Last weekend, thousands of people attended the 50th anniversary of the August 28th, 1963 March on Washington. The various media outlets played selected segments of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, showed pictures of the 200,000+ people in attendance, and reminded us of the impact the March on Washington had on furthering the integration movement. I didn’t hear much about the original purpose of the 1963 March on Washington, which was for jobs. However, when the jobs message was diluted by the integration movement the march became less grassroots and more structured. In other words less militant and more passive. A clear example of how the integration movement changed the tone of the 1963 March was evident in the James Baldwin speech. I’ve heard James Baldwin speak and read some of his writings. He was scheduled to speak at the 1963 march. However, his speech was read by Kirk Douglas. I can never understand how Kirk Douglas was expected to truly represent James Baldwin’s thoughts and feelings.
At the 2013 March on Washington Rev. Al Sharpton was the keynote speaker. Whenever I see or hear Al Sharpton, I get the feeling he wants to be the next Martin Luther King; but that may never happen. The reason he may never be the next Martin Luther King is because America doesn’t need another Martin Luther King. In the 60s the Black Panther party, black Muslims, Symbionese liberation Army and the Weathermen, to name a few, spoke of an alternative approach to acquiring the freedoms black people deserved. Those alternative voices don’t exist today and that’s why there’s no need for another Martin Luther King. I once read if you convince a person to stay in his or her place you won’t have force them to stay there because they will stay there on their own.
All last weekend I kept hearing about how far black people have come since the 1963 March on Washington. So just how far have we come? Median family income: In 1963 the black median family income was 53% of the white median income. In 2012 the black median family income was 59% of the white median income. Unemployment: In 1963 the black unemployment rate was 10.9%. In 2013 the black unemployment rate is 13.4%. Voting rights: In 1964, the voting rights act was passed to end the unequal application of voter registration requirements.
In 2013, thanks to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the unequal application of voter registration requirements have been getting a new birth. The senseless and unpunished killing of innocent blacks: Trayvon Martin is the 21st century’s Emmett Till. The incarceration rate: In 1960 there were 87,000 black men in prison. In 2010 there were 844,600 black men in prison.