The District of Columbia is organizing several events leading up to the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington August 28, 2013. During a news conference at the African-American Civil War Museum Wednesday, Mayor Vincent Gray provided some insight on planned events.
The main event, announced by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, is the rally and commemorative march at the Lincoln Memorial August 24. A separate march, planned for August 28, will include a march to the Department of Justice and a rally on the mall.
Before marching the main event at the Lincoln Memorial, officials plan a rally at the D.C. War Memorial near the National Mall. Rally participants will focus on full enfranchisement for District of Columbia residents, voting rights, immigration reform, LGBT rights and gun violence.
In the days and weeks leading up to both events, D.C. officials also plan to highlight people, landmarks and artifacts that were important to the 1963 march through a series of seminars, forums and social events.
The 50th anniversary March on Washington is just as significant as the 1963 march. Many of the issues surrounding jobs, justice and poverty continue to challenge many Americans, and residents of the District of Columbia remain disenfranchised by the federal government. District residents do not have representation in the Senate and have a non-voting delegate the House of Representatives.
“People understand the plight to which we are subjected in the city,” said Mayor Gray, “they are very supportive … the District of Columbia should be freed from this kind of bondage. How can a nation that prides itself for supporting democracy all around the world deprive the people of the District of Columbia of the experience of democracy in this city.”
Janaye Ingram, D.C. Bureau Chief for the National Action Network, agreed that district residents are disenfranchised and said that current issues make the anniversary March on Washington just as relevant as the march 50 years ago.
“In 2011 and 2012 we saw many voter laws that [sought] to disenfranchise voters,” Ingram said. “The fact that the Voting Rights Act was gutted in a sense; taking Section 4 and making it invalid. With the case of George Zimmerman and the verdict coming out, we need to address some of the laws on a state level.”
Ingram also mentioned women’s issues and unresolved immigration reform as platforms substantiating the need for continued diligence in the current civil rights era. America has made progress in the last 50 years — including the election President Barack Obama — but as the Mayor further explained, more has yet to be done.
“I think it’s wonderful to see the progress that’s been made over these 50 years – the fact that we do have an African-American president – but the reality is that we still have many challenges. Certainly the District of Columbia is symbolic of those challenges that still are before us,” Gray told those who attended the news conference.
“When you have unemployment at the level we have, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and Latinos. When you see educational underachievement at the levels we still have, especially disproportionately to those who would be defined as minorities, you know that we still have challenges.”