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This year’s anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington promises to be one of the more memorable in quite some time. The 47th anniversary of an event is usually not one organizers focus on for a big commemoration but in a few weeks thousands will be in the streets this August 28 commemorating the March on Washington and others will be advancing their own social agenda and publications.
Glenn Beck has called for a national rally on the anniversary of the March on Washington at the exact same location as the historic protest, the Lincoln memorial. The theme of Beck’s rally is “Restoring Honor.” According to Beck’s website this ”celebration of America” is supposed to be non-political but has as its primary guest speaker Sarah Palin and has recently been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. From what I can gather, America can restore its honor by strengthening the virtue of individuals coming to Washington DC to listen to Beck and Palin, and picking up a copy of Beck’s new book “The Plan” which is to be launched at this honorable event.
Now what does this have to do with the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered the “I have a dream speech?” The answer is nothing. Beck has admitted that he had no idea that the date he chose was the same date as the legendary March on Washington but this does not inhibit him from proclaiming it was close to “divine providence” that his rally / book launch converges with such a historic event. Beck now proclaims that he is working “to finish the job” that was at the heart of the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. King’s vision.
According to Beck the ideas of Dr. King have been corrupted and Beck will resurrect the true King. As part of this mission Beck is trying to separate Dr. King from social justice and limit King to advocacy of individual Christian salvation. Beck has even reached out to distant relatives of Dr. King, like Dr. King’s niece. After questioning her several times gets her to say that King was not about social justice or government redistribution of the wealth.
If one wants to advance the legacy of Dr. King one should start off by looking at King’s own writings. Beck might be particularly interested in a speech delivered about 4 months after the March on Washington titled “Social Justice and the Emerging New Era.” Beck should also review the words King spoke to his staff in 1966 where he talked about the need to redistribute wealth in order to advance a juster nation. It appears Beck’s ignorance concerning Dr. King is equal to his ignorance concerning the 1963 March on Washington? Does Beck know that A Phillip Randolph, a union organizer and socialist, originated the idea of the March on Washington ? Does he know that the March on Washington was the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, demanding massive federal investment for a government jobs program?
If Glenn Beck sincerely wants to advance the social vision of Dr. King and the March on Washington he should look to Detroit August 28 when Rev. Jesse Jackson, a lead organizer for Dr. King, and the United Auto Workers, which was one of the main sponsors of the 1963 March on Washington, kick off a campaign to rebuild America with Jobs, Justice and Peace. Unlike Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally / book launching, the march in Detroit will echo King’s and most of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement’s call for greater investment in opportunity for the American people. If Beck doesn’t want to leave Washington DC August 28 he should visit the “Celebrate the Dream” event being held not far from Beck’s own rally, where Americans will read and listen to the words of Dr. King in a fitting August 28 tribute. Finally since Beck likes to talk to members of Dr. King’s family he should visit the “Reclaim the Dream” rally that is also being held in DC August 28 where Martin Luther King III will be joining other leaders to make sure King’s social vision is heard in Washington DC on this 47th anniversary.
DEDRICK MUHAMMAD is a member of the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the author of the upcoming book Understanding Racial Inequality in the Obama Era. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.