(NNPA)—We have to thank Rev. Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders for turning our attention to the atrocity planned by Glenn Beck, conservative Fox TV talk show host, to have a rally on the Lincoln monument on the anniversary of the March on Washington. Rather than “restoring honor” as they say, this march, heavily supported by the National Rifle Association is a perversion of the progressive spirit of the original nonviolent march, which held out the hope of racial reconciliation and that America would finally cash a check of justice that would allow all of us to invest in the great project of democracy.
Glenn Beck is a White nationalist who frequently says that progressivism is the problem with democracy, so he and his Tea Party henchmen want to return America—virtually—to honor a set of values that were around when Black people were still being lynched. I agree that he must not be allowed to appropriate the day of the great march and the values that we are still attempting to protect and uphold, so I will be there in Washington.
At the same time Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is leading a March in Detroit, Mich.,. on Aug. 28 to highlight the fact that the economic stimulus and therefore, jobs, have not reached many Black communities and that going forward, Detroit, a city that is 82 percent Black and economically challenged, is a symbol that we need a new national urban policy. Jackson is right to make clear the fact that jobs are the great issue of our times and where better to make that case than in Detroit.
Also, many people from New Orleans will not come to Washington because they will be commemorating the Katrina Hurricane damage and resurrection that weekend. In that event, I am told they will include elements of the other marches. But some national news organizations are planning their own five-year look at New Orleans and there are primary elections that day in the state, so that weekend also means that other events will have to struggle for press attention.
In any case, I think that people, especially in this economically challenged environment, should march where they are. If they can come to Washington, D.C., or Detroit, or go to New Orleans, fine, but there is work to be done right there at home. It strikes me that, in sympathy with the national marches, local organizations could plan jobs marches to their local workforce agencies, city halls, construction projects where there are no Blacks working, and other places where the demand for jobs by local people is a logical act. Many of us have talked about “civic engagement,” well here is an opportunity to do just that, when the national spotlight could connect a national march to one held by a local community.
Perhaps this is a good idea that comes too late, but I am reminded that many folks could not come to Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963 and so they had local events. For example, I marched on Woodward Avenue in Detroit with hundreds of thousands of people and heard a version of the “I have a dream” speech a few days before it was given in Washington, D.C. The same could be said about the Million Man March. People came by the boatloads in 1995, but by the celebration of the 10- year anniversary, an effort was made to urge folks to have local marches to highlight the values of the original march in their communities.
Finally, there is another reason why Blacks should try out their local mobilization legs and that is the elections that are coming down the pike this fall. I will say more about the elections later, but it strikes me that since the National Coalition of Black Civic Participation is a sponsor of the March in Washington, D.C. that is sign that they are making a move to get the organization thinking about how they will organize to get out the vote later on. So, these marches are about jobs and justice and respecting the values of the movement for which so many people gave their lives, time and energy. But they are also “right now” oriented to the present crisis of unemployment and to prevent the conservative movement from distorting Dr. King’s dream, but also to keeping political power in the hands of those who can help us best.
(Ron Walters is a political analyst and professor emeritus of government and politics at the University of Maryland College Park.)