Obama Sounds Alarm to “Dream” Seekers
By A. Scott Walton Executive Editor | 8/30/2013, 9:20 a.m.
But it was persistent and targeted activism, both of the icons of the movement said, that turned the ’63 March into a transformative event.
Young asserted that the fire-bombings of Black citizens’ homes and churches on a weekly basis in Birmingham, Alabama are what truly sparked the call to march on the nation’s capitol for justice.
The third torching of the church helmed by the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights leader, Fred Shuttlesworth, was the last straw.
“It all started with Shuttlesworth saying to Dr. King, ‘This sitting-back-waiting non-violence ain’t gonna work’,” Young said. “We’ve got to be more aggressive … “.
What ensued was a disciplined boycott of Birmingham businesses where Blacks weren’t allowed to work or be treated with dignity. It resulted in civic leaders bowing to Blacks’ demonstrated pressure for equality.
“There were 300,000 Black folk in Birmingham who didn’t buy anything but food and medicine for three months,” Young said. “That meant downtown was dead.”
Demonstrations of that ilk got results.
Lewis, who was just a 20-something leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at the time of the ’63 March, recalled how Dr. King and his lieutenants from other civil and worker’s rights organizations made President John F. Kennedy squirm behind his White House desk when they said that — despite his fears of riots that might cripple his intent to ease a civil rights bill through Congress — they would not be deterred from staging a massive demonstration that turned out to be larger than any of the principals, or the mainstream press, expected.
“We didn’t have all the modern means of communication,” Lewis said. “We had never heard of the internet. We didn’t have Facebook and Ipads and cellular phones. But we used what we had.
“The Black press played a major role in reaching people. Churches and labor unions, and people who just talked and sent the word out”.
Peoples’ concerns about urban crime statistics, health care denials, education system lapses, threats to voting booth access, rampant unemployment and homelessness, Obama said, can’t be eradicated if they don’t keep marching for the causes Dr. King lived, worked, preached and died for.
In honor of the anonymous have-nots who made the ’63 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom historic, Obama said, “that’s the debt we owe”.