Please join United for Peace and Justice in commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington on August 24th in our nation’s capital. We need a strong peace and anti-war contingent to speak to the injustices faced by marchers in 1963, and those still endured today. We will echo King’s words about the inextricable links between poverty, war and racism, including hate in all its forms. We must ensure that the nation hears these parts of King’s message loud and clear on this anniversary of the March on Washington and I Have A Dream speech.
It’s important for activists of all economic and social justice struggles to gather for this march because it marks an essential part of our common history of struggle. The March on Washington not only helped pave the way for activism of the 1960’s, it also helped set into motion 50 years of struggle for peace and justice, the torch for which each of us carries today. To paraphrase King, we are the whirlwinds of revolt that will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. What better time and place to come together in a collective effort to continue building the dream?
The challenges faced by the nation in 1963 in many ways mirror those we face today. How different is Trayvon Martin from Emmett Till? How is it that decades after people lost their lives for simply trying to exercise the right to vote, we have a U.S. Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and states like Texas and North Carolina following to immediately limit access? And how far have women come? In 1963 women did not have legal access to abortions or credit without their husband’s approval. Today, women continue to receive less pay than men for the same work and face an epidemic of sexual assault and violence. And, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, abortion rights extend only to those women who have the money to pay for them.
The economic front is no better. Fifty years ago African Americans faced 10% unemployment. The working poor both Black and White struggled to make ends meet with low wages and little hope of upward mobility. Today the nation faces a stagnant economy with too few jobs for anyone no matter their demographics and 12.6% unemployment for Blacks – far worse than in 1963. Yet, we have no jobs program in sight and sequestration has added to already deep cuts in local, state and federal human needs services. All this, while the Pentagon budget remains higher than that of the next ten nations combined. And today, like in 1963, the U.S. continues to be the greatest purveyor of violence in the world as the number one exporter of weapons, the main actor in the global war on terror killing tens if not hundreds of thousands of people, not to mention rampant gun violence here at home.
The similarities do not end there. Our country’s xenophobic trends of the past continue, targeting many groups with their hate. The acceptance of marriage equality has resulted in a backlash aimed at the LGBT community. Immigration reform hasn’t advanced because bigots fear Hispanics who come to the U.S. to pursue safety and security for their families (the same reason most U.S. citizens ancestors immigrated to these shores). Labor Rights endure unrelenting attacks with efforts to cut benefits for the working poor, keep wages low and deny healthcare.
It doesn’t stop here – the environment, corporate power, individual privacy rights and over-incarceration are all on the table, just as in 1963. All this and more must be talked about as the nation looks back to 50 years ago.
Many ask when, will this end? When will this change? The answer is when we the people bond together, across interests, to end it. The commemorative March on Washington is a perfect building block for the platform of collaboration we need to create the change we want to see. I hope you will join me by marching in Washington DC or in your own community! I look forward to seeing you there.
Michael T. McPhearson