By Senator Lena C. Taylor
We Don’t Have the Luxury of Waiting to Make Real Institutional Change
This week marks the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington. The historic gathering in Washington, D.C. in 1963, combined the planned marches of groups led by A. Phillip Randolph and Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
The two men had planned to bring activists and supporters together to fight for jobs and freedom, respectively. The initial conception for the march was that of Randolph and Roy Wilkins, the founder of Brotherhood of Sleeping Care Porters. Randolph and Wilkins wanted to call attention to the racial discrimination and inequities in employment in the early 1940’s. After a number of starts and pauses, failed federal promises and organizational needs, it would take nearly 20 years for Randolph to link up with King and see the march come to fruition.
King was waging the battle for civil rights. He was working to get America to afford the rights of freedom, voting and opportunity to Black Americans, as were available to all others. For maximum impact, they would put together a coalition of groups to include Randolph, leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP; King, chairman of the SCLC; James Farmer, founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); John Lewis, president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League.
Most notably, King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is what most people remember about the march. Only scheduled to speak for four minutes, the “dream” portion of the speech was not originally written into King’s remarks. At the urging of renowned gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, King told attendees about his vision that “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.” He would spend 16 minutes providing an oratorical feat, on the ability of the nation to move beyond our storied and racially divided past. Nearly 60 years later, we are still challenged by the ills of our history. Our nation, our state and our communities are struggling to reconcile our divisions and they need help.
In our own backyard of Kenosha, the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, the murders of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the physical and emotional damage experienced by area residents, remind us that we can’t wait. If watching neighbors question the value of life, does not move us into action, then what? If this is not the time, then when? It is time to enforce equal and fair application of the laws, respond to claims of racism and excessive use of force and give timely responses to inequities in our systems. We don’t have the luxury of waiting to make real institutional and systemic change. So, we continue, marching and working for change today.