I know the above inscription isn’t a quote from Dr. King, depicting the struggles of the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s, but I thought it was an appropriate sentiment for the work that still needs to be done in the area of human and civil rights.
This past Saturday’s August 24th March on Washington was primarily focused on the most recent social issues adversely affecting African Americans today which directly and indirectly affect most Americans on the whole; this year’s dismantling of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme court, Jobs, The Stop and Frisk Law better known as racial profiling, the Stand Your Ground Law and the death Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, anti-abortion laws and women’s rights, union busting at the hands of states’ governors and state and local officials, Legal Immigration Laws and LGBT rights.
All factions were amply represented with hundreds of thousands of rally goers ascending the along both sides of the Reflecting Pool leading to the Lincoln Memorial. Speaker after speaker appeared with two minutes each to address the massive audience. Those not lucky enough to be close to the monument to see and hear for themselves, watched the commemorations on two jumbotron screens as they listened to the speeches broadcasted over gigantic speakers posted up and down both sides of the pool’s edge.
All of the guest speakers received ample applause; Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) when he said, “I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote”, political activist Eric Dyson with his mantra “Martin Luther King had a dream, now we need a team” and Terry O’Neil, president of the National Organization for Women brought up the fact that, “Fifty years ago, women were not up here speaking, but here we are today.”
But the loudest and most rousing applause were for the Rev. Al Sharpton, he acknowledged the major role African American women such as Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Dorothy Height and Fannie Lou Hamer played in the Civil Rights movement and admonishing the audience to have respect for one another and keep a high level of expectancy for ourselves and particularly for our children.
It was a very symbolic moment for my friends and I to ride on the bus all the way to Washington to attend the program, but I couldn’t help wondering why, after 50 years, we’re still just giving timed speeches. What I was truly hoping for was more of an agenda of advocacy that would enlist those tens of thousands in attendance.
Both I and my sister Veronica, who attended the march with me, agreed that a sense of purposeful direction and guidance — especially with so many young people there in attendance — was sorely missing at the march.
Why wasn’t there a call for the people of this country to begin hitting policy makers, corporations and the like where it hurts — in the pocketbook! Our money and how, when and where we spend it, is our strongest “voice” right now. African Americans are some of the biggest consumers of goods and services, continually being target-marketed for mass consumption of certain products.
Sit-ins, boycotts, abstinence and sacrificing of convenience were ways in which Dr. King asked folks in the 60’s to assist in putting pressure on Congress and presidents, lawmakers to pass bills and other legislation in favor of The Cause.
The leaders onstage Saturday had a captive audience, ready for action. We in the audience were well aware of the issues; they had been what brought us out there in that sweltering 90 degree weather in the first place! It would seem that the time for long-winded speeches would be over. MLK was an advocate for change through footwork, sacrifice, and mass reactionary movements of people for the common good. ACTION!
Our political, intellectual and spiritual leaders sorely missed the opportunity that day to transform the folks gathered there on Saturday into a symbol of freedom on one hand, and an overwhelming force on the other. Here’s hoping that on the official commemoration day, Wednesday the 28th, we’ll get some marching orders.
NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!