Reflecting on the Progress Since Emmett Till and Dr. Martin Luther King | #schoolshooting

Today is the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech before the estimated 250,000 attendees of the march. Fifty-seven years later, thousands from across the nation have gathered once again in D.C. to shed light on social justice issues that remain prevalent throughout the country. The march comes after three months of nationwide protests and riots demanding racial equality and justice-system reforms.

The ‘Get Off Our Necks’ Commitment March on Washington, organized by the National Action Network, was “instigated from the protest movement that has risen up since the police killing of George Floyd,” states the organization’s website. Sixty-five years after Mamie Till Mobley helped change the trajectory of the civil rights movement Black, Indigenous, and members of marginalized communities continue to work toward the dream Rev. Dr. King spoke of 57 years ago.

In a 2019 interview with the New York Times, King’s son Martin Luther King III shared his thoughts on the nation’s progress since his father’s 1963 speech. “This vision that he engaged in and talked about, elements of it have become true. But the hope is that we’d be much further as a nation. I think we’re going through a metamorphosis. And what I mean by that is all of the ill, or all of the negative, has to come out for the positive to emerge because there’s no way that we can go back to the past.”

“America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

65 Years After Emmett Till’s Murder

August 28 also marks the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy. It was alleged Till flirted with a married white woman when he was in Money, Mississippi, visiting family.

The woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam abducted Till from his great Uncle’s home. They brutally beat and killed him before disposing of his body in a nearby river. Till’s mutilated body was found three days later. His mother insisted on a public, open-casket, funeral.

Bryant and Milam were acquitted. In 2017 Carolyn Bryant admitted she falsely testified about Till’s advances. She stated that “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”

Regional Protests

Since the Memorial Day killing of Floyd, there has been looting, an anti-police brutality protest, and a rally demanding Justice for Jesse Sarey in the City of Auburn. Online campaigns have urged the City of Auburn and fellow South Sound Cities to drop their lawsuit against King County Executive over the Inquest process.

Last week Auburn Police officer Jeff Nelson was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the fatal shooting of Jesse Sarey. He pleaded not guilty to both charges Monday at his arraignment.  The court set bail at $500,000 and ordered Nelson be placed on Electronic Home Detention should post bail (or the 10% bond). Nelson posted bail Monday and is now in community custody. (Click here to read the Order Remanding Defendant – Jeff Nelson – to the Department of Adult Detention)

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg stated neither national protests nor the recent Justice for Jesse rally impacted the charging decision. “The timing is a function of having to wait for experts to produce reports and then have us digest and discuss those reports. It has nothing to do with any protest or any political pressure.”

An opinion issued Friday in the inquest lawsuit ruled in favor of the cities of Auburn, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and the King County Sheriff’s Office. The court found the inquest rules “are invalid because they are in excess of the authority granted to the Executive by Charter and County Code.” The court further found that they are “invalid because they violate the appearance of the fairness doctrine.”

Demands of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Organizers for the 1963 March on Washington had an organizing manual for the march.  Within the manual were a list of speakers, how attendees would travel to Washington D.C., the day’s schedule, and a list of demands. The document now serves as a historic record of the event. Read the full organizing manual here.

1. Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress-without compromise or filibuster-to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations decent housing adequate and integrated education the right to vote
2. Withholding of Federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
3. Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
4. Enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment-reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disfranchised.
5. A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
6. Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated.
7. A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers-Negro and white-on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
8. A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government  surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour fails to do this.)
9. A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include 011 areas of employment which are presently excluded.
10. A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech

https://auburnexaminer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/MLKDream_64kb.mp3I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

A protester holds a sign during the June 2 BLM protest | photo by Amy Thompson

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

A protester holds a sign during the June 2 BLM protest | photo by Amy Thompson
A protester holds a sign at the June 2 BLM Protest in Auburn | for the Auburn Examiner

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

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Protesters hold signs at the June 2 BLM Protest in Auburn | for the Auburn Examiner

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. **We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”** We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

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A protester holds up their hands with “Don’t Shoot” written on them at the Auburn BLM protest | photo by Amy Thompson

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

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Terrell Purdie displays a protest sign at the BLM Protest in Auburn | courtesy photo, Tina Stensen Purdie

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

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A protester holds a sign during the June 2 BLM protest | photo by Amy Thompson

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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A family attending the Auburn BLM Protest display signs of protest (verbal permission granted for image publication) | for the Auburn Examiner

Transparency note: we liked the formating of interspersing protest signs within Dr. King’s speech and but can not take credit for it. We were inspired by the ACLU’s Tweets.

 


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