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Marching in place for the past 50 – its time for a revelation

James Clingman | 7/18/2013, noon
As we draw nearer to one of the most relevant events in history, an event that has been revered and ...
James Clingman

(NNPA) – As we draw nearer to one of the most relevant events in history, an event that has been revered and immortalized by the iconic phrase, “I have a dream!” hundreds of thousands of people are preparing to relive the famous March on Washington. August 28, 1963, was the day that a quarter million people descended on the National Mall and heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his timeless speech that began with an economic theme and ended with a rousing, thought-provoking, soulful call for freedom and equality.

Many people are excited about marching once again to commemorate that day in 1963, to restate MLK’s dream, and hear speeches from civil rights icons. In the last 50 years, Black folks have organized more marches than I care to remember. And now we march again, not only to commemorate, but also to demonstrate the failure of our society to fulfill King’s dream.

When W.E.B. DuBois departed this country for Africa, according to Gerald Horne, author of Black and Red: W.E.B. DuBois and the Afro-American Response to the Cold War, he lamented, “I just cannot take any more of this country’s treatment. We leave for Ghana October 5th and I set no date for my return … Chin up, and fight on, but realize that American Negroes can’t win.”

DuBois died on August 27, 1963, just one day prior to the famous March on Washington, thus, never getting the news about the 250,000 participants and never hearing King’s words of accountability, admonishment and idealism. I wonder what he would have thought about that day and what he would have suggested we do from that point forward. Keep marching for 50 years? I kinda doubt it.

A half-century later, we are steeped in the same emotional quandary we started with in 1963; we are bombarded by calls to come back to Washington to repeat what took place in 1963; and we are teaching our children about that day and telling them to “keep the dream alive,” to “relive the dream,” to “redeem the dream,” and to go back and march with us 50 years later.

Have we been marching in place all this time? Should we still be doing the same thing we did back then to highlight the same issues and to convince the same entrenched government and society to accept us as “equal?”

Marching in place has taken us nowhere, which is hardly a revelation. By definition, as we learned in the military, it is not supposed to move people forward; rather it is supposed to keep them active, keep their metabolism rate up, and keep their attention right where they happen to be while marching in place. It’s how a “commander” controls his troops while making them expend energy, maybe to tire them out before they are allowed to sleep. Sound familiar?

We have been ordered to march in place for years, only to make us weary and tired, which has caused us to go back to sleep after every march. We slept after we marched in Selma, in Birmingham, in Mississippi, in Chicago, in Harlem, in Washington with a million plus Black men, and after we marched to Jena, La.; Jasper, Texas; and Sanford, Fla. We marched to the polls and voted for Barack Obama, and went back to sleep. Now we have awakened once again “fired up and ready to go” do what the president suggested a couple of years ago, “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes …”