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Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, by Greg King

September 10, 2013

march on washingtonOn a beautiful day in Washington, DC, with bright sun, blue sky and a cool breeze, at least 100,000 people -- if not more -- gathered on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  This was to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  Not just to remember, of course, but to make clear that it is time to fulfill that dream.

It was wonderful to see so many, many people from the NAACP, the Urban League, SEIU, AFSCME, CWA, NNU, AFT, TWU, UNITE HERE and many others there.  It was all about unity of the organized working class with many community organizations and people.  It's absolutely what the American people need if we're to stop the cutbacks, trim the Defense budget and restore our civil liberties.

When so very many of us gather together in one spot and thunder a loud "Yes" to life-affirming programs and a loud "No" to decidedly inhuman programs, at least some of the politicians will have to listen.  After all, they haven't restricted the voting rights of all of us.  Not yet.  If we're united, we can restore what's been lost and stop them from worse transgressions.

There were so many brave, beautiful, determined people there. The AFL-CIO, Change to Win, the NAACP, La Raza and many other labor, civil and human and immigrants rights organizations have to make sure August 24th's massive rally wasn't a one-time thing.  We have to stay together, keep up the pressure and build together a better America where all are welcome and everyone's rights are respected.

Things could have been a lot better organized.  I got separated from my NAACP bus mates and wandered the streets of Washington by myself for several hours before finding my way to the vicinity of the Lincoln Memorial.  There were thousands of us trying to get closer to the Memorial.  We were hindered by the many fences and barriers.  I joined many others in clambering over a few of those fences and barriers, but we were unable to get very close.

It was too bad that thousands of us participated only on the periphery.  But it was beautiful to see so many thousands of people determined to see the hands of the clock move forward and not be turned back to a far less welcoming time.  "Ain't gonna let nobody turn [us] around."

Greg King is a long-time City of Boston employee and labor activist.