WASHINGTON (AP) – Following the lead of their predecessors, organizers of 50th anniversary activities for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Friday issued what they called a 21st century agenda for the nation: economic parity, equity in education, voting rights, health care access and criminal justice reform.
Those are the goals of the marches and rallies planned over the coming days, National Urban League President Marc Morial said. The agenda recalls the 10 demands issued by civil rights leaders when they marched on the National Mall on Aug. 28, 1963. Among those demands a half-century ago were a living wage and civil rights legislation.
“This agenda is by no means a complete agenda,” Morial said. “It presents itself as a stake in the ground, as a foundation, as a statement of both principle and policy specifics.”
About 100 leaders of national organizations came up with the priorities after they were convened by Morial and the Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network; Ben Jealous, president of the NAACP; and Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, according to Morial.
Morial said the agenda is meant to strengthen unity among leaders who often are seen as disparate and to show that a march planned for Saturday and a rally on Wednesday are not meant just for commemorative purposes “but for continuation.”
“It is time for us to embrace the idea that in this age 50 years, 50 years after the March on Washington, that we must go forth from this march with the commitment to a continuation around an agenda,” he said.
Jealous said civil rights groups are continuing to have success, such as in working with Republican governors on prison issues. But he said that five decades after the “I Have A Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. _ it was the highlight of the 1963 march _ there is “too much business left for us to do.”
Jealous said he plans for that to be different in the next half-century.
“We intend to stand here as a movement 50 years from now having to, frankly, talk less about continuation on old battles that have been handed down to us from people who are no longer with us and more about commemoration. The fight we fight every day is to put ourselves out of business,” he said.
Anniversary activities were already beginning with concerts, youth organizing meetings, seminars, town hall meetings, the unveiling of a commemorative stamp, a gospel brunch and a multiday festival.
A march Saturday from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and a speech Wednesday by President Barack Obama at the Lincoln Memorial, the same location from which King spoke, also were planned. A smaller march was set for Wednesday with stops at the Labor Department and the Justice Department.
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