Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Marching and protesting is nothing new in the African American Community. The 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington held on Friday, August 28, 2020, demonstrated our determination, perseverance, and commitment to equality & justice for ALL!
Supporter of the 57th Anniversary March on Washington displays an anti-Trump sign while marching. He cleverly displayed his political frustrations by labeling President Trump as "COVID-45."
James Weldon Johnson
"Lift Every Voice & Sing" by James Weldon Johnson, written in the late 1800s, has become a staple in the African American community & is recognized as the "Black National Anthem" in America. I learned this song as a young child. We often sang it during February to commemorate "Black History Month.". The song is very moving, and it depicts the unparalleled journey of Africans in America. As African Americans, Mr. Johnson beautifully portrays our responsibility to rejoice despite our pain, affliction, and misfortune.
He summons us to remember our history while looking forward to brighter, jubilant days. He ends one stanza with the words, "let us march on till victory is won!" Mr. Johnson was a leader and pioneer in the NAACP, & he certainly knew the power that African Americans possessed by joining together to march for change, equality, and justice. Although Mr. Johnson passed in 1938, his legacy remains, & his call to "marching" remains salient to our progress today.
The Commitment March...
I had the opportunity to attend & volunteer at the 57th Anniversary of the "March on Washington." This event was led by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) and other partnerships from organizations such as NAACP, the Urban League & many more. "Get your knee off our knecks" was the title of this "Commitment March" & was evoked by the recent, yet common, tragedies of African Americans dying mercilessly by police officers and white supremacists over the last few years.
These acts of violence have prompted national and global protest. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Eric Gardner, Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and Treyvon Martin are some of the more recent names of brothers and sisters who have been victims of police brutality and systemic racism. The need to march and protest for accountability measures, policy changes, and new laws to protect civilians from those who are reckless in their roles as police officers are urgent! Additionally, harsher punishments must be imposed for those who engage in hate crimes.
Unfortunately, these requests have been asked for by African Americans for several decades. In fact, the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s empowered African Americans to unite, protest, and resist collectively in order to end segregation, vote, expose systemic racism, police brutality, and hate crimes. Some of the protesters shared with me that they have been marching for the same issues since the 1960s. However, this anniversary march displayed a certain level of resilience, tenacity, and strength for African Americans! COVID-19 created a unique set of barriers for protesting and marching because of the CDC's social distancing recommendations, therefore, thousands of supporters attended the march virtually. However, hundreds of thousands attended the march in person. This massive turnout embodied the triumphant spirit of James Weldon Johnson and so many other African American forefathers and fore-mothers who knew the power and impact that marching has on creating change and demanding justice.
This demonstration also showed the collective exhaustion that we are feeling as African Americans, and in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, we are "sick and tired of being sick and tired." Enough is truly enough! We must demand that laws are passed to protect minority citizens from police officers who abuse their authority and from white supremacists who engage in hate crimes.
So indeed, we must continue to march, vote, resist, and unite. Victory can be won and will be won because all Black Lives Matter!