6 Degrees (or more) of Separation
Aug 18, 2013

Hoping Black people will remember how to come together for a purpose, in ways that truly matter

This week will surely be an emotional one for Americans of every hue and socioeconomic strata, as momentum increases leading to Saturday's 50th Anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I wasn't even a gleam in my mother's eye, as the saying goes, during the original March, so the research I have been doing for WURD has been incredibly instructive. In 1963, leaders of the Movement were far more clearly defined. On the podium to speak or stand in solidarity were representatives from the SCLC, CORE, SNCC, the NAACP and the National Urban League. Religion, labor, business, civil rights and student leadership...step in step, united for a common good. And the cultural community was equally present, with performances from Odetta, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson along with notables like Dick Gregory, James Baldwin, Sammy Davis Jr. and even Marlon Brando in the crowd to witness the historic occasion. While Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech may have stolen the show, the collective force of the crowd and march organizers back in 1963 were unprecedented and are undeniable.

I am admittedly a bit skeptical about the intentions of the commemorative marches. Note I said marches, as in more than one. The fact that there are two marches--one held on a convenient Saturday afternoon and one held 50 years to the day--is just the first bothersome mental itch about how this historic occasion will be remembered. The National Action Network and the National Urban League are throwing their full weight behind the Saturday march, adding the name power of Martin Luther King III and other notables to their call to gather. The fact that President Obama will abstain from the Saturday event, in lieu of his own gathering days later with Rev. Yolanda King by his side, paints an accurate portrait of the fractured state of a Black Agenda in our nation. It shouldn't be all about convenience, sound bytes or news camera presence in either instance. Nor should the events be merely a nostalgic look back. With all of the economic and political strife plaguing Black America, whether helmed by Rev Al or the POTUS himself, gathering any of us in the spirit of the original March on Washington must substantively address a plan to move forward with the problems camped out on our doorsteps in the now.

President Obama, in the language of his speeches and even the cadence of his orations, has co-opted quite a bit of the MLK flair to reach the masses. Rev. Al, with his daily appearances in broadcast media, has the ear and eye of millions of Americans. His ability to convene a phalanx of marchers is unquestioned, but his plan to actually create the changes needed in our larger society is far murkier. Wouldn't it have been beautiful if there was only one march in remembrance of this auspicious coalition of Black power? Egos aside, the only way we can hope to finally fulfill the call to action issued back in 1963 is to come together. A raised hand, turned into a closed fist, ready to strike with force on behalf of justice. And while I am a vocal advocate for furthering an overall equality agenda in the lane that best suits you, I am wary of the backstories that continue to draw us apart, even for the ideal photo opp. Six degrees or more of separation will not lead us to the Promised Land, here in the 21st Century. Or ever.

Here is last week's playlist: