Sunday, September 1, 2013

50th Anniversary MLK March--DC Statehood Dreams, Personal Memories

Fifty years ago, my late husband and I were on the Mall in DC when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his world famous "I have a dream" speech.  Fifty years later I was there again, at both well attended marches--one on Saturday, Aug. 24th, and the other the actual anniversary date, Aug. 28th.  In the interest of speed I will send out an alert on this post when it is written.  Then I will embed photos and send word again when that is accomplished.]

I will cover 3 main aspects in this article--the presentation and politics of this event (especially as reflected locally), participation and impressions of DC Statehood Green Party members and the FreeDC group, and personal life experiences that led to my being at all three events.  The two main marches were sponsored by National Action Network run by Rev. Al Sharpton and the King Center headed by the King family.  They had the permits.  The early Saturday event at the DC WWI War Memorial had DC control, which is to say control by local Democrats.

A comprehensive report with a progressive perspective was posted by Dave Zirin on 8/24/13 at The, about, "Seeing new Jim Crow placards seized by Police"

I am condensing his post and including some additional comments of my own in [ ].
     Spending 8 hours there saw the number one face on T-shirts, etc. was Trayvon Martin.  Others called for jobs programs [LiUNA], protested school closures, and overseas victims of US militarism. They showed resistance to MLK's "evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism."
     Main speakers failed to match the politics and urgency of those present, few even tried.  Julian Bond got 2 minutes, Rev. Jesse Jackson got less than a pop song.  Rev. Lennox Yearwood, whose HipHop Caucus is doing some of the most important work in US connecting climate change to racism, 90 seconds.  Only heard one speaker at 8 am pre-rally mention the word "drones", total discussion of US foreign policy for the day.  It appears that MLK probably would not even been allowed to speak.  Too many speakers paid homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions.  None of MLK's searing truths.
     Eric Holder who has taken 5 years to acknowledge mass incarceration [of black people mostly due to low level drug/marijuana convictions] had 30 minutes.  This gathering totally ignored Bayard Rustin's decree 50 years ago that no politicians or political appointees be allowed to speak.
     Most shocking was seeing DC Park police seize 200 professionally printed placards from activists distributing them for free, which said "Stop Mass Incarceration.  Stop the new Jim Crow."  Police said it was "unlawful solicitation," even though given free.  Those objecting to this seizure were threatened with fines or arrest.  One DC police officer said, "Hey, you can get them back at the end of the day.  On second thought, given your attitude you cannot."  [Is there a law suit possible here?]  This was a first, but the demonstration was unusually thickly monitored, with Park Police, Homeland Security, and Military everywhere.
     King's "triplets of evil" still strangle this country.  If we are not talking about the New Jim Crow, Wall Street and militarism, then what are we doing?

This was Dave Zirin's summary of the Aug. 24 event.  When I also went to the Aug. 28 event, it was even more tightly monitored probably because 3 past and present Presidents were going to speak.  It was not even permitted to take signs or banners inside the security cordon.  Everyone entering the area that ran from the far end of the reflecting pool up to the Lincoln Memorial  went through a security check that included placing personal items and bags on a table to be examined--a slow process.  I, my signs, and many others stayed outside on the grassy area running back to the Washington Monument.  Although there were loudspeakers, it was hard to hear the speakers, I and a large number of others returned home after President Obama spoke.

Several of the major speakers raised our DC Statehood issue.  Former President Jimmy Carter pointed out that without MLK it is unlikely that he, Clinton or Obama would have served in the White House.  He called attention to MLK's statement "The crucial question of our time is how to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence."  He also raised the issue of the recent Supreme Court ruling reducing voting rights protections, and the fact that over 835,000 African-American men are in prison.  The enthusiastically applauded statement that "I think we all know how Dr. King would have reacted for the people of DC still not having full citizenship rights," says it all for those of us who live here.


We who have worked consistently to gain Statehood for DC, specifically the DC Statehood Green Party and Free DC, had no representation at the 2 main events at the Lincoln Memorial.  Only Anise Jenkins (Free DC) was even allowed to say a few words at the DC sponsored early rally at the DC WWI War Memorial, even though Statehood was the theme of this DC rally.
     Scott McLarty (DCSGP) reports that this was despite repeated requests.  He also heard no mention of Julius Hobson, Hilda Mason, Jo Butler, or any other leaders in the movement for DC democracy who founded the DC Statehood Party in 1970.  This is now part of the DC Statehood Green Party, part of the Green Party of the US, the only party that calls for DC statehood in its national platform.  While some Democrats including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton have called for "DC Voting Rights," a single "House" vote [no Senators], they fail to emphasize that this is not an acceptable substitute for self-determination, self-government, and full representation in Congress.
     Statehood for DC was left out of the Democrat Campaign Platform in 04, 08, and 2012.  If Ms. Norton thought that this would persuade Congress to give us 1 vote along with Utah, she was mistaken.  Recently local Republicans have even been trying to encourage DC residents to work with Congressional Republicans to achieve "territorial" status which would eliminate our three precious electoral votes.  Republicans would love that!!

I was glad to see that so many DC supporters had gathered at the 8:30 am Saturday rally at the DC WWI War Memorial.  I was happy to see that Anise Jenkins, at least, could say a few words, but was disappointed but not surprised that the DC Democrat planners iced out any DCSGP participation.
     In our DCSGP group we had two of our banners displayed and one large poster sign.  Taking turns carrying the two polls for each banner, or otherwise marching with our group, were David Bosserman and Olivia Cadaval, Perry Redd and Barbara Patterson and grandchildren, Don Wharton and G. Lee Aikin, Scott McLarty, and Ming Lowe.  We marched from the DC WWI site back toward 17th St. and along the south side of the WWII War Memorial until we and many others were blocked by a barricade.  We later heard it was erected to allow speakers and celebrities to go to the Lincoln Memorial.  It was later removed. After sitting down for rest, conversation, and food, we had not decided on a united course of action and dispersed in different directions.
     Ingrid Monkiewica and Barbara Patterson then carried one banner from the DC rally to the WWII Memorial.  Then Ingrid made her way to the Lincoln Memorial, where the entire plateau was fenced off for VIPs and Press.  No "normal" people were anywhere near the speakers, even those who had camped there all night.  Later she saw a few single-issue campaigners holding their own rallies on Independence.
     Ming Lowe reports that the Montgomery Co. Green Party was also in the 'house', led by Tim Willard.  He especially praises Anise Jenkins for being a volunteer for the Mayor's committee since its inception.  He ventured closer to the Lincoln Memorial and saw on the (one) jumbo-tron several good speakers, and one great one--the Honorable John Lewis (who at age 23 was the youngest speaker 50 years ago).  "Some of his proposed remarks in 1963 were cut, for being too radical.  Guess what?   Not a lot has changed,  Let's use this moment, this week, this lifetime to keep the movement progressing.  My small part will be to engage young people more, and more young people.  (Don't worry, I won't tell them not to 'trust anyone over 30...after all, that applies to me as well!!)"  [I understand there is a move afoot to get more of our DC University students involved in DC politics, let's sign them up for DCSGP.]
     Ann Wilcox reports that she and Kristin Hedges carried one of the "old" DCSGP banners.  She also saw Linda Leakes, John Hanrahan and other DCSGP folks in the crowd.  "Overall, I thought the DC presence was good--one shout-out from the podium by Nancy Pelosi for DC Statehood was not sufficient, though!"

Keith Ivey took a number of photos.  One of Anise Jenkins is here.  And the whole set.

Regarding national Green Party solidarity, Scott McLarty submitted a Green Party statement, and a statement by George Paz Martin, Peace Ambassador in the Green Shadow Cabinet

     At 16 years of age on the morning of Aug.28, 1963, I woke up to a new day in our country.  We felt so alone driving through the dark night from Milwaukee to Washington.  That bright morning we were joining with hundreds of thousands of people for the Great March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  This day was my "Coming of Age."  I was a teenager consumed with studies, work, sport and friends.  That day I felt beyond myself--that I was part of a great movement, a mass of beautiful, friendly people, of all races and ages wanting freedom and equality for all.
     Becoming separated from his group he reports:  The crowd became focused on Dr. King and his every word as he read his prepared speech.  I was about ten feet from him when Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer, shouted to him, "Martin, tell us about the dream."  He set his papers down, rose up and began to preach giving his memorable "I have a Dream" speech--words that inspired us all and generations to come.
     That day was the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.  It resulted in Congress passing the monumental "Civil Rights Act" later that year....the problem today is that much of America is still dreaming.
* Back then, we marched against job discrimination, and today it still exists not only regarding race but also sex and age.  Man jobs have been exported overseas for greater global corporate profits.
* Back then, we marched for fair housing, and now we have mortgage foreclosures and homelessness.
* He also highlighted the issues of education, voting rights, corporate money and lobbying, fair immigration laws, gay rights, support for whistle blowers and truth tellers, attempted corporate takeover of the world with so-called trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership.
     In the words of Dr. Cornel West, "Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was unbossed and unbought."  If still alive today, Dr. King would be more likely to serve in the Green Shadow Cabinet than in the cabinet of the current White House.


As a white person, my first conscious awareness of race was in Kindergarten.  Earlier I had been cared for by black women while my mother worked but have only a vague feeling of comfortableness when near black women today.  Our school janitor, Mr. Barnes, organized and produced The Kindergarten Circus each year.  I still remember him patiently trying to teach me how to bounce a ball, and later conversations in the school halls.  Only years later did I realize how unfair it was that a man of that talent, drive, and creativity was so limited, but still worked so hard to rise above his circumstances.

A lot of homes were being built in my neighborhood to house WWII veterans.  I used to spend hours watching the black masons building these brick houses.  I was about 8.  When the weather was cold I had the idea to sell them hot coffee which my mother fixed.  They invited me into their heated trailer where we would talk, and they would even bring me Marvel Comic books at times.  I had a real appreciation of these hard working family men, and think it is deplorable that we do not teach such valuable trades in DC.

The few black families in my town in New Jersey lived on the side of the main street bordering the Jersey marshes and the railroad tracks.  When there would be a marsh fire, I would worry as I saw flames approaching their homes as the fire department fought to save them.

One year when my father came home from a union conference in Atlantic City he was pacing up and down the kitchen declaiming his outrage.  "When we went to our hotel they wouldn't take our 2 black delegates.  I urged our members to cross the street to the hotel that would take them and they refused to do so.  And these guys call themselves TRADE UNIONISTS!!!  They ought to be ashamed!!"  I was 10 or 11 and had never seen my father so angry except when he hit his thumb with a hammer.

At college in Iowa City (where this year's National Green Party Convention was held), I was impressed with the leadership of  our black female precinct captain as we worked to elect John F. Kennedy.  I arrived in DC the day after he was elected, and subsequently married my husband who had left Iowa City a few months earlier to accept a scholarship at AU to study international labor relations..
     Years later we were amazed to discover that we each had ancestors who had stations on the Underground Railroad.  His family's was in southern Illinois near Kentucky, and mine was in Detroit, the jump-off point for Windsor, Canada.  After the Civil War began one of my ancestors took wagon trains of supplies to Union troops in the South but was captured 2 years in a row by General Johnston's troops, and each time had is arms broken so he could not drive a wagon.

Thus, when the great Civil Rights March of 1963 was announced, we just had to be there.  Because there had been a lot of hype about potential dangers of civil disobedience I was a little nervous when we started out.  It was a typical very hot August day (this year we were luck, it was only very warm), and we were under the trees  midway on the north side of the Reflecting Pool.  The crowd was very mixed race and friendly.  I mainly remember Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s great speech.  The great lines about little black children and little white children joining hands sent shivers down my spine.  I can almost feel it today, 50 years later, and have never experience that with any other speaker, ever.

Although my husband is now gone, I will continue my efforts on behalf of all people who need and deserve the great American dream as long as I possibly can!!

Remember the fighting words of A Philip Randolph:  "At the banquet table of nature there are no reserved seats.  You get what you can take, and you keep what you can hold. If you can't take anything you won't keep anything.  And you can't take anything without organization."  So, ORGANIZE.


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