When I arrived at the 50th Anniversary March on Washington this Saturday morning, the first thing that struck me was the array of messages. People marched past me holding signs ranging from, “End Mass Incarceration,” to “DC Statehood Now;” from “LGBT Rights,” to “We March to End Racial Profiling,” and “Justice for Trayvon.”
I immediately began comparing this rally to the April 10th Rally for Citizenship, in which more than 100,000 people came together to support one cause—immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. The message was so powerful because hundreds of thousands of people had turned out from across the country to fight for one thing. I wondered if the range of issues at the March on Washington took away some of that power.
I noticed, though, that everywhere I turned, I saw the image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and excerpts from his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington a half-century ago. It dawned on me that we were all there fighting for the same thing Dr. King fought for—justice and equality for all.
As Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) said in his speech to the crowd, “All of us, it doesn’t matter if we’re black or white, Native American or Asian American or Latino American, it doesn’t matter if we’re straight or gay. We are one people. We are one family. We are one house. We all live in the same house.”
In recent history, we’ve seen that Dr. King’s Dream has not yet been realized. With the tragedy of Trayvon Martin and the revocation of an important section of the Voting Rights Act, along with the daily injustices carried out undocumented immigrants, low-income communities, people of color and trans and queer communities, it’s clear that there is so much work yet to be done.
But to see hundreds of thousands of people come together Saturday to march in peaceful protest against these injustices gives me hope. The struggle continues, but we refuse to grow weary and give up. There is reason to be angry, and we can and should use that anger as a motivating force to keep going. In the words of Congressman Lewis, “You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You’ve got to stand up, speak up, speak out and get in the way.”