Among the number of commemorations on the docket this year—the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers and the four little girls killed in Birmingham, Ala.—it’s the historic March on Washington that is getting the most attention, thanks to the Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and the prominent speakers they’ve assembled to re-create the spirit and letter of the great march on Aug. 24 in the nation’s capital.
Commemorating the March on Washington and particularly King’s famous speech is something Sharpton and King III have been doing for years under the auspices of “Realize the Dream.”
The march was the successful manifestation of the great A. Philip Randolph’s threat to march in 1941, which forced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to enact measures to bring about change in the work place and to begin the push against discrimination, which would give impetus to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement.
Jobs and justice were the key demands in 1963, and Sharpton and his cohorts are emphasizing these issues and others as they prepare to put the nation on notice again at a time when the Supreme Court has dragged its feet on affirmative action and practically eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
During a recent press conference in Washington, D.C., Sharpton said, “It is the intent of those that come together to make it clear that this not just a nostalgia visit, that this is not commemoration but a continuation and a call to action. We are in a climate that is threatening too much of what was achieved 50 years ago.”
Poverty, poor education, loss of labor rights, inadequate health care, voter suppression and mass incarceration are some of the issues the marchers and speakers will be addressing in August.
Sharpton reiterated these concerns during his appearance at the Essence magazine festival in New Orleans, where he interviewed civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis, who will be among the speakers at the march. A coterie of labor leaders, activists, elected officials and other notables are scheduled to be in attendance, including Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers; Harry Johnson, National Urban League; Melanie Campbell, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Laura Reyes, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund.
For more information, please visit www.nationalactionnetwork.net.