Date: Monday, August 23, 2010
By: Denise Stewart, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Forty-seven years after thousands of people converged on the Washington Mall to stand together to protest the inhumane challenges blacks in America faced in 1963, organizers of the "Reclaim the Dream" march are looking to ignite change again on Saturday, Aug. 28 with another mass gathering in Washington.
"In 1963, they had a dream, and they did something about it," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network. "At the time they came to Washington, they were sitting at the back of the bus. They couldn’t go to the restaurants, and they didn’t have equal voting rights. But that changed."
"We have issues facing this generation – high unemployment in the black community, a 50 percent high school drop-out rate and a lot more. What are we going to do about it?" Sharpton said in a Saturday interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com.
The New York-based National Action Network is organizing the march, which will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Dunbar High School at 1301 Jersey Avenue, Northwest. It will conclude at the building site of the Martin Luther King Memorial.
Several other organizations and individuals are working with NAN, including Martin Luther King III, president of the Center for Nonviolent Center for Social Change; Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP; Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable; Ed Schultz, television and radio show host; Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Tom Joyner of "The Tom Joyner Morning Show are all slated to participate in the rally.
NAN is borrowing a page from the first March on Washington, setting up a national network to bring thousands to the capital this weekend. In some places, such as Shreveport, Louisiana and Selma, Alabama, people are set to board buses on Friday for the trip.
Campbell, one of several women working with the "Reclaim the Dream" rally and march, said the line-up of speakers and the strong representation from other groups shows the unity in the African-American community.
"We are united on several issues. We want meaningful immigration reform. We want to get more people to work in the black community," Campbell told BlackAmericaWeb.com.
But the "Reclaim the Dream" rally and march will not be the only major event in Washington, D.C. that day.
While Sharpton and others lead the event to celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and the historic speech he made there in 1963, focus on change, conservative talk show host Glenn Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be hosting a "Restoring Honor" rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Beck says his event will be non-political and will pay tribute to "America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor."
Beck maintains he was not trying to cause trouble by setting the rally on the same day as the anniversary of Dr. King’s "I have a Dream" speech, and he says his rally upholds Dr. King’s values.
"Do white people own the legacy of Abraham Lincoln?" Beck told Fox News. "Because I don't think they do. And I don't think black people own the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. It's the idea of the content of character."
In addition to the Beck rally, a grass-roots network of artists, community organizers and social activists calling themselves Celebrate the Dream has secured a permit from the National Park Service to unveil an original sculpture on the Mall that day, according to an article published in the Washington Post.
The People's Memorial to King is being designed by Michael Murphy, a 35-year-old sculptor and assistant professor of art at Georgia College and State University, according to the Post.
"We wanted a sculpture no one had seen before," but whose symbolism is clear, Ericka Taylor, the project manager for Celebrate the Dream, told the Post. "It should be elegant simplicity."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of Rainbow/PUSH, will not be in Washington for the "Reclaim the Dream" events. He's leading a march for jobs, justice and peace in America's heartland, and he's doing it in Detroit, a city hit hard by unemployment, foreclosures and crime.
The Saturday rally will come at the end of a week-long bus tour across Michigan. The bus will make stops in Battle Creek, Flint, Saginaw, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Mt. Clemens, Lansing, Inkster, Pontiac, Port Huron and Grand Rapids.
"We’re focused on putting America back to work, rebuilding America with jobs, justice and peace," Jackson said in a prepared statement. "Detroit and the state of Michigan are Ground Zero of the urban crisis. There is something about massive marches that bring about massive change."