NEW YORK (NNPA)—Black civil rights leaders are furious that they will not be able to organize a march to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s famed “I Have A Dream” speech at the location where it happened this year because infamous right-wing Fox News personality and radio host Glenn Beck already booked the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 28 to hold his own rally.
“We’re going to get together because we are not going to let Glenn Beck own the symbolism of Aug. 28, 2010,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial said during a breakfast at the NNPA’s 70th anniversary celebration at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers June 18. “Someone said to me, ‘Maybe we should just let him have it. I was like, Brother, where have you been? Where is your courage? Where is your sense of outrage?’ We need to collaborate and bring together all people of goodwill, on Aug. 28 to send a message that Glenn Beck’s vision of America is not our vision of America.”
As both a solution and response to what the leaders perceive as an attack on the legacy of King, NAACP President Ben Jealous announced at the conference that a national march for jobs and justice will be held Oct. 2 instead.
“A group of White males wealthier than their peers called the Tea Party has risen up in the land,” said Jealous. “They say that they want to take the country back. And take it back they surely will. They will take it back to 1963 if we let them.
“We will be fighting Glenn Beck on Aug. 28th and we will be using that to leverage the second march,” Jealous said. “That march has to happen. Our people are dying right now, literally, from lack of access to jobs.”
Reverend Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, who also spoke at the NNPA Convention, said Beck will distort King’s legacy and his message. “On the anniversary of the March on Washington, Beck is going to talk about the dream of Martin Luther King and how he was with them—not us. I hope every Black person in the country will help us to challenge this. Everybody’s got to be in Washington. We can’t let them hijack Dr. King’s dream.”
Morial called Beck’s right-wing conservative vision “intolerant.”
“His vision is of an America of the past,” Morial said. “Our vision is of an America that understands its past but is of the future. Some people thought that since Mr. Obama became president that they could go back to their couch to sit down and watch. Look at what have we witnessed—the resurgent voice of extremism. The 14th Amendment has been incorrectly interpreted. They are talking in code talking about that we have to save our country. This is our country, too.”
Morial added, “One of the things that is so curious to me is the way that groups on the right have been very, very observant and have begun to utilize the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement—marching, organizing in churches, things that we’re the backbone of civil rights advocacy in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Morial also spoke about the need to craft a new Black agenda in a “time of great contradictions,” referencing the 2000 presidential election that was decided by a 5-4 Supreme Court vote in favor of George W. Bush, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent economic recession that was one of the worst in U.S. history and very recently, the unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But he then countered with the history of this decade with the ascension of Black men as the president of the United States, as the head of the Department of Justice, and as Black chief executives of some the country’s most powerful corporations such as Merrill Lynch, Xerox and American Express.
“Along the continuum of history, no one would have suggested or predicted that any of the above would occur in just a 10-year period,” Morial said. “These are times when the history books are being written and rewritten. In 1999, Black America had a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, the lowest rate in the 50 years since this kind of data have been recorded. And now, 10 years plus later, our unemployment rate is twice as high and the real rate is even higher. Against this backdrop of difficult and tough times, that we have also witnessed, African-Americans achieved the highest places in American life. These are the times that you and I, as community and civic leaders, are bound to address the challenges.”
He rallied for a new period of Black activism. He coined it “intelligent activism,” which he described as changing the conversation by “not raising hollow, holy” hell but, rather, making a pointed case with commonsense facts and arguments.
“We have to be driven by our objective,” Morial said. “Dr. King, Thurgood Marshall and all of the great leaders of the 1960s had an objective, which was to end segregation in American life. And they achieved that objective as a matter of law. Our objective needs to be to end disparities in American life to achieve economic parity in the 21st century.”
Morial said that African-Americans are a force to be reckoned with. There are an estimated 40 million Black people who account for $800 billion in spending in the U.S, according to Morial. There are also 10,000 Black elected officials in various local, state and national offices.
“We are a community that has assets and power as much as we want to organize it and use it,” Morial said. “I want us to think of ourselves as a community of assets that brings something to the economic table of America, not as a community of deficits and problems, so that we are not coming looking with a handout. We are looking as an investor in the American Dream.”