The March on Washington happened 60 years ago. Today, the work continues
When the freedoms and rights of one of our communities are threatened, all of us are. When extremists attack one of our communities’ places of worship, we all are at risk. None of us is free until we all are; none of us is safe unless we all are.
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia/Public Domain)
By Shira Goodman and Andrea Custis
On August 26, we will mark the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington in what is being called a Continuation, Not a Commemoration. We will join thousands of people at the Lincoln Memorial, recommitting to the fights for freedom, justice, equality, and protection of our most fundamental rights and the fight against hate. We’ll be marching together, in a moment reflective of the work we’ve been doing together and the friendship we have built.
There is a common recognition that the fights of 2023 are fights for all of our communities. When the freedoms and rights of one of our communities are threatened, all of us are. When extremists attack one of our communities’ places of worship, we all are at risk. None of us is free until we all are; none of us is safe unless we all are.
We met when we each led the Philadelphia chapters of legacy organizations fighting against hate and for freedom and equality. One of us worked for the Anti-Defamation League and one for the Urban League of Philadelphia. ADL and the National Urban League are co-chairing the 2023 March, alongside leading civil rights organizations representing a diverse range of communities. The co-chairs are joined by more than 100 issue and identify-based organizations partnering to bring people to the March.
We speak often – in private and publicly – about the visions we share and the different histories of our people. We talk about the futures we dream of and the very different lived experiences that inform our daily work. And in working and learning together and from one another, we once again have helped to prove what we have always known to be true, this work cannot be done alone, in a vacuum. It requires partnership and true allies.
We will be marching together, because neither of us can imagine doing it any other way. At this moment when our organizations are uniting for common cause around the most pressing issues of the day, we will be side-by-side, listening, learning and moving into the future. It is the point of all that has led up to this historic moment.
But the March should not be only a moment. It must be viewed as part of an arc of ongoing work between communities fighting for justice and fighting against hate. There must be ongoing dialogue about the work to be done together and also about the challenges of working together.
Allyship and partnership doesn’t mean always agreeing on a complete agenda. Those moments of disagreement, of moving into and outside of coalition, must be respected and examined and cannot be allowed to fracture relationships. Partnerships require work, attention and cultivation. They can be complicated and frustrating. But the value is in the work. It’s not enough to have a partnership in name or only in public moments on a big stage; it’s what happens in between the big moments – in the phone calls, edits to documents and tough meetings that partnerships are truly forged.
On August 26, 2023, we will march together and recommit to the hard work ahead. We’ll enjoy the moment, reveling in the huge, diverse crowd that we have been part of bringing together to build the future to which we all are entitled. Hopefully, we’ll be inspired and also will inspire others to make new connections and build new partnerships. We will celebrate the moment, but then get right back to work. We hope you will join us in Washington on August 26 and then in the work ahead.
Shira Goodman is the Senior Director of Advocacy at ADL; Andrea Custis is the immediate past-President and CEO of Urban League of Philadelphia
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