, felt it was important to participate in what has since proven to have been an extraordinary event. CONTINUED PAGE D10 Above: Murdoch at a screening of Selma. Right: A line of police officers prevents demonstrators from marching to the courthouse in Selma on March 13, 1965. Below: Violence erupts on March 7, 1965, a day that later became known as Bloody Sunday. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS D_ 08_ Mar- 14- 15_ FF_ 01. indd D9 3/ 12/ 15 7: 59: 31 PM

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