The original march took place on the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963 and King delivered his now iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Speakers at this year’s tribute march and rally, which culminated outside of the Minnesota State Capitol, said though progress has been made, King’s dream has yet to fully materialize.
“Fifty years ago, Dr. King had a dream and 50 years later we’re still fighting for a lot of the same things,” said the Rev. Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis. “The dream has not been realized. When we look at the situation, more Blacks are incarcerated than those enslaved in the 1800s. We still march for freedom. Though we have made gains, there are still those who are not free.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) reminded the crowd of about two hundred that the original march was as much about jobs as it was about fair and equal treatment.
“It (the 1963 march) was about labor and civil rights,” said Ellison, who is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “It was labor that came together. And today, not only do we have racial disparities, but we also have a disparity in wages. We march for civil rights, absolutely, but also workers rights.”
The congressman also reminded the crowd to honor the many who sacrificed and gave their lives for the fight against oppression and injustice.
“People gave their lives so this country can be better than what it was. Let’s not forget the sacrifices of those brave men and women of all colors. Let’s honor them today,” said Ellison. “So let’s remember Jimmy Lee Jackson (a civil rights protestor who was shot and killed by an Alabama State Trooper) and let’s remember (James Earl) Chaney, (Andrew) Goodman and (Michael) Schwerner (three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi for their voter registration efforts) and let’s remember Fannie Lou Hamer who said, ‘I question America’ (during a speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention).”
The outspoken congressman also addressed the many youth who rallied and marched. He told them that because of the sacrifices of those before them, they enjoy freedoms that were not available to their elders.
“You guys will never see a ‘whites only’ sign, because we got rid of them. Because we did that for you, you owe it to those behind you to make it better for them,” said Ellison.
St. Paul NAACP president, Jeff Martin, called on those within the African-American community to be more accountable for some of the community’s current conditions.
“We have to expect more out of government, but we have to expect more out of ourselves,” said Martin. “We need to be at the table when it comes to our rights. If you’re not at the table then you’re on the menu.”
The St. Paul march was one of many that took place throughout the nation, including a rally at the nation’s capitol featuring a speech by President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president. Marches and rallies were also held this past Saturday throughout the nation, including at least two separate rallies in Minneapolis.