How will historians describe this time as people across the nation take to the streets demanding racial and economic justice? The Aug. 28 commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington D.C. denounced police violence against Black Americans and the still denied “promissory note” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. described in his famous “I Have A Dream Speech.”
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,” King said, “they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
The 57th anniversary of the March on Washington was celebrated in Los Angeles, too, with a caravan and rally in Leimert Park organized by King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a leading organization behind the Yes on Prop 21 movement, was a coalition sponsor of the “Good Trouble: Reimagining A Racially Just America” event.
“After the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others at the start of the year, there was a national call for justice and plans to converge on Washington D.C. this month. Given the concerns with COVID-19, we knew that many would not want to travel, so the SCLC of Southern California continued its tradition of commemorating the March on Washington here in Los Angeles,” Pastor William D. Smart, president and CEO of the SCLC Southern California, said in a press release. “We will punctuate all of our events with tributes to the civil rights giants that we lost this year — Joseph Lowery, C.T. Vivian, and John Lewis — and stir up some good trouble.”
AHF participants advocated for the Stand Against Hate campaign and for the Yes on Prop 21 campaign amidst California’s housing affordability and eviction crises. Prop 21 is a ballot measure that puts limits on unfair rent increases, prevents homelessness, and keep families in their homes.
“I wanted to come here because – especially with these unprecedented times, with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake and the upcoming election – I felt that it was integral for me to come here to show my support,” AHF’s Kyra-Michelle Jacobs told KTLA. “We’ve been protesting as much as possible. As much as we can go out and have our voices being heard, I think that we should.”
That night during a Virtual Town Hall on SCLC’s Facebook page Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an endorser of Proposition 21, said the questions raised during the 1963 “clarion calls for righteousness and justice” are still being asked today.
“For those who participated in the caravan today and the rally, I want to thank them for giving up their time and their energy to continue to press forward for justice and freedom. This is a very important time in all of our lives,” Waters said.
“For all Americans, the March on Washington is rightly remembered as a defining movement of the civil rights movement. But it was just one more milestone on a journey that certainly continues,” the congresswoman said. “My colleague, [the late] John Lewis spoke of realizing an America that would deliver on the promise of equality inherent in the Declaration of Independence. We’re still asking the same thing.”
Karen Ocamb is an award-winning journalist and staff writer for the Yes on 21 campaign.