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Fiftieth Anniversary of March on Washington more diverse

Freddie Allen | 8/29/2013, 2:37 p.m.
From left: Sabrina Fulton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., National Urban League President Marc Morial, Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, his wife Arndrea and daughter Yolanda, Washington City Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Rev. Jesse Jackson (behind MLK III) start the Anniversary March on Washington at Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at the memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. presented his I Have a Dream speech during the March on Washington. Jose Luis Magana

WASHINGTON – The 50th Anniversary for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom celebrated a more diverse coalition and needs, but the central themes resonated around voting rights, jobs, gun violence and equality in minority communities.

At this year’s march, Blacks, progressive Whites and the labor movement were joined by Latino groups and Native Americans, Asian Americans, the Gay and Lesbian community and members of women’s rights and children’s rights organizations to protect Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder credited King for bringing about profound changes in the U.S.

“Their march is now our march,” he said. “Our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities and of countless others across this great country who still yearn for equality, opportunity and fair treatment as we recommit ourselves to the quest for justice.”

Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network and one of the key organizers of this year’s “National Action to Realize the Dream” said the march was built on activists who stood on the same ground five decades earlier.

“There will be those that miscast this as some great social event but let us remember that 50 years ago some came to Washington having rode on the back of buses, some came to Washington that couldn’t stop and buy a cup of coffee until they got across the Mason-Dixon Line, that couldn’t buy a cup of coffee, some came to Washington after sleeping in their cars because they couldn’t rent a motel room, some came to Washington never having had the privilege to vote, some came having seen their friends shed blood, but they came to Washington so that we could come today in a different time and a different place and we owe them for what we have today.”

Sharpton upbraided those who denigrate past suffering.

“Don’t act like whatever you achieved you achieved because you were that smart, you got there because some unlettered grandmas who never saw the inside of a college campus, who put their bodies on the line in Alabama and Mississippi and sponsored you up here.”

Fifty years ago, King said that America gave Blacks a check that bounced in the bank of justice and was returned marked insufficient funds.

Sharpton said that we re-deposited the check, only to have the check bounce again.

“This time it was marked ‘stop payment,’” he said.

“They had the money to bail out banks, they had the money to bail out major corporations, they have the money to give tax benefits for the rich, they have the money for the 1 percent but when it comes to Head Start, when it comes to municipal workers, when it comes to our teachers they stopped the check,” Sharpton said. “We’re going to make you make the check good or we’re going to close down the banks.”

Sharpton said it was only natural that today’s coalition is broader than it was in 1963.