by Hamil R. Harris
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Sixty years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at Lincoln Memorial and offered his dream for a racially diverse America, his 15-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, said her generation is ready to carry MLK’s unfinished legacy in new ways.
While the size of the crowd on Saturday was a fraction of the 250,000 people who gathered in Washington on August 28, 1963, the gathering was more diverse and those who spoke said racial and economic challenges were more daunting than ever before.
“If I could speak to my grandfather today, I would say I’m sorry we still have to be here to re-dedicate ourselves to finishing your work and ultimately realizing your dream,” she said. “Today, racism is still with us. Poverty is still with us. And now, gun violence has come for places of worship, our schools, and our shopping centers.”
Miss King’s speech came before her father, Martin Luther King III, and Rev. Al Sharpton spoke. They, along with her mother Andrea Waters King, organized the event that brought thousands to the nation’s capital to essentially continue the 1963 fight for freedom, justice and equality.
Martin Luther King III said: “I’m very concerned about the direction our country is going in. And it is because instead of moving forward, it feels as if we’re moving back. The question is, what are we going to do?”
In his speech, Sharpton said it is time to push back against racial and social injustices at a time when conservatives are fighting more than ever to turn back the clock.
“Sixty years ago Martin Luther King talked about a dream. Sixty years later we’re the dreamers. The problem is we’re facing the schemers,” Sharpton said. “The dreamers are fighting for voting rights. The schemers are changing voter regulations in states. The dreamers are standing up for women’s right to choose. The schemers are arguing whether they are going to make you stop at six weeks or 15 weeks. They are trying to tell gays to go back in the closet. But we are not going back in the closet. We are going to stand up for who we are and where we are and what we are and we are going to make changes. They are not going to turn back the clock.”
Like at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, busloads of people rolled into D.C. from Detroit, Cleveland, and Atlanta while others drove in or flew in from cities across the country.
Dr. Ben Chavis, president/CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association didn’t speak at the March but had a special moment when he ran into Larry Hirsh, a Jewish man who recognized him.
“We were here 60 years ago and we were both 15,” Chavis said. “As I reflect on the last 60 years there is a tendency to underestimate the progress we have made,” Chavis said. We still have problems, racism is still alive, anti-semitism is still alive and hatred is still alive; however, we have made significant progress.”
In her speech, young Yolanda King challenged veterans of the movement.
“All my life we have worried about environmental justice for communities of color and under-resourced people, but this summer we will be worried about global boiling,” she said. “We need to do more than to end racism on our planet. We need to do more than to end poverty on our planet. We need to save our planet.”
On Sunday, Rev. Sharpton told students at Howard University’s Rankin Chapel that African Americans have come far since the 1963 March on Washington, but often they can’t believe what is being said about people of color.
Sharpton, who quoted from the 13th chapter of Numbers in the Old Testament, said the problem with the children of Israel was not the size of their enemies but they were reading a bad report.
“And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, who come of the giants. And we were in our sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight,” he quoted Numbers 13:33.
“The problem we had in America is that we were getting a bad report. We had a grasshopper complex,” Sharpton said. “Sixty years ago we came to Washington in the back of the bus because they couldn’t ride in the front. They came with paper bags because they couldn’t stop in the road to eat in a restaurant. It was against the law. They had to go into the woods to relax and release their bodies because they couldn’t use the toilet.”
Sharpton said after the March he learned about the fatal shooting of three Blacks by a White man with an AK-47 at a Family Dollar in Jacksonville Florida.
“This shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters told reporters at a press conference. Reports say that the assailant attempted to enter Edward Waters College, an HBCU, but was turned away.
“Before we could rest, hate jumped back up again to remind us,” said Sharpton who reminded the students that despite the oppression African Americans have endured there were “some folks who didn’t have a grasshopper complex.”
Sharpton’s message was proceeded by musical selections by the student choir that included one of Martin Luther King’s favorite songs: ‘If I Could Help Somebody’ (then my living shall not be in vain).
Sharpton reminded the students that their parents, and grandparents sacrificed so they could come to Howard, which just completed its first week of classes. “Don’t forget that people paid a price for you.”
Sharpton reminded the students that in their lifetime, “We have elected the first Black president. One of your alumni is the vice president, and if you have faith over a few things you can be rulers over much.”