50th Commemoration of 1963 March

Black and white photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr. during March on WashingtonThe milestone March on Washington was commemorated with two local Las Vegas distinct events both containing a call to action. You may wonder why after 50 years a call to action is even necessary. Although progress is acknowledged by most speakers, blacks in America still have a lower household income and a higher unemployment rate. So economic inequality is still present and still devastating in its reach. But let me take you to the march and rally at 8:00 on Saturday morning August 24, 2013. I arrived to find a few cars in the Doolittle Center parking lot. People slowly gathered and formed groups chatting with friends.  A preacher from the neighborhood hawked Travyon Martin tee shirts for ten dollars each. Soon the organizers arrived, a prayer was spoken and instructions given. The symbolic walk started. And to my surprise, no police presence was evident. TV cameras, the local black press, and a vehicle to help anyone in distress followed the long line. The solemn pilgrimage of blacks, whites and Latinos proceeded for about a half mile to the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Carey where the King statue stands. At 9:00 the rally began with words of wisdom, rallying cries for economic change, and thanksgiving because we have come this far not just by faith but by striving for the best through hard work, studying, and listening.

I sat in the shade at the rear of the assembly as I watched two firsts – two political families with two generations of elected officials – the Goynes and the Neals. Pamela Goynes-Brown and her father Theron Goynes from the North Las Vegas City Council and Dina Neal and her father Joe Neal from the state Assembly; both daughters serving currently with fathers who paved brilliant paths.  We have come a very long ways.

On the official anniversary of the march, August 28, 2013, I found myself at the Ebenezer Church of God In Christ (CoGIC). It was surprising how alike the demands read on August 28, 1963 by Bayard Rustin are to the ones read on that Wednesday evening in Las Vegas. Rustin read: We demand comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress – without compromise or filibuster- to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations, decent housing, adequate and integrated education, and the right to vote; Withholding of Federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists; Desegregation of all school districts in 1963; Enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised; A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds;  Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated; A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers – Negro and white –on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages; A national minimum wage; A broadened Fair Labor Practices Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded; and A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state, and municipal governments, contractors and by employers.

In the North Las Vegas Ebenezer Church of God in Christ the August 28, 2013 reading stated:

1.Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from Federal, State, and Local lawmakers to guarantee all Americans a) the right to vote b) quality education free from racial discrimination c) access to jobs/work without discrimination and d) access to equal justice.

2. Enforcement of the 14th and 15th Amendments, title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Fair Employment Practices Act, and a broadened Fair Labor Standards Act that addresses employment disparities nationally.

3. Workforce Development Plans implemented where employment and disparities exist in Nevada.

4. Passage of the National Minimum Wage Act currently before Congress, that will provide for livable wages to all Americans.

5. End racial profiling by passing Federal and State legislation banning it, and creating more community oversight and accountability in local law enforcement.

6. Dismantle the “school to prison” pipeline and privatization of the prison system.

7. Remove policy/practice in education that targets and disenfranchises students based on race.

8. More oversight and enforcement by the US Attorney General in instituting injunctive suits, when any constitutional right is violated.

9. National jobs bill.

10. Economic freedom; beyond jobs to community economic enrichment.

Now the question is: Where do we go from here?

~Claytee D. White