On August 28, 2013, the nation marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to demand change. As we reflect on progress made because of their efforts and those of thousands of others who did not make the trip but stood where they were in solidarity, we must also consider how much farther we have to go.
Instead of sharing more statistics about the condition and quality of life for African Americans, we share an excerpt from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s powerful speech given on that day for the march that he described as “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation”:
“In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”
As we reflect on this momentous event, we must also roll up our sleeves and continue to do the work. The Coalition of African American Leaders stands with you, focused on the “fierce urgency of Now.” That urgency is equity for ALL.
COAL Board of Directors and
Members of the Coalition of African American Leaders