August 24, 2013 – Washington, DC – The 50th Anniversary for the March for Jobs and Justice. We made our way via Metro, my husband and I, my friend Julie – a white Unitarian, and my African-American friend Shelton and his 13 year old daughter, Jaya. Diverse in religion, race, class, we reflected the mass of people moving with us toward the Reflecting Pool to hear the speeches at the Lincoln Memorial before marching to the new Martin Luther King Memorial. It was a gorgeous day in Washington, and spirits were high. The merchandise being hawked as we made our way was probably quite different than 50 years ago – a black President's face on a t-shirt would have been practically unimaginable. Flyers for all kinds of issues were everywhere, whether for workers' rights, the great discrepancy between rich and poor, prison reform, etc. (20,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement at any one point in this country – sometimes for decades... Surely this is "cruel and unusual punishment!!!! Thank God there are some Americans of conscience actually taking up this issue.) My favorite banner noted that CEOs = $7000/hr – Teachers = $15/ hr = Absurd!
We arrived midday, in time to hear Rev Al Sharpton's dynamic speech calling us to take up the unfinished work in this country in terms of race, jobs, and opportunity. Emmet Till's cousin spoke, and I found myself explaining this historical vignette to Jaya. I felt moved as a white woman explaining the death of a young black man who whistled at a white woman in the years of the old Jim Crow to a 13 year old black girl only now starting to study this in her school.