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Can March on Washington’s unity be duplicated?

George Curry | 4/1/2013, 4:51 a.m.

(NNPA) In five months, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. In 1963, the march was jointly called by the Civil Rights Movement’s “Big Six” – A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, James Farmer and John Lewis.

At this point, it is unclear whether today’s leaders will come together and rally around the theme of jobs and justice as leaders did on Aug. 28, 1963.

Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III are planning a march in Washington. Bernice King has announced a commemoration of the I Have a Dream speech at the King Center in Atlanta to observe the 50th anniversary. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King’s old organization, will be holding its annual convention in the nation’s capital the week of the anniversary and is considering holding an activity.

The foundation that raised more than $100 million to erect the MLK monument on the National Mall – and was forced by King’s children to drop the reference to his name – is still hoping it can participate in a joint celebration by all of the civil rights groups.

Interestingly, the Big Six managed to come together when the Black unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, compared to 3.2 percent for Whites. The unemployment rate for Blacks 20 and older in February was 12.7 percent – nearly double what it was at the time of the March on Washington.

Of course, any discussion about the preservation of King’s legacy invariably involves his three remaining children – Martin III, Bernice and Dexter. While appreciating the King family’s desire to protect intellectual property left to them by their father, including his I Have a Dream speech, I have been critical of their decision to charge what had been known as the Martin Luther King National Memorial Project Foundation Inc. a licensing fee of nearly $3 million to use his name, likeness and quotes in conjunction with a monument erected to him on the National Mall. I also upbraided them for, after making the decision to charge a licensing fee, refusing to extend the agreement, forcing the foundation to change its name ‒ it is now the Memorial Foundation ‒ and limit the scope of the monument-connected activities it had planned to advance King’s legacy.

Roland Martin and Joe Williams have an interesting article on http://www.rolandmartinreports.com about the controversy.

We had a heated discussion Sunday on Washington Watch with Roland Martin about the King children’s interaction with Harry Johnson and the group that raised the money for King’s monument on the Mall, the first to honor an African American. In response to my earlier column on the subject, Armstrong Williams wrote a column claiming I had slandered the King family and “for Mr. Curry to spread the falsehood that the King family is charging schools for the I Have a Dream speech is not only wrong, but embarrassing to these good people.”

After schooling Armstrong Sunday on the difference between “slander,” defamation that is spoken, and “libel,” which is written, I told him I couldn’t have possibly made that charge because I never used the word “school” anywhere in my column. He waited four months to reply and still didn’t get it right. To his credit, Armstrong acknowledged his error on-air and apologized.