On the 50th Anniversary of the March on WashingtonHeather L. Barmore
While you were twerking (or talking incessantly about twerking. Twerk. TWERK!), I’ve been thinking about the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. You know, the march for jobs and freedom. The one with Dr. King telling the crowd about his dream for people of all colors to come together for the good of the country and themselves. That march. Thanks to Miley Cyrus’ obsession with furries and sticking her tongue out and slapping a random dancer’s butt, the march has been largely forgotten. Even though tomorrow, Wednesday, the first African-American president will be speaking in the exact spot at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King stood in 1963 and proclaimed:
“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
50 years later it isn’t simply enough to honor the anniversary of the march as well as the significance of a black president but it’s necessary because what was started in the years prior to 1963 must continue. I was speaking to my father about what Dr. King would say if he were alive today. My father, a man from Birmingham, Alabama. A man who came of age at a time where even looking at a white woman would get a young black man beaten to death. We spoke of those brief moments that people have to grasp at an opportunity, to miss it would be a waste and a disservice to yourself and your community but – BUT – you must hold on tight through the ebb and flow.
“It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.”
We agreed with the sentiment that 1963 is just the beginning and these breaks in what many seem to be perpetual darkness come rarely thus the need to seize the moment and carry it through. We also agreed that hearing the words “post-racial” is to know that it’s an illusion. While there are children who are being taught by their parents to know that the differences in skin color is nothing but melanin not a character flaw, there are also children earning the opposite. It’s 2013 and we still need to march for jobs and for freedom though the circumstances have changed there is still a barrier between races – heck, human beings – when it comes to education and jobs. There continues to be an undercurrent of discontent for so many that it’s mind-boggling.
So, what would Dr. King think? First he’d acknowledge the presence of a black president. He’d also acknowledge the absurdity of thinking that because the president is black that things are magically different with the snap of a finger and that the top of his To-Do List for the country reads: 1. BLACK PEOPLE. FIX EVERYTHING FOR THEM. Followed closely by chemical warfare, what to do?’. He – Dr. King – would notice that with great strides comes great responsibility and ownership and opportunity and to languish on any of these things is an injustice to what he fought for. He would notice that much of aforementioned discontent is of our own doing and that we, collectively, need to work on moving forward instead of staring at the past. He would know and say that there is still so much left to overcome.
And as for twerking? He’d probably be all, no. Just…no.