When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the historic 'March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom' at the nation's capital in 1963, I was only eight years old. His son, Martin Luther King III, was going on six. Even though we were just children at the time, both of us understood the significance of that moment and have dedicated our lives since to advancing the fight for civil rights. This Saturday, August 24th, we will lead the 'National Action to Realize the Dream' rally back where it all began in Washington, D.C. As a new generation that grew up in the aftermath of the '60s movement, we've worked diligently to make Dr. King's dream a reality. But when jobs and justice are still key issues plaguing society today, we have no choice but to call on everyone to gather once again. Fifty years after Dr. King's march, we must continue the push for equality until his dream, that glorious vision is actualized.
The Economic Policy Institute recently released a report highlighting the fact that from the 1960s to today, the Black unemployment rate has been about 2 to 2.5 times the White unemployment rate. According to their findings: "In 2012, the Black unemployment rate was 14.0 percent, 2.1 times the White unemployment rate (6.6 percent), and higher than the average national unemployment rate of 13.1 percent during the Great Depression, from 1929 to 1939." When such blatant inequality exists, how can we ever believe that our work is finished? Dr. King and the over 250,000 gathered with him on that historic day marched for jobs, and today we will continue marching for jobs as inequity persists. Millions of Americans are still desperately seeking work, and yet Congress will not support a jobs bill. So we march.
In 1963, the people demanded and pushed for greater voter equality. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of legislation that was designed to protect the votes of every American citizen regardless of his/her color or creed. Just this summer, the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act which maps the areas that must have pre-clearance from the federal gov. before making any changes to their voting laws. As a result, several states quickly enacted new voter ID legislation, eliminated early voting days, ended same-day registration and other strategic measures designed to block people's vote. To have the Voting Rights Act gutted in such a clever and outrageous manner is an insult to all those that gave their lives for our right to vote. So we march.
Parents of minority children used to worry when their kids went outside for fear of police, KKK members and mobs who simply hated them because of the color of their skin. Unfortunately today, many parents hold similar fears because of shameful policies like the NYPD's practice of 'stop & frisk', and because of laws like 'Stand Your Ground,' now in place in dozens of states. When hundreds of thousands of Blacks and Latinos can be stopped, questioned and frisked with the overwhelming majority found innocent, it's time to demand change. And when a law like 'Stand Your Ground' permits someone to shoot first and ask questions later, we must push for its repeal. Until all people can walk freely without fear of persecution by others, our work remains and the dream has not come to fruition. So we march.
As the country continues to diversify, many would like to bring us back to an era when women did not have the right to choose, and the LGBT community had to live in the shadows. In several states, we have seen egregious attacks on women's reproductive rights -- the same rights so many pushed for decades ago. The war on women, and the vitriol against gays and lesbians has been so vicious that anyone on the side of justice cannot ignore it. So we march.
Immigrants, who have always been the backbone of this country, are being vilified by some who refuse to accept the fact that we are a nation of inclusion. Continuously fighting against legislation like the DREAM Act, which would allow the best and brightest to remain in the country, these folks would rather spend enormous amounts of money in a futile attempt at deportation. And so we march.
I have always stated that we have made great progress in this country. But to blindly believe that our work is over is foolish and naïve at best. Those that want to celebrate Dr. King's march can go ahead and do so, we are not admonishing them. But those that want to make his dream a reality should join us in Washington this Saturday. Justice delayed is justice denied. And a dream deferred is a dream unfulfilled.
Please visit nationalactionnetwork.net for more info. on the 'National Action to Realize the Dream' march.