March on Washington

American Friends Service Committee PA Updates, September 2013
Let’s Not Forget the Lessons of Nonviolence: Reflections on National Action to Realize the Dream
by Scilla Wahrhaftig, AFSC PA Program Director
Reflections on National Action to Realize the Dream
I have been reflecting on the importance of the National Action to Realize the Dream march on August 24, 2013, in Washington, D.C. It was a huge, very diverse march with people coming from all over the country to be part of a historic event.
Why does it feel that, while the movement is still alive, the energy and vision are missing?
When I reflect back on the first march in 1963, it was at a real changing moment in the civil rights movement. It was clear that the tide was turning, and a people felt they could make a difference.
Much had been achieved in education rights, desegregation of public utilities, and the possibility of President Kennedy pushing through passage of the Civil Rights Act. It was a moment of expectation and excitement.
The idea of a nonviolent march on Washington was new and daring.
Would people come, would they remain nonviolent, would it be impactful in bringing change? There had never been anything like this before, and people flocked to D.C. in the thousands.
Pittsburgh sent over 1,000 on a freedom train to the event.
As I made my way through the thousands of people in D.C. on Saturday, I was impressed with the diversity, the messaging and the sense of history. These were the people who came to D.C. 50 years ago, and the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of those who went away with a vision of change from the first march.
However, the same feelings of excitement and possibilities for change were not reflected in the crowd.
The signs and messages were calling for changes that we had hoped would already be in place: justice, voting rights, equal and good education for all.
Large marches do not get the same attention they once did, and it was only the historic aspects of this one that got the media’s attention.
Most importantly, while there were good speeches, none will stand out as ones that fire up the crowd to seek change. And where was the music? What I didn’t realize was two of the most exciting messages were missing, cut because of time.
I believe that people are beginning to wake up and see the injustices in our society, and realize that it is up to us to make the difference.
Philip Agnew executive Director of the Dream Defenders would have spoken to this as would Sofia Campos of United We Dream. Philip would have spoken about the many injustices in our society, and of the generation of dreamers and defenders who are ready to take on these injustices through nonviolence.
Sofia would have spoken of the work she and others have dedicated themselves to as she follows in the footsteps of Martin Luther King. The courage of the young dreamers in our society to oppose our inhumane immigration policies is an inspiration to us all.
My fear is that in a society where so much is decided by violence, both physical and societal, we will forget the lessons of nonviolence.
Nonviolence requires inner strength and discipline, it requires us to see the humanity in everyone while defeating injustice and it requires us to love not to hate. The message of Philip and Sofia gave me hope. Theirs were the messages of nonviolence from the generation that will take up this struggle. The voices we should have heard that day.
To hear the inspiring messages of Philip and Sofia go to:‐activists‐cut‐frommarch‐on‐washington‐ceremony‐post‐kick‐ass‐speeches‐toyoutube/.


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