“I have a dream.” The first official March on Washington was in 1963, but there have been more instances where minorities and supporters came together as one to protest due to their current political climates. These marches were organized to draw attention to continuing challenges and inequalities minorities have been facing. Some issues brought to light are things such as the black community being targeted during the emancipation proclamation era, discrimination against people of color in the work force, and most currently, issues on gun control.
“When it comes to these type of things we become very united, we could be part of something that was inspirational. We take things into our own hands now instead of someone else doing it for us,” Maria Gonzalez, 12, said.
The March on Washington movement was organized by activists A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin in 1941, due to desegregation in the armed forces and unfair working opportunities for the black community. Although, the march had not been carried out when former president Roosevelt had signed Executive Order 8802, prohibiting discrimination in the defense industry and established the Fair Employment Practice Committee. The FEPC was established to help minorities obtain jobs during World War II and investigate racial discrimination within the work space, but even with their efforts Congress cut off funding in the 1940s. It wasn’t until 20 years later that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would rise and advocate for some of the same issues. The EO also required training and federal vocational programs to be conducted without discrimination. This opened up more skilled jobs and higher paying positions for minorities rather than have them in the lowest level of work.
Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom was the first major African-American march where approximately 25,000 thousand gathered at the Lincoln Memorial on May 1957 to commemorate the third anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The march urged the federal government to take the ruling seriously and follow through with the precedent. Randolph proposed this march in hopes of further pushing civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement and utilize the power of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Momentum from violent attacks in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 where civil rights demonstrators were being attacked pushed yet another mass protest. This became a mass protest as Randolph’s march for jobs and King’s goal to march for freedom along with his Southern Christian Leadership Conference merged into one. Randolph’s chief aid Bayard Rustin helped him plan a march that would “call for fair treatment and equal opportunity for black Americans, as well as advocate for passage of the Civil Rights Act” which at the time had been stalled in Congress. Former President John F. Kennedy ended up endorsing the March on Washington, but ensured with the organizers that security precautions were taken as he thought it would end in violence. Kennedy was unsure that the march should go forward as it seemed “ill-timed” and could make the members of Congress “feel as if they were under siege”. The organizers went forth with the march but stopped at the Lincoln Memorial instead of originally Capitol as to not disturb congress members. This marked a day in history as King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech which has become known as one of the most famous speeches of the civil rights movement.
All leading up to today where marches such as the Women’s March and the National School Walkout, continue on the same fight for their rights and safety. The National School Walkout has been the most recent movement that has stemmed from teenagers demanding gun control. The March for Our Lives movement is being led by students from Stoneman Douglas High School, students who refuse to let the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 of their classmates on Feb. 14 be forgotten. They continue to push for change despite the constant criticism they have to face due to their age. They have not allowed their representatives silent them, such as Cameron Kasky who confronted Senator Marco Rubio during a CNN town hall meeting, asking the senator to no longer accept money donations from the National Rifle Association. Their movement has spread far beyond their school walls and into school across the nation. Their leadership helped inspire walkouts that happened across the nation on March 14, a month after the murder of their classmates. As seen in past activists, they have not let others silence then and continue to advocate for safety not only for themselves, but for others as well.
“We need to come together, it starts with young people asking for change to make a movement,” Associated Student Body President Karely Amaya, 12, said.