Posted by The Vegan Bear
Fifty years ago today over 250,000 Americans set foot in The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, DC. On this day, history was forever changed in the largest political rally for human rights and equality. On this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That speech would eventually be ranked as the top American speech of the 20th century. It was this very historic day which has been credited in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the ongoing pursuit for equality. Tragically, it was a little more than four years later that Dr. King would be martyred by a racist sniper on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN.
Today, the life, wisdom, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resonates throughout the world. There are few places in the world where this non-violent, peaceful visionary is not known. Young children can recite various parts of his speeches as well as memorable quotes with pride and ease. What is most amazing is how Dr. King has become embraced over all these years by many Americans, especially those who are minorities, ostracized, and discriminated against. And though great strides have been made in the last 50-years, a lot remains to be done. We have a long way to go before the visions of Dr. King for unity, equality, and peace are a true reality for all Americans. In a recent poll; few think all of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s goals have been met.
Today I joined my fiancé, friends, and over 150,000 Americans on the National Mall to remember and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I spent the entire day surrounded by a sea of diversity – a beautiful rainbow of ethnicities, ages, faiths, backgrounds…documented and undocumented Americans, male and female, gay, straight, and transgender. There are no words to describe the spirit of universal love and solidarity which was very much present this afternoon. We listened to a vast array of speakers, some of whom included: Rev. Al Sharpton, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Dr. Eliza Byard, Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Rev. Dr. Bernice King, Martin L. King III, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and so many others.
We were reminded of the progress which has been made, but the realities of what remains…a growing gap between the rich and poor, voter suppression, race driven murder victims such as Trayvon Martin, anti-equality legislation and homophobic hate crimes, and more. As the Voting Rights Act continues to be attacked, former President Bill Clinton remarked, “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon.”
We were continually reminded by so many leaders this afternoon, “we’ve come too far to turn back now.” We are Americans and we still have a dream and we have an obligation to keep that dream alive, one day passing the threshold from dream to reality. President Obama hit the nail on the head when he said,
“Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes. That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn’t have to; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.
To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years. Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain. Their victory was great.”
Think about where we’ve all come from and how far we’ve come. The dream continues with the wisdom of our past heroines of freedom and elders. The dream continues with you and I. We are all called to be pavers in the road to equality, justice, and freedom. We truly have a moral obligation and duty to stay steadfast, not only for the children of today, but for all future generations. The dream continues with our commitment to love, service, and stewardship.
“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say…I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Drum Major Instinct (1968)
Tags: 1964 Civil Rights Act, Anniversary, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, DC, democracy, Equality, gay, history, I Have A Dream, Jimmy Carter, LGBT, March on Washington, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King, MLK, NAACP, National Park Service, racism, speech, United States, Voting Rights Act, Washington