Still so much has stayed the same
Benjamin Todd Jealous | 9/2/2013, 12:33 p.m.
(NAACP) – This past weekend I joined over 150,000 people at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It was a powerful moment that showed us how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is still alive, yet reminded us how far we still have to go to see it fulfilled.
The simple backdrop of Saturday’s event reminded us how much has changed in 50 years.
We gathered half-a-mile from the White House, where an African American president and African American attorney general have held office for five years. The media who attended Saturday represented the diverse races and ethnicities of the crowd, compared with the all-White media whose open bigotry toward King was on full display in the 1963 Meet the Press interview rebroadcast this week. Finally, the crowd on Saturday marched past the regal statue of King, prominently positioned beside D.C.’s Tidal Basin. We have indeed come far.
Still, so much has stayed the same.
Fifty years ago we were motivated by the killing of a young Black man, Medgar Evers, and we came to the National Mall to mourn his death and ensure that he would not die in vain. This year we are motivated by the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, which has pushed many of us to rededicate ourselves to end racial profiling.
Fifty years ago we were fighting for everyone to have an equal right to vote. This year we are faced with a Supreme Court that has gutted the Voting Rights Act, and we are fighting suppressive voter ID laws, cuts to voter registration and early voting.
Fifty years ago we were inspired by the idea of a fair minimum wage and economic justice. This year we have the same inspiration.
Below, you will find my full remarks from Saturday’s March on Washington. Let us celebrate our victories, and rededicate ourselves to the fight.
When they say ‘No you can’t,’ we say ‘Yes we can!’
When they say, ‘No you can’t pass a real racial profiling ban with teeth,’ we say ‘Yes we can!’ Because yes we did, two days ago in New York City.
When they say, ‘No you can’t pass the DREAM Act, no you can’t pass marriage equality, no you can’t abolish the death penalty, no you can’t expand voting rights in any state south of the Mason-Dixon Line,’ we say ‘Yes we can!’ Because yes, we did, just five miles from here in Maryland last year.
When they say, ‘No you can’t restore the full force of the Voting Rights Act, no you can’t raise the minimum wage, not with this Congress,’ we say, ‘Yes we can,’ because, yes, we have, again and again.
So let us claim some victories right now.
Let us say, ‘Yes, we will pass Trayvon’s law from coast to coast.’
Let us say, ‘Yes, we will protect the right to vote with all our might until we win the fight finally once and for all.’
And let us say, ‘Yes, we will raise the minimum wage because you cannot survive on $7.25!’
Yes, we will! Yes, we will! Yes, we will! God bless you and God Bless the NAACP!
Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.