March on Washington is History – Now What?

Been working all day trying to come up with a word to describe how I feel, now that The People’s March honoring Dr. King and his “I have a dream” speech is done. I’ve come up with several actually. However the one that sticks out is “empty.”

It’s done, we marched, we shouted, we sang, we cried, we vented, some of us shared our memories of the first march, many of whom, like me, were alive, but too young to take part. Others who took part, wanted and desperately needed to recapture the moment. We needed to feel the energy. For whatever reason, we were compelled to be there. We needed to believe we were making a difference, again, and that people were listening to us, and that great things such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act were just around the corner, maybe this time signed by a Black President. That would truly be history and fulfillment of the dream as well as a direct answer to those determined to resurrect Jim Crow and nullify the rights of all minorities once again.

Instead we were met with massive yet lackadaisical security, good in some areas (snipers on the roof), not so good in others. None of it was people friendly. For instance, can someone tell me the purpose of shutting down the Martin Luther King Memorial before the march. Why? Don’t the people have the right to gaze at the people’s pastor? The people were made to stay far away, from the MLK statue and the Lincoln Memorial for that matter, reduced to watching massive TV screens erected to make the small figures of lesser men and women addressing the crowd look bigger. Everything the people faced in the park was the antithesis of what Dr. King stood for during his lifetime. The iron gated crowd barriers enforcing a metaphorical segregation, erected to control a population desperately hungry for change, but not allowed by law to participate. The march itself a hollow shadow, filled with empty symbolism. No passion, no feeling. Some wanted to sing “We shall overcome” others, and there were many, myself included who never want to hear that song sung again. Many feel that “Fight the Power” is a more appropriate 21st Century anthem. But regardless of what we sing, we ain’t there yet and it was painfully obvious on Saturday.

john-lewis-march-on-washingtonWe the people are at a crossroads. The giants who led us are passing on, while those who would replace them can’t measure up, being more content to nurture their “look” rather than actually get down and dirty into the trenches of real leadership. It’s easy to talk up a commemorative march from the bully pulpit of a cable television network, but it’s another thing altogether to walk in the shoes of Dr. King or Reverend Shuttlesworth, or Reverend Abernathy, or Fanny Lou Hamer or Ella Baker or Bayard Rustin or Harry Belafonte or Charleton Heston, James Baldwin or Marlon Brando. (Denzel Washington did Emcee part of the show.)

There were no Kings or Queens on stage this day. Maybe that will come with the scheduled commemoration on Wednesday with no less than four living American Presidents in attendance. Instead of a people’s march, it will be the official commemoration. Church bells are set to ring at 3pm, the time Dr. King began to speak so long ago and when President is set to begin his remarks. Maybe the movie stars and other celebrities who couldn’t make it on the people’s weekend will make a charity appearance to stand with Barack Obama our first avowed Black President.

I just wonder if any of the people, Dr. King’s people, the now grown up little boys and little girls will be there to hear him talk.