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Dr. King in Washington, D.C. COURTESY PHOTO

Dr. King in Washington, D.C. COURTESY PHOTO

March on Washington this weekend echoes 1963

By Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney Newswire

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When more than 250,000 people convened on the Washington Mall Aug. 28, 1963, six million people were unemployed, 22 million Americans lived in poverty, voting rights for Blacks were barely existent and the profiling of African Americans, still dealing with vestiges of Jim Crow, was rampant.

In comparison, 50 years later, 12 million people are unemployed, 60 million Americans live in poverty, voting rights gained as a result of the march are now under attack, and the Trayvon Martin case has once again highlighted the stereotyping and profiling of African Americans.

Therefore, as thousands reconvene Aug. 24, for the 50th anniversary commemoration, the event called the National Action to Realize the Dream is expected to outline an agenda for a 21st century civil rights movement.

Despite clear gains, overwhelming statistics conclude that the famous “content of their character” instead of the “color of their skin” hope expressed in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech remains elusive at best. This is the reason the string of anniversary activities are focused on what some posters are calling “unfinished business.”

“The exact quote from A. Philip Randolph was that America could not work if six million Americans are unemployed. Okay, well, we’ve got 12 million Americans unemployed — and that’s the official number,” says economist Bill Spriggs of the AFL-CIO. “If six million people are unemployed and 250,000 people show up when the public policy statement and the position of (President John F. Kennedy) was ‘I am going to stimulate the economy to do whatever it takes to get the unemployment rate down to 4 percent’ and you currently have a president who hasn’t said anything close to that, then how many people are supposed to be in the street?”

That remains to be seen as the vast majority of those 12 million unemployed people are African Americans, whose 12.5 percent unemployment rate appears to be dropping, yet, remains consistently twice that of whites.

Rev. Al Sharpton is considered the key organizer of the Aug. 24 commemoration march alongside Martin Luther King III.

“This is almost like a campaign,” said King III, describing the march. “It is truly a continuation of being in the struggle of organizing communities around this nation — again, not just for this day … We know that in 1963, there were 22 million people living in poverty, roughly, and today there are nearly 60 million — unacceptable in a nation with so much wealth and so many resources and so much ingenuity. And the only way that we can change this is creating the right climate.”

According to a press release, Sharpton and King III will be joined by Congressman John Lewis, who spoke at the 1963 march, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, the families of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, among others on the list of who’s who among leaders of civil rights, church, labor, women, immigration advocates and LGBT rights movements. The rally will begin at the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 24 at 8 a.m., followed by the march to the King Memorial.

Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has announced a “Let Freedom Ring Global Commemoration Celebration Call to Action” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 28 at 1 p.m. Sponsored by the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Foundation, the event will include tributes and entertainment from leaders, culminating with a “Let Freedom Ring” bell ringing at 3 p.m.

The White House has announced that President Barack Obama will be speaking at the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony, but no specific time for his appearance has been released.

The Aug. 28 events are also forward-looking and underscoring the need for a continued movement. In a press conference announcing the event, Rev. King said states are being asked to participate in the bell ringing, “recommitting ourselves” to continue the work of freedom. “Struggle is a never-ending process,” she quoted her mother, Coretta Scott King. “We are still fighting for freedom. This is a continuation of the freedom struggle.”

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