This past Saturday, I participated in the National Action Network’s Rally (and March) to Realize the Dream in Washington, DC. The rally and march commemorated 50 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. Yesterday, there was a celebration and a commemorative ringing of the bell of Freedom, also held at the Lincoln Memorial. On Saturday, there were well over 100 speakers, some more noted than others, but all passionate about this thing called civil rights.
In 1963, they marched under two broad themes – jobs and freedom. Saturday we marched for a number of things – jobs, the economy, women’s rights, immigration, an end to gun violence, criminal justice reform, environmental issues, workers’ rights, voting rights and the rights of LGBT people. The speakers were selected from among the leaders from each area listed.
These large murals are outside the King Center here in Atlanta.
Some noted speakers were Congressman John Lewis (the youngest speaker in 1963), Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, MLKIII, Marc Morial, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and 9 year old Asean Johnson from Chicago, IL (the youngest speaker at the 50th Anniversary Rally and March.) Asean spoke about ending gun violence and providing resources for public schools.
Words can’t describe the atmosphere! On August 24th and 28th for a few hours on the National Mall, everyone was singing the same song, in the same key. It was about making America better and advancing the causes of the poor, the downtrodden and those with small voices or no voices at all.
There were lots and lots of signs. Some were handed out by different organizations, and others were made by the holders of the signs. You will see pictures below. But, some of my favorites dealt with racial profiling, gun violence, voter rights and education. One sign that I particularly liked was a handwritten sign that said “Judge me by the content of my character, NOT the color of my skin.” Some of the other signs are below.
Rev. Sharpton was the last speaker at the rally. He had several catchy phrases, but the following stood out to me, “Don’t just commemorate, agitate. Don’t just memorialize, mobilize.” Some of Dr. Kings dreams have been realized. But, others have not. 50 years ago, a 34 year old Martin Luther King spoke to a crowd of 250,000 and inspired a nation.
So, I ask you, as I asked myself, what are you doing to help realize Dr. King’s dream?
A few months ago, section 4 of the Rights Act of 1965 was repealed. We marched for voting rights.
Last year Trayvon Martin was gunned down after being racially profiled by George Zimmerman. Two months ago, Zimmerman was acquitted. We marched for an end to racial profiling.
Everyday more and more jobs are shipped overseas and Americans, particularly minority Americans, are not granted the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, specifically due process of law, the right to vote, equal protection under the laws, and protections from unlawful discrimination. We marched for jobs and civil rights.
Daily, thousands of African American and minority men are shipped off to federal and state prisons. Mass incarceration is the New Jim Crow. We marched to put an end to the New Jim Crow.
Each day, minorities’ rights are trampled upon. We are not given fair trials because people see black men and the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof go out the window. Southern states are enacting more strict guidelines for identification requirements at the polls. We marched for justice in the court AND at the polls.
We all rallied and marched – some for just 1 thing, but most for a number of things. Gun violence and privitization of public schools were also topics of discussion that were the subject of rally cries.
Thousands of people stretched down both sides of the reflection pool at the Lincoln Memorial before the march to Dr. King’s Memorial.
P.S. I finally posted a few pics from my 30th birthday. You can view them here.
P.P.S. Commemorative stamps were unveiled and were available for purchase from the United States Postal Service as of August 23, 2013. Purchase a book or two.