With the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom fast approaching, organizers in the District are gearing up for the stretch run.
Some speakers at the Aug.1 planning meeting said they hope to mobilize 50,000 to 100,000 people from the Washington metropolitan area to come out on Saturday, Aug. 24, and as many as 100,000 to 200,000 people from around the country to commemorate the march. The 1963 march was an event that immortalized the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement, while crystallizing for the rest of this country just how serious African Americans and like-minded people were about securing a just society.
The Rev. Lennox Abrigo, president and founder of the Washington, D.C. bureau of the National Action Network (NAN), acknowledged the enormity of the project. But he said the coalition of clergy, unions, educational institutions, civic organizations and community groups that attended the two-hour meeting were coalescing around the issue and committing to the march’s success.
“Our primary challenge is to mobilize D.C. and the greater metropolitan area and get community leaders to get their people out for the march,” he said. “I think the march will be an expression of the individual effects that the various forms of oppression are having on people in this country.”
Abrigo, a pastor of the Seventh-Day New Covenant Church and a Germantown, Md., resident, compared the conditions that King and the civil rights movement faced and what African Americans and Latinos face today.
King’s efforts, he said, were focused on a small group of people in certain cities, while the pushback that the establishment exerts against minorities today is more individualized. Gay and women’s rights, while affecting a smaller constituency of the whole country, have been afforded to people in every state and nationally.
“We live in an era when civil rights is emerging out of individual concerns. People feel that their rights are being trampled and it’s not just one group or demographic,” Abrigo explained. “This march on the 24th is the fruition, the blossoming of resistance to all this oppression.”
Janaye Ingram, NAN’s D.C. bureau chief, said that the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III are the public faces of the march which is titled, “National Action to Realize the Dream.”
“We’re working to achieve the dream,” she said. “We have a lot to fight for, to focus on and to change. This is a fight against those who don’t want us to reach our dream.”
Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), touched on a theme that others repeated.
“They didn’t have Instagrams or tweets but they got 250,000 people on the Mall,” said Ross, who was among the quarter-million people who marched and were on the Mall in 1963.
Ernest G. Green agreed.
“I drove all night from East Lansing, Mich., to be at the march,” said Green, who came to national prominence as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the black students who helped to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957. “Bayard Rustin had no social media blasts or anything like that. All he had to work with was 3×5 cards.”