Epic Civil Rights march remembered

 

On The Media

Epic Civil Rights march remembered

By Ron Wynn

 

As an 11-year-old watching from home on a black and white TV set, I can still recall the epic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was August 28, 1963, and much of the nation had been told to expect trouble because Blacks (Negroes in most publications) were about to march on Washington.  The city was almost deserted that Wednesday afternoon. Many Southern newspapers were openly predicting there would be a riot, and even "liberal" publications like the New York Times sent their top columnist to the event in a helicopter because they were afraid of what might be happen.

 

It has been amazing and instructive to see the coverage that has emerged from the past weekend's multiple events, lectures, meetings, and remembrances. The current issue of Time magazine has a special section on the March, billed as their "I Have A Dream issue." Dr. King's photo is on the cover, and Jon Meacham has an extensive article on Dr. King and his legacy. NPR host and journalist Michele Norris has a story billed "The Dream Today," which looks at current situations, interaction between the races, economic progress (or lack of it) and many other areas.

 

But the most impressive portion of their coverage is a section titled "Memories of the March on Washington." It includes accounts from Rep. John Lewis, Harry Belafonte, former NAACP head Julian Bond, Joan Baez and several others who attended the March and are still alive and active. The section also has commentary from Maya Angelou, Malala Yousafzai, Colin Powell, Sonia Sanchez, Wang Dan, Charlayne Hunter-gault and Elijah E. Cummings among many others.

 

Today's (August 26) Associated Press has a lengthy article by Deepti Hajela on the links between the Civil Rights Movement and the current battles over immigration. Several speakers commented during Saturday speeches that the original Civil Rights movement had made racist laws unworkable in America, and that the current push for immigration reform was seeking to undo another set of laws that were equally unjust. Many other websites, most notably "The Root," "Black Voices," "Black America Web" and the National Negro Press Association's site, have lengthy articles available on the March, its origin and its impact.

 

One of the more controversial articles is available on the "Your Black World" website. It's titled "Would Malcomm X Be Attending the 50th Anniversary March? No, He would not," at least according to co-writer Dr. Boyce Watkins and Yvette Carnell. They discuss their contention in a lengthy video that accompanies the main article, and they argue that Malcolm X (at least the Malcolm X prior to going to Mecca) would have been more interested in the present than the past, and would have seen little positive impact coming from a commemorative event and a present-day march. The article is now available on the Your Black World site dated August 26.

 

I'm personally glad to see so much coverage and emphasis given to the March, and am also happy that it's being clarified in terms of what was happening at the time. This was a march for jobs and justice. There was a strong militant edge to it, and a definite set of concrete goals underlining it. Because of all the focus on Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, many seem to have forgotten that the primary purpose was to dramatize the lack of economic justice that was prevalent throughout the nation. Sadly, things haven't gotten that much better on the five plus decades since in these areas, particularly Black unemployment.

 

It's also been good to see such people as A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin starting to get their due in terms of what they did behind the scenes. Likewise, the very unfortunate fact that no Black women were permitted to speak at the March has also been recognized, as has been the sexism that was a negative aspect of the Civil Rights Movement. History cannot be accurately understood without truth, and it's good to see these truths now being recognized.

 

In my view, nothing takes away from the overall positive impact and importance of the March on Washington. People are free to debate what's come from it, whether integration has been a plus or minus for the masses of Black people, how much progress Black women have made since in having their issues and perspectives acknowledged, etc. But there's no way the March on Washington wasn't a major step forward in American history, and certainly something that deserves continued recognition and acknowledgement.

 

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Jason Whitlock's return to ESPN has been duly noted. But what hasn't been quite as publicized is his role in the development of a new webiste that will reportedly seek to find, train and develop young Black sportswriters. According to Robert Prince's Journalisms, Whitlokc's words about helping to create a "Black Grantland" (a Black version of the site created by ESPN's Bill Simmons) is truly being taken seriously by ESPM's corporate bosses.

 

"(Jason) Whitlock actually is embarking on a noble mission," according to Ed Sherman's Sherman Report. "HE will be assisting in the launch and will be the featured columnist in a new ESPN website that will be aimed at minority sports fans. He referred to the site as a Black Grantland, which generated some headlines. But there's more at play here."

 

"I want to try to engage all sports fans, particularly minority sports fans, in a conversation about sports," Whitlokc said in the podcast. Now, here's the kicker; the site will be looking to hire and develop young African-American sportswrters. It's hardly news that the professiona has a dramatic shortage there."

 

ESPN's president John Skipper also said that the organization wanted to create a Black version of what has happened with ESPNW, which not only covers sports issues for women, but actively recruits female sportswriters. He said that would be one of Whitlock's priorities helping ESPN find new, young Black sportswriters.

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