August 24, 2013
Tens of thousands of people marched on D.C. streets Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington – and to rally for D.C. statehood.
In rapid fire, speakers stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and called for all people to continue to pursue the dream King fought for 50 years ago.
“This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration,” said Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the slain civil rights leader. “Nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration. The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder paid tribute to the forerunners of the modern civil rights movement.
“Their march is now our march, and it must go on,” Holder said. “But for them, I would not be Attorney General of the United States, and Barack Obama would not be President of the United States.”
He spoke of criticisms of the Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down a key anti-discrimination provision of 1965’s landmark Voting Rights Act, which triggered a wave of “cumbersome” voting laws in several states.
“This morning, we affirm that struggle must and will go on until every eligible American has a chance to exercise his or her right to vote,” said Holder, who sued Texas over a strict voter ID law on Thursday.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) joined Newark mayor Cory Booker, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Md.) in urging activists to advocate for equality and fairness, placing recent social debates in the context of King’s vision.
“Many of our people still inhabit islands of poverty, are incapable of finding good jobs, have no voice in our democracy, because they are told they have no valid ID,” Hoyer said.
Rev. Al Shaprton, a civil rights activist and host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC, spoke about the changes in the voting rights laws, the lack of a comprehensive jobs bill and the disillusioned attitudes of the youth of today.
Referencing King’s quote in his “I Have A Dream” speech about America giving people “a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds,’” Sharpton called for action to make lawmakers take notice about the financial disparity in the United States.
“We’ve re-deposited the check. Well, guess what? It bounced again. But this time it was marked stop payment,” he said, addressing Congress with his words. “We’re going to make you make the check good or we’re going to close down the bank.”
Sharpton also explained why he thought King spoke about dreams 50 years ago.
“Dreams are for those who won’t accept reality. So they dream about what is not there, but will make it happen,” Sharpton said. “We must give us our young people dreams again. You build jails, closed schools and break their dream and you wonder why they are wearing saggy pants.”