Anniversary March leaders lacked boldness in demanding justice

RON D ANIELS | 9/16/2013, 11:04 a.m.
I was privileged to attend the March on Washington in 1963, and count it as one of the most profound ...
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America. He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait. NNPA

The final glaring omission was the absence of a call to utilize boycotts as a non-violent means to change the hearts and minds of obstructionists who refuse to respond to moral appeals to do the right thing. It is useful to recall that King rose to prominence because he successfully led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Black passengers refused to ride buses, withdrew their patronage, exacted economic sanctions, until the segregationist city fathers relented. In his final speech in Memphis, King challenged Black people to use boycotts to “redistribute the pain” to pursue and achieve our righteous quest for social, economic and political justice.

In the face of Stevie Wonder’s courageous decision not to perform in Florida until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished, and calls by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and numerous organizations and individuals to boycott Florida, it was astonishing that not a single national civil rights leader endorsed the boycott Florida campaign. Clearly, the boycott is a people-based effort that can inflict the kind of economic pain on the tourist industry that can lead to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law. One wonders whether corporate contributions to our major civil rights organizations are restraining them from vigorously embracing and advocating a time-tested means of mobilizing our people to achieve victories.

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington was a success, but it lacked a bold vision/mission to inspire Black people and the “beloved community” to move from a reactive to pro-active mode in the struggle to finish the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda. And, one of the most potent non-violent weapons for achieving justice was left off the table – economic sanctions. However, rather than simply complain, it remains for those who make the critique to fill in the blanks by articulating a broader vision and educating, mobilizing/organizing Black people to utilize Black dollars as a weapon in the Black freedom struggle.

Boycott Florida!

Ron Daniels is president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, he can be reached via email at info@ibw21.org.