Askia MuhammadColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

MUHAMMAD: Not Tired of Marching

There are two things I find very, very satisfying about living in Washington, D.C.

First, we experience all four seasons: we’re having a hot summer right now, 2021 among the very hottest ever recorded. Every autumn, we actually have autumn. The trees lose their chlorophyll, revealing their leaves’ true yellow and brown and red colors. Every winter we have snow, like on the postcards. And every spring, the barren trees are reborn again in green leaves and flowering buds.

Second, the nation’s capital is the place where some of everyone who’s anyone comes regularly to demonstrate and protest their grievances with federal government policies.

Saturday, Aug. 28 is just such a special day, when dozens of national organizations will convene again at the Lincoln Memorial — where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 — to hold a Peace Summit and “Good Trouble Rally,” to honor the legacy of departed civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.

I embrace the goals of even the names of the convening organizations — “Until Freedom,” “The Gathering for Justice,” “Color of Change” and “Black Voters Matter,” among others. And their statements are lofty enough: “We have called our senators, mobilized our community members, gotten arrested multiple times and now it’s time to show up in numbers on Aug. 28 to remind those in power that we are serious,” said Tamika D. Mallory, co-founder of Until Freedom, in a statement.

“What we know is that Washington, D.C., is the epicenter of power and they can pass legislation that can set the precedent and trump harmful legislation in our home states. We will present a clear agenda and demand President Biden, Congress and the Senate do their jobs,” she continued.

“While the fight to protect voting rights remains a priority for us, we recognize that there are many factors at play today that impact each other,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of Black Voters Matter.

“The social, economic, and political challenges that we face all intersect and those most gravely impacted are far too often Black people and other communities of color,” he said. “But as we know through our work, there is power in solidarity. It is in that spirit that we come together to rally around these issues, because no one will fight for our people like we will.”

That may all be well and good, but, as I asked march organizer the Rev. Mark Thompson, aren’t Black people tired of marching yet, 58 years after that great March on Washington in 1963? Isn’t there any other method of defeating the racists in government?

“The only other method would literally be for most of humanity, but I see it to live up to what it preaches and says it believes in and has faith in, in its houses of worship,” the veteran organizer and activist told me. “Just flip the switch and no one would have to march. No one would be in despair. No one would be impoverished. No one would be suffering violence. But humanity is still resistant to that and that’s what must change.

“And so, we can never afford to get tired of [marching],” he said. “We should see it in the context of just another reset for humanity, that this is the potential we can live up to, if we would just remind ourselves of this when necessary and as often as possible.”

I’m sorry. We have been counting on white society to live up to its promises to integrate the schools, for example for 67 years now since the landmark Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision in 1954, and U.S. schools are only 14 percent desegregated. At that rate, it will take more than 400 years for that “all deliberate speed” order from the Supreme Court to be fully enacted all across the country.

Besides, when folks march on Washington to protest widespread voter suppression aimed at blocking Black folks from voting, they are appealing to the very folks who are suppressing the votes (White Republicans and a few closet Democrats) to end that suppression. Talk about asking the fox to guard the henhouse …

Their goals are worthy of universal support: restore voting rights, grant D.C. statehood, realize reparations for slavery, raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, end gun violence, fund peace, reimagine public safety and end mass incarceration, reform immigration and create a pathway to citizenship for emigres, and reverse climate change and build a green economy. BUT…

My only complaint is that marching alone, even marches aimed at producing “good trouble” is not sufficient to achieve those goals. We should be able to realize that by now.

Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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