Letter: Remembering the March on Washington

To the Editor,
Aug. 28, 2013, will be the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a day that was beautiful as far as the weather was concerned and accommodating to the more than 250,000 that descended on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. My late father, James B. Jackson, was one of those who rode the more then 2,000 buses to attend this event. He later told me how he was so happy to see that there were many whites who also had driven and taken trains and buses to support the fight against American Aparthied and economic freedom.

Bayard Rustin was the chief organizer of this march. He, along with A. Philip Randolph and Abraham Muste, threatened FDR with a march on Washington in 1941 to address racism in the armed forces. Unions, civil rights organizations and religious and civic groups all attended this march, even though it did have its detractors, such as Malcolm X, who called the march,”the farce on Washington”. It was indeed an event that was multi-racial in make-up with many celebrities, and had its controversy.

James Baldwin was there 50 years ago, but not allowed to make his speech because of its inflammatory nature. John Lewis, who was the head of SNCC, had to revise his speech in order to be allowed to speak. Harry Belafonte and Charlton Heston were there, and there were performances from Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. This march and gathering in Washington D.C. spearheaded the most important civil rights legislation since the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution a century before.

Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech summed up the meaning of the gathering of more than a quarter million to address the indignities and brutalities that had become an everyday experience for most African Americans. His speech also attempted to elevate the moral fabric of this society where indeed “one day, our children will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”

Progress has been made in many respects as far as the condition of African Americans and the plight of the poor since this event and Dr. King’s monumental speech. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society Programs were an effort to address the theme of the “March on Washington.” However, the resurgence of Jim Crow Laws restricting voting and allowing for re-segregation, anti-immigration laws targeting Latinos and mean-spirited policies from the far right that demonizes the poor and are allowing for the system to become fixed so it only benefits a few, engendering the growing level of poverty are all signs we are certainly going in the wrong direction.

These efforts, as well as the racial profiling that allowed the stalking, confronting and killing of an unarmed Trayvon Martin and the racism that I see here in Larchmont, where over a local website one of the posters said, “we need more George Zimmerman’s around here,” with others on this site that concurred, are glaring examples that there are many forces today that are trying to destroy the meaning of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s dream.

Clifford Jackson,