Civil Rights Leaders Lay Out 21st Century Agenda

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    A coalition of black leaders issued what they said is the 21st century agenda for the nation on Aug. 23 as it marked the watershed civil rights event that helped bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 1963 march drew some 250,000 to the National Mall and ushered in the idea of massive, nonviolent demonstrations.

    The leaders, including The National Urban League’s Marc Morial, the NAACP’s Benjamin Todd Jealous,the National Action Network’s Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Melanie Campbell, named economic parity, equity in education, voting rights, health care access and criminal justice reform as national policy priorities.

    On the day of the anniversary, President Barack Obama spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the same place King stood when he delivered his ”I Have a Dream” speech. Obama was joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Churches and groups were asked to ring bells at 3 p.m. Aug. 28, marking the exact time King spoke.

    Organizers hoped this year’s event would serve to inspire people again to educate themselves about issues they see as making up the modern civil rights struggle.

    ”It’s very difficult to stomach the fact that Trayvon wasn’t committing any crime. He was on his way home from the store,” Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, said Friday as she prepared to participate in the march. ”Don’t wait until it’s at your front door. Don’t wait until something happens to your child. … This is the time to act now. This is the time to get involved.”

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