In the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision and Republican-controlled state legislatures further weakening the Voting Rights Act, Martin Luther King III is calling for people of conscience to come to Washington on Aug. 28, the anniversary of the famous March on Washington.
On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a momentous speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that the world remembers as the “I Have a Dream” speech. preached about “Letting Freedom Ring, from the Lincoln Memorial and now, nearly 60 years later, many of the things his father fought and died for have not been achieved.
“It disheartens me to say that as a country and society, we are not even close to where my father hoped we would be since delivering his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech 58 years ago,” said King’s son, who is chairman of the Board for the Drum Major Institute.
“I think my father would be greatly disappointed in where we are at this particular moment, but he would not give up on the nation. He believed in the power of people, the power of young people, and the power of change to come, and I am proud to support March On for Voting Rights to help carry out that change and recommit ourselves to finishing my father’s unfinished work.”
King, along with his wife, Andrea Waters King, and daughter, Yolanda Renee King, will help lead the March on Voting Rights and he will stand on the same spot where his father stood 58 years ago.
Rev. Al Sharpton, president of National Action Network, said in a statement, “I’m proud to be a part of the March On for Voting Rights because there is no democratic right more sacred than the right to vote, and it is under threat across America. We must fight to protect it.”
Demonstrations are planned in Atlanta, Houston, Miami and Phoenix, all in states where Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed controversial bills to undermine voting rights laws since the 2020 elections to roll back voting rights laws.
Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) condemned the recent United States Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee that also reverses voting rights legislation on the books.
“This court of a six-justice conservative majority has doubled down, revering hard-fought gains that have helped make the constitutional promise of democracy a reality,” Sharpton said. “Exercising the right to vote is not a second-class right and NAN will continue to push Congress to pass the For the People Act to preserve our right to vote and provide equitable access to the ballot box; there is no more time to waste.”
While some use the Fourth of July holiday to celebrate a return to some sense of normal, others around the region are finding their own ways to make a change in their communities as they talked about freedom.
“Freedom to me is being able to exercise the ability to navigate systems locally and national regardless of one’s race, politics, culture or one’s social status, ” said Rev. Elwood Gray, pastor of Peace in the Valley Baptist Church in Silver Springs, Md.
Gray, a Vietnam veteran who served in the 101st Airborne Division, is working with the American Minority Veterans Research Project to honor veterans dating back to WWII who never got their proper recognitions and awards.
“My father got a bronze star in WWII but after college interns did research he was awarded the Silver Star because his battalion were the first ones to hit the soil during the Normandy Invasion. This was an all-black battalion made up of cooks and transportation personnel in a support team.
“He received a head wound and suffered post-traumatic syndrome until his death in 2004 at the age of 82,” Gray said. “We are trying to get what these soldiers have already earned.”
Lt. Tracy Leiberman, of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, worked for many years in Prince George’s County with members of the Negro baseball leagues.
“Our mounted officers are looking forward to safeguarding our parks this Fourth of July,” Leiberman said. “It’s a good time to get together and celebrate all of our freedoms.”
Charles D. Smith is a U.S. Navy veteran, who lives in Fairfax Station, Va. and said he celebrates Independence Day even though “I grew up in a town where I didn’t see an African-American naval officer until I was in college, I wanted to serve and defend this country. I am grateful I was able to have my dream come through God’s grace, he said.