In 1963, more than 250,000 people marched on Washington, D.C., for jobs and freedom with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the way.
Nearly 60 years later, Dr. King’s oldest son, Martin Luther King III, helped lead a massive march on the nation’s capital. This time the objective focused on voting rights.
“John Lewis told us that the most powerful nonviolent tool we have is voting rights,” said King on Saturday, Aug. 28 on the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington.
“We are in a battle to protect our most sacred right,” King continued.
King called the more than 400 voter suppression bills in GOP-led states a reaction to record-setting voter turnout in Georgia and other states that helped Democrats gain control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.
King and his wife, Arndrea, said their current mission focuses on registering voters and fighting suppression laws.
“The 400 pieces of legislation introduced since January are efforts to offset massive voter turnout we saw last year and are a preparation for 2022,” said Arndrea King, a national merit scholar who studied psychology at Emory University.
“If people come out and make themselves heard and press for federal protection, for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, we can stop this,” Arndrea King insisted.
In addition to the August 28 march, the King family set a goal of registering 2 million new voters ahead of 2022.
The couple insisted that the Black Press remains the most prominent and trusted vehicle.
The King family and other civil rights activists have gotten out vital messaging using the Black Press.
“All of us greatly appreciate the Black Press because none of what we are doing, none of what my father did, and so many others would be known, without the Black Press,” Martin Luther King III asserted.
“The Black Press is so important. We understand that the reality is many people depend on getting their news from the Black Press even though we have moved toward social media outlets,” he said.
The couple said passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would provide federal protections to voters which suppression laws have removed.
They called the current push urgent and said Democratic lawmakers should strongly consider abolishing or setting aside the filibuster that maintains the requirement that most laws need 60 votes – or at least 10 Republican supporters – to pass in the Senate.
“The vast majority of Americans support voting rights legislation and we know the voter suppression laws target the Black and Brown community but this is a problem for all of us,” Arndrea King said.
“In a lot of ways [Dr. King] saw this. Before his assassination, he said the first phase of the movement was civil rights and the second phase would be genuine equality. We see mass mobilization across the U.S. and people are saying it is time for genuine equality — that starts with access to the ballot box,” she said.
Martin Luther King III called the filibuster a relic of the past.
“Just like the [Confederate] statues were standing in the way [of progress], we know the filibuster was put on the books to keep civil rights bills from passing,” King said. “Relics have to be removed. The filibuster has to be removed.”
While some politicians remain reluctant to abolish the filibuster, King described such hesitancy as hypocritical.
“If we can do something like confirming Supreme Court Justices to lifetime positions with 51 votes, can’t we carve out a section for our most precious right, the right to vote? he asked.