Tens of Thousands Mark 50 Year Anniversary of the March on Washington

The Real News’ Jaisal Noor speaks to Gary Younge, Cornel West and Amaju Baraka on relevance the 1963 March on Washington and if today’s civil rights leaders are true to the movement’s legacy

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: On August 23, tens of thousands of people rallied at the National Mall to start a week of commemorations marking the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It drew a quarter of a million people to the nation’s capital and was a key moment in the civil rights movement.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the crevatial slopes of California.

But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside let freedom ring.

NOOR: Gary Young is a journalist and author of The Speech: The Story Behind Martin Luther King’s Dream.

GARY YOUNGE, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: I think the main thing to remember is that 50 years ago it was not just a walk in the park, a glorious moment of America in Technicolor in which America had a damasine moment and realized that everything was terrible. It was a massive act of multiracial dissidence in which they took the protests and the confrontation that had dominated the South and they took it to the capital and they made their demands.

And it’s important to remember that in ’63, marches on Washington were very rare, this was the first of its kind, so it was unprecedented and audacious in its scale, and also at the time that most Americans, meaning, really, overwhelming majority of white Americans, did not want this march to happen and they thought that the push for civil rights was going too fast.

NOOR: The 50th anniversary was organized by the Reverend Al Sharpton.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We see a new America. We see an America of equality, of justice, of fairness. We march because we’re going to bring a new America, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice.

NOOR: Some, including Dr. Cornel West, have argued today’s civil rights leaders have not done enough to hold the nation’s leadership accountable the same way as the 1963 march aimed to do.

CORNEL WEST, PHILOSOPHER, ACTIVIST, AND AUTHOR: Fifty years ago, we were dealing with an American terrorism call Jim Crow, and you had a social movement that was expanding, you had a social movement that was intensifying, and you had Martin King, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other voices emerging.

Today, you have a black leadership that is captive and deferential to the Obama administration that has most visible presence. You’ve got voices on the side–Glen Ford, Bruce Dixon, and others. But for the most part it is so tied to the Obama administration, we cannot get any truth-telling.

[incompr.] see all the everyday people. I just wish we had a leadership that was commensurate with the equality of the people who they purport to follow, because we had very low quality leadership today on the stage. We saw bona fide apologists for the Obama administration. There was no serious talk about Wall Street. There was no serious talk about the new Jim Crow, no serious talk about drones, no serious talk about the U.S. security state, no serious talk about the massive surveillance state. It was about just voters’ rights and maybe some vague reference to jobs. Martin Luther King Jr. turns over in his grave. He turns over in his grave.

NOOR: Also taking part was Ajamu Baraka, a long-time human rights activist, writer, and fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. He recently authored a piece outlining why he feels President Obama should not speak at the upcoming commemoration of the march on Washington on August 28.

AMAJU BARAKA, ASSOC. FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR POLICE STUDIES: The attempt to link Dr. King, who is a person committed to peace, nonviolence, with the policies of Barack Hussein Obama is in fact an abomination. Barack Hussein Obama has been at the forefront of one of the most aggressive periods of U.S. imperialist activity over the last 50 years. There’s no way we can reconcile Dr. King’s commitment to peace and to nonviolence with the aggressive, violent-ridden policies of Barack Obama.

The very fact that this administration is responsible for fomenting civil war in Syria, didn’t have the moral courage to call the coup in Egypt a coup, attempted to stop President Aristide from Haiti returning back to his country, who denied the people of Honduras support when they called out for the U.S. to reject the coup in Honduras, these are policies that our Dr. King and our movement could never embrace. But yet these are the policies of this government. And by inviting the president, we basically legitimized those policies. We give it a moral standing that is the opposite of what Dr. King was all about.

NOOR: Go to TheRealNews.com for the full interviews used in this story. This is Jaisal Noor in Washington, D.C.

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