ABOVE PHOTO: Martin Luther King III speaks at a City Hall press conference, (surrounded by State Rep. David Oh, State Rep. Brendan Boyle and Sen. Vincent Hughes)about the upcoming March on Washington Aug. 24.
(Photo by Bill Z. Foster)
Martin Luther King III was in town on Wednesday to mobilize Philadelphia for the 50th Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Justice. He was also there to make sure that organizers understood that was no time for just celebration.
By Denise Clay
If you had asked him two months ago, Martin Luther King III, current head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, probably would have told you that the March on Washington being held on Saturday Aug., 24 was a sort of anniversary celebration of the world-famous march his father held on Aug. 28, 1963.
But now, the son of the late civil rights icon the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says that the last two months have made the anniversary of the March for Jobs and Justice a cause for action instead of just a celebration.
“Less than two months ago, the Voting Rights Act was dismantled by the Supreme Court,” King said. “Then the Trayvon Martin decision was announced, and it said to many of us that the life of an African American child has no value. How do we address these issues if we’re not totally engaged? These events should have truly awakened you.”
Making sure that the community was awake and mobilized was what brought King and members of the organization Communities Without Boundaries to the Community College of Philadelphia gymnasium on Wednesday. Their mission was to find out what issues activists from the Philadelphia area felt important enough to be spotlighted on the National Mall when the march occurs on Aug. 24.
Although the date of the actual March for Jobs and Justice was August 28, King said it was important that this march be held on the Saturday before because now is not the time to stand on ceremony.
“The tone of this march is different,” he said. “A commemoration is a ceremonial act, and I’m sure that there will be some of that. But the march on the 24th is a continuation of the goals of the original march. We still need to realize the dream.”
PHOTO: Martin Luther King III with attendees at Community College of Philadelphia’s meeting for March for Jobs and Justice 50th Anniversary in Washington this month.
(Photo by Denise Clay)
Prior to King’s taking the stage, members of various community groups shared with him just how important it was to understand that large chunks of the dream that Dr. King shared with those who attended the March in 1968 via his iconic “I Have A Dream’ speech had yet to be realized.
King sat and listened intently as members of Philadephia’s activist community came to the microphone and talked about things that were needed to make Philadelphia the “Beloved Community” his father wished for. Among those things was an educational system that did more than feed the School to Prison Pipeline.
“Our kids are entitled to a good public education and they’re not getting it,” said Denise Ripley, an education activist. “We need to talk about educational funding because our kids are being shortchanged.”
Reggie Shuford, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said it was important to discuss education at the March because of what comes next.
“We have to talk about The New Jim Crow,” he said. “We can’t have this march without talking about Black male incarceration. Jail should be the last resort. We have to focus on alternatives to imprisonment.”
Economics and the divide between the country’s haves and have nots was also a topic that local representatives felt should be addressed. There are too many people in Philadelphia who lack a good job, adequate food and shelter.
One participant suggested that the city’s labor unions could go a long way toward helping out with that by making sure that people of color are a part of any union apprenticeship program.
But any effort undertaken must include young people, particularly young professionals.
The March on Washington will be held on the National Mall on Aug. 24. The SUN will have more details on how you can participate as soon as they’re available.