Claiming the 1963 March on Washington

August 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Publicly associated with Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, this march brought more than 250,000 people to the nation’s capital to demand freedom and jobs. Initiated by Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters President A. Philip Randolph, the effort became a joint project with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the day went down in history as a powerful show of force against Jim Crow segregation.

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It is barely remembered that the March on Washington was for freedom and jobs. The demand for jobs was not a throwaway line in order to get trade union support, but instead reflected the growing economic crisis affecting black workers. It is also barely remembered that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee played a key role in the event, but the civil rights leadership insisted that the militant rhetoric of the original speech by SNCC’s then chairman John Lewis (now Congressman John Lewis) be toned down.

 Over time this great event has risen to levels of near mythology. The powerful speech by Dr. King, replayed in part for us every Martin Luther King Day, has eclipsed all else, so much so that too many people believe that the March on Washington was entirely the work of Dr. King, when in fact he was a major player in a project that was much larger than any one person.

 As August 2013 approaches, there has been very limited public discussion regarding an anniversary march to commemorate the 1963 event. What has apparently been taking place are a series of closed-door discussions regarding some sort of celebratory action. Particularly disturbing are the suggestions that any one person, organization, or family can claim the legacy of the March on Washington. But should any one constituency claim that legacy, it is a group that does not appear to be at the table: black labor.

 Randolph and other black labor leaders, particularly those grouped around the Negro American Labor Council, were responding to the fact that the black worker was largely being ignored in the discussions about civil rights. Additionally, the economic situation, as referenced earlier, was becoming complicated terrain for black workers. As historian Nancy MacLean has pointed out, the elements of what came to be known as deindustrialization (which was really part of a reorganization of global capitalism) were beginning to have an effect in the U.S., even in 1963. As with most other disasters, it started with a particular and stark impact on black America.

 In 2013, black workers have been largely abandoned in most discussions about race and civil rights. As National Black Worker Center Project founder Dr. Steven Pitts has repeatedly pointed out, with the economic restructuring that has destroyed key centers of the black working class, such as Detroit and St. Louis, much of the economic development that has emerged has either avoided the black worker altogether or limited the role of black workers to the most menial positions. Thus, unemployment for blacks remains more than double that of whites and hovers around Depression levels in many communities.

 In that sense, August 2013 must not be a reunion tour of old civil rights leaders — with all due respect — reminiscing about a bygone era, but rather it should be a militant mass protest of the way both race and class are playing themselves out in today’s America.  August 2013 cannot be held hostage to discussions that focus solely on the memory of Dr. King amid a debate about who has the right to claim that memory; we must recognize the breadth of the movement that brought about the 1963 March on Washington. 

 Yet more importantly, August 2013 must be about today and the issues that are affecting the dispossessed, including but not limited to black America. It must be a moment to highlight the struggles that the bottom 90 percent of the population is engaged in fighting. It must be a moment to reissue the call for jobs and freedom, bringing those demands into the 21st century by emphasizing issues that include voting rights, genuine economic development, peace, and nothing less than planetary survival.

 In 1983, I participated in the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington. Although it attempted to raise the issues of the day, such as the threat of Reaganomics, it was clear that the canonization of Dr. King was a central feature of the day for too many of the marchers. One of the worst ways to remember Dr. King, and for that matter the 1963 March on Washington, is by canonizing a particular individual. It would be far better to use the inspiration from that great day in 1963 as the energizing force for a renewed round of struggles.

 

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 Bill Fletcher Jr is the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of Solidarity Divided; the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions; a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.  Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.  

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 77 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

July 06, 2017
· 21 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

July 09, 2017
· 4 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

Running for the National Political Committee

July 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join this call to hear a presentation and ask questions about the role, duties and time commitment of a member of DSA's National Political Committee. In the meantime, check out the information already on our website about the NPC.

Feminist Working Group

July 12, 2017

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 11 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.