After the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the march on Washington on Aug. 24, what are the top social and civil rights priorities of African Americans? Saturday’s march, convened by the Revs. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, highlighted many social issues, among them poverty, voter rights and unemployment rates. Concerns were in motivating people to demonstrate through the streets of Washington and other parts of the nation.
Some want to see self-defense laws changed after a jury found Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman innocent of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Others say they want unemployment and poverty rates lowered and more job opportunities for working-class people. Some are concerned about voter rights after the Supreme Court in June struck down a coverage formula in the 1965 Voting Rights Act used to monitor states with a history of discrimination.
With the still critical things to be advocated for, there must be a policy agenda for today and the next generation of activists. We must not focus on another King but on finding issues on which to have an impact. We must focus on the needs of our communities and this can only be done by visiting and speaking to the communities’ people, not just a select few. I’m praying that we can unite around injustice and its cost.
The 1963 March on Washington was a watershed moment in the American civil rights movement because it was attended by 250,000 people, graced by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. The official program/agenda – which listed 18 items – was titled March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and has the words “Lincoln Memorial” written in bold text.
Another critical event headed by Dr. King that played a vital role in the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the St. Augustine, Fla. civil rights movement. In the spring of 1964, that event brought the movement in St. Augustine to international attention. Over the next few months, the city got more publicity than it ever had in its many centuries of existence.
The massive nonviolent direct action campaign was led by a local African-American dentist Dr. Robert Hayling, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) staff including ministers and others such as King, Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, C.T. Vivian, Fred Shuttlesworth, Willie Bolden, J.T. Johnson and Dorothy Cotton.
Civil rights activists made St. Augustine the stage for a moral drama enacted before a world audience. St. Augustine again will receive national attention with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement in 2014.
Keep Hope Alive,
*The Rev. Richard P. Burton Sr., director of Project R.E.A.C.H., INC., a nonprofit re-enfranchisement organization in Jacksonville, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org