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A Few Thoughts on the March on Washington

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Martin Luther King

After watching the commemorative speeches for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington I was conflicted. I had a lot of thoughts about what I witnessed. I asked two gentlemen whom I’ve had great dialogue with on history as well as political and social issues to weigh in on some questions I had. These gentlemen are @OG_Humble_One and @wu_youngAOM.

1. Who was your favorite speaker and why?

Wu: I would have to go with a combination of both Representative Lewis and President Carter. It was good to see men of their ages speak candidly about their experiences. I will always maintain that there is no better way to devour history than to hear it from someone who lived through it. I take this view because my parents were children of the depression and not baby boomers. Lewis and Carter’s firsthand accounts just stuck with me.

OG: My favorite speaker was John Lewis. I feel that out of all the speakers he put things in perspective.  He spoke on how things were and how things are now. He also touched on current struggles.  Having someone speak that was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement and had a visible role in the original MOW helped me to have a deeper understanding of the CRM.

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Tunde: My favorite speaker was Rep. John Lewis. At first I was moved simply because of who he was and what he has done in the name of civil rights. His personal sacrifices and what he had to do to be where he is. Outside of Rep. Bobby Rush my favorite congressman is Rep. John Lewis. Emotions aside he was my favorite speaker that day because he not only used the day to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the impact of what the March on Washington was about but he spoke on the ills of our society today. He stated plainly that racism remains embedded into American society today, which I agree with. He named issues around racism that need to be addressed which included Stop and Frisk in New York City, mass incarceration, the George Zimmerman trial, immigration policies, poverty and changes to voting rights. I would have loved to see how far his speech would have gone if he wasn’t forced to edit it.

2. Apparently two young speakers were cut from speaking last minute. What do you think of the exclusion of younger people from the March’s event?

Wu: This was a definite red flag for me due to the fact that it illustrates the divide between the generations who fought the hard fights from the beginning until the early 1970’s. It always seemed to me that the older folks just handed their proverbial weapons over to the next generation and didn’t bother to train them but often ask the same generation to sit by and be quiet when we speak on “the way things were”.  Sure, older generations love to talk about how long their walk to school was but they have to realize that it helps when younger folks who look up to them get to tell their story. There is a certain level of self-importance held by both generations but only the younger generations’ self-importance is spoken on.

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OG: I had a problem with this.  Philip Agnew (A brilliant young activist) and Sofia Campos were not allowed to speak. This is Philip Agnew’s speech for those that have not read it. Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials should’ve had a prominent voice at the anniversary.  This speech should have been a symbolic “passing of the torch”.

Tunde: MLK was thirty-four during the original March on Washington.  Rep. John Lewis was 23 years of age. Whatever we’re fighting for now is partly for immediate change but it’s also to leave a better world for the next generation. Eventually the leaders of yesterday are going to have to pass the torch.  Leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson, whom died naturally, or leaders such as Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton and James Chaney who died at the hands of people who would see the end of the Civil Rights Movement, gave way to the leaders who eventually saw the passing the of Civil Rights and Voting Acts. I think that these leaders who are still holding on to the spotlight have gone above and beyond what was called of them and are a credit to our people. I’m ready for fresh faces and voices, fresh ideas that will continue the fight against discrimination and injustice.

1

obama-march-on-washington-speech3. I noticed a lot of commemorating but not a lot of call to action and planning. 50 years ago the March on Washington was about jobs and freedom. Yesterday it felt like a lot of back patting and self-aggrandizement. What type of plans would you like to see going forward?

Wu: There was a lot of self-aggrandizing. There was more than I cared for at times too but I’m not one for pomp. Moving forward I want to hear plans on education, economics, and improved health care. The literacy rate and grade-level reading NEEDS to improve for black folks to strive. Multiple plans for economic responsibility and improvement has to be the next step for us to maintain and expand our foothold. As for health care we need to address our general well-being. Mentally, physically, and spiritually it seems to me that we are lagging behind. As someone who deals with depression I will be the first to say that we must address our mental health in a serious manner. We must deal with what we eat and grow. I think quality and moderation is the key to this.

OG: I had a HUGE problem with this. This ties into the previous question. It was a lot of back-patting and self-aggrandizement.  This is my biggest problem with prominent CRM leaders post CRM.  They fall all over themselves for everything up 1965. What about the 70s, 80s, and 90s? Post CRM people of color have been taking it on the chin. It makes me question what was the struggle about? Was it getting a white collar job and moving to the suburbs? The Black middle class hit the ground running post CRM but everyone else has been in a slow decline.  There is roughly a 15 year span between the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act and Reganomics. So as soon as working class Black folks started to make some gains the rug was snatched from under them.  Winning the war is the easy part. Having a plan after victory is the challenge.

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As far as plans going forward I would like to see an updated Black agenda based on the revised 10 point program of the Black Panther Party

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black and oppressed communities.
  2. We want full employment for our people.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our black and oppressed communities.
  4. We want decent housing, fit for the shelter of human beings.
  5. We want decent education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
  6. We want completely free health care for all black and oppressed people.
  7. We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people, other people of color, all oppressed people inside the united states.
  8. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression.
  9. We want freedom for all black and oppressed people now held in U.S. Federal, state, county, city and military prisons and jails. We want trials by a jury of peers for all persons charged with so-called crimes under the laws of this country.
  10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people’s community control of modern technology.

Tunde: During the speeches I heard a lot of buzzwords repeated over and over. “Hallowed ground” and “Shadow of Lincoln’s statue” immediately come to mind. Also, a lot of speakers do what most people do when they quote the I Have A Dream speech. They only quoted parts that weren’t decisive or radical. It’s meant to draw emotion across the board and I think for the most part it succeeded.  I wanted to hear more about what can be done to combat the repeal of parts of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. I wanted to hear more about mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline.

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4. I wasn’t the only one that noticed there was an obvious void of Republicans from the March anniversary activities. There seemed to be a lot of excuses thrown around as to why. Also, coverage on Fox News was what I expected during the keynote speakers (The War on Drugs and Immigration). What are your thoughts on this?

Wu: The GOP’s absence was expected. (I will say that Tim Scott (Rep, SC) did let the organizers know that he had a prior engagement.) Since I try to stay away from Fox and all cable news I can only imagine what was said. I’m guessing it was generalized, slanted, and ham-fisted.

OG: I’m not surprised this happened. Especially considering the current political environment. Conservatives didn’t support the CRM then and they don’t support it now. You would think they would have some representation there considering they want minorities in their party. Being there would have given some inkling they are open to others.

Tunde: I expected there to be at least one key Republican figure just for publicity’s sake but I was wrong. Maybe Speaker John Boehner would take 5 minutes out of his busy schedule to say something. I can’t even say I was shocked. Just disappointed. Fox News is a joke. Insert lyrics from Nas’ Sly Fox.

5. What do you think of the current state of the Black community?

Wu: Ah, the State of Us. I think we’re both scattered and together at the same time. The levels of snobbery, classism, and infighting seem to bubble up at the wrong moments when we need unity. At many points we lack a clear united front and I’m not sure if we ever had one. Unlike many groups of Americans we’re unfortunately viewed through such a monolithic lens that we buy into the notion too. I say we need to embrace our diversity without looking down or away from the others on team.

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OG: Right now we are in bad shape overall. I don’t like using the term Black community because there isn’t one. The lack of community is why I feel there should be separate business/political leadership amongst Black folks. Current politicians, business leaders, activists campaign and talk like they represent all of us but they only represent a few and for the right price they’ll represent you.  The decimation of public schools and the private prison industry are issues that working class and poor Blacks face.  We don’t vote, invest, or live in the same neighborhoods so how can issues like this be fought? Our political power has diminished too. No one has to do anything for Black voters.  I’ve seen so much selfishness, classism, and self-hate now and it hurts.  Individually? A very small number of Black folks are doing ok to great. As a whole? We are in terrible shape.

Tunde: I’m ambivalent. I think that’s the best word to use here. On one side I love what I see. I see people who are engaged in their community. Active members of society who just want live life and help those around them. On the other side I see something completely different. We like to point to Chicago as ground zero for black on black crime as if there isn’t examples of wasted lives and opportunities in just about every city and town this country. I wish more of us would open our eyes and see that we fall victim far too often to materialism and buying into what we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to behave.

What did you think of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington? Did you have a chance to attend any of the events? Who was your favorite speaker? What do you think we as a nation need to do going forward to try to fulfill Dr. King’s dream?

Comment(22)

  1. guys like Phillip Agnew may get a chance to speak on their journey 50 yrs from now but today, nah- The gov't is not tryna promote no civil disobedience lol.

    "What do you think we as a nation need to do going forward to try to fulfill Dr. King’s dream?"

    A lot of men in the black community are on social life support. I'm pretty sure a look into your average hood or the average jail would bring MLK to tears. I read somewhere that a strategy in war is to target the male first, feminize him & strip away his power & then the women & children our yours. Well look at what has happened to the black male in this country. Once we got free from slavery & segregation, we were inundated w/ images of pimps & thugs, men mistreating their women, being players, popularization of the "baby daddy", drug dealers idealized. Ppl view this stuff as just a part of black culture, but don't realize the owners of these record labels, & creators of the blaxploitation stuff were & are white men. interesting.

    action plan:
    -educate black men young on their history & worth- how to be a real man & not just live by what mass media tries to teach you is a "man" How to treat black women w/ respect & honor their families. Financial education: budgeting, investing, saving. Teaching how to manage money & purchase property. Teach integrity & character.

    -create opportunites: more 2nd chance opportunities for black men w/ felonies for higher education & work training, more tutoring/ after school programs in the hood (can never get enough of these) More programs like Dr. Steve Perry's, more scholarship programs, more grants & incentives for legit black businesses.

    I love the different perspectives from you & your 2 friends, so many amazing points were made I had to read this twice!!! (I'm a total nerd smh) I have more ideas but I will literally be here all day if I don't stop now & I got work to do lol- sorry for the long post!!!!!!

    1. i like your action plans.

      crazy how that strategy of war has played out in the black community. its like we see it now but most people are so far gone they don't want to do anything to stop it even though we're only hurting ourselves.

  2. What turned me off was the obvious generational divide, there was a lot of “look what we did” but not enough where are we going.. Its that “hush, grown folks is talking” mantra which is why i feel the march itself didn’t make the mipact on my peers that it should’ve and needed too.

  3. Excellent article! As someone who has been underemployed for over a year (despite two masters degrees and 3 years of experience), I was ambivalent about the 50th anniversary. I followed the "rules" about getting an education, working hard, getting experience and then they changed! Having said all that, I still watched the speeches. I want to be a speechwriter, so watching speeches is part of my training:) Can't say that any one was my particular favorite, though I am a fan of Rep. John Lewis. How can anyone not be? He epitomizes the phrase, "don't speak about it, be about it."

    No matter how accomplished or professional I am…. people will always see my blackness first. I'm not sure any movement is going to change the hard-wired prejudice and racism in this country. Whites are afraid of Blacks getting ahead through equal access to good jobs and employment programs because they think we will do them the same thing that they did to us.

    Racism is more covert now (though not entirely), so its harder to fight directly, as it was in the CRM. Sure, we have equal opportunity under the law for jobs and education but not equal access. Its hard to fight the people in power when we don't have enough people who look like us in power (human resources, law enforcement, lawmakers) and even those among us who are in power? Well, they have to toe the line……

    Some said President Obama could have gone "deeper" and been more specific in his comments, especially now that he is in his second term. On one hand, I agree. But to be fair, President Obama is one man. One man who got his education. Who was a community organizer. Who is committed to his family without an example of an active father in his life. Who became the first black president. He has done his part. What are other black men and women going to do?

    I encourage all, especially those with a public policy background, to learn more about how programs for underserved communities are run. Take that blueprint and make it better. Build "intentional communities." For black men who've finished school and are working professionals, be a mentor to the struggling black boys who think rapping, sports and selling drugs are the only way out.

    Lastly, as for the black community, I OVERSTAND Wu's comments here, especially living in the DC metro area:

    "The levels of snobbery, classism, and infighting seem to bubble up at the wrong moments when we need unity. "

    As we climb up, reach back. No matter what, as long as you are black and live in America, there will be ALWAYS be struggle. This is just my 08 cents.

    1. i live in DC too. born and raised. i recently moved back after being gone for almost 10 years. i don't like what DC has become as far as the black community. there are two pools. the deep end of pool where it seems that people just don't know any better. they're drowning and they don't even know it. the other end is the kiddie pool. pretentiousness abound. all you have to do is go to happy hour at a place like park and you'll see it all around. people who are self-serving and couldn't give a damn about the next person. i hate it.
      My recent post Thoughts on the March on Washington

      1. The stories I hear about DC trouble me. It's sad that such a high concentration of talented Black folks are useless (to Black folks) overall. DC was/is "Chocolate City" and hearing about the gentrification issues and at the same time the Black elitism troubles me. It makes me wonder if Black folks really have any interest at all of being a community that can protect it's own interests. If we have interests at all? Maybe we don't. Maybe as long as we can somewhat enjoy the comforts of middle class American life we're good? I don't know. It just frustrates me to hear about DC and see what's going on in my city (Detroit) and Black folks not really caring. I see whites, Asians, Middle Easterners, investing, pioneering, and staking their claim in Detroit now while you can't get Black folks to at least hedge a bet. I just wish we would be a bit more united to better protect us from the same old issues.

  4. What do you think we as a nation need to do going forward to try to fulfill Dr. King’s dream?

    Stop being divided over the petty things and learn to help uplift our own people. I am always a firm believer of giving back to the community and educating the younger history of our past, our current situation, and what we are capable of becoming. Recognizing one's greatness if you will. We are so off track of where we need to be because we are learning to "mind our own business", "ignore the issues", or "not wanting to fool with that stuff". We are not finished and the speeches reminded me of Bush saying mission accomplished and that wasn't the case. I'm proud of what we have been through as a race and what we have achieved but we are not finished.
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  5. "I wish more of us would open our eyes and see that we fall victim far too often to materialism and buying into what we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to behave."

    +1

  6. I think (and I plan on going further into this in a post) we have done ourselves a HUGE disservice by not recognizing the power of “people of color” in America as opposed to “African Americans” or “Hispanics”,etc (this is a problem across the board, I’m not singling out a culture). For example, we really dropped the ball in the “Smart Women of Twitter” debacle by immediately responding with a “why don’t we start a ‘SmartBlackWomen’ hashtag?” instead of bringing the greater WOC collective into the fight. It started a counter-productive “meeee tooo” hashtag oversaturation with SmartLatinas & SmartAsians, etc. While this is a tiny example I believe by being more inclusive we can really see some traction. Mainstream media and other companies are starting to see the power of Hispanic and immigrant dollars and money talks. It is not the same climate as it was 50 years ago and we could have such a bigger impact if we could recognize this. And I mean it from all sides

    1. I totally agree with you. I think many opportunities are missed. I also think certain people of color benefit individually by only recognizing or acknowledging African-Americans. So many problems cross ethnic lines and can be addressed with more integration of movements.

  7. What did you think of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington?"
    It was a celebration of what they (CRM)created. I didn’t have a problem with the exclusion of the younger generation. It wasn’t their day. I’m a “new schooler” but we have got to create our own 50th anniversary moment. The old generation deserved to be sitting at the table while the young’ns stood and watched for a day. It’s called homage.

    “What do you think we as a nation need to do going forward to try to fulfill Dr. King’s dream?”
    This depends on the millions of interpretation of his dream. Ultimately, once he started preaching the “I Have a Dream” parts of the speech, it became too vague. It was great for inspiration but bad for apllication.

    I deny the idea that Dr. King and the many others would be disappointed in the current state of blackness however. Anyone of them that would be would get a long winded tour of the good and productive black people and the opportunities thereof that was created out of the Civil Rights Movement. They don’t make noise but they’re there in greater numbers than we credit them for.

  8. I think #3…specifically OGs response to it…kinda sums up why I couldn't get into the MOW50 spirit at all really. I mean, I was happy about it…watched the coverage but… *shrugs*

    I can't remember who said it during an interview, but they mentioned that there was a set agenda going into the original MOW. This agenda was crafted by CR leaders and lawyers…measurable and attainable goals. Now, there's nothing wrong with celebrating, remembering and mentioning that we still have some high-level things to do. But, we have so much to do that's actually attainable and measurable that the whole thing just seemed like a missed opportunity to really get the ball rolling on things.

    *shrugs*

  9. i think you all hit many nails on the heads here. the Young voice was not heard and there was more "remembering" than planning/calling to action – and i believe the latter is a direct result of the former. there were TWO celebrations of MOW and yet i feel nothing was accomplished, besides having a walk (or march, rather) down memory lane. there was urgency in the first MOW because if folks didnt act, they would continue to suffer and be mistreated. i see NO urgency today. ppl outraged but collectively we arent organized to act/make demands. its so disjointed.

    there is a need to invest in/empower Black boys/men (especially). not at the expense of our Black girls/women, but an extra emphases on males. they are often expected to just "man up" and figure it out on their own. but its clear they need attention and extra hands to guide them and help them be/do better. the only way to become a more unified community is to make sure EACH member is acknowledged and properly tended to. everyone matters, everyone has a role, and everyone deserves to be included.

    thanks for this, gents.

    1. "there is a need to invest in/empower Black boys/men (especially). not at the expense of our Black girls/women,.."

      couldn't have said it better. it seems that when any type of attention is paid to black males in the capacity of trying to help them better their lives there seems to be some type of backlash. but when attention is paid to them in the form of stop and frisk and incarceration that's all good and they got what they deserved. i really want to volunteer more with at risk youth to help them better themselves.
      My recent post Thoughts on the March on Washington

  10. Humble One: "We don’t vote, invest, or live in the same neighborhoods so how can issues like this be fought? Our political power has diminished too. No one has to do anything for Black voters."

    That's the problem. We'll certainly talk about it. We love meetings, vigils, rallies, conventions, symbolic funerals, etc., but will barely move to actually help ourselves. We get the education and career, run out to the suburbs, and completely ignore the next generation to even give them some basic advice. Most black folks don't even attend or visit the same church or visit the same gyms in the communities they grew up in after they've "made it".

    If we don't care, why would anyone care about the black vote or the black community in general?

  11. Very simple.

    Our two crimes as black folk (African American denizens & anybody else that shares our complexion)

    1. Black people don’t put our differences aside long enough to handle, big fish issues

    A. Protection/Defense – anytime someone says or does something unjust to a black person, there needs to be swift physical or financial retribution. Jews have mastered this, and any person in this country with diplomatic ties knows this. We also have to nationalize.

    B. Group Economics – Simply passing our money with people who look like us & have our long-term best interests. We damn sure don’t do that. And when we do have money, we spend it on the most trivial desires, and beg for what we need.

    We don’t need any more black leaders for those two things. It is just a matter of getting on the same page.

    Good Day

    ———-

    P.S. Tunde, as long as you stay away from romantic/dating topic & feminism. I think you will be great

  12. I'm all for solutions, but anyone who can't see how daunting this task will be needs to get their eyes checked. While we have made many progressive steps as far as upward mobility is concerned. However socially we have fallen back by leaps and bounds. When ignorance, coonery, style rather than substance are the loudest voices in the room, we really need to examine how we can get this turned around. It's hard to have love for a brother who would rather take me out because I'm not about that life, or a sister who either only sees me as a benefactor, or a bum because I can't be her benefactor. Our people during the CRM were so unified, because we had a common goal, striving for equality, now the message for today is "get yours" by any means necessary because we have been trained to want to be like the same Caucasian establishment that oppressed us for generations. I could go on but I digress.

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