“Fifty years ago, I stood right here in this spot,” Lewis told the thousands who gathered on the Mall to commemorate the March. “Twenty-three years old, had all of my hair and a few pounds lighter.”
“Those days, for the most part, are gone, but we have another fight,” Lewis said. “There are forces who want to take us back. But we can’t go back.”
The veteran House Democrat called out the Supreme Court decision in June to invalidate a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
“I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us,” Lewis said. He urged the crowd to “make some noise” and “get in the way” to protect universal access to the polls.
“The vote is precious,” he said. “It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in our democracy, and we have to use it.”
Lewis was 23 when he spoke at the March in 1963. A year-and-a-half later, he was beaten by police in Alabama as he led civil rights demonstrators across the bridge in Selma.
He spoke on Saturday alongside other senior Democrats, black leaders, union officials and others at one of several commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
A group of African-American activists, community leaders and college professors are calling for the boycott of Koch Industries as a way to honor slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, pushing for continued dialogue on race relations nationwide.
While speaking at an event titled “From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: A Town Hall Meeting on Black Bodies and American Racism” at Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater, a panel of prominent African-Americans gathered to examine ways to combat the racism that they say led to George Zimmerman’s acquittal last month. When asked about the failed boycotts of places like Disney World in Orlando, Fla., one panelist revealed her efforts to combat the proponents of “Stand Your Ground” laws.
“We’re asking people not to buy from that company that created those ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws,” said the Rev. Carolyn Boyd, an adjunct pastor at Plymouth Congregation United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. ”Y’all know that company with those people, the Kochs. Paper towels and all those products that we buy — Walmart — all the time, that make those people rich and make us poor.”
The pastor directed the audience to stop purchasing things like Angel Soft toilet paper, Brawny paper towels and Vanity Fair napkins — all subsidiaries of Koch Industries — in an initiative called “No-Buy Fridays.”
“…We begin to elevate our power to say, ‘No, I’m not buying your products because you’re harming the black community,’” Boyd said.
The town hall, sponsored by Rock the Vote, among other organizations, addressed concerns from members of the African-American community and featured a panel of six speakers: Boyd, Louisa Davis, Jessica Frances Dukes, Dr. Dennis Rogers, Dawn Ursula and Gabriel Rojo. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) was also in attendance for a brief period of time.
The group acted to facilitate a dialogue on the actions of Zimmerman — the 29-year-old Hispanic man who shot and killed Martin, an African-American — and called Martin’s death the catalyst for a “renewed civil rights movement.”
“To me, it’s a continuation of a tough conversation … that puts more to our argument that there can never be justice on stolen land,” said Rogers, an assistant professor of political science at Bowie State University.
While many on the panel believed Zimmerman killed Martin because of his race, others saw it as a failure of the justice system, faulting the jury’s inability to see past Martin’s black skin and Zimmerman’s white complexion. The six-person jury consisted of five white women and one Hispanic woman.
“Emmett Till was a young prince who broke our hearts years ago, but now, I guess what I want to say is I don’t want to blame George Zimmerman,” said Davis, an adjunct professor at Montgomery College. “I want us to look at the system that let him free and not make it personal … It’s the propagation of fear and we have to take our legal system back from fear.”
Following Zimmerman’s acquittal, many African-Americans took to the streets of major metro political cities nationwide in protest. The Rev. Al Sharpton called on the Department of Justice to bring up civil rights charges against Zimmerman. And even President Obama spoke about his disappointment surrounding the not guilty verdict, saying Martin could have been him.
Still, many remain standing in solidarity with Martin. Earlier this month, Ebony magazine unveiled four tribute covers to the Florida teen, one featuring Martin’s family and three featuring well known African-American men and their sons and the words “We Are Trayvon.” Additionally, Oprah Winfrey spoke openly about the case with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, saying Martin paralleled Till.
First Lady Michelle Obama has invited Common who called for the burning of George Bush to perform at the White House.
Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr, who uses the stage name ‘Common’, will be welcomed at an event celebrating American poetry on Wednesday.
He is expected to take part in rap workshops with schoolchildren in the afternoon before performing in the evening.
In footage on YouTube he is seen calling for the burning of the former president.
‘Burn a Bush cos for peace he no push no button,’ the hip-hop artist raps in one video, which has more than 800,000 views. Other song lyrics reportedly include threats to shoot the police.
The controversial rapper hails from President Obama’s hometown Chicago and has also rapped about the former Illinois senator.
The 39-year-old featured in a video called ‘Yes We Can’, which was made in support of Mr Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign.
‘Common’, who is a vegan, has won two Grammy awards for his music and has worked with artists including Kanye West.
President Obama and his wife Michelle will host the gathering of poets, musicians and artists at the White House on Wednesday night.
Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann and Jill Scott will also perform.
The White House said the readings and performances will highlight poetry’s influence on American culture.
In 2009, Mrs. Obama inaugurated a White House music series that has celebrated jazz, country, classical, Motown and Latin music.
I wish it was God’s will for me and my wife to have been in attendance for this march and to celebrate with some good old Go! Go! music and Bar B.Q. woo!!! I miss home. I still have fun with Jesus by my side without drugs and alcohol.
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