August 24, 2013

Sacramentans speak to March on Washington's goals

Today, 150,000 Americans are expected to re-enact the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transfixed and transformed a nation struggling with racial justice and equality. The crowd will include dozens of Sacramento area residents.

Today, 150,000 Americans are expected to re-enact the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. transfixed and transformed a nation struggling with racial justice and equality. The crowd will include dozens of Sacramento area residents.

The Bee asked five local civil-rights activists why they are joining the march.

James Shelby

Shelby, 67, is president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League. All 100 affiliates of the National Urban League are marching to "Redeem The Dream." The march will end at the Lincoln Memorial.

"In the summer 1963, I was a senior in Jackson, Miss., when civil-rights leader Medgar Evers was killed while trying to desegregate the schools. I'm marching for the future. A lot of things have changed since then, but a lack of jobs is the No. 1 issue in this country. We have kids without jobs hanging out on street corners. We need a Marshall Plan for rebuilding America.

"I'm also marching for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whose voice and that of other young people of color was never heard. We have a Congress that is afraid to do anything about guns, and there is a fear in this country of Latinos and immigration reform."

Rahim Reed

Reed, 61, is associate executive vice chancellor for the Office of Campus Community Relations at UC Davis and an expert on federal requirements for affirmative action.

"In 1963, I was one of the first five African Americans to be bused from my neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pa., to an all-white middle school ... I was treated as some kind of alien invader, and the question always was, 'Why are you at our school?' I lamented why white kids couldn't be bused to my neighborhood of Hazelwood and why my schools couldn't have been of the same quality of the schools I was bused to.

"The march was designed to provide people equal opportunity and equal access, some of the issues we're still talking about today, including the peeling back of voters' rights and some of the other hard-fought gains. The country has changed tremendously for the better, and I'm happy we're commemorating where we were with an eye toward where we want to go."

Kevin Carter

Carter, 52, is founder of Sacramento Occupy's Urban Outreach-Occupy The Dream representing Dr. King's Poor Peoples' Campaign, which was stopped by King's assassination in 1968.

"My passion is to march with civil-rights leader John Lewis, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. III and Al Sharpton for jobs and Trayvon Martin. We had 450 people at the Trayvon Martin march here to bring an understanding of the case, which revolves around the NRA and Florida's gun law. We have to tell the NRA that guns without education leads to chaos; a bullet has no eyes and knows no name. Where is our conscience as a society when it comes to guns and gun laws?

"King, who planned a Poor Peoples' March for Equality on Washington, D.C., in 1967, said if you get banks and corporations to lead us, they will lead us into poverty. We have to start in our communities and reach out from there to civic and state leaders and create a method to turn our neighborhoods into safe places where we remove gangs and other negative elements."

Nailah Pope-Harden

Pope-Harden, 25, is secretary of the Avondale Glen Elder Neighborhood Association, which defeated a local gas company's bid to store 7.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas underground in her neighborhood.

"Growing up in south Sacramento's Glen Elder neighborhood, I watched my grandfather rally people to establish Allensworth, the first historical African American park in California, and saw my parents volunteer countless hours to establish neighborhood programs for kids.

"The values of justice, fairness and compassion were deeply instilled in me, and I believe it's necessary for everyone to be engaged in their futures.

"I grew up hearing about the march. It was an amazing part of history. I've been saving up for it ... My generation is definitely lacking the drive to be active in politics. We take a lot of things for granted. Going to the march with four of my friends will re-energize me and give me something to be able to bring back to Sacramento."

Danielle Williams

Williams, 28, is president of the Sacramento Urban League's Young Professionals and a community organizer for Sacramento ACT. She coordinates the Lifeline for Healing Program to end mass incarceration and violence, and demonstrates for immigration reform.

"My mom grew up in Eutawville, South Carolina, in the Jim Crow South, and she and my dad always talked about Kennedy and King and how proud they were of the 'I Have a Dream' speech.

"My grandpa was in the army and had his own car, and used to have to drive people out of town if they got in trouble with the KKK or the police. Our family owned a grocery store, so some considered them 'uppity Negroes.' Their neighbors were sharecroppers who worked on different farms and plantations, the way undocumented workers are treated now.

"I went to a Baptist school that didn't talk about the civil rights movement, but my mom made me read about King, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass and Jackie Robinson and write reports about them. I said, 'Why am I writing about this? I'm not learning about it in school. It's irrelevant.' But 50 years later, we're still marching about the same things, especially voting rights.

"The impact of the U.S. Supreme Court removing Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act could be devastating for black political power and influence in America.

"I'm marching to show Congress we need to pass legislation to protect our voting rights so states that have a history of violating those rights will still have to get pre-clearance from the federal government to change their voting laws, including very tough photo ID requirements.

"There are folks in the South who don't have driver's licenses or photo IDs, and some states are saying college IDs don't count, so kids coming home from college out of state can't vote."

Call The Bee's Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Follow him on Twitter @stevemagagnini.

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