As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Wednesday, activists see the 2013 “Let Freedom Ring” event as an opportunity to make sure contemporary equality issues take their place alongside the great civil rights fights of the past and become a part of the dream Martin Luther King Jr. articulated.
“To be clear, the dream hasn’t been realized,” said Rev. MacArthur H. Flournoy, director of Faith Partnerships and Mobilization for the Human Rights Campaign. “From the need for a federal non-discrimination law that protects every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender worker against bias to the hate crimes that disproportionately affect my LGBT brothers and sisters of color, there’s a long road ahead.”
“Civil rights, broadly defined, are the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality,” said Gregory Cendana, executive director for the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. “That’s why we come together not as individuals, to speak on issues that specifically affect our community, because the struggles we deal with transcend race, class, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and all identities.
Flournoy and Cendana both said the anniversary march is a big stage for issues to be presented, and the opportunity must be seized to bring about change.
“We don’t want to see a moment happen; we want to enact a movement. A movement of underrepresented communities continuing to push back on politicians that are not working in the interest of the communities they serve,” Cendana said.
“Essentially [we want] justice and equality for all,” said Flournoy. “This entails LGBT equality but also economic security in keeping with the theme of the march. We’re also committed to being coalition partners in collaboration with other justice issues that are working on issues such as the Voting Rights Act and stop and frisk laws.”
When asked what they would like to see come from the march, both offered unique perspectives.
“We want for people to see MLK’s dream realized and acknowledge the work that still needs to be done. Racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia, whether in the workplace or else in our communities, has not been eradicated, it’s been institutionalized. It’s still our battle to win — to fight — and we must put our elected officials in a position where they feel as uncomfortable as we do about some of the policies or lack there of, that have a negative impact on our communities,” Cendana said.
“First and foremost, we intend to convey our commitment in coalition and relationship with other justice movements,“ Flournoy said. “It is clear to us that given the enormity of task that lies ahead for full equality, it is imperative that we work in coalition with our allies in a variety of other justice movements.”
Flournoy said Wednesday’s march is only part of a long-term commitment of civil rights activists nationwide.
“But, we are standing together on the path for justice in a way that gives me great hope for our future success,” he said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.