As a Baby Boomer born in 1960, I was too young to either comprehend or attend the historic March on Washington (for Jobs and Freedom) when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders supporters of the Civil Rights Movement gathered in our nation’s capital on Aug. 28, 1963.
But as an educated and informed Black man, I’ve done the research allowing me to understand what transpired and why. And from what I have learned, the March was far from just a “gathering of old men.”
King and his colleagues in the Movement, along with the man responsible for both planning and organizing the event, Bayard Rustin, had specific goals — a “wish list” that mattered and was essential in the decades-old quest for true justice and equality for all Americans.
Since then, there have been other marches that have occurred on the National Mall — from those which addressed the needs of Black men and their families — the Million Man March — to others that promoted equally important and specific agendas and needs.
And I have often joined the marchers wearing my freshly-ironed t-shirt representative of the specific occasion, armed with my camera to capture images from the day and with my pad and pen in my back pocket so I could take notes.
I’ve been an observer, a reporter, an angry Black man – even a high school teacher accompanying students who wanted to be part of history.
This weekend, the 2021 version of the March on Washington will return. And, yes, I will be there.
But for the life of me, I cannot tell you why I’m really going.
Sure, I’m a reporter and so I want to be there to listen, to observe, to speak with participants in the crowd and get “the scoop.”
However, I must admit that I’m more than a little troubled and confused. Why? Because I don’t really know what the planners hope to achieve.
On paper, it sounds good. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of securing voting rights for all Americans and helping to eliminate the ridiculous and constant efforts to maintain methods that limit the opportunity for all citizens to exercise their right to vote.
Yes, the march is seeking to derail voter oppression once and for all in all of our sometimes blatant and other times, more subtle forms. I am on board with that.
Yet, with at least two different marches now planned, one led by Dr. King’s oldest son, Martin III and the Rev. Al Sharpton under his NAN banner, and another led by the NAACP, I don’t know what to do.
Actually, I really do. I just wonder why we need two marches. And then, there are people in the District who say they’re nonplussed because the “main march” hasn’t included the agenda of the District and its citizens who have long demanded, and rightfully so, statehood.
So, here’s the deal and the question that no one seems able to answer to my satisfaction. After the march, or more correctly, the marches are over, what will have been accomplished?
Do you know, do you know, do you know?
That’s what America needs. That’s what Blacks need. That’s what women need. That’s what members of the LGBTQ community need. That’s what immigrants need. We need change for the better and we need it now.
The time for marching just to assemble a gaggle of gregarious geese for glowing photo opportunities for our Facebook and Instagram posts is over.
If nothing’s going to occur during the March and immediately after – if nothing significant will transpire during this weekend that results in lasting change for the oppressed and the least of these, I’ve got an answer to my dilemma.
I’m going to stay home and play with my dogs.