The personal testimonies of people from around the country who have endured the indignities and the injustices that come from poverty, hunger, homelessness, unjust incarceration, loss of life to suicide and lack of health care were compelling and heartrending. I attended the Poor People’s March on Washington in DC on Saturday, June 18th and was grateful for the organizing, the people who showed up, and the good weather. I was grateful that these voices and issues were uplifted. I HEARD YOU!!
The multitude of signs hinted at the creative energy and the intersection of many issues. Sadly, there were probably more signs than people. Selfies and amateur photography captured the spirit of the day, but the mainstream media was MIA (missing in action).
I didn’t disagree with any of the messages I saw and heard but when the event concluded, I felt despair.
Perhaps it’s unfair to make comparisons with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963 when some 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, and more than 3,000 members of the press covered that event. It was a different time.
“King agreed to speak last, as all the other presenters wanted to speak earlier, figuring news crews would head out by mid-afternoon. Though his speech was scheduled to be four minutes long, he ended up speaking for 16 minutes, in what would become one of the most famous orations of the civil rights movement—and of human history.” (link)
Almost 60 years later, there is reason for my despair. The gap between the poor and the wealthy has grown wider; there are now 2,668 billionaires in the world commanding our attention, controlling much of the public discourse, and demanding allegiance from elected officials.
Democracy and democratic values are more fragile today than perhaps they were in 1963. Yes, there were madmen killing our leaders in 1963 but there are madmen plotting a coup in the halls of the Capitol Building today; and the level of voter manipulation and distortion of reality seems so much greater today. There’s not only disagreement about the way forward, there’s rejection of truth and facts and reality. How does a country move forward under such circumstances?
I don’t know the answer, but I know what I’m gonna do the next 4 months. I’m going to work my tail off to get people registered to vote and to the polls in November. I believe our votes can make a difference. What are you going to do?