Fifty years ago today marks the anniversary of the March on Washington. Sadly, the marchers are still fighting for the same rights they requested 50 years ago, in essence, freedom. They marched for equal rights, racial equality, employment, voting rights, equal education, equality in health care free from experimentation without consent, immigration reform, equal treatment by the justice system, gay rights, equal housing, women’s rights and against poverty and hunger. They marched not to be bullied by authority, police, the justice system, employers, shop keepers and people who are of a different color or creed, the list continues.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the first march on Washington, D. C. on August 28, 1963 to bring to the world the plight of Blacks in America. Congressman John Lewis was one of the original marchers and speakers 50 years ago. He was only 23-years-old, then the Chairman of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Fifty years ago he said, “We do not want our freedom gradually. But we want to be free now.”
Fifty years later, on Saturday, August 24, 2013 Congressman Lewis reveals he still has to continue that fight for Blacks and disenfranchised people in America. Lewis’ speech was not much different than the one he gave fifty years ago. This year he discussed the striking down of the Voter Rights Act by the Supreme Court and the killing of teenager, Trayvon Martin. He stated, “But when I see something like what the Supreme Court did, or what happened to Trayvon Martin, it tells me over and over again that we’re not there yet. We have not finished.” The question remains, will it ever be finished? Will we ever be there?
On Saturday the march was attended by tens of thousands of people who wanted to do their part in seeking freedom, speaking out and actively participating in the struggle for freedom. Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III organized the Saturday march. Trayvon Martin’s mother Sabrina Fulton and brother spoke. Speaker Nancy Pelosi recounted having been at the original march 50 years ago and a host of other speakers recounted their experience from the first march and expressed their hopes for the future.
Tens of thousands of people gathered again today, August 28, 2013 in an effort to bring down the structural barriers to freedom and equality. The original bell from the church where the four little girls were murdered in Birmingham, Alabama 50 years ago will ring out to mark the day. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reminded us that one of the girls murdered in the church bombing in Alabarma was her kindergarten classmate. Some of the speakers, today on the 50 th Anniversary March were Ambassador to the United Nations, Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young and Senator Angus King of Maine, the parents of Trayvon Martin, Charles Steele, Jr., President of SCLC, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Randi Weingarten, AFT President, Julian Bond, Rev. Al Sharpton, Jamie Foxx, Caroline Kennedy, Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Presidents Carter and Clinton and first Black President of the United States, Barak Obama.
What did they March for? People of every color, race, creed, gender and age carried signs, placards, banners and posters and marched in all three marches. Some were pushed in wheelchairs and baby strollers, some walked with canes and walkers and others carried chairs, still some were propped against trees or laid on the grass. It did not matter they just had to be in attendance. They sang, they drummed, they spoke, they cheered and they marched. They marched for fair housing, the right to fair jobs, working conditions, and equal pay. They marched for voting rights, equality in the justice system and justice for Trayvon Martin, as well as the removal of the stand your ground and stop and frisk laws. Nurses marched for fair treatment and pay. United Auto Workers marched for safe and equal rights and pay for workers. Teacher union members marched for fair pay and equal treatment of educators. National Writers Union members marched fair treatment and fair pay for writers and treatment in all areas across the media and in all mediums. College students, sorority and fraternity members, mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, workers, retirees, unemployed, all marched for a common good.
Having attended the first march 50 years ago with my mentor, my teacher my godmother I had no idea how special it was until recently. At the time, I just considered it as an outing with Aunt Gerry. I was honored this year to attend the march with my daughter. Each person marched and continues to march for their own personal reasons. Why do they march and what do they march for? There is only one answer. We march to help bring about a better America.