Part One of this series on the Marches on Washington (article “Reverence to and for African Americans must be given by their country)” concentrated on the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Black leaders spoke at the Lincoln Memorial requesting to end racism, to create jobs and hire blacks without using discriminatory practices, and to give African Americans full citizenship as equals in American society. These three appeals have not been accomplished; which continues to be a major focus along with a laundry list of other challenges fifty years later.
The first March on Washington 2013 that happened (Aug. 24) was initiated by Rev. Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network (NAN) and host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation;” and Martin Luther King III, eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President of Realize the Dream. Sharpton announced at the National Press Club on June 24, along with other key civic rights leaders, the purpose and vision of the march.
A second march was also added to commemorate the actual date of the 1963 March on Washington (August 28). A number of people who wanted to attend a march were confused as to the actual date. Some were not aware that two marches were to be held; others heard about the Wednesday march at the last minute.
USA Today wrote an article entitled “Confusion lingers over March on Washington dates.” Here is what the August 26 story revealed –
Comments on the 50th Anniversary March on Washington website, which is advertising Wednesday's event, are reflecting that confusion, with some people expressing frustration about not knowing when to show up on the National Mall. The site's owner, Rochester, N.Y., civil rights lawyer Van White, organized a conference tied to the march anniversary that took place Tuesday in Washington, according to the Colorlines website.
If all of this isn't confusing enough, Wednesday's events culminate a week's worth of events in Washington to commemorate the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and the historic march organized by the "Big Six" civil rights organizations of the day.
"We need clarification," wrote someone named Bonnie. "What is the correct date or are you suggesting there will be 2 MOW anniversary marches? If that is the case, neither one will be as successful nor effective as one large one would be."
Wrote someone named TheRealHousewifeofPG, a resident of Prince George's County, Md., and “One march would demonstrate the unity that we seek after among other things."
However each of the two events brought thousands of people of all races, colors and creeds who marched for a common cause. The theme of the August 24 march was “National Action to Realize the Dream” while the August 28 march was named “Let Freedom Ring.” Commentator and social activist Joe “The Black Eagle” Madison moderated much of the August 24 event. United States Presidents, religious and civil rights leaders, celebrities, dancers, singers, women and children all shared the stage at the Lincoln Memorial. The weather was sunny for the first march, rainy on the second; with so much enthusiasm you didn’t know the difference. From political and civil rights activist Andrew Young singing after his speech “I Got a Feeling,” ending with “Pray on, stay on, fight on” to 10-year-old Robbie Novak, dubbed “Kid President,” repeating to the crowd “Keep dreaming,” the passion displayed by the speakers was clear.
Speakers at the marches included minister and civil rights activist Rev. Dr. James Lowery; Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Taylor Branch; Urban League President Marc Moriel; civil rights activist Joyce Ladner; nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner; Chairman & CEO, NAACP Ben Jealous; President, American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten; National Urban League’s Harry Johnson; National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) President Melanie Campbell; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders; civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams; social and civil rights activist Julian Bond; minister and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson; President, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Counsel, The Leadership Conference Education Fund Wade Henderson; Newark , N.J. Mayor Cory Booker; U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Me.); and Attorney General Eric Holder, among others. First Lady Michelle Obama and the families of Emmitt Till and Trayvon Martin were also present.
Orators of the second march held on Wednesday, Aug. 28, consisted of former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; media mogul Oprah Winfrey; actor/singer/comedian Jamie Foxx; Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.); Rev. Roslyn Brock, Chairman, NAACP; Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell, Congressional Black Caucus Leader and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Oh.); actor/director Forest Whitaker; Dream Defenders’ Phillip Agnew; and Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
Singers and dancers included gospel artists BeBe and CeCe Winans; country and pop singer LeAnn Rimes; folk singers Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame (they also sang at the 1963 March, Mary Travers died in 2009); and minister/vocal artist Wintley Phipps. Dance groups Junkaroo and Maori Dancers from New Zealand also performed.
Presenters’ topics emphasized elements of the 1963 March such as racism, lack of jobs and full citizenship; the Voting Rights Act (due to the repeal of Section 4, limited voting access and new photo identification laws), immigration reform, LGBT rights, women’s rights, disabled rights, lack of quality education for all children, stand your ground laws and Washington, D.C. statehood. If the issues of the 1963 March on Washington had been resolved, many of the problems occurring today would have been corrected or minuscule at best.
Republicans were asked through invitation to speak but did not attend. The Washington Post article ran an article on August 29 titled “GOP leader chose oil industry over MLK marchers.” Below is a clip from the article.
There are 233 Republicans in the House of Representatives, 46 in the Senate and 30 in governor’s mansions across the country. Guess how many made the effort to appear at Wednesday’s giant rally commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Zero. Ed O’Keefe reports:
Not a single Republican elected official stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday with activists, actors, lawmakers and former presidents invited to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — a notable absence for a party seeking to attract the support of minority voters.
Event organizers said Wednesday that they invited top Republicans, all of whom declined to attend because of scheduling conflicts or ill health.
(Michael) Steele was not invited to speak because he isn’t a current party or elected official. “But if I were the current chairman and hadn’t been invited, that’d be a different story,” he said. “If I hadn’t been invited, I would have forced myself on them.”
Some Republicans noted that organizers did not invite Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only black Republican senator, who was appointed to his seat this year. Aides said Scott planned to attend a church service honoring King on Wednesday night in North Charleston, S.C.
Both march events were civil, however fans booed at certain times (August 24) when prominent speakers were talking and cut off with music; indicating their time was up. Sources claimed that each speaker only had two minutes; which was absurd since it was a historic event. Five minutes should have been the projected time
Security measures getting into the Lincoln Memorial area was haphazard. As an attendant who was there and delayed over two hours to get in (on August 28), people waiting were jammed packed.
After hearing about the security flaws, Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was annoyed with the setup. The Associated Press (AP) on WJLA’s website on Sept. 3 wrote this – “The office of Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., plans to request a meeting this week with Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.” More on this story can be viewed below.
Despite the aggravations that took place, once inside, it was well worth the effort. Many who attended Wednesday’s march arrived as early as dawn; braved the rain, but were rewarded to see speakers closer than those who arrived later. Two huge screens were set up due to crowd capacity to watch performers from a distance.
Robert Thompson came from Milford, N.H. to the march and stated that his mother attended the 1963 March and was a civil rights activist in Boston, MA. “The march was inspiring,” Thompson stated, “I stood for two hours and had conversations with people around me. People were from different backgrounds, states but all had something in common.” Originally from the Dorchester neighborhood in Boston, he related that Martin Luther King, Jr. came to the area in the early 50’s to raise funds.
Layna, 25, enjoyed the march and stated, “I thought it was fantastic and extremely important to continue to push for equality from all aspects. Originally from Charlotte, N.C. now living in Alexandria, Va., Layna has no political affiliation but believes “that both parties should be listened to and that people should be judged by content of character,” and emphasized the importance of education.
Denzel Talley, 23, and Orlando Glasby, 32, members of the predominately black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi, were also glad to be at the event. Glasby, who lives in Richmond, Va., stated it was “an honor to be present” while Talley thought it was “great to be alive to be part of the march” and was not pleased with “the scaling back of voter’s rights.” Talley also mentioned his fraternity’s current project named “Guide Right,” a mentoring program for young men which has chapters nationwide. More on the program can be viewed at http://www.kappaalphapsi1911.com/news/106104/WHITE-HOUSE-INITIATIVE-ON-G...
The “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony was concluded by a speech from President Barack Obama. The transcript and video can be viewed below from the Washington Post.
If the march inspires a six-year-old boy named Brian and others like him, there’s hope for a brighter future. Originally from Austin, TX. now living with his family in Fairfax, Va., Brian said that the march “was too noisy, but he really liked President Obama.” The cute youngster’s name at first was supposed to be Barack, but was changed due his mother thinking it strange. But that didn’t change Brian’s opinion of the President because he further stated, “He’s nice, and he makes important laws.”
Other dynamic speakers during the event were Rev. Al Sharpton, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III. King had this to say amid his speech about today’s atmosphere compared to his father’s 50 years ago (from the Huffington Post) –
"The task is not done, the journey is not complete," he said. "The vision preached by my father a half-century ago was that his four little children would no longer live in a nation where they would be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
"However, sadly, the tears of Trayvon Martin's mother and father remind us that, far too frequently, the color of one's skin remains a license to profile, to arrest and to even murder with no regard for the content of one's character," he said, calling for "stand your ground" self-defense laws to be repealed in states where they have been enacted.