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47th March on Washington Set for Saturday

8/25/2010, 1:27 a.m.
Civil rights and progressive organizations will hold a rally at a local high school and...
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., addresses a crowd of more than 300,000 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Courtesy Photo

Civil rights and progressive organizations will hold a rally at a local high school and march to the site of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the historic March on Washington on Sat., Aug. 28.

The activities will be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network of New York City. Sharpton, 55, said that it's time for people to mobilize for political and social action. Young people should also know the history of the civil rights movement, he said.

"When we study the intense struggle for civil rights in this nation, we quickly -- and rightfully- - find ourselves analyzing the life and legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," the native New Yorker said.

"We learn of his tireless efforts to achieve equality and justice for all of humanity, as we pass on legends of sit-ins, marches and boycotts to our children. But what we as a collective sometimes forget to impress upon the next generation is the depth to which Dr. King was an advocate of the position that the federal government, as he knew it was the only effective tool to ensure a unified system of equality in every state."
The rally will take place at Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest at 11 a.m. Local leaders who plan to participate include D.C. Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) and the Rev. Willie Wilson, senior pastor of the Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast.

The 1963 March on Washington was a highlight of the civil rights movement, culminating in the famed "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial in Northwest.

Thomas, 49, often talks about his father, the late three-term Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Sr., who participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Thomas said that neighbors cautioned his father about attending the march based on the racial tensions that existed in the District of Columbia at that time.

After the rally, marchers will go to the King Memorial in Northwest. In the past, the rally was held at the Lincoln Memorial but the National Action Network did not file the paperwork with the National Park Service in a timely manner. As a result, members of the Tea Party movement and conservative activist Glenn Beck will hold a rally trumpeting its values at the Lincoln Memorial in Northwest.

Sharpton expressed concern about the conservatives holding their rally at the place where King addressed more than 300,000 decades ago.

"The Tea Party and allied conservatives are trying to break that national stance on justice and, in turn, break the crux of what the civil rights movement symbolized and what Dr. King fought and literally died for," he said.

"No one day was more important than that day 47 years ago when the world stood still and heard the dream eloquently spoken by Dr. King."

Noted political scientist Ronald Walters said that the march should be more than just remembering the achievements of the civil rights movement.

"These marches are about jobs and justice and respecting the values of the movement for which so many people gave their lives, time and energy," Walters, 72, said according to Blackvoicenews.com in its Wed., Aug. 18 edition.

"But they are also 'right now' oriented to the present crisis of unemployment and to prevent the conservative movement from distorting Dr. King's dream, but also to keep political power in the hands of those who can help us best."

Speakers who have been invited to the rally include U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Martin Luther King III, president of the Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta; Tom Joyner, radio talk show host; Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and Benjamin Jealous, president of NAACP.

Past anniversary marches have produced legislative action and political clout. In 1973, at the 10th anniversary of the march, an effort was underway to have the U.S. Congress and the president support the bill by U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to make Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday.

At the 20th anniversary in 1983, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's stirring address fueled his interest in his historic run for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1984.

This Aug. 28th, Jackson will be in Detroit marching for "jobs, justice and peace" according to the Rainbow-Push Coalition Web site.

Sharpton said that there will be an active agenda during the march.

"In 1963, they had a dream and they did something about it," Sharpton said according to BlackAmericaWeb.com in its Mon., Aug. 23 edition.

"At the time [Blacks] came to Washington, they were sitting in the back of the bus. They could not go to the restaurants and they did not have equal voting rights."

A change took place but there are still unresolved matters to attend to, Sharpton said.

"We have issues facing this generation -- high unemployment in the Black community -- a 50 percent high school drop-out rate and a lot more."

"What are we going to do about it?"