Any doubts that Reverend Al Sharpton has taken the reigns as the moral leader of the civil rights movement disappeared after his speech Saturday commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have Dream” speech.
Reverend Sharpton was a preacher, a teacher, and a political leader. His address was almost uncovered by the media, but it had messages for the African American community as well as those trying to deny African Americans their rights 50 years after the March on Washington.
Gun Violence, African Americans and Reverend Al Sharpton
Addressing gun violence by young African Americans he said “Don’t you ever think that men like Medgar Evers died to give you the right to be a hoodlum, or give you the right to be a thug. That is not what they gave their life for.”
“We need to talk about how we address one another,” he said, “how we respect one another. We need to teach our young folk I don’t care how much money it gives you, don’t disrespect your women. No matter what they promise you make it clear that you know that Rosa Parks was no ho and Fannie Lou Hammer was no bitch.”
Then he chastised society for taking away the dreams of young blacks.
“What we must do is give our young people dreams again.” He went on: “...you tell the children they are nothing and they are not expected to do nothing. You build jails and close schools and you break their dreams and you wonder why they are walking around with their pants down. If we told them who they could be and what they could do, they would pull up their pants and go to work.”
Voter Suppression Laws Called Out by Reverend Al Sharpton
The Reverend attacked voter suppression laws head on.
“They are changing laws all over this country. They are coming with voter ID laws. We always had ID. Why do we need new ID now? We had ID when we voted for Johnson. We had ID when we voted for Nixon. We had ID when we voted for those who succeeded him Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush again. Why when we get to Obama do we need special ID?
We are on our way to North Carolina; we are on our way to Texas; we are on our way to Florida. And when they ask for our voter ID, take out a photo of Medgar Evers; take out a photo of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner; take out a photo of Viola Liuzzo. They gave their lives so we could vote. Look at this photo. It gives you the ID of who we are... Our votes were soaked in the blood of martyrs and you can’t take it from us like we don’t know who we are.”
He switched to jobs “If we don’t get jobs we need to continue these marches and if we get tired, we need to sit down in the offices of some of those here who do not understand folk want to work and earn for their family.”
He gave a challenge to Congress:
“50 years ago Dr. King said America gave blacks a check that bounced in the bank of Justice and they sent it back marked insufficient funds. Well we’ve re-deposited the check but guess what? It bounced again but when we looked at the reason, this time it was marked stop payment.
They had the money to bail out banks; they had the money to bail out major corporations; they had the money to give tax benefits to the rich; they had the money for the 1%; but when it comes to head start, when it comes to municipal workers, when it comes to our teachers, they stopped the check. We are going to make you make the check good or we are going to close down the bank.”
Civil Rights and Reverend Al Sharpton
Reverend Sharpton made it clear that the struggle for civil rights includes the struggle for rights for all Americans. “Let me say as we fight for voter rights; as we fight for jobs; as we fight for immigration; as we fight for equality, let us not try and limit the coalition. We need all of us together.”
In closing the Reverend, recalling the Apostle John’s vision said:
“We see a new America of equality, of justice, of fairness. We march because we going to bring a new America one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice not for some, not for who you choose, not for who you like, but for all.”
Please comment below whether you agree with Rev. Al Sharpton, or if you disagree. Were you inspired by his speech? Did you see it live or did you watch it on t.v. or on YouTube? What was the most moving quote in his speech that really inspired or angered you?