WASHINGTON, D.C. – On August 28th, Americans observed the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington” civil rights rally. Black conservatives affiliated with the Project 21 leadership network are sharing their reflections on the anniversary by talking about the lessons learned since that day, how the March affected their lives and how American society has changed since that day in 1963.
While it was called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” the event is now commonly called the March on Washington. It was a major turning point in America’s civil rights movement. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where they heard, among many other speeches, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Project 21’s Joe Hicks is a former executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization founded by King. Currently the vice president of Community Advocates, Inc., Hicks also served as the executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission and has hosted his own radio talk show. Worried that some are spoiling the legacy of the event, Hicks said:
Fifty years ago, civil rights organizations and Black Americans from all over the nation gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand that full civil rights and equal opportunity be granted to them as outlined in the nation’s Constitution. If Dr. King and other larger-than-life civil rights leaders from that era were alive today, they would be stunned and amazed by the progress the nation has made since Dr. King made his dramatic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Unfortunately, these great Americans would also be disappointed by the actions of those who inherited their legacy. Dr. King, Ella Baker or Thurgood Marshall would not have endorsed race-hustling. In 1963, the protests and demands of Black citizens seized the high moral ground and were based in actual suffering and discrimination.
On this 50th anniversary of a great American event, we will witness the tattered, shrill remnants of the once-proud civil rights forces protesting “racial oppression” that is largely pathology and myth. Their actions now are to further a shamelessly outdated and polarizing agenda.
Project 21 member Lisa Fritsch, a talk show host and Tea Party activist in Austin, Texas, said:
Growing up, I was told that hard work, excellence and strong character would make the world Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned a reality for me.
I am fortunate that when I look around my community, my church and my family, I see Dr. King’s Dream realized in love and in service. I see my children skipping along, playing and praying with other children who they have judged to be like them – a likeness of heart and mind. We have jokingly referred to our section of my community as the United Nations because we have a family from nearly every racial bent you can think of as well as mixed families. It is a beautiful compilation of fellowship that requires no particular political or racial persuasion to borrow a cup of sugar, come over unexpectedly for tea, get an unexpected ride to the emergency room or attend a Christmas party.
But when I read dire statistics about urban communities and the decline of marriage and family in our country at large, it is obvious that fewer of us are connecting with Dr. King’s Dream. This is unacceptable. We talk too much about what the past did wrong than what is just and good right now. We’ve allowed our hearts to grow cold towards opportunity in the absence of hope.
Project 21’s Demetrius Minor, an evangelist in southeastern Virginia and former White House intern, said:
This is a wonderful time for all Americans to commemorate the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for justice and equality. To ensure that this dream was not mere vanity, we must continue to view our neighbors by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin.
We have a grand opportunity to move America forward by embracing each other with the love of our Creator. When this becomes our priority, Dr. King’s vision would be accomplished.
Project 21’s Stacy Swimp, the president of the Frederick Douglass Society in Michigan, says this celebration is only a brief respite in the ongoing struggle to maintain equal access to opportunity for those who seek it. Swimp said:
I am happy to stand with freedom-loving Americans of every race and creed in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The contributions of A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, John Lewis, Dr. Martin. L. King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young and so many others in organizing and executing this march paved a way for every American child to have a fair opportunity to experience American exceptionalism and economic independence.
I pray that we continue to honor the sacrifices of those who came before us by upholding their dedication to preventing racism and classism in education through school choice and to maintaining a strong free market where neither public or private work opportunities are hindered by Big Government.
This is not only a time of celebration. It is also an opportunity for us, as a nation, to reflect and determine who we have been, what we have done and where we have gone as well as who we still need to become, what we need to do, and where we need to go in order to ensure job opportunities and economic freedom are guaranteed for all who are willing to compete and take individual responsibility to pass on freedom to the next generation – as it was fought for and passed on to us.
Freedom is not free. That is why our predecessors marched in 1963. That is why we must continue their work today.
Project 21, a leading voice of Black conservatives for nearly two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).