Have circumstances improved for African Americans since 1963? Absolutely. Should black people now become complacent and comfortable? Absolutely not.
This is why Saturday’s march was critical – and that’s why I believe in marching for justice in 2013. Maybe I’m old school, but social justice movements evolve and are driven by the issues of the moment.
“Some will miscast this as some great social event,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, an organizer of the event and Saturday’s keynote speaker. “….Today we face continuing challenges. “Don’t act like whatever you achieved you achieved because you were that smart. You got there because some unlettered grandmas who never saw the inside of a college campus put their bodies on the line in Alabama and Mississippi and sponsored you up here.”
I also believe that marches are important for young people of color – our leaders of tomorrow – to embrace social justice movements as catalysts to get involved in community service and political activism.
“I’m marching for equality and equal justice for all people,” said Roy Lockett, who traveled to Washington, D.C. by bus from Chicago with fellow NAACP members. Lockett, who lives on Chicago’s South Side, said he is also concerned about gun violence in Chicago where more young black men are dying from gun violence than in any other city in the country.
The March on Washington also comes one week after many African Americans were angered last week by a rodeo clown in Missouri who wore an Obama mask and mocked the president. An announcer taunted the clown, saying: “We’re gonna smoke Obama … Obama, they’re coming for you this time.” He also called the masked Obama a “big goober.”
Unfortunately, racial insults toward President Obama are not unusual.
Since Obama took office, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted, “You lie!” inside the U.S Capitol during the president’s speech about health care reform last year. Wilson was one crazed voice, but he spoke for many. Obama has been called a “jack-ass,” a “dick,” a “monkey,” and a “tar baby” . Rush Limbaugh called Obama “Barack, the Magic Negro,” and conservative loudmouth Ann Coulter called the president “retarded.” In Arizona this year, white protesters shouted “Bye Bye Black Sheep” when Obama arrived for a speech.
Sharpton told the crowd that over the years, black civil rights activists died so African Americans could vote — and elected Obama as the nation’s first black president. Sharpton added that in past decades when blacks voted for Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, Bush and others, their IDs at the polls were enough. “Why when we get to Obama do we need some special ID?” Sharpton asked.
So if the black caller phones into the Rev. Sharpton’s show again and wants to know why black people marched in Washington, D.C in 2013, I’ll just tell him to review the video footage from Saturday’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial and let him figure it out for himself.