WASHINGTON– Martin Luther King III, his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and their 15-year-old daughter, Yolanda, developed a set of traditions for this time of year.
Each August, they revisit Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s rousing speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Even though the civil rights icon’s legacy is closer to the Kings than most other families, they see walking anniversaries as a teachable moment.
“We’re like any other family, in the sense that we want to teach our daughter this moment in history,” Arndrea said. “And then we also try to relate it to movements or people doing things in the present.”
This year, the Kings will join an expected crowd of tens of thousands, who gather at the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital on Saturday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the late reverend’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
The event is organized by the Kings’ Drum Major Institute and the National Action Network. A host of black civil rights leaders and a multiracial and interfaith coalition of allies will gather attendees at the same location where as many as 250,000 gathered in 1963 for what is still considered one of the largest and biggest protests for racial justice and equality in US history. .
On Friday, Martin Luther King III, who is the eldest son of the late civil rights icon, and his sister, Bernice King, each visited the monument dedicated to their father in Washington.
“I see a man still in a position of authority and saying, ‘We still have to get it right,'” Bernice said as she looked up at the granite statue.
The original march, whose centerpiece was their father, helped set the stage for the passage of federal civil rights and voting rights legislation in the 1960s.
Organizers of this year’s commemoration hope to recapture the energy of the original march on Washington – particularly in the face of nationwide suffrage erosion, after the Supreme Court’s recent reversal of the action positive on university admission and abortion rights, and in a context of growing threats. of political violence and hatred against people of color, Jews and the LGBTQ community.
“What we do know is that when people stand up, the difference can be made,” Martin Luther King III told The Associated Press in an interview on Saturday. “It’s not a traditional commemoration. It really is a new dedication.”
The event will begin with speeches and performances before the program at 8:00 a.m. ET. The main program begins at 11 a.m. ET, followed by a procession that will begin through the streets of Washington toward the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Among the guest speakers is Ambassador Andrew Young, King’s close adviser who helped organize the original march and later served as a congressman, ambassador to the UN and mayor of Atlanta. Leaders of the NAACP and National Urban League are also expected to comment.
Several leaders of the groups organizing the march met Friday with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division, to discuss a range of issues, including voting rights, maintaining the order and the red line.
Saturday’s rally is a precursor to the anniversary of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will mark the anniversary of the march on Monday by meeting with organizers of the 1963 rally. All of King’s children have been invited to meet Biden, White House officials said.
For the Reverend Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, continuing to observe the march on Washington’s birthdays fulfills a promise he made to the late King family matriarch, Coretta Scott King. Twenty-three years ago, she introduced Sharpton and Martin Luther King III at a 37th anniversary march and urged them to carry on that legacy.
“I never thought that 23 years later, Martin and I, with Arndrea, would be marching and we would have less (civil rights protections) than in 2000,” Sharpton said.
“We are fulfilling the mission Mrs. King gave us,” he said. “We have to walk saying we can’t go back and we have to go forward.”
Coming out of the march on Saturday, Sharpton said he would lead a fall suffrage tour of states trying to erect barriers ahead of the 2024 presidential election. He also plans to meet with d prominent black entrepreneurs to create a fund to fund the fight against conservative attacks on diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Bernice King, said she sympathizes with those who are weary of the ongoing struggle to preserve civil rights. But they must remember her mother’s words, in addition to her father’s famous speech, she said.
“Mom said struggle is a never-ending process,” said Bernice, CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center For Nonviolent Social Change, founded by her mother after the civil rights icon was assassinated in 1968.
“Freedom is never really obtained: it is deserved and earned with every generation. Vigilance is the answer,” she said. “We must always remember that it is difficult and dark right now, but the dawn is approaching.”
His father’s remarks on the March on Washington resonated through decades of lobbying and urging for progress in civil and human rights. But dark moments also followed his speech.
Two weeks later, in 1963, four black girls were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, followed by the kidnapping and murder of three civil rights activists in Neshoba County, Mississippi the following year. These tragedies prompted the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
And Montgomery’s suffrage marches in Selma, Alabama, in which protesters were brutally beaten as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge during what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” forced Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Unfortunately, we live in a time where a younger generation believes my father’s generation, and those of us who followed, haven’t done enough,” Bernice King said. “And I want them to understand that you benefit from it and that’s how you benefit from it.”
She added, “We can’t give up because there comes a point in time when change happens. We have to celebrate the small wins. If you’re not grateful, you’ll jeopardize your progress as well.”