We marched, now what?

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(NNPA)—At the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King noted that his march was not an end but a beginning. He knew that it alone would not create the change that the country so desperately needed. His coalition of civil rights, religious groups and labor organizations would go on to register voters and help struggling Americans gain equal access to voting rights, fair housing, and employment opportunities. The One Nation Working Together march in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2, while unprecedented in unifying Americans from all corners, was only the most recent step forward on Dr. King’s long march for jobs and freedom.

WadeHenderson

Today’s civil and human rights community, labor organizations and religious groups are continuing to organize diverse Americans around the issues that unite us—common dreams for jobs that provide living wages, quality public education for our children, and an immigration system that is fair to all. We are organizing around a common belief that one nation working together can make our country fairer, stronger, and more competitive in the global economy.

On the ground, it means that the modern day civil and human rights movement is encouraging voter turnout and civic engagement. Combined, our constituencies make up the America of the 21st century; and we’re driving the point home to them that if they don’t vote on Nov. 2, they don’t count. Their voices won’t be heard and their needs won’t be met by the administration or in the next Congress.

Our country has made significant and obvious progress since 1963, but as our nation continues to grow and evolve, so does the need to provide greater opportunity for the increasingly diverse U.S. population. Across our country, unemployment numbers hover around the double digits and poverty continues to rise. While our economy is no longer on the brink of collapse, it should be obvious to everyone that the pace of the recovery is not generating jobs fast enough to sustain our growing workforce. That’s why it’s a moral imperative for Congress, the administration and the private sector to take bold, meaningful action to ensure that our nation’s working families survive this crisis and to create jobs now that put us on a sound foundation for future prosperity.

The work of the march continues. We will be working to create public-private job creation partnerships. We will advocate for jobs that pay living wages and restore the dignity of work. We will also be championing the Local Jobs for America Act, introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., which could put millions of Americans back to work, enabling them to secure their homes, feed their families, and pay for their children’s future—which is our future, too.

Congress should know that our coalition will continue to advocate for jobs and freedom not just during this election and the next Congress, but until we build an America that’s as good as its ideals.

(Wade Henderson is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.)

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