There will always be questions surrounding the effectiveness of marches, peaceful demonstrations and commemorative gatherings in the name of social justice. Those who find the practices meaningless, or as Kevin Powell put it, “useless,” have the right to hold those positions. This past weekend’s “Realize The Dream” march in the Nation’s Capital was at least healing and necessary for many of thousands in attendance.
With the National Action Network‘s march on Saturday marking the 50th anniversary of the “March On Washington” in 1963, it could be argued that the vendors hawking items nearly cheapened the event’s true purpose. There was also the requisite sign holders with extreme agendas and graphic images emblazoned on posters. Yet, everyone present at or near the Lincoln Memorial held true to being peaceful, kind to one another and even motivated to do more.
A group of men traveling from Florida offered in quick, rushed words what the march meant to them. “I was a baby when the March On Washington happened,” said Brandon, who only gave his first name. “I think knowing my mother was there with me pushing a stroller brings this whole thing full circle.”
Almost in unison, the trio of African-American men, all in their 50s, said that they were there to take the messages they heard back to their neighborhoods. “I know they would listen if we give them nothing but the hard truth,” a friend added.
There were plenty of those being shared from the podium with all the pomp expected of a large media event. With polished speakers to unsteady novices, guest after guest hurled words down to the ears of the attendees from their high perch. From a distance, one could assume the speakers were not connected with their message.
But what many on television and outside the gates didn’t see was the camaraderie among esteemed guests and their willingness to meet others in the crowd with humility that defied their stature. Certainly, people fawned over the famous names occupying the front row seating area, including Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin, Attorney General Eric Holder among others. It never bordered on becoming obnoxious and overbearing, however.
As the starstruck got their photo opportunities in droves, many others just walked up to them and offered their thanks for showing support. Several moments of this graciousness and exchange of love happened throughout the venue over the course of the day.
See exclusive NewsOne’s footage of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington below:
Rev. Al Sharpton‘s commitment to matters both large and small in the Black community has caused many to mislabel the activist and perhaps placed him in a box he’s never claimed on his own. It could be speculated that Powell’s statements against marching at Shiloh Baptist on Friday was a dig at the event although not confirmed. But while the potential gossip may be attractive to some, it would be a pointless exercise to mull over those words in this moment.
Even if the “Realize The Dream” march reached just a small portion of the thousands there, then its mission was completed from that moment on. Men, women, and children gathered peacefully as far as the eye could see. And yes, the recent trial of George Zimmerman, the recent ruling NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” tactic and the Voting Rights Act fight have certainly made the march a “cause celebre” because of the names attached to the movement.
But on the other side of the issue, the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Ramarley Graham and Oscar Grant are being used to positively galvanize people of all races to fight a justice system that protects its citizens – especially Black and Latino people – at all costs.
There are several questions to be asked, and there are many who wondered openly what would be the next plan of action. Considering the gravity of the events and ahead of a critical election cycle, the aims couldn’t be any clearer to those willing to pay attention.
No, the “Realize The Dream” march was not perfect and there were issues that prevented a more organic experience for many. Yet to anyone wondering if the march was an important step, they only needed to hear a boy at the foot of the King Memorial say to his family out loud as everyone was leaving , “I ain’t gonna be no victim. I’m trying to be something!”
Amen to that, young brother.
See exclusive photos from the 2013 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington below: