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The March: My perspective from south of 45

Casey Thomas | 9/2/2013, 12:42 p.m. | Updated on 9/2/2013, 12:49 p.m.
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

I’m not a writer, I just have something to say.

I chose to stay home and watch the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on television instead of going to D.C. to attend personally. By doing that, I had an opportunity to share this experience with my sons in the comfort of our living room. While they are too young to really understand the significance of the original march and the commemoration, they were able to watch the thousands of people who were there. This allowed me to teach them how it was a time when it was against the law for Black people and White people to live together, eat together or sleep in the same hotel.

At their young ages, they have a short attention span so it was important for them to see the images that reflected the mood and purpose of the event. As someone who was not born yet to march with King, I have an interesting perspective on where we are 50 years later. The purpose of the march in 1963 was to bring attention to a need for jobs and justice for Black people in America at that time. We still have a need to bring attention to these same areas of concern.

Black unemployment has not moved much since that time. There are a number of factors why that is the case. One that immediately comes to mind is the low graduation rate of Blacks from high school and college. Education serves as “the great equalizer” when it comes to qualifications to meet the opportunity for employment. As we see an increase in the number of Black students who are graduating, we will see this particular gap close.

Fifty years ago, there was no Voting Rights Act, which protected Black people who would attempt to register to vote, or to actually cast their ballots. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the number of Blacks registered to vote and voter turnout increased in such large numbers that it provided the opportunity to elect more Blacks to office citywide, countywide and statewide. Unfortunately in 2013, we are seeing the turning back of these laws, especially at a statewide level, that can and will tremendously reduce the number of not only Black voters, but Hispanic and youth voters as well.

Fifty years ago, we saw many Blacks who were locked up for using their right to demonstrate against laws that they saw as unjust. They willingly went to jail and sometimes prison to stand up for what they believed in. In 2013, the United States leads the incarceration rate in the world. There are more Black people locked up here as a result of the war on crime, and zero tolerance when it comes to law and order. As a result of this, we have seen the deterioration of the Black home and the Black family. Fatherlessness is one of the leading causes of many of the social ills that face the Black community. As the number of Black men who were locked up increased, so did the number of single-parent families.

As we take this time to look back at the commitment of those who came before us who were willing to sacrifice, it should challenge us to realize that we still have much work to do. We must make a commitment first to raise our children with dignity and respect. We must be there as an example first because they will always believe more what we do than what we say. Once we have done that, we must look outside of our home, and help someone else. That could be by becoming a mentor, or that could be by making sure your neighbor has the right ID to vote, and taking them to go vote on Election Day.

We have a responsibility to make sure that those who came before us did not die in vain. That we pick up the torch where they left off and carry it with pride and honor knowing that we are responsible for making sure the next generation knows who they are and whose they are. Once we have done that, then we can truly say we did our part on our watch.