Gil Scott Heron, a black man and an American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, was a revolutionary spoken word performer in the 1970s and 1980s. Peeling open the eyes of the many purposefully asleep, Gil Scott Heron, was among the many individuals who were dreaming with their eyes wide open for a better way and a better day for people of color.
In his song / poem, Comment No.1, we are ushered into a stake of WOKE-ness, realizing that the progress of the colored people as a whole has not been as grand as we've been led to believe by the powers-at-be. The struggles, in which we have endured, though not completely in vain, were far from over as with a new age came new ways to ignore the same old problems. In fact, the issues that plagued us then, still plague us now. The only difference is that lynching is NOT a popular sport given attention to as often as it was back in the Jim Crow / Uncle Sam days. Though, the thought would be nice to believe it no longer happens, the sad reality is that it does. More so, the worst part of it all is that the lynching is not only a physical thing that happens. It is a mental, social, and economic clamp that drives a wedge between us and them.
So, continuing my Black History Month post fest, I felt it only fitting to share a little bit of, well... history ― BLACK HISTORY. And among the numerous notable moments in history, the March on Washington (1963) stands as a shining beacon of a common theme many people of color have preached for centuries: HOPE. The March on Washington, though shrouded in the veil of the Civil Rights movement was more than just a march for civil justice. It was, as many may not always know, also a march for economic justice. William P. Jones outlined it best in his article, The Forgotten Radical History of the March on Washington:
"Ironically, the March on Washington was nearly derailed by a similar miscalculation. Contrary to popular mythology, the demonstration was initiated not to break down racial barriers to voting rights, education, and public accommodations in the Jim Crow South but to highlight “the economic subordination of the Negro” and advance a “broad and fundamental program for economic justice.” The roots of the protest stretched back to the March on Washington Movement, which Randolph initiated to protest employment discrimination during the Second World War, and it was renewed in the 1960s by the Negro American Labor Council, a nearly forgotten organization that Randolph and other black trade unionists formed to protest segregation and discrimination in organized labor. When Randolph and other trade unionists proposed a “March on Washington for Jobs,” however, they faced resistance from other black activists who feared that such mobilization would detract attention and resources away from the campaign that Martin Luther King and others were planning to protest segregation and legal discrimination in the South. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, a black feminist who had directed Randolph’s campaign against employment discrimination in the 1940s, convinced him to meet with King and plan a demonstration that could address “both the economic problems and civil rights.”"
Essentially, it was becoming more and more apparent that the inequality in which we (people of color) faced in the workforce created a deep and dangerous valley that kept us on unequal footing. And though this march was wildly successful, it did not close the gap. The gap is still very much here to this day. However, the significance of this march was not that fact that it didn't close the social and economic gaps ― though it did help build a small bridge across the dangerous valley ― rather, it was the fact that it was not only very peaceful but also well organized. The March on Washington was embedded with dignity and the HOPE for equality across all levels, social and economic. With a quarter of a million people marching in Washington all at once for civil and economic rights peacefully, the government was forced to acknowledge the people of their country they tried to divide and hide. Despite doubts and the fear of riots, the march surpassed the expectations of many, black and white alike. No longer were we, people of color, going to stand in the shadows and by the wayside. No longer were we going to accept injustice. No longer were we going to continue to be considered three fifths of a person. We were as whole and complete as our Caucasian counterparts and thus deserved equal treatment on all levels (social and economic).
In the end, the March on Washington was the marriage of two movements. A movement for equal treatment in the workforce / economically and a movement for civil rights, justice and liberty, that spawned a moment in history that would begin to lay the foundations for the passing of the Civil Rights Act alongside a plethora of other WELL NEEDED and DESERVED changes. Glossing over the nitty-gritty details, the March on Washington was a triumph in the eyes of not only a nation full of hopeful blacks but it was also garnered a grand success among the various Black Activists groups as well as many Caucasians that had their initial doubts. The march proved to the American government that we were not as barbaric, uncivil and militant as they painted us to be. Rather, we were peaceful, organized and hungry for the equality that the Declaration of Independence deemed ALL PEOPLE deserved.
For a more detailed synopsis on the March on Washington, please refer to William P. Jones’ article, The Forgotten Radical History of the March on Washington.
Lastly, Stuff You Should Know's How the March on Washington Worked podcast, which aired the 20th of January, 2015, presents a great summary of the events that led up to the March on Washington as well as it's overall outcome.
As per usual, remember that when you know better, you do better. Therefore, it is wise to know what happened in the past is what also helped shaped our NOW today. In the wise words of Kid Fury and Crissle, from The Read podcast, “if you remain READY, then there will never be a need to get READY.”
:: Post Rationalizing(s)
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
― President Barack Obama ―