WASHINGTON – “No Justice, No Peace” was the cry heard from thousands of people gathered on Friday on the 57th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Wearing T-shirts and masks with slogans such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe,” people of all ages from various parts of the United States gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear from a long list of speakers including King’s son and granddaughter and families of African Americans killed by police.
Jared, a 42-year-old human resources manager from Dallas, told EFE he made the long trip to Washington because he felt that “as a Black person,” he had no choice but to take part in what organizers billed as “The Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”
People of color, he said, just “want to be seen as human beings … and to be treated as such.”
One of those who addressed the crowd was Jacob Blake Sr., father of the 29-year-old Black man who remains hospitalized in Kenosha, Wisconsin, five days after he was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer.
“There are two systems of justice in the United States. There’s a white system and there is a Black system. The Black system ain’t doing so well,” Blake Sr. said.
“But we’re going to stand up. Every Black person in the United States is going to stand up. We’re tired. I’m tired of looking at cameras and seeing these young, Black and brown people suffer,” he said.
Friday’s march was announced in June by the Rev. Al Sharpton during the funeral of George Floyd, who passed away after a white Minneapolis police officer spent nearly nine minutes with his knee pressing down on the neck of the 46-year-old Black man.
Two of Floyd’s siblings, Philonise and Bridgett, took the podium Friday in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
“I want you guys to ask yourself right now. How would the history books remember you? What would be your legacy? Will your future generations remember you for your complacency, your inaction? Or would they remember you for your empathy, your leadership, your passion for weeding out the injustices and evil in our world,” Bridgett Floyd said to the crowd.
One of the stars of the afternoon was Martin Luther King Jr.’s 12-year-old granddaughter.
“Great challenges produce great leaders,” Yolanda Renee King said. “We have mastered the selfie and TikTok, now we must master ourselves.
“We are going to be the generation that dismantles systemic racism, once and for all,” the young activist said.
“Less than a year before he was assassinated, my grandfather predicted this very moment. He said we were moving into a new phase of the movement. The first phase was civil rights. The second phase is genuine equality,” she said.
“We stand and march for love and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream,” Yolanda said. “Papa King – we won’t forget.”
Calling himself a “proud dad,” Martin Luther King III followed his young daughter by saying that while the march marked the anniversary of King’s famous American dream, “We must never forget the American nightmare.”
King III, who was 10 when his father was gunned down in 1968, said that the problems raised by King Jr. have yet to be resolved decades later.
“In the final year of his life, he wrote in his last book, ‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?’ Well, my sisters and brothers and dear friends, in this defining moment for our history and our country, we must answer Dr. King’s question. Will our answer be chaos or community? I believe some have chosen the answer with chaos, including the current occupant in the White House today,” King III said, alluding to President Donald Trump.
“But we who believe must choose community because if we choose community, we can avoid watching the dream turn into a permanent nightmare,” Martin Luther King III said.