By: Annette Wright
Special to the Truth
Although just a child when the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech, (which was actually planned as the March for Jobs and Freedom) on August 28, 1963, I can recall how important this event was because my parents spoke about it often.
Certainly, over the years, and into adulthood, I learned first-hand how vitally important voting rights are. That said, I present to you a recap of the 2021 March on for Voting Rights event held in Washington, DC on the 58th anniversary of Dr. King’s famous speech and historical gathering.
I cannot count how many times I have attended protests and marches around our country. There are many people who feel marching is a waste of time, energy and resources. I disagree. To me, marching highlights a cause. It is akin to a public announcement on the public stage stating an affirmative stance for or against an issue or concern. By contrast, it is not an attack on our democratic processes, the Capitol Building or an assault and murder of police officers. That’s called something else.
Rev. Al Sharpton, via the National Action Network, along with many other organizations, planned the March on for Voting Rights event along with a host of other leading Civil Rights Organizations.
It was well over 90 degrees in the shade in Washington, DC this past Saturday. A few of the 50,000 plus marchers fainted from heat exhaustion. However, the vast majority of the marchers completed the 1.5 miles, or so, trek from McPherson Square to the National Mall. Although VIP Seating was openly available to everyone, most of the crowd gathered up under some into the trees lining the mall, myself included.
The master of ceremonies for the event was Al B. Sure, the still very handsome R&B artist from the 80’s and 90’s. (I must admit, I was tempted to take one of the VIP seats sunshine, heat and all when he came onto the stage). Speakers included Martin King, III; Drum Major Institute Director, his lovely wife Andrea Waters King; Drum Major Institute President the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Ohio’s own Rep. Joyce Beatty and many others.
However, the most passionate, bold, and articulate speaker was Yolanda Renee King, the 13-year-old granddaughter of Dr. King. This little lady is a testament to the adage that says “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” I could just imagine Dr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott-King beaming with pride as we listened to her passionate and resounding words:
“My generation can’t vote, but your vote affects us, so we have to demand that our leaders do their jobs. Marching and activism are the tools we have and we need to use them. I marched because this isn’t a game. This is about the issues and policies that affect our lives. It’s about the kids who are scared to go to school because of gun violence. It’s about the Black women who are fighting hard every day in places like Georgia to make it easier for people to vote. I marched because I’m tired of elected officials putting themselves first — to be honest, I am disgusted by the behavior of many of our leaders in this country.”
“It’s easier to register to own a gun, than it is to register to vote. Think about that. If you are a Congress person protecting firearms, why won’t you protect the right to vote? That is completely unacceptable.
“I marched because I want change, not just for me, but for everyone who comes next. My grandma said that every generation has to earn their freedom. I believe that our generation can free the generations yet to be born,” she said. “Adults have failed us so we need to take matters into our own hands.”
Wow!! Out of the mouth of babes. Her speech pretty much summed up the meaning and purpose of the entire event. Her words empowered the crowd, more so than any of the other speakers, from my observation. To hear a child speak words of truth and wisdom to adults in the United States Congress and beyond. And here I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.
With over 400 voter suppression bills circulating, percolating and being passed in nearly every state in the country, this is not the time to stop fighting and demanding by any means necessary that voting rights of Black people, Brown People, the Elderly and Poor People are not decimated by the Jim Crow based tactics that are boldly being spoon-fed to a fear-based group of disgruntled losers. All in hopes of resurrecting an America that is dead and gone.
Yes. We are still marching in 2021. And our children are poised to continue to do so, as well, until real change comes.