By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
The National Action Network (NAN) led by Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III are hosting this week’s (Aug. 28) 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, D.C., the same historic date as in 1963.
Its supporters include the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Coalition On Black Civic Participation, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, among other groups.
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his
now iconic “I Have a Dream” Speech whose theme resonates in 2020, said organizers for the 2020 anniversary program.
This year’s event was billed as the “Commitment March: Get your Knee Off Our Necks,” a reference to the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a Black man, after being pinned under the knee of a white police officer for nearly nine minutes.
Once again, the area around the Lincoln Memorial was chosen as the site for keynote speeches and other activities.
This is where events took place in 1963 when over 200,000 people from all over the country came by busloads to hear a series of high-profile speakers, including Dr. King and the late John Lewis.
This year, due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the decision was made to limit the number of people allowed in assemble in person and to provide live streaming of the day’s event so viewers could take part in nearly all the programming—from speeches and calls to action to the march itself—from the comfort and safety of their homes.
According to Brenda Cole, the Virginia and West Virginia President of NAN, this year’s commemorative event was planned to center on two key issues facing the African American Community: police brutality and voting.
Speakers were asked to highlight the growing list of unarmed African Americans who have been shot and or killed during encounters with the police. Those selected to speak included family members of the victims, including the brother of George Floyd.
Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests across the country and has been identified by some as the resurgence of the Civil Rights Movement launched in 1950, and led by Dr. King.
The most recent police shooting involves Jacob Blake, 29, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, who was shot in the back last week multiple times by an officer during a confrontation. That shooting currently is sparking a new wave of protests, as doctors report Blake may be paralyzed for life by his injuries.
Cole said this year’s event was coordinated by a coalition of civil rights groups, including NAN, the National Urban League, NAACP, and others, who provided speakers for the program, along with civil rights leaders, activists, and youth from around the nation.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers discouraged caravans of buses from states and locales which are “hot spots” for the virus, including Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and California.
Cole said a faith-based group in Virginia Beach, which had secured the use of 15 buses to transport people from Hampton Roads was encouraged to abandon their plans.
Temperature checking was mandated for groups on buses from non “hot spot” states, with each person having their temperatures checked before boarding each bus.
National organizers also mandated that each participant would wear a facemark to board buses. Bus coordinators were required to supply hand sanitizers on each bus traveling to the Commitment March.
Before departure and arrival, bus coordinators were told to review the social distancing practices of the march site.
Coalition organizers, Cole said, realized that individuals from “hot spot” states would be coming in their private vehicles and other conveyances, but were hopeful everyone would be mindful of the pandemic health guidelines.
Uber teamed up with the Commitment March to provide registrants with free rides to and from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Live streaming of the event on August 28, beginning at 8 a.m., was planned on www.nationalactionnetwork.net.