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Every Month is March

We March On

Yesterday, August 28th, we celebrated the anniversary of the March on Washington DC for Jobs and Freedom, which was, at the time, the largest single march ever on the capitol of the United States. Although it is remembered primarily for the “I Have a Dream” speech given by the late, great, Martin Luther King Jr, who so clearly and poetically called for civil rights and racial equality, the march was also, critically, a coalition between civil rights activists and labor organizers, demanding not just racial equality and justice but economic equality and opportunity as well. The words of Martin Luther King Jr ring out as poignant and powerfully today as they did 60 years ago, in part because, tragically, we still dream of a day when America will finally live up to its promise. This was not a march simply organized and led by civil rights leaders, but a powerful coalition that was built from the grassroots and demanded by on-the-ground organizers from both labor and civil rights groups. Such a coalition was necessary, to achieve their goals. As MLK Jr. recognized in many of his speeches, civil and economic rights and justice are not fundamentally separable. Race and class are intertwined in America, and it is only through an intersectional coalition that one can create the necessary power for change. While it’s true that many of the more overt forms of racial discrimination have been expunged from polite society in the intervening years, our recent past has shown that it is possible for us to not just move forward, but to slip backwards as well. This juxtaposition can be seen clearly when this past weekend the hateful actions of a racist gunman killed three innocent black Americans in Jackson Florida at the same time as thousands gathered on the steps of Washington DC, rallying in remembrance of the March for Jobs and Freedom. MLK’s “Dream” speech is cited by many on both sides of the political spectrum, as the highest of ideals and a celebration of American greatness, but what so many who attempt to appropriate his message for good or ill miss, is he did not passively dream but actively worked for justice. King knew that it took not just political coalitions, but economic power to realize true justice and democracy in this nation. Work that continues to the present. MLK once said, that “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” This is true, but I think he would acknowledge it is an incomplete sentiment, for as he well demonstrated through his life’s work, the arc of history does not bend on its own, but only through the tireless efforts of good-willed people seeking a better world and demanding equality and justice for all. Sixty years later, we continue to struggle, marching towards that beautiful dream, knowing that just as in 1960s, it will take more than just the goodwill of the political class in order to reach the proverbial “Promised Land.” The late Congressman John Lewis, who also spoke that day, recognized that we cannot count on those in power, either Republicans or Democrats to give us freedom and justice. It is only through solidarity, tireless work, radical empathy, and coalition building that we can bend history towards the justice and equality we all seek. So let us continue to strive for the full totality of Martin Luther King Jr’s vision of an America which treats all human beings with dignity and respect, and gives them the opportunity and security to live fully realized lives free from fear and oppression. To do so, just as in the 1960’s, it will take not just political power but economic power as well. So, join us each Tuesday in growing solidarity as we take one step at a time each week towards a brighter future, building the political cudgel which can be wielded on behalf of civil and labor rights, dreamers and makers of a brighter tomorrow. Don't shop on Tuesday! #DSOT #UPM

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