““We are still marching because we have yet to realize the full protections and expansion of voting rights in this country. We are still marching because our communities are over-policed and underfunded. We are still marching because we continue to question bodily autonomy of women… because we have yet to heal from the historic harms of racism.””
On the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington — which was attended by an estimated 250,000 people and during which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech — a mass virtual gathering on Monday highlighted women, who for the most part were not given the chance to speak at the 1963 event.
The women and other leaders in attendance at “She Speaks” on Monday at the Lincoln Memorial and online called the nation’s attention to promises they say have remained unfulfilled since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Those promises include voting and reproductive rights, living wages and ending poverty.
Voting and reproductive rights are under attack in many states, especially after Supreme Court decisions in the past several years that have either taken away those rights or put them at risk — including the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Marshall, of civil-rights organization Forward Justice, and other female leaders from around the country made it clear that the struggles mentioned by King and others six decades ago continue today.
Kelly Brown Douglas, a theologian and author, referred to King speaking at the march about the “urgency of now.”
“The urgency of now begins today,” Brown Douglas said. “It is compelling us to tell the truth about sexism, racism and homophobia in this country… It is untenable to simply remember what happened 60 years ago, and to stand quietly on the sidelines while books are being banned” and the rights of LGBTQ people are being taken away, she added.
In addition, the longtime struggles for living wages and toward ending poverty continues — as shown in the number of workers who are striking or poised to strike around the nation. Racial and gender wage gaps persist.
The Black poverty rate, which was 51% in 1963, had fallen to 20% as of 2021, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. Yet that was still two and a half times the poverty rate of 8% for white Americans in 2021.
Mary Kay Henry, the first elected female president of the Service Employees International Union, spoke about the importance of unions, and said “we have to link the fights for racial and economic justice. We have to up our demands for good jobs and freedom.”
William Barber, a theologian who’s co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president of Repairers of the Breach — which was one of the four organizations who put on Monday’s event — was the only male voice to speak. He said there were “thousands and thousands of missing sounds and voices of women” at the march 60 years ago, adding that civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks “got 27 words.”
Barber also mentioned the shooting deaths of three Black people at a Dollar General store in Florida over the weekend by a white man who police said made clear in his writings that he hated Black people.
“Let us remember right now those who were killed in Jacksonville,” Barber said. “They were shot down by violence first perpetrated by the mouths of politicians,” he added, which was among the several times speakers at the virtual event mentioned politicians and leaders stoking racism and discrimination.