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The March On Washington...50 Years Later

On Saturday, August 24, thousands of people are expected to converge in Washington, D.C to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the landmark 1963 Civil Rights event that served as a call for then President John F. Kennedy to push legislation that would grant all Americans the right to vote and ban discrimination in public accommodations.

It was during the march in the nation’s capital that the event’s leader, Reverend Dr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the now famous “I Have a Dream” speech. While the end of the speech has become well-known, some of the most prophetic words uttered that day by the civil rights leaders preceded the “dream” portion—words that are still applicable to the struggles for justice today:

"This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children."

Here we are, ffty years later, and the call to action proclaimed by Dr. King is unfortunately still poignant and timely. Granted, the issues of racial segregation and injustice no longer present themselves in the form of “white only” facilities or reading tests at voting polls; but Black, Brown and poor Americans are still struggling to realize an America that is as good as promised.

Racial segregation exists at an institutional level through the criminal justice system wherein African Americans and Hispanics comprise 58% of all prisoners, even though they collectively only make up about 25% of the population. Our young people are under assault through the cradle-to-prison pipeline, as the nation spends $70 billion dollars annually on corrections while consistently defunding education programs.

Sadly, history seems to be repeating itself…

The fundamental right to vote is under siege. States like Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi have enacted strict photo identification laws that unduly burden senior citizens, college students and minorities’ rights to vote. Just last week, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed sweeping voting restrictions that empowered local election boards to close polling locations at historically black colleges. This year we witnessed the U.S. Supreme Court gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act by invalidating the preclearance provision that allows for the immediate suspension of changes to election laws in states with a history of voting suppression.

The message of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the March of Washington should be the same as that professed by Dr. King on that balmy August day in 1963:

“Now is the Time!” Yes, we have come a long way from the days of Jim Crow; and yes, there is a Black President in the White House. However, if the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and subsequent exoneration of his shooter George Zimmerman was to serve as a lesson, it was made clear that the checks cashed by African Americans at the “bank of justice,” are still coming marked “insufficient funds.”

Let us hear from you: Are you planning on attending the March on Washington this Saturday and what do you plan on doing to ensure a more just America?

Tune in August 24 at 11A/10C as BET News presents 50: The March & The Movement live from Washington, D.C. The news special will air in simulcast on BET and Centric. (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Author Biography:

Stacy M. Allen has served as counsel on an array of legal matters including civil and criminal law, family law, bankruptcy, and even terrorism cases. Stacy is a proud graduate of St. Edward’s University where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations with a concentration in Latin America, and of Howard University School of Law, in Washington, DC, where she served as President of the Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Moot Court Team. Her current practice focuses on a variety of civil litigation and criminal law matters.

Stacy M. Allen, Attorney at Law (@SMAllen_Esq)

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