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Al Sharpton

This time last year, I was planning one of the biggest and most-monumental marches since the March on Washington. This time it was the 50-year anniversary of the 1963 march and people were energized and enthused. A year later, they are weary and wondering, “Why are you marching again?”

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“Marching is so passé,” read a text from a friend.

“Marching is overdone,” said another friend in conversation. “It solves nothing,” he continued.

It’s infuriating for me. Working in a civil rights organization and having a passion for civil disobedience, I understand why we march and the role that it plays in the larger movement, but it seems that the message has been lost, and along with it, the passion for taking a stand.

When I was younger, I knew that had I lived in the ’50s and ’60s, I would have been on the front lines, fighting for justice. What I didn’t fully understand at the time was that I didn’t necessarily have to wait and that there would come a point in my life when I would march and advocate, and then march again. Why? And how does it never grow old for me?

Well, I understand that the end game is not the march itself. Marching in and of itself never solved anything. Marching is a public display of solidarity around a particular issue. It’s one part of mass action that people can do to show that they are united around a specific cause.

 On August 23, we will march in New York to call for action in the case of Eric Garner, the man who was killed by police after breaking up a fight.

Police officers put him in an illegal chokehold and he stopped breathing while cops and EMTs looked on without helping. It’s not the first case of overly excessive force being used by police, but we have to make it one of the last.

So we march.

We show that this is an issue that we won’t let pass by without action. We won’t just be social media activists, posting our thoughts and feelings today and then tomorrow talking about who wore it best. We have a responsibility and a role. That role is to stand united with our brothers and sisters who want to see justice served, and the more people that come, the more that people in positions of power will recognize that they need to pay attention.

When you are one person who is making a complaint, you can be shooed away. When two people stand together, you make more of a complaint, but when dealing with big governmental entities, you can still be ignored.

But when people unite in the thousands, you become your own swarm that even the biggest of bureaucracies can’t ignore. Marches make people take notice. That’s why we do them. But they are part of a bigger strategy that involves closed door meetings and conversations that many don’t often know about. It takes pushing from various angles to get policy to move or to get the wheels of justice to turn, but without the numbers, the wheels will roll right over you.

So the next time someone mentions a march, you can explain why marching still has a role. And we will be counting on you to join our ranks on August 23.

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