Program from Dr. King’s march in 1963
Using Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s blueprint as a model, Rev. Jesse Jackson led thousands to commemorate the meaning of the dream
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
Tracing the footsteps of Dr. King’s march in Detroit in June 1963, Rev. Jesse Jackson said, “Dr. King led that march for freedom, justice and jobs, along with Rev. C.L. Franklin and Walter Reuther of UAW (United Auto Workers).” And according to the Reverend, “Dr. King gave the ‘I-Have-A-Dream’ speech in Detroit that June (1963) … that was the first major platform he used it for. The next big march was on August 28 (1963). It was labor-civil rights-church coalition.” So it seemed fitting that Rev. Jackson would duplicate Dr. King’s march in the same city that it was initially done. Notwithstanding that the “motor city” is experiencing the same economic and social conditions that prevailed in Dr. King’s day.
“We focus on Detroit because it was once the crown jewel of America’s industrial development and manufacturing,” Rev. Jackson said. “At that time, the Big Three were the Auto Companies; we were #1 in manufacturing and exports in the world. Today, we are number one in consuming, our trade deficit is growing.
Now the Big Three are gambling casinos–we’ve gone from building cars, to shuffling cards and rolling dice–relying on luck, without a tax base to sustain city services.”
With its theme ‘Rebuild America’ the march in Detroit drew thousands and Rev. Jackson said, “We’re focused on putting America back to work, rebuilding America, with jobs and justice and peace. “Detroit and Michigan are ground zero of the urban crisis. It’s time to enact real change for working families and all America.” He exhorted to the crowd, “It’s time to reinvest in America and put America back to work. Detroit is the epicenter of America’s urban crisis–it’s time to fight back, and organize city by city around the nation. Our people need jobs now. We need a moratorium on foreclosures to save our homes now. We are in a state of emergency,” said Rev. Jackson.
The march and rally were the culmination of a week-long bus tour that took the Jobs, Justice and Peace campaign throughout the state of Michigan.
But Rev. Jackson also took the time to respond to the dishonor that was being played out by the conservatives trying to mimick the work of Dr. King where he spoke 47 years ago. Rev. Jackson issued the following statement called ‘The Legacy and Learning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’ which stated in part: “Dr. King’s dream of a one big tent America where all are included and none are left behind is incomplete. Yet, the quest is irreversible. Dr. King marched, took the risks to transform our culture, and create the America we now celebrate. . He was martyred at 39. His uplifting sermons, the miles walked and his martyrdom will not be altered by cynicism and schemes of diversion.
“One gets the impression that Glen Beck is cynically mimicking Dr. Martin Luther King. His is an insincere expression, a ploy to divert attention away from the Dr. King’s agenda for jobs, economic justice and peace.”
People around the nation mobilize to honor the ideals of Dr. King and especially to prepare for the November mid-term elections. Added to the notion that is the realization that racial disparities are as flagrant now as they were–in just about every area–47 years ago.
Along with the Rainbow Coalition, joining the march were UAW, SEIU, AFSCME, Detroit’s NAACP and SCLC. Also on hand were several elected officials including
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D- MI.; U.S. Rep. John Dingfell, D-MI; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA; and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptor, D-OH; U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; state Sen. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit; and Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and his running mate, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence.
“Today’s march commemorates one of the most important days in our history,” said Mayor Bing “Our greatest challenge is creating jobs, and that’s something I will continue to fight to bring to Detroit.”
“Citizens of Detroit are hurting,” said Conyers. “But today we’re celebrating. We need jobs, foreclosure moratoriums and universal health care — cheer for that.”
Current UAW president Bob King stated, “The number one focus of our national leaders should be putting Americans back to work. No group has suffered more from America’s economic meltdown than working men and women. We need industrial and trade policies that work to keep jobs and manufacturing in the U.S. George Bush came into office with
a $127 billion surplus. He proceeded to give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the richest Americans and wasted trillions of dollars on useless wars while funding for schools and other basic services was gutted.”
One of the ironies of Dr. King’s message–though a man of great hope and courage, he had fears. “He feared the resources for the war on poverty were being shifted to the war in Vietnam. A peace dividend shifting to a war plan,” said Rev. Jackson. “Dr. King challenged the bloated military budget and the War in Vietnam that was diverting resources away from the War on Poverty at home. His last campaign was to lead a Poor People’s Campaign to eradicate mass poverty, illiteracy, and disease. He advocated for full employment for every American, a job or an income now.”
With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their drain on the economy resulting in untold human misery, it is easy to visualize the prophetic wisdom of Dr. King words, speeches, his life and of course, his unfulfilled dream. Replace Vietnam with Iraq or Afghanistan and today’s misery is a reflection of yesterday’s. Dr. King saw it.
Rev. Jackson further added about Dr. King, “He feared the evils of militarism, racism and classism were destroying the fabric of our society. A society that invested in war, Dr. King said, with a military budget and privileges for the wealthy, while letting the poor simmer in their pain, was moving toward moral bankruptcy.”
Concluding, the Reverend said, “Even with our backs against the wall, we can see a new heaven and a new earth–the old one passes away. Hold your head up. God will wipe away our tears. We have been down. The ground is no place for a champion. Nothing is too hard for God. Through it all, Keep Hope Alive. There is no reason not to vote. So we march!”