I spent eight hours today amongst thousands at the March on Washington, and the people present were some of the most remarkable, resilient people I have ever had the privilege to be around. The number-one face on T-shirts, placards, and even homemade drawings was not President Obama or even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was Trayvon Martin. I also witnessed homemade signs calling for jobs programs, speaking out against the school closures and in solidarity with those overseas victimized by US militarism. The people at this march are the face of resistance to what Dr. King called the “evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism.”
The main speakers at the march, however, did not match the politics and urgency of those who gathered in the Saturday heat. Even more frustrating is that few tried. I expect to get all kinds of hate mail for what I’m about to write, but not to write it would be an act of duplicity based on what I saw and what I heard. I saw the great Julian Bond get only two minutes to say his piece before being shuttled from the stage. I saw Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has done remarkable work in recent years against the banks and Chicago school closures, also get less time than a pop song. I saw Reverend Lennox Yearwood, who is doing some of the most important work in the country connecting climate change to racism, get ninety seconds before being cut off. There was one speaker at the 8 am pre-rally who said the word “drones,” and that was it for any discussion of US foreign policy.
Based upon the speeches during the main portion of today’s events there can be little doubt that the Dr. King who was murdered in Memphis in 1968 would not have been allowed to speak at this fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of his life. There was no discussion of the “evil triplets.” Instead, we had far too many speakers pay homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions with none of the searing material truths that make Dr. King’s speeches so bracing even today.