Organizers Push to Finalize March Plans

March on Washington 50th Anniversary Takes Shape

Barrington M. Salmon | 8/7/2013, noon
With the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom fast approaching, organizers in the District ...
More than 250,000 people converged upon the Nation's Capital to participate in the historic March on Washington in 1963 to demand civil rights, jobs and justice. Courtesy Photo

Rustin, a noted civil rights activist and organizer, was a part of the brain trust that conceptualized and implemented the march.

The National Action Network was founded in 1991 in New York City by Sharpton and other activists who sought to use the principles of direct non-violent action and civil disobedience to effect civil rights and social change. There have been some rumblings about Sharpton’s involvement and some understated disquiet, but several speakers sought to allay these concerns and point to the larger picture.

“This is going to have to be a ‘we’ thing not a ‘they’ thing,” cautioned Bishop Michael V. Kelsey of New Samaritan Baptist Church in Northeast. “… We really have to shift to the mentality that this must be done. This event is so important for people not just for certain people.”

“What we’re doing and experiencing is what will make this work, not status, position, ego, passion or availability. There must be clarity and conviction concerning this vision.”

Ingram concurred.

“We must be reading off the same book, on the same page and the same line,” she said.

The march will encompass a week of events and activities from Aug. 21-28. On Saturday, Aug. 24, Ingram said, the march will begin at 8 a.m., at the Lincoln Memorial in the area by 17th Street, Independence and Constitution avenues. The main portion of the event will start at 10 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., marchers will line up and at 1 p.m., they’ll march to Independence Avenue to the MLK Memorial and then disperse, Ingram added.

The planning meeting, held at Metropolitan AME Church in Northwest, saw several speakers tie recent events to the need for such a march. These include a Supreme Court ruling which invalidated an important section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of the man who shot him, George Zimmerman; and the continued and aggressive moves by primarily southern states to suppress non-white votes.

“Most of us are sensitive of the need to gather as a massive group of various cultural traditions to declare to certain politicians that this is a nation for all,” the Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton declared. “Particularly for minorities, we have been victimized by what is apparent discrimination. We’re clear that that young boy had the right to walk in that community and that that young boy did not see the perpetrator, turn around and attack him.”

Braxton, senior pastor of Metropolitan, described the Supreme Court decision as a slap in the face of justice, while voicing deep concern for the senseless violence that’s taking the lives of countless young black teens, adults and children every day.

“We’re mindful of what happened three weeks ago and six weeks ago and we’re taking to the streets for the cause of human rights and to put an end to suffering,” said Braxton. “We’re crying out for justice in this country. We’re marching for Martin and Martin – both of whom need justice in this country.”

Almost two weeks ago, Mayor Vincent C. Gray named civil rights activist and former D.C. politician Frank Smith chairman of D.C.’s March on Washington host committee.

“We’ll be developing posters, flyers, emails and social media,” said Smith, executive director of the African American Civil War Museum in Northwest and a former D.C. Council member. “We’re reaching out to [people from] churches and schools who marched in 1963. They have a legacy they have to fulfill. My daughters and grandchildren will be there. I already told them. I don’t care where they are before [the event], they need to be there.”

“We have to personalize this, make people feel a little guilty. [A number of] issues are still alive that we need to deal with.”